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Thursday, November 14, 2013


I'm sorry to report that I just haven't been motivated lately to keep up the blog. It's a lot of work. Being in half a dozen bands is pretty time-consuming. Plus, I now get paid to write about beer. I am around it all day. Am I sick of it? Hell no! But I suppose I am finding other things to do with my spare time. For example, tonight I am watching a John Denver DVD. Sure, I could write and listen simultaneously, but it all goes back to motivation. You could also describe my lack of blogging as laziness. That would be accurate. I'm not gonna lie to you. I should actually be cleaning records right now, but that takes a lot of time too, and I don't have enough rags to dry them off. They get wet too fast and I get frustrated. Perhaps I should buy more rags. Motivation fails me again.

I guess I could talk about beer for a while, now that I think about it. Last night, I drank a lot of beer. A LOT. Deuane drank even more than I did. He passed out on my chair and had to spend the night. It was cool, though. We listened to Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Rush and Black Sabbath records.

As fun as it was, this is the reason why I am not drinking tonight.

However, it is still early and I might change my mind. But I'm watching my calorie intake. Beer has a lot of calories. Light beer is not an option. So there is a dilemma. The other problem is that writing about beer makes me thirsty for beer. The nights I typically have free to devote to the blog are usually nights when I don't want to drink. But writing the blog makes me crave beer. Do you understand my quandary? Catch 22 at its finest.

I guess I will go back to John Denver. Rocky Mountain High.


Now I am thirsty for some Great Divide. Damn you, beer. Damn you to hell!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Great New England Excursion of 2013: Day 2 - Amassing some Drafts around Boston, Mass!

Day Two of the excursion led us to eastern Massachusetts. After a lengthy first day, we were surprisingly fresh and ready to imbibe in Cambridge, just across the Charles River from Boston. I had visited Cambridge Brewing Company once before during a trip to New Hampshire for Kate the Great Day. Its Blunderbus Barleywine had been on my mind since then, and has remained in my Top 5 list of barleywine-style ales. Unfortunately, it was not on tap when we arrived at Cambridge around lunch time. However, there was plenty of interesting offerings available during our visit.
Pleeps chronicles our first stop of the day!
I figured it would be a good idea to start light, as I knew we had a long day ahead of us. The first beer to catch my eye was Le Saisonniere, a low ABV farmhouse-style ale known as Grisette. This proved to be a perfect starting point and a refreshing choice on such a hot, humid day. I followed this up with The Cure, an Imperial IPA brewed with an experimental hop blend for a charitable cause called Ales for ALS. I knew about this program because Tröegs is in the process of brewing a Scratch Beer to benefit this organization. The hop blend was developed by Loftus Ranches, a hop grower in the Yakima Valley area of Washington state, with the assistance of Vinny from Russian River and Larry from Bell's. The idea is that Loftus Ranches provides the breweries with the special hop blend at no charge, and the brewery in turn brews a special beer and donates a portion of proceeds to the charity, in this case ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease) research. Pretty cool concept, eh? At any rate, the beer was quite juicy and elicited a variety of tropical fruits in both the aroma and flavor.
Enjoying my first beer of the day at Cambridge Brewing Co.!

Meanwhile, Brewslut was working on a pair of darker beers, Collier Stout and Charles River Porter. After lunch, we decided to try the interesting sounding Banryu Ichi, a 14% ABV beer and saké hybrid. While we both enjoyed it quite a bit, we each had very different takes on the flavor. I thought it was quite fruity with a penchant for fleshy melon such as cantaloupe or honeydew. Brewslut, on the other hand, found it to be quite grassy and herbal. Nonetheless, it was quite a complex concoction that both of us were glad to have had sampled.

Pleeps bogarts the Banryu Ichi.
Since Boston boasts a plethora of great beer bars, we decided to switch gears for the remainder of the day and hit some of the best ones in our vicinity. First up on the agenda was a place Jason, Tröegs' MA Sales Rep, recommended - Mead Hall. After taking a while to find this place due to my poor GPS navigational skills while in "walking mode," we entered the establishment, and I was surprised to see the abundance of tap handles behind the bar. This place has a great open floor plan with a huge wrap-around bar and a comfortable upstairs lounge-style area. The tap selection was pretty awesome, and featured a wide variety of local favorites mingling with a vast selection from all corners of the United States. It was nice to see four Tröegs tap handles in the mix!

This is only half of the taps at Mead Hall!
We bellied up to the bar, and our bartender was extremely friendly and talkative right from the get-go. He offered us a variety of samples as we made our decisions. I started with a recommendation of his, the local favorite Be Hoppy from Wormtown Brewery. Wormtown was indeed on our master list, but unfortunately its hours did not sync with our schedule. This was a very fresh, well-balanced IPA with a moderate hop bite. Good stuff for sure! Brewslut started with Dean's Beans Coffeehouse Stout from Berkshire Brewing, which she enjoyed.

Nice coasters here!
We also tried some samples of various local brews from three breweries with which we were not familiar. First was Somerville's Slumbrew Happy Sol, a pretty good German-style Hefe. Next was Portico's Fuzzy Logic (great name!), a Belgian-style Pale. Lastly, we sampled Groundswell from Backlash Beer Co., another Belgian-style Pale. Both were fine, although I prefer American-style Pale Ales much more. Perhaps it has to do with the Belgian yeast. After these samples, Brewslut and I shared the delicious Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale from Lexington Brewing Co. in Kentucky. I typically like to drink local when traveling, but I couldn't resist trying this marriage of an Irish Red and English Pale aged for 6-weeks in freshly decanted bourbon barrels from Kentucky. This beer reminded me of liquefied vanilla bean ice cream! I really liked Mead Hall, so I decided to have one final beer, Mayflower's Summer Rye Ale, which was light and easy compared to the last few beers I had.

