Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I previously stated that Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout is the Breakfast Stout aged in bourbon barrels.  It is aged in bourbon barrels but it seems that the beer recipe is not the same as the regular Breakfast Stout.  I might as well also note that it is in the top ten beers on BeerAdvocate.  One of the beers ahead of it is Founders' own Canadian Breakfast Stout.   Here is a description of CBS you can find online in several sources: "Founders Breakfast Stout aged in Kentucky whiskey barrels that were also used by a small maple syrup maker. The beer is then aged underground in the town's local mine. Maple & whiskey soaked wood, Sumatra and Kona coffee beans breakfast stout. Damn. What else can you say?"

Apparently they had it at Kite and Key, but not when I was there.  Damn.  At least I had the regular KBS.  I don't know if I've ever had a BeerAdvocate top 10 before.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Beer Catalogue Update

In the past 2 months I've added 20 beers.  Good pace, due to Beer Week.  I've blogged about a lot of the fun beers I tried during beer week.  One fun highlight was Brotherly Suds II, a collaboration beer from Sly Fox, Troegs, Victory, Stoudts, and Yards using Schmidt's ale yeast--I'll have to tell my grandpa about it.  I gave Summer Love from Victory another go round and really enjoyed it.  The best beer I had during Beer Week may have been Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout.  If you like their stout and you like bourbon, you would love it. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Beery, Beery, Weekend

I managed to make it to 5 Beer Week events over the weekend, the final weekend of Beer Week.  Let me just say off the bat that I love Beer Week.  The slogan is "America's Best Beer Drinking City" and I'd say it's hard to argue that.  I'm sure a few places tried to just get in on the act by throwing up some cheesy last minute events but all of the events I went to were well thought out, featured special beers I'd never otherwise get to try, or were just plain fun.  Here's my final four events reviewed:

Breckenridge Brewery Night at Devil's Den
First let me say that Devil's Den has one of the best happy hours I've been to.  It's from 5-7 (many end at 6) and ALL of their drafts are 1/2 off.   Even the special one off beers for this event were half price during happy hour.  Additionally, they have some great snacks in the 3-4 dollar range, including fantastic chick pea fries that my wife has been raving about for months and I didn't get it until I tried them on Friday--they were fluffy yet creamy, spicy and delicious.  Nothing on the snack menu quite filling enough for a dinner probably, but cheap snacks to go with discount beer, who can complain?  Now, the event.  They were tapping a bunch of specialty beers.  I first tried the Double ESB aged in whisky casks made for Breckenridge's 20th anniversary.  I had never heard of a Double ESB, much less one aged in whisky casks.  But as I told the Breckenridge rep who we met, I love ESBs and I love whisky, so it's a match made in heaven.  Truth be told, I had a whisky aged beer later in the weekend that I think was better, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  After that I had a collaberation beer made by Stillwater (known for saisons) and De Strusse (from Belgium).  It was a dark saison, very malty but still saison-like.  A bit strange but fun.  My wife had the Breckenridge Tripel, a pale ale made with a belgian yeast strain.  It was tasty.  She also had Weyerbacher Que?bec, a summer beer from their Brewer's Select Series, with names based on the NATO phonetic alphabet.  (It's the "K," it's hard to explain.  I have a buddy who can explain it to you if you like, but it has to do with the locals calling it Ka-bec).  Anyhow, Devil's Den was fun.

Beat the Heat Wheat Night at Brauhaus Schmitz
Brauhaus is a great German beer hall on South Street.  Authentic food, costumes, music, the whole nine.  I've eaten there but have been meaning to go back to get beer served by the liter, like we had in Germany.   My wife and I both had a liter of Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat--the beer wench warned it would be "a lot of tangerine" but for me it was great.   I enjoyed every drop.  It's not typical to drink wheat beer from a giant mug but it seemed fitting given the name of the event.  We also had some German cheeses and meats and shared a fantastic pretzel. 

SPTR Extreme Beer Brunch
We only had time to stop for one drink with friends at the Taproom's end of Beer Week party.  They had a bunch of Russian River regulars and rarities.  But I was there for one beer: Founder's Kentucky Breakfast Stout.   Breakfast Stout is at the top of a lot of folks' all time beer lists.  I don't feel I've had it enough to make the claim that it's in my top five, but I know it's damn good, why not put some in bourbon barrels and taste the results?  It was great stuff.  Barrel aged beers can tend to have a strange finish, and this was no different, but it was a great overall balance and interplay of the sweetness of the stout with the vanilla and "whisky-ness" of the bourbon barrel. 

