Located at 2nd and Chestnut in Old City, Philadelphia, and boasting a beer list including over 20 draft and 300 bottled beers from across the globe, Eulogy will always have a special place in my heart as one of the places that got me hooked on good beer. Oddly, it did so primarily on a night of excess during a bachelor party that turned me off of Belgians for a while. I have been to Belgium and I'm sure I had some good beers there, but I was a dumb 20 year old who didn't know what was going on. I do know I had a Stella in the town that makes it, Leuven. When I returned home, I somehow stumbled on this Belgian bar; this was before I even knew of Monk's Cafe. On an early visit I ordered a Hoegaarden and the waitress said that was a "girl beer" and that visit along with a series of others introduced me to the likes of Duvel, The Gnome (La Chouffe), and Piraat. I was already familiar with Chimay.
Fast forward to present day. I was in there with a friend killing time before meeting my wife a week or so ago and the waitress told me I should try the Jolly Pumpkin Madrugada Obscura, their summer seasonal, which is a belgian style stout (not sure about the summer part bc/ the Jolly Pumpkin website says the beer releases in January). Unfortunately we had to leave, but all week I was itching to give it a try, and went with some friends this past Friday night. We were just in time as it was the last bottle in stock. Jolly Pumpkin uses open fermentation with funky yeast strains, oak barrel aging, and bottle conditioning for all of their ales. I won't try to explain to you how all of that works--here is a link to their process if you are interested http://www.jollypumpkin.com/artisanales/brewing_process.htm--but the result is a series of funky, fruity, sour flavored beers that are very complex.
Okay, onto the Madrugada Obscura. It poured very dark and with a rich, chocolate tinted head. I have a hard time describing the "nose" of beers, and we were in a crowded bar but I seem to remember a fresh fruitiness to it. Initially the taste was quite sour, but as I drank it the malty stout character became more present. By the end the sourness was mostly what I was getting from it. I like Jolly Pumpkin's stuff, but I do find that the sourness, though not overpowering like a Flemish sour or a lambic, tends to dominate all of their beers. Sour is a flavor my palate hasn't quite adjusted to yet when found in beer. Also, the strong flavor tended to dominate everything else I drank that night, especially the white ale made by the Leelanau label of Jolly Pumpkin, which tasted like tart water after drinking the stout. All in all, I did quite enjoy the Madrugada and it was one of the more complex beers I've ever had if not one of my favorites. Trying to take into account we probably drank them in the wrong order, I still felt the white ale was lacking in the effervescence and depth of flavor that I love in a German wheat or even a Belgian double wit. The sourness seemed to overpower the style and had the opposite effect that it had on the stout--it made it seem one note and less complex. To finish off I had a nice schwarzbier from Port Brewing which had a decent amount of roastiness to and was a welcome break from the sourness of the Jolly Pumpkins. Oh yeah, I did eat dinner, too. The burger is solid, and the mussels and frites are good too. I prefer the food at a number of other brewpubs but Eulogy's beer list is tough to beat, as evidenced by my coworker calling several beer bars that "wished" they had the Madrugada.
A word about the bartender. I didn't catch his name, but he was excellent. He was equally comfortable discussing beer with a couple of beer geeks like my buddy and me as he was helping the patron who ordered "Something on tap that's like Stella but not Stella." He poured him a Duvel Green. Hey, everyone's beer journey starts somewhere, and I respect that the customer wanted to try something new. Another guy ordered a Jack and Diet. I wanted to tell him he was in the wrong bar.