Search This Blog

Monday, June 25, 2012

Romancing the Beer

How fortunate for Brewslut and I that our wedding anniversary coincides with the start of Philly Beer Week?  To visit the City of Brotherly Love with the one I love to share the drink we BOTH love is, well, fitting to say the least.  Beer can be romantic, right?  Well, I think so!

We met up with innkeepers Matt and Morgan on Friday evening a bit later than anticipated due to heavy rainfall on the PA Turnpike.  It was so bad that we had to admit defeat and pull over at a rest stop for about forty minutes or so.  Good old Starbucks to the rescue!  It took nearly that long just for the coffee to cool down to a reasonable temperature.  At any rate, I feared that we would arrive at Devil's Den too late to ensure getting our pick of the lot.  This would be our fourth year in a row attending the outstanding Bella Vista Bash at the aforementioned Devil's Den, home to one of the city's premier craft beer establishments.  It is a regular stop for us any time we are in Philly, not only for its fantastic and constantly rotating tap line-up, but also for their top-notch food (especially a great Sunday brunch).  It also helps that they open early - 11:30am daily!  I had perused the tap list prior to arriving, and it sounded amazing, as usual.  Unfortunately, several of the beers we really wanted had already kicked - Cigar City Marshall Zhukov's Imperial Stout aged in apple brandy barrels and Funky Buddha Raspberry Berliner Weiss were both high on the list.  Nevertheless, there was still a top-notch selection of beers we'd never sampled.  I began with the sole cask offering - Williamsburg Chaka Latte Coffee Stout.  I had had this beer before once or twice, but never on cask, and it did not disappoint.  Breswslut opted for Exodus, a sour beer from Wisconsin-based Central Waters, which she enjoyed.  We followed up our initial selections with a pair of local brews - 50/50 Brewing Company's B.A.R.T., a blend of their Eclipse Imperial Stout and Conundrum Barleywine, and Round Guys barrel-aged Saison.  We were just ready to call it a night when we bumped into our buddy Craig (aka corby112 on BA), and we decided to stay for one more, which turned into two more - Half Acre's Chocolate Camaro Milk Stout and Ballast Point's excellent Even Keel, a 3.5% ABV hop bomb!   I enjoyed talking beer and old school metal with Craig, who we hadn't seen in quite a while, and it turned out to be a memorable night at Devil's Den. 

We didn't have too much on our plate scheduled for Saturday, but another must-visit bar is Memphis Taproom.  They regularly host a "No Repeat Beer Week" during PBW, and this year was no exception.  We had gotten there at the tail end of a Half Acre tap takeover event, and I was pleased to see Half Acre's incredible Double Daisy Cutter on tap, which I had only had on one other occasion (thanks to Little Wiss, who shared an entire growler at "Imminent Liquidation 2" back in March).  Brewslut chose the Big Hugs Imperial Stout, which was also quite tasty.  Having eaten at Memphis Taproom on numerous prior occasions, we knew their menu was legit, so we decided to split a veggie burger and wash it down with a pour of the Dripping Saison, a wild Brett-infused Farmhouse ale.  While at Memphis Tap Room, we started up a conversation with pleasant guy at the bar who turned out to be Kevin, the owner of 4 Hands Brewing Company based out of St. Louis, MO.  In speaking with him, we learned that he and his cohorts were heading over to Monk's at 4pm for an event that would feature an assortment of 4 Hands' beers.  After hearing Kevin describe some of the beers (a Saison brewed with pear and pepper and a Rye IPA made me perk up!), we decided to head over.  But first, a quick stop at Johnny Brenda's for the "It's a Firkin Riot!" cask beer event, where I was finally able to sample a beer from the fairly new PA-based Free Will Brewing Company.  The Citra Pale Ale was a pleasant, sessionable pale ale with quite a bit of hoppy flavor for a straight-up pale ale.  Brewslut went with DFH's 75-minute IPA, which may well be our favorite of the "insert-minutes-here" line of IPAs it brews.  However, it was a "one and done" visit, as we were heading over to Monk's for the 4 Hands event. 

The back room was quite busy, and we actually got to Monk's right as Kevin was welcoming all the beer geeks and explaining some of the brewery's history and available beers.  We sampled three of its flagship beers: Divided Sky Rye (yes, named after the Phish song), Pyrus and Prunes.  4 Hands is an up-and-coming brewery that has only existed for about six months, and they are already making a dent in the Midwest beer scene, apparently.  Brewslut and I will definitely look for them at Great Taste of the Midwest, when we attend in August.  Afterwards, we were lucky enough to snag two seats at the crowded bar, where we enjoyed a pour of Sierra Nevada's Knock on Wood, which is basically its Hell Raiser aged in Heaven Hill barrels for eighteen months.  Can you say, "Yum?" 