Shel Silverstein Brunch at P.O.P.E.
For my final event I went to a children's brunch with a toddler.   And it was great fun.  Pub on Passyunk East had a brunch featuring readings and songs from the famed children's author.  A representative from Ommegang was there, she called their Hennepin a benchmark American saison, but I still think Helios from Victory and one or two others I've had may be better.  The brunch burger was very good, featuring bacon, chedder, and an egg.  They even cut the roll so you can see the egg, if you can picture what I'm saying.  The guy that played the guitar and sang poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends was very good, and got the kids into it.  A few people read poems and stories, including the Ommegang person.  Fun for all.  A fitting end to Beer Week.  Oh wait, I almost forgot...

Beer Gelato at Capo Giro
The walk from POPE to our house goes right by Capo Giro, a gelateria that makes delightful flavors such as basil, sea salt, as well as more standard flavors.  This week they made beer gelato.  I had a Rogue Chocolate Stout, perfect in ice cream form, with the bitterness from the hops making for an interesting but welcome sensation.  I had it with tiramisu, which was a great complement to the stout flavors, with bitter chocolate dust swirled throughout.

And after all that beer, I went home and had a nap as the Phils handled the Cubbies one more time.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Beer Week Events: DiBruno Bros. and Hawthornes

I went with my dad to the Phils game last night--two games in one week--and figured it would be a nice chance to squeeze in a couple of Beer Week events beforehand rather than shell out 7 bucks for beer at the game. 

Our first stop was DiBruno Bros., who were sponsoring a free beer and cheese tasting.  A distributor representing Stoudt's Brewery from Adamstown was pouring 5 selections.  Apparently Stoudt's is the oldest craft brewer in PA, "craft" meaning all-malt (Yuengling is older but uses corn, a cheaper grain, to supplement it's mash).  It's also the first female owned brewery.  On to the tasting.  The beers were as follows: Karnival Kolsch, Munich Helles, Scarlet Lady ESB, American Pale Ale, and Blonde Double Maibock.  The best beer may have been the maibock, but I got the dregs and it was a bit warm.  I like their ESB, too.  The DiBruno cheesemongers paired each beer with a cheese, I can't remember the cheeses.  They were generous with the portions, I wish they would have been a little more into explaining the reasons they choose which beers.  I could have asked, I guess, but the beer guy would explain the beer and then the cheese guys would just hand you a piece of cheese, maybe saying a comment but not much.  Still, a fun event, and who can complain with the price?

For dinner we walked over to Hawthorne's, a cafe/beer takeout joint with growler service.  Their growlers are cool bc/ they pressurize them so you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks rather than a couple of days.  Their event last night was a Dark Horse tap takeover, with 16 taps from the Michigan brewer, apparently none of which have been in Philly before.  I had the Crooked Tree unfiltered IPA to go with my open faced falafel sandwich.  The sandwich was good, though my wife's hummus is better.  The IPA was very good.  If we had more time I would have tried their Belgian tripel.  I tried to get them to pour me a taste but they were not giving tastes of that beer to preserve it for paying customers.  Oh well. 

Another great night for Beer Week 2011.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Beer Week Event: SPTR with Firestone Walker

The other night before the Phillies game, my wife, friend and I went to The South Philadelphia Taproom for their Monday Beer Week Event.  Firestone Walker is a central California brewer that is new to our region.  They are famous for their pale ale styled beers, and have a "fascination with wooden barrels," according to their website.  The Taproom had several of their beers, bottles and drafts, available and their chef cooked up a few menu items using the beers.  I had the New England Style crab roll using Pale Ale 31.  It was solid, as is almost everything I've ever had to eat there.  The beers themselves weren't jumping out at me from the glass, but they were decent.  The Pale Ale 31 had a great aroma but then was a little flat in the delivery for me.  But it could be that it was a bottle rather than draft.  I don't really like drinking bottles at beer bars--especially 12 oz bottles--when I am surrounded by folks drinking creamy, bubbly tapped beers.  But the bottle selections called my name this time.  The porter on tap was good, and I liked the Double Barrel Bitter, too, even though that was a bottle, too.  Their double ipa (Double Jack) from their reserve series was our last beer, strong at close to 10 percent and very good.  The fun part was that one of the owners of Firestone Walker was there, and he chatted with us about the beer.  He said that Pale Ale 31 won't be distributed out here, as it's too "subtle" to make the journey.  The regular IPA, Union Jack, will be though.  He said their bitter is what "keeps the lights on" at the brewery.  He was a friendly guy and though the beers weren't standouts at first taste I would definitely give them another try, especially as I am a pale ale guy. 