Our next stop was Deep Ellum, the first of two beer bars in Boston I'd been to previously. Since I had quite a bit at Mead Hall, I decided to go "one and done" here and let Brewslut imbibe a bit with two selections. I opted for Smoked Maple Lager, a Jack's Abby/Lawson's Finest Liquids collaboration. This one showed up on a number of tap lists throughout the entire trip... and for good reason, because it was quite tasty! Brewslut was ecstatic to see a Berliner Weiss on tap called Intergalactic Acid by The Tap Brewing Co. I'd never heard of this brewery before, but I quickly learned that this was in fact the new name for Haverhill Brewing, a place we'd visited on our Kate the Great trek. She wasn't blown away by this particular beer, but it was tasty nevertheless. She followed up with Clementine by Clown Shoes, a Belgian-style Witbier brewed with - you guessed it - clementines!

Extreme close-up of Blatant IPA at Sunset Grill & Tap.

Up next, we headed to a place just down the street from Deep Ellum. Sunset Grill & Tap, the other bar I'd been to previously, was the last place we visited before the infamous cab ride on our Kate the Great trek. (Perhaps I will share this story at another time!) Brewslut and I were a bit hungry by now, so we decided to get some grub. I got a grilled PB & banana sandwich on Texas toast and washed that son bitch down with the local Blatant IPA from Blatant Brewery. Overall, it was an average IPA. Brewslut decided on Mary of the Gael, a Saison from Mystic Brewery, another local brewery from Chelsea, MA. We were both tempted to order the nachos, which looked amazing and HUGE, but that PB & banana sandwich just sounded too good to pass up!

Our last stop of the evening was Lord Hobo, also a recommendation from Jason. We finished up each with a single beer, The Tap's Ignoble India Pale Lager, one of the rare occasions where we ordered the same beer. Lord Hobo is a beer geek den with dim lighting, knowledgeable staff (and patrons) and just a cool atmosphere conducive to drinking and discussing beer. We started a conversation with a local patron, and during our discussion we got to talking about Hill Farmstead. We had mentioned that we were going to the bottle release on Thursday. He also asked if we had heard of Marshall Wharf Brewing, which I had just recently found out about through another beer friend's recent travels. However, I had not yet tried any of their beer. He said that he prefers Marshall Wharf over Hill Farmstead. Strong words, indeed! So I was now on a mission to find some of their beers on this trip.

Upon returning to our hotel, we decided it was still early enough for us to enjoy one more beer. Surprisingly, the small hotel bar had a few decent selections on tap, although there was nothing worthwhile in bottles. I went with Original Ale from Ipswitch Ale Brewery and Brewslut opted for Sam Adams Boston Lager, a curious choice for her. And with that, Day Two had ended.

Stay tuned for Day Three, which finds us heading north to the land of lobsters, the great state of Maine!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Great New England Excursion of 2013: Day 1 - Connecting the Dots

Throughout the past year, Brewslut and I had intended to visit Portland, OR, and do a REAL beer trip. You may recall that our last trip was (for lack of a better word) stifled by the presence of my mother. While we still got to hit some much-anticipated spots such as Hair of the Dog and Deschutes, we barely scratched the surface during that week-long trip, opting for lots of tourist stuff to keep Mom happy. Ironically, her favorite meal of the trip was at Deschutes! But I digress.

However, fate (or perhaps it was poor planning) intervened, and we decided that booking a flight was simply too much of a hassle, not to mention that prices for flights this year were through the roof! So, we made an executive decision and decided to head north to New England. Since all of the states are so small, we figured we could cover a lot of ground over the course of eight days. It would also give us an opportunity to visit our friends, The Bodans, who now reside in Waterbury, VT. So, we sketched out a rough itinerary (with the help of my fellow beer compadre and geography scholar, Deuane) and planned to visit breweries, beer bars and other assorted beer destinations throughout (in order of destination) Connecticut, Massachusettes, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and finally upstate New York. 

But first, a quick recap of the night before the trip. As if my job at Tröegs wasn't awesome enough (what with the free beer, discounts and, well, just getting to work there every day), I used my contacts and resourcefulness to obtain two meet and greet passes for the Rush concert at the Giant Center in Hershey on Friday, June 21. For those of you living in a cave or new readers of The Pour Travelers, Rush is my favorite band of all time. To call me a "fan" is an understatement. But I digress...again! Needless to say, I was completely stoked by this sudden turn of events! (I'd only found out a few days prior to the show that this was going to happen, having been told that it wasn't going to happen!) And when it rains, it pours. More good fortune found its way to me, when I found out that Joey Dougherty's dad (who works for Clair Brothers), had arranged for me to meet with Neil Peart's drum tech, Lorne Wheaton, prior to the show to get a tour of the stage and Neil's kit. Wha-wha-whaaaaaaat?!

l to r: Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart (!), Brewslut, Geddy Lee
We awoke on Saturday morning at the ass crack of dawn (around 5am), with every intention of leaving the house by 6am. Thankfully, we weren't running too far behind, and we were able to depart at around 6:20am. Our first stop would be Willimantic Brewing Company in the town of the same name in Connecticut. After a pleasant five-hour commute, we arrived and, by that time, we were in dire need of liquid refreshment by way of fermented beverages (i.e. we needed beer badly)!

They love frogs here! A bit of research revealed that the Frogs
represent the legendary Windham Frog Fight of 1754.
I had been to Willimantic on one other occasion, during a trip to to Portsmouth, NH, for Kate the Great Day back in 2010. Brewslut had never been there, so this stop was a no-brainer. The building in which the brewpub is situated is worth a visit alone. Housed in a defunct U.S. Post Office branch, the brewpub boasts a spacious floor plan and high ceilings amid large, ornate stone columns and other aesthetically interesting architecture.

Willimantic Brewing Company. Do you need any stamps today?
I always enjoyed their IPA offerings, and today we were in luck because they had just tapped a brand new IPA for the first day of Summer, Summer Solstice IPA! This beer provided an omen of what was to come, and really set the trip off on the right foot. This was simply a fresh, flavorful and well-balanced IPA brimming with the kind of citrus-forward flavor that I enjoy in the style. This beer definitely set the bar pretty high for the rest of our jaunt, and was easily one of the most memorable beers of the entire trip. I followed up with Blanche de Willi, a White Saison-style IPA. The White IPA style has been gaining some popularity in the craft beer industry as of late. This one definitely had a Belgian flair with a prominent yeast character but still retained quite a bit of hop bitterness as well. Willimantic describes this beer as "an unfiltered Saison style IPA with sweet and bitter orange zests and hopped Galena, Crystal, and Cascade." I was surprised to find that this beer weighed in at 8.2%. To me, it seemed pretty light. While I am typically on the fence when it comes to Belgian-style IPAs, I found this one to be quite enjoyable.

