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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lancaster Tidbits

Just a quick note to all that if you signed up for Spring House's inaugural mug club, the mugs are now in as of Friday, June 10.  You can pick up your mug club card at the Taproom.  Each ceramic mug is numbered, so you can use the same mug during each visit.  Sorry, no pictures folks.  We took a quick drive over there last night, and I enjoyed the new and improved Mango IPA, which was definitely better than the first attempt.  Not to say the first run was bad per se, but this newer version boasted more hop bitterness combined with a very fresh, authentic fruity mango character.

Also, be sure to stop into Iron Hill Lancaster soon to try some of new head brewer Kevin Walter's first seasonal beer on tap - Jack the RIPA, the Belgian Rye IPA.  Not a bad first effort, indeed!  My review will be up on BA shortly.  Cheers!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Philly Beer Week(end)

Now that Philly Beer Week has been moved to the first week of June, I guess I know what Brewslut and I are doing for our anniversary from now until we croak!  We arrived into town Friday night around 9pm in time to hit up The Devil's Den for the Bella Vista Bash.  This was one of my "must-attend" events for opening weekend, as the tap list was pretty ridiculous.  I enjoyed the Hill Farmstead Citra DIPA as well as Cigar City's India Porter, while Brewslut opted for Marron Acidifie, a collaborative beer from The Bruery and Cigar City.  We met up with some friends from The Brass Rail crew and decided to swing by Hawthorne's for some grub and more beer, which was a mere two blocks away.  We got there a few minutes after the kitchen closed, but they were gracious enough to serve us!  I went with another Hill Farmstead selection, a barrel-aged Saison called Art.  We both enjoyed the fish tacos in preparation for a trip to San Diego later this summer!  After Hawthorne's, we headed back to Matt and Morgan's, our hosts and innkeepers for the weekend.

The next morning, we treated Matt and Morgan to breakfast at Cafe Lift, as a thank you for their hospitality.  We definitely need to stop in next time we visit, if only for their amazing coffee!  The food was fantastic to boot.  Anyway, Saturday June 4th marked Brewslut's and my twelfth wedding anniversary, so what better way to celebrate than by attending a Beer Festival?  We had purchased tickets for the International Great Beer Expo at the Navy Yard a few months prior to PBW with the anticipation of an awesome event.  While it was organized well and there was plenty of space for all of the attendees, I felt that the selection was rather lacking.  Also, the majority of the selections were poured from bottles in lieu or draughts, which irked me a bit.  If I want to drink from bottles, I will stay at home with friends and crack open a few.  Also, some of the bottle selections, such as Mikkeller Stateside IPA and Dieu du Ciel Corne du Diable did not taste particularly fresh.  Still, I was pleased to see Ithaca and Brooklyn pouring Dark Humor and Cuvee Noire, respectively.  But honestly, I can do without Shock Top and the like.  I don't know... call me jaded, I suppose.  While the roster of brewers ran the gamut of German, Belgian and other Euro breweries as well as U.S. craft brewers, I felt the local scene was particularly lacking.  I understand that this was an "International" beer fest, but no Troegs, Victory, Sly Fox... even Dogfish Head?!  NY seemed to be well represented, though, with Blue Point, Brooklyn and Ithaca all represented.  Blue Point was also the only brewery I noticed that brought a firkin, albeit a rather generic copper ale.  Still, it was something different.  Even all of the food vendors ran out of soft pretzels about an hour-and-a-half into the event.  While we did get to run into several friends at the event, I doubt we will be returning for a second year.  I would have preferred hitting a few of the smaller special events that were going on during the three-and-a-half-hour festival. 

Nuts, me and Suda at the International Great Beer Expo.
 We left the festival about thirty minutes early and jumped back on the shuttle bus, then made our way back to Hawthorne's for a meet-the-brewer event and tap takeover with Hill Farmstead's Shaun Hill.  I had recognized Shaun the night before at the Devil's Den and had wanted to approach him, but I was a bit timid at first.  Later, when I decided to introduce myself, he was busy talking to someone else and I didn't want to come across as rude. 

Hawthorne's patio
We got to Hawthorne's about an hour early, because I anticipated a pretty large crowd for this event.  Prior to Shaun's arrival, we met Hill Farmstead's local rep Mike, and had a nice conversation with him about Shaun's beers and brewing philosophy. After a while, Shaun showed up and discussed his beers with many of the attendees.  I shared a few brief words with him and expressed my appreciation for his beers, especially the hoppy ones I'd had previously (Ephriam, Abner, Cira DIPA).  I also had a lengthy conversation with Jean Broillet, brewer and owner of Tired Hands, a brand new brewery in Ardmore, PA.  I had just sampled his collaboration beer with Shaun, a Biere de Mars, and it was pretty damn delicious.  Jean had been brewing at Iron Hill's West Chester site (my favorite aside from Lancaster), so I was quick to tell him that I had enjoyed our previous visit to The Gathering of the Gourds pumpkin beer event.  I look forward to sampling some Tired Hands beers in the very near future.  If the Biere de Mars is any indication of things to come, then we are in store for some tasty offerings from Tired Hands.