When we informed Matt and Morgan of our itinerary for the weekend, we mentioned an interesting-sounding event at an unfamiliar bar called Woody's.  Woody's was hosting an event called "Once You Go Black..." a cleverly named event featuring a bevy of coffee beers.  The Blaxploitation classic Shaft movies were also to be shown on the bar's various television screens during the event, which appealed to us, as we've seen the original Shaft more than once!  Matt politely pointed out that Woody's was, in fact, a gay bar.  I hadn't thought about it (in all my youthful naivety), but it made perfect sense.  We were going to a GAY BAR, GAY BAR!!!  No matter to me.  We were going where the beers (and "insert any politically incorrect plural noun which happens to rhyme with beers that would be somewhat appropriate in this context") were.  Unfortunately, the tap list really wasn't all that impressive, so we settled for one beer each and called it a night. 

Sunday proved to be a busy day for us and our beer endeavors.  First on the agenda was a visit to Eulogy for its Coffee Beer Brunch, an event that we had attended last year.  We were lucky to obtain two seats at the small bar again this year, and ran into a few more acquaintances (coincidentally, both of whom we saw at last year's event)!  I perused the tap selection and stopped at Ballast Point Victory at Sea, an Imperial Coffee Vanilla Porter, which also happens to be one of my very favorite beers produced in the US.  If I was stranded on a desert island and given the choice of either Victory at Sea or Ballast Point's over-hyped (though rightly so) Sculpin IPA, I think I'd have to choose the former.  Seriously folks, this beer never disappoints!  I love this beer so much that I procured a sixtel for a past Ffej of July (with lots of help from my buddy Dan).  If you've never had this beer, go to your nearest specialty bottle shop and buy it immediately!  Yeah, it's THAT good! 

Across the street from Eulogy is Triumph Brewing Company, a modern brewpub with a varied selection of about eight house-made beers on any given day.  One of my favorite Triumph creations is a rye beer called Jewish Rye, brewed with caraway seeds.  I had even mentioned to Brewslut earlier that I'd hoped they'd have it on tap during our visit.  Well, they didn't have it on tap.  But they had it on CASK!  Schwing!  This beer is like liquid rye bread, and it is definitely one of the most authentic rye beers I've ever tasted.  Unfortunately, we only had time for one beer, even though Triumph boasted three-dollar beers all weekend! 

We decided to head over to the P.O.P.E. (aka the Pub on Passyunk), where it and a few neighboring establishments was hosting various IPA lineups.  However, nothing really struck a chord with us, so I ended up checking out a local record shop on Passyunk, where I picked up two old Yes and Genesis LPs to add to my record collection. 

We knew Monk's Funky Buddha Berliner Weiss event was going to be a madhouse, and our assumptions were indeed accurate. Even as we walked in, a few guys at a nearby table said, "Don't even bother!"  Amateurs!  I had all four Berliners inside half an hour.  We also had the good fortune of running into Al (of the Hampden variety) and his cohorts, who came down in a rented limo bus.  While I stood in line, I was able to sample all four of the Berliners - key lime, raspberry, peach and (easily the cream of the crop) passion fruit.  While all were indeed top-notch takes on the style, Brewslut and I both agreed that the passion fruit was the best of the lot.  We were able to snag a table while Brewslut went to feed the meter, and we all made plans to head up to Woody's (coincidentally where we were parked) to get another hyped Funky Buddha concoction - Maple Bacon Porter.  Now, most people who know us know that neither Brewslut nor I no longer eat red meat or pork products, but we couldn't resist trying this beer!  Unfortunately, there were only two pours left when we arrived, so we shared amongst the group of of about six or seven of us.  Afterwards, our collective pangs of hunger led us to a detour to South Street for pizza at Lorenzo Brothers, easily my favorite pizzeria in the city!  Our final stop this year was at Standard Tap, for the Troegs Scratch Beer Throwdown between two avid beer writers - Lou Bryson and Jack Curtain, both of whom I had met previously, courtesy of my beer compatriot, Deuane.  However, it was a long day, and we didn't even try either of the Scratch beers - Bryson's Zwickle Licker and Curtain's Beer de Grouch.  I did, however, grab the much-anticipated and now year-round Troegs Perpetual IPA, which I must admit was drinking rather amazingly on this particular Sunday evening.  After wielding the Hammer of Doom (or whatever it is called), we bid a fond adieu to the City of Brotherly Love and made our way back to Annville.  Romancing the beer, indeed!

Hammer of the Ffej!