Enjoying my first beer of the trip!
Brewslut started with Rail Mail Rye, then followed up with a sampler tray of Carrier's Credo Cream Ale, Mariner's Scotch Ale, Salacious Saison, and the aforementioned Blanche de Willi. Pleepleus and I helped her with some of the selections. I wasn't a huge fan of the Rail Mail Rye, surprisingly, as I found it to be a tad buttery. All of the samplers were tasty and enjoyable, though. We also enjoyed the names of the some of the beers, as they typically try to work post office terminology into the names.

Up next on the agenda was an unexpected stop at Pioneer Brewing Company, a small brewery only a few miles from our planned destination, Tree House Brewing Company. Pioneer was recommended by our server at Willimantic. Since it was in such close proximity to Tree House, we figured an hour-long stop wouldn't hurt.

Pioneer had about nine beers on tap, ranging from English-style ales to IPAs to an experimental alcoholic birch beer. We settled on two separate sampler trays, so we were able to try all but one of the beers. Here's a quick run-down: American IPA, The New Frontier DIPA, Minx (Saison), American Red Ale, Welkin Ringer (English-style Bitter), ESB, Path of the Unknown (Double Brown Ale), and finally Noble Birch (the alcoholic birch beer and easily the best of the lot). Most of the beers were well-done, with a few exceptions being simply average. However, the Noble Birch was without a doubt the stand-out selection. I would have loved to bring a growler home to share, but unfortunately they did not have any available in the coolers (growlers were pre-filled and available for purchase).

One of the perks of working for a brewery (and a respected one, at that!) is that you tend to get VIP status when visiting other breweries. This treatment increases tenfold when you have beer in tow and present is as a gift to brewers, owners, bartenders, etc. Case in point, I gave the bartender a few bottles of some Troegs selections, and he reciprocated by comping our tab and giving us a growler and bomber to go. The growler was filled with Path to the Unknown, which was my favorite save for the Noble Birch. "That's the way we roll," he said. It was going to be that kind of trip, folks! We also ran into an older couple (a term I use to describe people older than we... not elderly!) and the woman was wearing a Troegs DreamWeaver hat! They saw my work shirt when we entered, so naturally we got to talking; they turned out to be fans and had visited the brewery in the past. I gave them a bottle of Impending Descent, which they had never had, and were quite gracious.

Next on the itinerary was a visit to Tree House Brewing Company. Jason, Troegs' Massachusetts sales rep, referred us to Tree House and promised some amazing IPAs. We were sold. I decided to touch base with the guys at Tree House prior to visit, and coincidentally I emailed them just as they were checking out our BrauKon brew house on-line at that very moment! We exchanged a few emails, and they informed me that they were releasing Julius, an American IPA, on Saturday and would be "slammed." We decided to show up about an hour before they closed in order to let the anticipated crowd subside a bit. This proved to be a good idea, as they filled some 400-odd vessels with the much sought-after IPA over the course of about six hours.

Inside Tree House. Note the musical instruments!
Unfortunately, Tree House had recently lost its tasting rights due to some uncompromising neighbors. So we got a quick tour of the facility and tasting room, met the owners and staff, and basically waited for the tasting room to close. In the meantime, we strolled around the grounds and enjoyed watching the large carp in the pond from the gazebo. We also checked out the tree house from which the brewery takes its name. (Turns out that, when they were deciding on a name for the brewery, one of them said, "I don't care what we call it, as long as it's not Tree House!" After lengthy discussions, they decided that "Tree House" fit their model and personality perfectly, so the name stuck.) Sadly, we did not snap a photo of the tree house.

Afterwards, we sat around for a bit and talked about all things beer, music, and even had a little jam session (I played djembe). We regaled our small audience with impromptu lyrics set to simple blues chord progressions. I seldom turn down an opportunity to jam with fellow musicians for a bit!

Molded Tree House tap handle!
We also sampled some Julius, which was delicious! This is truly a fine IPA; hoppy, citrusy and extremely well-balanced. The other beers on tap (Tornado, a dry, hopped-up Pale Ale, and Curiosity #3, a limited batch Pale Ale) we procured by way of 750ml flip-top growlers. Again, these were graciously comped for providing them with a few choice Troegs beers! I left Tree House feeling proud to be part of an industry where total strangers are so friendly and accommodating, proving undeniably that beer is - in more ways than one - the greatest social lubricant.

Our final destination for Day 1 was Armsby Abbey, a renowned beer bar in Worcester, MA. Fellow Team D(r)INK member Dan recommended this place, and so did the guys from Tree House. Turns out they carried Tree House beers there, and I was lucky to see Tornado on tap when we arrived, so I ordered one. Brewslut went with a Maine Beer Co. Peeper, even though we'd be visiting their tasting room on Tuesday. The food menu looked great and the food was fresh, local and well-executed. We each started with salads. Brewslut got a beet salad while I opted for Strawberry Fields. Since it was strawberry season, both salads and many of the menu selections featured fresh strawberries. We also got the mac and cheese, which was delicious. We were hoping for something a bit more substantial and protein-rich, but the non-red meat and pork selections were sparse. Still, the food was presented well and delicious.

Again, we ran into some Troegs fans and got talking about Mad Elf, so I ended up giving them a bottle of Naked Elf to share. Also, one of the bartenders was wearing a green T-shirt with the words "Fiddlehead Brewing Co." emblazoned on the front. I asked where they were located, as we'd never heard of this brewery before. Brewslut and I were pleased to learn that Fiddlehead was situated about 7 miles or so outside of Burlington, VT, where we'd be visiting in a few short days. The bartender spoke highly of Fiddlehead, so we decided to work a visit into our itinerary, which was fine with us because we had plenty of time to kill in Vermont!