Pleeps ready to enjoy some Hill Farmstead goodness!
When we visit Philadelphia, we can rarely leave the city without a visit to Nodding Head Brewery and Restaurant, especially when Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse is on tap.  Nodding Head marks the first time Brewslut tasted a Berliner Weisse style beer, and she immediately fell in love (kind of how she felt when she first saw me back in high school) and it has since become her favorite beer style.  I had checked out their web site prior to our trip, so I knew the Berliner Weisse was on tap.  We stopped in for a "one and done" visit, and it was a tasty as ever!

Brewslut enjoying a Berliner Weisse with Pleeps looking on jealously.
In the meantime, a few friends from Shamokin contacted me about attending a tasting at a Best Western hotel near the Art Museum.  So, we decided to jump in a cab and head over to the tasting, which was held in what appeared to be the breakfast area adjacent to the lobby.  About 50 Rate Beer peeps were in attendance, and I later learned that one of my good beer compatriots, Kramer, was responsible for setting up the event.  Honestly, I can't even recall what I had at the tasting... I just know I only sampled a few beers, because by that time, I'd had just about enough.  But it was good to catch up with Shinsk, Chu, Kramer and fellow BA Craig (aka corby112). 

After a very good (and lengthy) night's sleep, Matt prepared a tasty vegetarian breakfast for us, complete with scrambled eggs, veggie sausages, toast and coffee.  After breakfast, we said our goodbyes and headed downtown for the first of a few stops before we returned home to Annville.  Our first stop was at Eulogy for the 2nd Annual Coffee Beer Brunch, which boasted an amazing line-up of coffee stouts including Dieu du Ciel Peche Mortel, Central Waters Coffeehouse Stout, Mikkeller Beer Geek Bacon and Terrapin Wake & Bake.  It was indeed hard to limit to one or two, so Brewslut and I shared three selections: Evil Twin Liquid Dookie, Die Striuse Black Damnation IV - Coffee Club, and of course Peche Mortel.  As much as I love Peche, though, I have to give props to the Black Damnation, which was my favorite of the three.  I really wanted to do a flight of all the beers, but unfortunately Eulogy was not offering flights.  M'wah. 

Afterwards, we decided to swing by the brand new Farmers' Cabinet to meet up with some friends, especially since we had yet to get there for a visit.  Brewmaster Terry Hawbaker was there, and I was informed that brewing still is not underway.  But he did promise that his roster was going to be "sour heavy," which got Brewslut particularly excited!  We'd also like to extend special thanks to our fellow Team D(r)INK member Dan for the pours of Cantillon Fou'Foune and Evil Twin Yang DIPA!

Our goal after The Farmers' Cabinet was to get to Monk's early for the Lost Abbey event, but unfortunately I could not find a parking spot and I refused to pay $23 for parking.  I really wanted to go, but Brewslut said she didn't care, so we decided to head over to Dock Street for lunch.  Unfortunately for us, Dock Street is closed on Sundays.  Double M'wah!  However, we remembered that Local 44 was in the neighborhood, so we decided to swing by for lunch and a beer.  Local 44 is owned by the same folks who also run the most excellent Memphis Taproom, as well as Resurrection Ale House, both also in Philly.  We both had a nice cask pull of Midnight Sun Porter, which I was surprised to see.  I had a tasty turkey sandwich with sprouts, tomato, avocado and red pepper mayo and some awesome fresh cut fries, while Brewslut opted for the mac and cheese with a side salad.  After Local 44, I must admit we were both pooped and in dire need of some couch time.  So, we hit the high road to Annville, which brings us to the conclusion of our third Philly Beer Week excursion.  We definitely look forward to our 13th anniversary next year!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Philly Beer Week followed by trip to VT

While it seems like I may have been slacking for the past two weeks, never fear!  We are gearing up for two fantastic beer-related trips over the next two weekends.

First, we are heading down to The City of Brotherly Love for the opening weekend of Philly Beer Week!  In addition to attending the International Great Beer Expo on Saturday, June 4th (our wedding anniversary), we are also hitting up great events throughout the city, including but not limited to: a Hill Farmstead event at Hawthorne's, a Lost Abbey event with Tomme Arthur at Monk's (Duck Duck Gooze anyone?) and hopefully a coffee stout beer brunch at Eulogy.  We are also planning to stop by The Farmers' Cabinet and catch up with new brewer Terry Hawbaker (previously of Bullfrog Brewery) and get the low-down on his new beers, which should be flowing in the very near future. 

We are then following up Philly Beer week with an extended beer-cation to Vermont and some neighboring New England states with Dan and Kristen.  From Friday June 10th through Monday June 13, we will be busy visiting some amazing breweries and brewpubs such as Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist, Cambridge and more, plus making a return visit to the #1 rated beer bar in the country: Lovell, ME's Ebenezer's!  Of course, there will be numerous stops along the way.  We are hoping to tote back some serious Hill Farmstead and Lawson's beer booty, so keep your fingers crossed for us! 

Of course, I will be sure to recap both weekends right here at The Pour Travelers, so stay tuned.  Cheers!