Another great event from SPTR.  I'm planning to close out Beer Week at their extreme beer brunch on Sunday; hoping to get a taste of Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Philly Beer Week Opening Tap

Last year for for Philly Beer Week my friend and I went to Philly Beer Week Opening Tap, with the mayor tapping the first firkin with the Hammer of Glory, which is relayed through the city like the Olympic torch.  This year we decide to piece together a few separate events rather than buy the ticket for the Opening Tap, which was a lot of fun but essentially a beer fest featuring local beers.  Here's what we did:

Christ Church Burial Ground Brew N' History Tour
This tour costs five bucks and came with a taste of Yards' George Washington's Tavern Porter at the end.  I had met the tour guide before, as he is the historian of Christ Church, where my wife and I attend.  He put together a very well thought out selection of stories of folks buried there who had connections to beer and other types of booze.  For example, the burial ground has the remains of the son of the man who supposedly invented porter beer in England.  The son supplied beer to George Washington.  Before the little tasting, the final stop on the tour was Ben Franklin's grave, who is said to have uttered these famous words, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Chemical Heritage Foundation Beer Talk and Tasting
The Chemical Heritage Foundation is like a grown up science geek's dream, with a beautiful museum dedicated to the history of chemistry and halls used for, well, science parties, I guess.  And talks and lectures.  They did this free talk and tasting for Beer Week.  Beer historian Rich Wagner gave a history of craft beer with a focus on Philadelphia brewing.  I always think of Yards, est. 1994 as the beginning of the Philly beer renaissance.  But Wagner's history started in the early 80s and included some failed breweries and brewpubs, as well as Dock Street, all of which contributed to the eventual bounty of craft beer now available to us.  I learned that Henry Ortlieb played a role in this; his family name is a famous old Philly beer that was sold off to a company in Baltimore--my grandpop still asks me if they are making Ortlieb's again.  Ortlieb got back into the beer business by way of a number of ventures, including the Manayunk Brewpub, before his passing a few years ago.  The talk concluded with a tasting led by Left Hand Brewing Co.'s Mid Atlantic sales rep.  He explained the Philly connection but it's fuzzy to me now.  The beers he had were decent, Good Juju was our least favorite, a ginger spiced pale ale that was a little watery for me.  The rye pale ale was very nice, as was the milk stout.  All in all, it was a great value, FREE, and at this point we'd had the equivalent of a full pint of beer for a total of $5.

Troegs Tap Takeover at Kite and Key
I love the name of this place, recalling Ben Franklin's famous electricity experiment.  I haven't spent much time in the Fairmount section of the city, but it's a very nice neighborhood.  The crowd at this place was strange to me, none of the hipsters that you would see at similar bars in my 'hood.  Almost like a Main Line type crowd.  Not sure if that's representative of other Fairmount spots.  The bar was nice, with a lot of old Philly beer trays hung up--including Ortlieb's.  We had to wait a while for a table, and there was some confusion about it.  The food was okay, nothing special, though I did quite enjoy the veggie burger, something I wouldn't usually order but the website and waitress both swore by.  It was very tasty and cheesy.  Now, the beer.  They had a solid taplist but the whole point of the night was the Troegs special "one-off" beers from their scratch series, as well as their collaboration beer called Brotherly Suds II.  We arrived at 7 (the party had started at 2) and several of the kegs had kicked already.  We did get to try a Quad that was very good.  But the other specialties had all kicked.  On the one hand, it was frustrating--if you advertise your beer week event you need to follow through with supply.  But if you take into account the nature of scratch and experimental beers coupled with the thirst of beer geeks on opening day of beer week, it's sort of understandable.  I did get to have some Mad Elf 2010, one of my favorite beers, and kind of fun to have a Christmas beer in June, even if it probably just means they are unloading their stock.

I think we spent less than we did at Opening tap last year, and got a larger survey of events.  I wouldn't say it was better, just different.  A great way to start Philly Beer Week, and I hope to hit a few more events.