All in all, it was an amazing first day, with our visit to Tree House being the highpoint of the day. One of our favorite aspects of "beer tripping" is simply meeting the people behind the beer and getting a sense of the beer culture in each community or state we visit. They guys at Treehouse were especially accommodating, and we definitely made some new friends. I look forward to returning sooner than later!

Pleeps was starting to sway by this point!
Stay tuned for a recap of Day #2. We were gone for eight days, so get ready to "connect the dots" by reading and following along with our awesome New England excursion. Cheers!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Philly Beer Week 2013

I am grateful to have a wife who loves craft beer. Given my terrible memory about things outside the realm of music (ie: setlists for concerts I have seen, or album track lists for bands I love), I am also fortunate enough that Philly Beer Week (PBW) coincides with my wedding anniversary, which serves as a welcome reminder each year! PBW has exploded over the last few years, getting so popular that a mobile app is now required for one to navigate the labyrinthine maze of events throughout the city. I had since entered the age of technology when Tröegs was kind enough to provide me with an iPhone upon hiring me, so I was able to download the app and peruse the hundreds of events happening just over the first weekend of PBW! Below is a recount of our weekend.

We arrived in Philadelphia on Friday night at around 8:30 p.m. and decided to head straight to Devil's Den for the much-anticipated and extremely popular annual Bella Vista Bash. When we arrived, the crowd seemed considerably less intimidating than the previous year's, but it was still a healthy amount of people. Bella Vista and Devil's Den always bring out the crème de la crème for this event, and this year was no different. We perused the lengthy tap list, and as usual, some of the really sought-after beers had already kicked, such as Cigar City Peach Humidor IPA. Regardless, there was plenty to be had, so I started with a Central Waters Peruvian Morning and Brewslut opted for Internezzo from, a green apple and wasabi sour ale Carton Brewing Company. My selection proved to be the winner, as Brewslut said her beer neither tasted like green apple nor wasabi. We ran into some friends from Philly, and they were gracious enough to share some of the Cigar City and Hill Farmstead/Dieu du Ciel collaboration beer called Friendship and Reunion (F&R). Thanks Bill and Gumper! I liked the F&R enough to order my own glass (surprisingly it had not yet kicked) and it was quite tasty. Brewslut enjoyed her Voodoo Grand Master, a sour version of Gran Met aged in Buffalo Trace barrels with Brett, which turned out to be her favorite of the three she had at Devil's Den. After Bill and Gumper departed, we ran into Dr. Justin and company as we were enjoying our final beers (me, an AleSmith IPA on cask and Brewslut, Bada Bing Cherry Porter by Coronado Brewing Company). After some Ffej of July discussion, we headed back to the Spade residence (our innkeepers for the weekend) to catch up over some rare beers.

After enjoying a Victory Prima Pils from Spade's kegerator, we broke into a few bottles. Up first was a Deschutes/Hair of the Dog collaborative beer from the "Conflux Series" called Collage. An American Strong Ale weighing in at over 11% ABV, this complex beer is a blend of Deschutes' The Dissident and The Stoic with HotD's Fred and Adam, then barrel aged in a variety of wooden vessels (Rye Whiskey, Cognac, Sherry, Pinot Noir, Bourbon, new American Oak, and new Oregon Oak... JESUS!). The result is, according to the makers of the beer, "an artistic collage of cask-aging alchemy." True dat!

Up next were two classic Russian River sour ales that were collecting dust in our beer cellar since our 10th Anniversary Trip to California back in 2010. Since Spade had recently discovered Russian River and a new found appreciation for sour beers, we decided that the time was finally right to crack open these vintages. Up first was Beatification Batch 003, followed by Temptation Batch 004. Everyone was in agreement that the Beatification was superior, although both were enjoyable. As only a casual fan of sour and wild ales, I found this one to be particularly amazing! I also enjoyed a tiny snifter of The Macallan (Mr. Peart's preferred libation) between beers.

Batch #003 is the shit! Holy sour notes, Batman!
We decided to hit nearby restaurant North 3rd for brunch with Spade and a work friend of his. I was excited, because Spade told me they were having a Founders Brewing Company brunch. Unfortunately, when we arrived, he had mistaken Founders for Southern Tier. Nevertheless, we had one of our favorite beers of the weekend during our fantastic brunch - Southern Tier "215" Saison, which was brewed especially for PBW 2013. A reference to the city's most recognized area code, "215" is an unfiltered, cloudy, citrus-forward Saison with a pleasant peppery finish. We followed this up with Southern Tier's Eurotrash Pilz, which we shared. While it was enjoyable, it had nothing on the Saison. Ultimately, everyone at the table ordered a "215" and it was unanimously voted a winner.

It's a Firkin Riot at Johnny Brenda's!
After a not-so-quick detour to the grand re-opening of Philadelphia Record Exchange (yes, I spent too much money on records AGAIN!), we swung by Johnny Brenda's for their annual "It's a Firkin Riot" event. The brand spankin' new Tröegs Scratch #97 had been recently tapped, so I opted for that. This is a session-strength IPA brewed with peppercorns, three varieties of rye malt, and lots of American hops. We brewed this in collaboration with Devils Backbone and The Church Brew Works to commemorate our collective GABF success in 2012. The goal was to be able to drink several of these in one setting, which definitely comes in handy when one is attending a week-long (or in our case, a weekend-long) beer event. Brewslut decided to pass on a firkin pint since Dock Street Johnny Berliner Weisse was on tap and she is a sucker for this particular style, which is a refreshing, low ABV German wheat beer with tart notes.

Up next was a visit to one of my favorites - Barcade! I can't stress enough how awesome this place is. After a pair of games of Ms. Pac-Man and Spy Hunter played while sipping on the über-delicious New Holland Barrel-Aged Night Tripper, I enjoyed a fantastic turkey waffle panini sandwich served with a side of maple syrup. Even better was the fact that this "lunch special" also included a bag of chips and any beer under $6! The sandwich alone was $8 on the menu, so it was like getting a beer for $2. I chose a pint of Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale, which complemented the sandwich nicely. While I spent a dollar in quarters on the games, Brewslut quietly checked in her beers on Untappd: Yards BBA Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale and Victory Liberty Bell Ringer, the latter of which was brewed especially for this year's PBW festivities.

