Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Beer

I have one friend whose favorite beer style is "summer" and we always talk about--and imbibe--plenty of summer brews together.  I was challenged by another friend to name the ideal summer beer, one that is refreshing and light but not without flavor, and with a low enough ABV to drink a few of while at the beach, during a ballgame, or at a backyard cookout.  Of course, that made me think, top 10 list.  Ten may be too many to name, though there are bunches of beers out there that could potentially fit that bill.  So here's my top five.

1.  Fransiskaner Hefe-Weisse-This is a case of a strange three way intersection-popular, inexpensive, and fantastic.  There are many other hefes out there, but for me this is the quintessential.  Cloudy with aromas of bananas and clove, not thin in the mouth but still sessionable at 5% ABV.  This one would make almost any beer list I would make, not just summer beers.

2.  Flying Fish Farmhouse Summer Ale-4.6 ABV.  Refreshing but not without flavor.  Contains pale malt, wheat malt, and pilsner malt.  The webstite says it's modeled after the "every day" beers of French-speaking Belgium.  It's definately an every day beer, and in the Philadelphia area it's a good summer go to if nothing else on the tap list calls your name.

3.  Weyerbacher Blanche-A classic belgian witbier.  I think some Belgian wheats, pardon the pun, pale in comparison to their German cousins when it comes to flavor.  But this is a good example of a flavorful yet mellow Belgian wit, creamy yet light and citrusy.  If you like Blue Moon or Hoegaarden give this a try.  4.6 ABV.

4.  Troegs Sunshine Pils-Any German or Czech pilsner can be a nice, easy going refreshing brew, and there are other good local Pils, e.g. Victory Prima Pils gets a lot of recognition.  But I like this one.  Mostly because it's available in my section at the Phillies games.  Refreshing but with a few extra hops than your average pilsner.  5.3 ABV.

5.  Victory Summer Love-When this came out last year, they made it hard to find to generate demand, and when I actually had it, it was a bit of a letdown.  But I still picked up a case of this this summer to give it the old college try.  I have to say I really like it.  It tastes to me like a pale ale, it calls itself "golden ale."  I really like the label with all of the activities we love about summer in cartoon form.  I had a few at a tailgate for the Philadelphia Union game last weekend and it hit the spot perfectly.  5.2 ABV.

Honorable Mentions

Brooklyn Summer Ale-based on English table beers.  Nice malt backbone and breadiness.

Sam Adams Summer-with grains of paradise, widely available

Victory Helios-fantastic saison but too high ABV for this list.  It's funny, bc/ saisons used to be low ABV to rehydrate farm workers, but I don't know many modern saisons that are lower than around 6.5%.  In general, saisons are great summer beers, though.  But two or three over a long summer dinner party will be enough.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Angel's Envy

I tried a new bourbon last night, Angel's Envy.  The name is a play on the term "angel's share," which is the whisky that evaporates during aging.  The idea is that they've made a product out of the remaining whisky that the angel's would covet.  It's from a company run by former master distiller at Woodford Reserve, Lincoln Henderson.  It's a new project and they just recently started distilling, so obviously they are sourcing their barrels from another distillery for now.  But they take the sourced whisky and then finish it in port barrels.  So I guess it's not technically bourbon, but "bourbon finished in port barrels."  Let me tell you, this stuff was fantastic.  Very mellow.  It was like bourbon concentrate, lots of vanilla.  I don't know that I tasted port wine specifically but I think that the port adds another dimension to the whisky.  It almost has the mouthfeel of a wine in the way it coats your mouth.  It has a lot of fire going down, too.  My only small complaint about it is the port barrels seem to hide some of the ryebread spice that you can get in most premium bourbons.  It's a tradeoff, I guess, but I've read a couple of reviews that hope that they come out with a barrel proof edition to maximize the flavor potential. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pub Review: Pub and Kitchen

We checked out this spot as part of our day spending time with friends at PIFA, the arts festival in Philly last week which concluded with bizarre ten story acrobatic/musical act on a shut down Broad Street.  PIFA left a bit to be desired--though I did enjoy the free performance of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings--but I won't get into that.  Let's talk about food and drink.

Pub and Kitchen has a great vibe.  It really feels like the pubs I went to in England, with the wooden bench seats and the decor--lots of wood and blue paint.  The beer list was solid.  I had an English session ale made in collaberation with Pub and Kitchen and Sixpoint up in NYC.  It was a solid beer, maybe on the hoppy side for something advertised as "sessionable."  They had a few local-ish beers and some others from Sixpoint, Bells, etc.  What grabbed me about the drinks menu is the cocktails.  They had two barrel aged cocktails, where they mix the drink and then age in in wood for a few weeks.  I had the barrel aged manhattan, which I think suffered a bit from the use of Jim Beam Rye but was still a solid drink.  My wife and friend had tne barrel aged cocktail which they called Dahlia, a tequila based drink with mole bitters.  It was fantastic.  Good strong flavor but still somehow refreshing.  Our waitress warned them it was a bit stiff for a late afternoon drink, but my buddy said he was already three sheets to the wind so bring it on.  They had a bunch of other cocktails as well, fairly priced for Center City as all were less than $10.  Beats a mediocre manhattan at a Stephen Starr restaurant for $12.  Not a lot of gastropubs get too into the cocktail scene, and I like that here I had the option of beer or cocktails.  I opted for both.

The service was okay.  The menu was clear to a point, but I was still confused when the fries did not come with the dipping sauce--some kind of aioli--advertised when you order fries separate from a sandwich (I told you I was confused).  They were charging extra for condiments on the burger; they should have just had in the menu that the sauce could be added for $2, which the waitress told us when we asked for some.  The thing is, she never brought it and it still wound up on the bill.

The food was great.  The sauce debacle notwithstanding, the fries were perfectly done, crispy on the outside warm and soft on the inside.  Now let's talk about the Churchill burger, which made the final in Foobooz's burger bracket squaring off against Village Whiskey, besting my favorite burger, the Royal Tavern burger.  So I was stoked to try this burger.  They get the custom meat blend from La Frieda, a famous meat supplier in NYC.  Here is the description of the burger from Foobooz:

•Pub & Kitchen is Philadelphia’s first restaurant using a custom blend from La Frieda

•Contains dry-aged beef


•Glazed with bone marrow butter

•Topped with sauted onions

•Served on a Metropolitan brioche
•$18 and accompanied by fries

Sounds incredible, and it was, almost.  The meat was so flavorful and rich, and the butter was, well, buttery.  The overall effect was fantastic.  I like that it's focused on the meat, whereas the Royal burger is a bit more about the toppings.  What held it back from true greatness is an unneccesarily common mistake:  I ordered it medium rare and it came out almost well done.  I swear I'm going to start ordering my burger rare, so nothing can be lost in translation.  I feel the Churchill burger could have been the best I've ever had, but overcooking ruins even the best meat blend.  The South Philly Taproom uses a grassfed patty, hardly able to provide the flavor of a fatty, grain fed custom meat blend, but it is always cooked perfectly to my order, so the flavors it does have are not lost and therefore it can still compete with the others. 
Long story short, I really liked this place, I hope to go back again but 20th and Lombard is not my usual locale.  I would like to give the burger a second run, though...