Barrel-Aged Night Tripper. This is my "I like it" face!
After Barcade, it was off to another Fishtown favorite - Kraftwork. Unfortunately, this was a quick one-and-done stop, so I made it count. Upon perusing the draft menu, I was excited to see the amazing Firestone Walker Black IPA, Wookey Jack, on the list! I first had this beer during last year's trip to San Diego, and it is easily one of the best Black IPAs on the market. Brewslut enjoyed another fine offering from CA, Port Brewing's Summer Pale Ale.

Chillin' with Chewie.
I'm doing my best impression of a Wookiee (use your imagination)!
We ended the evening at Spade's neighborhood watering hole, Prohibition Taproom, where we had dinner with the Spades and our friend, Shinsk (one of the Bunker Hill gang from Shamokin). This place is an overlooked gem in the Philly beer scene. On this particular evening, they were hosting a superhero/villain comic book-esque event. They even had a costume contest and handed out X-Men and Game of Thrones (or was it Walking Dead... not sure, don't watch that shit) comics to all customers. The tap list was pretty damn amazing, too! Good thing we were closing out the night here, because there was a lot of high octane stuff on the draft menu. I started with one of my perennial favorites, Dorado from Ballast Point. They were serving it on nitro, which I'd never had before. Unfortunately, it lost a lot of its crisp, juicy citrus goodness in lieu of a softer, rounder mouthfeel from the nitro pour. It was still enjoyable, however. Up next on the agenda was Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel-aged Plead the Fifth, which may have been my beer of the weekend. I seem to recall having the standard version of this excellent Imperial Stout, but this BBA version was exceptional! I probably could have drank this for the rest of the evening, but I don't think my liver would have appreciated that very much. I finished up with Hill Farmstead's flagship Pale Ale, Edward, which proved a tasty counterpart to my delicious fried chicken dinner. In addition to the Dorado and Plead the Fifth, Brewslut also enjoyed an AleSmith IPA. All in all, it was a fun night, and I got to geek out about beer and metal with some industry peeps.

For the after-party, we all retired to Spade's house for a Prima Pils nightcap while listening to the new 5.1 surround sound version of Rush's 2112 album. We had assumed control, indeed!

Enjoying a nice break... an Imperial Biscotti Break, that is!
The following day, we made our way over to Old City for the 6th Annual Coffee Beer Brunch at Eulogy Belgian Tavern. We attend this event every year, and they always have a great line-up of coffee beers on tap. This year, I went with the one-two punch of Mikkeller's Beer Hop Breakfast and Evil Twin's Imperial Biscotti Break. The former is strangely similar to Victory Storm King, only more expensive. The latter I'd actually never had before, even though we purchased a bottle during our trip to Charleston, SC. Brewslut started with Elysian's Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout, then followed it up with a generous goblet of Ballast Point's incredible Victory at Sea, after which she assisted me with my tulip of Imperial Biscotti Break. For brunch, we both ordered the mushroom and goat cheese omelet with caramelized onions and a side of potatoes. Yum!

Behold the Hammer of Glory!
At around 2 p.m., we headed over to Kite & Key for the Throwdown in Franklintown, which pitted Yards, Victory, Allagash and Dogfish Head against each other in a variety of Olympic-style events including keg races and tug-of-war. Tröegs' very own Nick Johnson served as the referee for the afternoon. We ordered some nachos and some beers. I started with the Brotherly Suds 4 collaboration, listed as a citrusy Saison/Farmhouse-style ale. It sounded delicious, but I wasn't too thrilled with this year's version. However, I followed up this disappointing beer with the fantastic Liberty Bell Ringer from Victory, which Brewslut enjoyed earlier at Barcade. Brewslut was in the mood for something light and tart, so she went with a Dogfish Head Festina Peche, but then followed it up with a heavy hitter - Allagash James Bean, an 11% ABV barrel-aged Tripel brewed with coffee beans. We both agreed it was both tasty and cleverly named as well.

Brewslut man-handles the HOG!
After Kite & Key, we headed back to Casa Spade for a quick nap before we made our way over to Standard Tap for the Gold Standard tap takeover event featuring Tröegs, Devils Backtone, and The Church Brew Works. This event was put together to celebrate the success of the three breweries at GABF last October (a total of six gold, three silver, and six bronze medals were captured collectively by the three breweries). Tröegs also hosted brewers Matt Moninger (Church) and Jason Oliver (DB) to brew a commemorative Scratch Beer, a session-strength Black Rye IPA, especially for PBW. (NOTE: I discussed this beer earlier during our visit to Johnny Brenda's Firkin Riot event.) We met up with Dan, Kristen, Nate, and Charles at Standard Tap. It wasn't too crowded, so we were able to snag two tables in the upstairs area. After enjoying the rare Tröegs Scratch #94 - Apricot IPA (it kicked in about a day at the brewery), I decided to end on a simple note with two Devil's Backbone offerings. The first was its gold-medal winning Vienna Lager, which was an excellent representation of the style. I hadn't had a Vienna in quite some time, and I must say that this hit the spot, especially after drinking so many hoppy IPAs and huge barrel-aged beers for the majority of the weekend. The second was its Schwartz Beer, a German-style Schwarzbier, or dark lager. This beer was also very well done. Brewslut continued to nurse her Church Brew Works Coconut Stout, as she had to drive us back to Annville. We wrapped up the evening with a nice conversation with Matt Hasson, one of Tröegs' sales reps for the Philly market, and Jason from Devils Backbone.

Thankfully, we were able to avoid some of the events that turned into shit-shows and settled on some more low-key events. PBW might be starting to get too big, but it is still an enjoyable event and a good excuse to bum around the city for a weekend. We'll be back next year to celebrate our 15th anniversary!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Spring House: Not Just for Stouts Anymore!

Spring House is one of those breweries that I've been enjoying right out of the gate. Brewslut and I were early visitors to the Spring House tasting room housed at the production facility in Conestoga, PA, which is just a few miles outside Lancaster city limits. Over time as Spring House got more and more popular, they opened their very own Tap Room right in downtown Lancaster. We tend to visit Lancaster quite often, so naturally we make it a point to swing by for at least one beer every time we're in the area. I've often called brewer/owner Matt Keasey "The Stout King of PA" due to his penchant for making amazing stouts. If you don't believe me, go to the Spring House Tap Room in Lancaster and try Planet Bean... or Kerplunk!... or Big Gruesome... or, well, you get the picture. But despite his ability to brew these delectable dark beers, I've always been a bit underwhelmed with his hoppy offerings. Sure, his flagship Seven Gates is a solid Pale Ale any way you look at it. But I was never bowled over by his Beyond the Gates DIPA or Mango IPA. This, I later found, was largely due to a sub par hops contract he was locked into, which only allowed him access to a limited variety of hops.

Well, I am pleased to say that Matt has since secured a new hops contract, and let me tell you, his hoppy beers are now every bit as good as his stouts... and that's saying A LOT!!! On the recommendation of my good beer compatriot Dan (aka BA FooFaa), I decided to give it another shot during one of our more recent visits. Well, I can honestly say that it is indeed one of the better East Coast DIPAs that I can recall drinking in the last several years. It's bright, crisp, and hoppy without bludgeoning you over the head with tons of alcohol heat. Sure it's assertive and bitter, but it's also very balanced for a DIPA. The new and improved Beyond the Gates has quite the - dare I say it? - West Coast vibe.

I love the artwork and overall vibe of The Tap Room!
Same goes for the Mango IPA. On previous visits, I always found the Mango IPA to be good, but not earth shattering. The combination of ingredients gave the beer an almost chalky texture (if you can imagine) and the hop flavor seemed slightly medicinal with not much of a tropical fruit character. These days, the Mango IPA (recently named The Astounding She Monster) is brimming with a fresh mango juiciness, tropical fruit flavor, and citrus-forward aroma. This new recipe is clearly a major improvement over the original release. Matt's willingness to experiment with his beers and tweak his recipes is without a doubt one of my favorite aspects of Spring House. Matt never seems to get stuck on a recipe just for the sake of keeping a beer on tap regularly, and he constantly strives to hone his recipes and improve his beers. With that said, I feel that he consistently makes forward strides with his beers. The last two times I visited, I did not drink a single stout. I simply was too thirsty for Beyond the Gates and Mango IPA. OK, I also got a Smoked Porter, but hey, it's not a stout, right? If you haven't tried the new-and-improved Beyond the Gates or The Astounding She Monster, then you are definitely missing out on something special.

This bitch is mangolicious!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Brewing can be a zesty enterprise!

Being the bad Christian that I am (or perhaps the good Christian I ain't), I decided to spend my Easter helping Terry and company brew a new beer at the brand new, not-even-open-yet Pizza Boy Brewing Company. This beer was extra special because Deuane and Carolyn's friend/brewer/brewpub owner Jean-Sebastien was visiting the area from Canada in order to attend the Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, DC held during the previous week. He is the owner and head brewer for A l'abrie de la Tempete in Quebec, a French-speaking providence of Canada. In order to make this Saison/Biere de Garde hybrid, Brewslut and I were relegated to zesting and juicing 50lbs. of navel oranges. Much to our chagrin, Terry brought a single zesting device (sorry, but I am unfamiliar with the correct nomenclature for said device) so one of us zested whilst the other juiced. 

Our tools of the trade.
I opted to zest, and I thought it would be less sticky. I was correct. In addition to the orange zest and juice, the recipe also called for fir tree needles and a touch of smoked malt, both of which were brought from Canada by Jean-Sebastien. He also smoked the malt himself. I felt like packing it into a bong and smoking it, it smelled so good! (I'm kidding... don't do drugs, kids.)

These fragrant fir tips were put in a large tea-bag and steeped into the wort.

After about an hour of zesting, I started to get a cramp in my hand, so Deuane took over my duties for a while. Jean-Sebastien and Brewslut each took turns juicing. Dan and Kristen eventually showed up, so Dan helped with the oranges as well, giving Deuane and I a bit of a break from the tennis elbow blues. Overall, I think it took us about three hours to successfully zest all of the oranges. 

Zesting my life away!
Once we finished zesting and juicing, we gathered the bucket of zest and container of freshly squeezed juice for the next step of the brewing process. The fir needles were submerged into the juice and added to the wort via a tea-bag (as mentioned above). The zest was also added directly to the wort. 

Deuane zesting the last orange!
Al, owner of Al's/Pizza Boy eventually stopped by as well and helped zest a single orange. He did, however, bring two growlers of Pizza Boy goodness (Sunny Side Up with Little Amps, a personal favorite of mine, and Ninja Snipa, which Jean-Sebastien absolutely loved). He was also gracious enough to bring a bunch of food for us all, including salad, garlic bread, asparagus, and linguine with clams. 

More zesty magic... my favorite pic of the day!
After the wort had boiled, I caught a whiff of the steam when Al opened up the tank, and I must admit that the smell was amazing! You could really pick out all of the individual ingredients, especially the orange zest, fir and smoked malt. I can't wait to taste the fruits of our labor. Brewing can be a zesty enterprise, indeed!

Group shot (l to r: me, Brewslut, Terry, Kristen, Jean-Sebastien, Dan and Deuane)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Imminent Liquidation III - Details inside specially marked packages!

The third annual "Imminent Liquidation" Bottle Share Event will take place at The Warwick Hotel in Hummelstown, PA on Saturday, March 2, 2012 between 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM.

The event encourages craft beer enthusiasts to dust off and share rare beers from their cellars with fellow BAs. If you don't have any rare beers, feel free to bring a favorite from your fridge to share. It doesn't have to be a white whale or an expensive corked and caged, hand-numbered, limited edition, once-and-done batch. Just bring some good beer to share with everyone!

There is no admission cost to enter the event, although you are required to bring beer (typically a few bombers, a growler, or some 12oz. bottles, or any combination of the above). Food will be available via the standard Warwick Hotel menu, and will be pay as you go. You are not required to buy food at the event, however. Additionally, The Warwick will provide a few light snacks and appetizers at no cost to participants.

All participants are required to wear name tags, which will be available at the greeting table upon entry to the event. Participants will also receive one FREE raffle ticket upon entry, and throughout the day we will raffle off a few beer-related items donated from fellow BAs and local businesses. Please note that raffle tickets will NOT be available for purchase, and each participant will receive only one raffle ticket. ALSO, PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN TASTING GLASS. Please bring a small 4oz. to half pint glass rather than a full pint glass, if possible. Finally, please plan on bringing a few dollars to contribute as a tip to the staff of the Warwick Hotel for assistance during the event.  Event volunteers will pass around the proverbial hat towards the end of the day.

Imminent Liquidation is sponsored by The Warwick Hotel in conjunction with The Pour Travelers beer blog. Visit The Pour Travelers at

For more information about Imminent Liquidation, please email Please do not contact the hotel directly for questions specific to the event. The phone number and web site for the Warwick Hotel is listed below in case you need directions or other information. Thanks and cheers!
The Warwick Hotel
12 W. Main Street
Hummelstown, PA 17036

Monday, January 28, 2013

Pizza Boy: Killin' It!

I suppose it's about time that I give mad props to Pizza Boy Brewing Company for recently killing it.  The term "killing it" refers, of course, to making a string of some simply amazing beers over the last several months. Ever since Al's of Hampden burst onto the Central PA Beer Scene, owner Al Kominski has done nothing but cater to beer geeks and, in turn, created perhaps THE premier craft beer destination on the West Shore. 

Al and I enjoying a beer at Al's of Hampden
Al's beer geekdom eventually rose to new heights when, in 2011, he installed a state-of-the-art, 15-hectoliter BrauKon brewery in the basement of the current Al's of Hampden location.  He quickly jumped into the deep end and began brewing in earnest, producing several test batches.  Citing Pizza Boy as a work in progress, some of the beers were fantastic, while some were less than stellar.  But for someone with literally no brewing experience whatsoever, Al was definitely on the right track.  Some early favorites include his Pilsner, Citra IPA and Arck Angel 4IPA.  This long and winding track eventually led Al to a goldmine, when ex-Bullfrog Brewery head brewer Terry Hawbaker signed on as Pizza Boy's official brewer.  Needless to say, the throngs of local Bullfrog/Terry fans were ecstatic (myself and Brewslut included), and since Terry's appointment, Pizza Boy has been knocking beers out of the proverbial park. 
Terry and I at Little Amps Coffee in Harrisburg
The beer that deserves the most praise, in my humble opinion, is Sunny Side Up / Little Amps, a massive yet incredibly smooth 11% Imperial Stout brewed with coffee beans from the local Harrisburg coffee shop, Little Amps.  I will go on record and say that this is my favorite Coffee Stout I've ever had.  If you get a chance to try this beer via a firkin or beer engine, then you are in for a serious treat.  Seriously folks, this might be my beer of 2012!
Enjoying a Sunny Side Up / Little Amps Coffee Stout
Ironically, my next blog will most likely be a re-cap of yesterday's bottling of the first-ever Pizza Boy bottled beer.  Terry asked Brewslut (a part-time employee at Al's) and myself to help with the bottling, and we were happy to assist.  But more on that later.  For now, get yourself over to Al's for some Sunny Side Up / Little Amps and judge for yourself!

Monday, January 7, 2013

2012 - The Beer in Review

As I sit on my couch and contemplate 2012 over a freshly bottled Nugget Nectar (oh, the perks of working at my favorite brewery!), I can't help but think that 2012 may have been the absolute best year for me, not only beer-wise, but in general!  I successfully parlayed a hobby (writing about craft beer) into a career (working at Troegs Brewery).  That in itself is worthy of "best year ever" status in the annals of Ffejstory!

But let's backtrack a bit to last year around this time, when I published The Pour Travelers' 2011 - The Beer in Review after our first full year as a bona fide beer blog.  I constructed a list (and a pretty lofty one, at that) of my top ten resolutions for the coming year, which looked something (OK...exactly) like this:

1. Finally host my long-talked-about stout tasting.
2. Return to Portland for a REAL beer trip.
3. Finally get to Selin's Grove's Hops and Vines festival.
4. Get Ffej of JulIPA brewed for the 10th Anniversary of Ffej of July.
5. Have a Troegs beer named after me (OK, a long shot, I know)!
6. Visit Barcade Philly.  Classic arcade games + beer = awesomeness! 
7. Make Imminent Liquidation an annual event.
8. Get back out to Great Taste of the Midwest.
9. Increase my overall number of beer blogs on this site.

Numbers one, two, three, five and nine never happened, although I will say that, looking back, my quality over quantity vastly improved (in my humble opinion, anyway), rendering number nine... number nine... number nine... (sorry, couldn't resist a good Beatles reference) a success, at least in my eyes.

Number one might happen this year, as I am continuously adding a variety of Imperial Stouts to my beer cellar.  Number two needs to happen ASAP, as we never even scratched the surface of the beer mecca that is Portland, OR, during our inaugural trip back in 2011.  Brewslut also needs to get to Portland, ME, but that's a different story!  I'm afraid number three will never happen, as it always seems to coincide with my annual Ffej of July festivities (sidebar... if you are an avid reader of The Pour Travelers and want an invite to this epic shindig, shoot me an email).  And as for number five... well, even though I didn't get my name attached to a Troegs beer in 2012, I can say quite happily that I get my name on a paycheck every other week from Troegs, so I guess that counts for something, right?

I'm proud to say that the other five resolutions were met.  Number four was accomplished after my good buddy Al of Pizza Boy Brewing Company brewed a special batch of his Citra IPA and dubbed it Ffej of JulIPA for the 10th anniversary of Ffej of July.  We finally made it to Barcade in Philadelphia, which you can read about by clicking here if you'd like.  Thank God they have a killer beer selection; otherwise, I'd have an extremely difficult time luring Brewslut to this man-cave of a beer bar.  As for number seven on the list, I think it is safe to say that "Imminent Liquidation" has secured a slot in everyone-who-is-a-beer-geek-in-Central-PA's calendar, planner, or date book.  It's coming up on its third year in March (this year's event will be held on Saturday, March 2 at The Warwick Hotel in Hummelstown).  I was ecstatic to check number eight of my list of resolutions in 2012, as Brewslut and I consider our trip to Great Taste of the Midwest to be the pinnacles of our 2012 beer season.  (FYI - the link included here only represents part one of a multi-part blog... yeah, this was an epic trip!)  And finally, number ten.  Yes, San Diego.  Anyone who reads this blog is sure to notice our collective love for this southern California beer goldmine.  This past year saw perhaps our most epic trip to San Diego yet, as we visited the fine city for a total of eleven consecutive days.  (Note that this link is only part one of a SEVEN PART mini-series.)  We also were able to meet my goal of visiting Pizza Port Ocean Beach every day for at least one beer per visit.  It's good to have goals in life, right?

Some other highlights of 2012 were:

1. The Sly Fox Goat Races and Bock Festival (always a perennial favorite!)
2. Multiple trips to Philadelphia, one of our favorite beer cities not only in PA, but the country!
3. Our annual Beers-giving trip, this year to Charleston, SC.
4. Getting hired by Troegs (this goes without saying).
5. Winning the coveted "Metal Brewer" award at Troegs

With that said, let me present my ten resolutions for 2013:

1. The Stout Tasting (yeah, I know... I fucked up last year)!
2. Portland, OR and Portland, ME (not on the same trip, though)!
3. Great Taste of the Midwest.
4. Put Harrisburg Area Beer Week on the map and make it an annual event.
5. Hit 1000 unique beers on Uptappd.
6. Make "Imminent Liquidation" a bi-annual event.
7. Help brew the Metal Brewer-winning beer, Beet It Red Saison, as a Troegs Scratch beer and also for Pizza Boy Brewing Co.
8. Visit Florida for a beer trip.
9. Get Brewslut to write a beer blog.
10. Keep working for Troegs!

Thanks to all who follow The Pour Travelers and read about our little beer excursions.  We've met some amazing people along the way (many of whom we call friends) and that makes traveling in the name of beer all the more rewarding and worthwhile.  Cheers to another new year that will find our glasses brimming with the liquid we all know and love!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Vertical Epic Fail!

On Friday, December 21, a group of my closest beer friends convened at long-time friend and former Shamokin Area High School alumnus Jason Kramer's house for his annual holiday party.  Having attended for the past several years, Brewslut and I look forward to this event each year.  Kramer was the first real beer geek I met (though I knew him since high school, we didn't become good friends until many years later when I stumbled upon his name on the and web sites).  At any rate, a few days prior to the party, I learned that Kramer would be dusting off and breaking out his complete Stone Vertical Epic collection, dating all the way back from 2002.  He needed two bottles (2007 and 2008, I believe) to round out his collection, which were graciously provided by Jason Pendall.  At one time, Kramer did in fact HAVE the entire set (multiple sets, I believe), but he was able to... well, let's just say he was able to parlay one complete set into quite a pretty penny, thanks to a certain on-line auction site).  Since the 2002 bottle alone was indeed an über-rare find, needless to say Brewslut and I were quite thrilled to partake in such an epic undertaking (no pun intended).

Stone Vertical Epic 2002-2012
However, what transpired was literally a chronological bludgeoning of sub par, virtually undrinkable swill from this revered brewery.  Now, it was my understanding that the whole point of this series was to age each beer and enjoy them all as a "vertical" event, meaning drink each year in succession.  To beer geeks, this is how the vertical works.  Well, after drinking all of these, I'm not so sure that's what Stone initially had in mind.  Without going into too much detail, I've decided to transcribe my Untappd notes and share a bit about each release.  Let me first say that I enjoy Stone's beers and respect them as a brewery.  Their brewpub alone is worthy of much praise.  But be warned... most of these comments are not kind... at all!

"Not as bad as I was anticipating."  Still, this evoked hints of wet cardboard and air from Camden, NJ.  Not bad, but unfortunately not even in the vicinity of anywhere near what I'd call "good."

"Not holding up... at all!" This may have been the worst of the lot, but unfortunately my notes were sparse, to say the least. 

"Lemon Pledge."  Yes, this beer tasted little more than lemon-scented cleaning spray, I'm afraid.

"Prunes."  Yes, constipated elderly beer drinkers may think this would be a match made in heaven, but alas this year's offering was not enjoyable.  I did fill me with the urge to defecate, though.

"Shitty black bow tie licorice!"  Remember that waxy licorice candy in the shape of bow ties?  Yeah, me too... and this beer was even worse!  I was expecting the "666" beer to hold up a bit more, but unfortunately even Satan couldn't save this one from the fiery depths of Hades!

"Spicy."  That was all I could muster up to say about this one.  If you want to try and re-create this beer, just fill a glass with tap water, then rummage through the spice rack in your kitchen and add a teaspoon of everything you find.

"It has to start getting better soon!"  These words indicate another in a long line of shitty beers.  By this time, I was losing faith in this experiment, and was praying for the end.  If only I knew what I had in store for me next...

"Rancid coffee with a hint of Doberman anus."  Perhaps my most evocative description thus far, I must have been inspired by Brewslut, as this hearkens back to one of the first-ever Pour Travelers blogs: The Anomalous Olfactory Anecdotes of Brewslut.  This was undrinkable.

Between 2009 and 2010, I needed a well-deserved break from what I described as the "Stone shit show" and enjoyed a small pour of Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout by Goose Island.  Now there's a beer that you can actually age in your beer cellar!  But back to our regularly scheduled program...

"Better... closer... warmer!"  This was probably the best of the bunch, and it only warranted three out of five stars.  This was described as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, so the "strong" portion of the beer allowed it to age for a bit without producing notes of dog ass, for example.

"Grass with dog shit."  Another canine reference for all you dog lovers.  Ever step in dog shit out in your neighbor's yard, take off your shoe to scrub the sole, and catch a whiff as you run hot water over it?  Yup, that's what this beer evoked... at least in my twisted mind.

"Thank God!  What a chore!"  I had already had a sip of this beer, courtesy of Deuane during a recent visit to Al's of Hampden.  I was not impressed, to say the least.  This was even spicier than the 2007 release, and although this was brand new (released only nine days prior), this just tasted like a spicy mess to me.  I took one single gulp and raised my fists in victory (and anger) at the end of this horrific crucible.

Vertical Epic fail, indeed!