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30 December 2005
Plus ca change...UPDATE
Okay, the Big Fella blurted it out in this thread at BeerAdvocate.Com on Wednesday and then our cleverest publican went him one better and set the cat free entirely this morning, so it's not really necessary to be coy any longer.

Yes, Edward I. Friedland, Philadelphia's specialty beer distributor, has been sold. The details about to Whom (even though you already know) and What It All Means (which I haven't entirely figured out yet in any case), I'll continue to hold off on until next week, because I gave my word I would.

In fact, we'll probably take a broader look at what's happening in local beer distribution over the next week or two. Wood Beverage closes its doors as of this weekend, for example. Where did all those beers end up, especially (from the viewpoint of lovers of local craft beers) Troegs? What else might be coming down the line? Is anybody gonna get screwed?

Hot diggity, a project for 2006, just when I thought I was gonna be sitting around twiddling my thumbs...

Happy New Year!

[Posted 9:05 am edt]

29 December 2005
He's big. He's Dan. And he's a party(giving) animal.
I christened him The Big One back in the early days of this ongoing epic tale rather than reveal his true identity, mainly on the advice of lawyers who said that the stories I told about him were potentially libelous. "But truth is the perfect defense," said I. "Nobody would believe that stuff was true," came the reply (at $75 an hour). "For example, that whole trying to jump over a two foot wall and falling on his face story must surely be something you dreamed up in your warped imagination." Good thing I didn't tell youse about The Other One, I thought.

These days he's Big Dan, heroic icon from the Sly Fox Rt. 113 IPA bottle label and, as a consequence, pursued by autograph seekers and celebrity groupies throughout the western suburbs. Thank the lord he's agile and fast afoot and doesn't stand out in a crowd.

Under either name, or even the things his demur Sweetie (aka, one-half the "No-Fun Twins") calls him, the big guy hasn't changed a bit, still desperately seeking free beer, free food and free love (well, okay, maybe just the beer and a few food items), and that means that once again he is inviting all his friends and their friends--and maybe even his Sweetie's friend--to his annual New Year's Eve Brunch and Bacchanal (he may need The Other One to explain that latter term to him).

As usual, his invites are worth the price of admission (which is free) all by themselves. First came this:

'Twas two weeks before New Year's, and all thru the house, you could hear Kelly yelling, "Dan, get something done you drunken lout!"
The cats were huddled by the tree without a care, knowing quite soon a hairball would be there.
So with Kelly in her sweats and I in my baseball cap, we just sat down to discuss the day's crap, When over in the basement I heard such a clatter, I even got out of my lazy boy to see what was a matter.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but several cases and one tapped beer.
I knew right away what I had to do, that's why I sent this e-mail to you!

Yes boys and girls of all ages, It is that time of year again, NEW YEARS EVE DAY BRUNCH!!!! All the info you could possibly need will be coming soon, so stay tuned!

Followed by this, a few days later:
Okay, kids, this is it! Quite possibly your final warning to the best New Years Eve Day Brunch, well since last year anyway.

For you rookies and people with C.R.S., here is the straight poop. December 31 2005 at any time after 10 a.m. Fresh roasted Kimberton coffee, mimosas, Bailey's Irish Cream, Baked French Toast, Dead meat products, Sweet Potato Quesadillas (Stolen recipe from Sunflower Cafe but kicked up) Lovely egg dishes, etc. By then it will be 11a.m. and everybody will be drinking and complaining that they ate to much.

WELL TOO DAMN BAD!!

There is more! Last year was food from Spain, this year it is Mexico. It will be wrong, oh so wrong.

We will have Corona on tap and run it thru Randall the hop machine, and Parkerford Brewing Company's Maltinater to see if we can get the beer to taste like, uh beer. Drunken shrimp, salsas, Queso and other surprises.

And now the part everyone loves, the Q and A.

Where is this great event held? [ANSWER OBSCURED BY LDO MANAGEMENT, THOSE DAMNED LAWYERS AGAIN].

Where can I park? I have a long driveway, go down and turn around and park on the right hand side of the driveway. If everything is full, turn right out of the drive and make the next right onto Timberview Drive and park across from any old house. (Note: Timberview Drive will not show up on your online maps.)

What do I have to bring? Common sense would be nice, since there is little of that here. A special beer that you want the world to share is fine too, but otherwise nothing, nada, not a thing. (It's the Payback thing you know).

Last year Mrs. Bryson showed up with her kids and her husband and a keg of Victory beer that Victory didn't even have yet! What will happen this year? When will the Hand of No Fun come down? Come on by and find out!

It'll be cool, in a strange, off-beat, clearly non-cool way. It always is.

Plus ca change...
Big news brewing in the city. Players will live, players will die and nothing will ever be the same. As if it ever was...

I'm bound to secrecy (unless some immoral source breaks the code), so tune in next week. I'll probably post the news over here first (depending on how my contract negotiations go).

[Posted 5:06 pm edt]

23 December 2005
Been there, done that.
Having spent two wonderful visits tossing back pints at the Hop Inn Sports & Social Club, a neat little pub tucked away beneath the House of Parliament in London, I found this news article both interesting and eminently believable. Hell, in a way, I even made it into the story:

The 641 MPs who take their seats did not account for nearly 800 pints a day unaided ó they are far outnumbered by their staff, police, journalists and visitors.
[EMPHASIS ADDED].
Among my adventures at the Hop Inn (after a few pints, of course), I've persuaded the lovely and talented Sheryl Barto to be my accomplice in crime and, a year later, introduced her to her oldest admirer ever, plus had the pleasure of drinking with two high-ranking MPs, one a honcho in the Labour Party and the other the second ranking member of the Conservative Party and each a leader of the All Party Beer Committee (which is real, not a joke as it might seem in this context). Indeed, the latter member (showing how "conservative" politicians differ between this country and theirs) hung with our party far into the night and matched us pint for pint until he finally succumbed to sleep, sweet sleep.

If you've not read it before (for shame!), the details on all the above can be found over here, except, of course, for the parts I can never tell you.

The links to the London Times story, by the way, was provided by the ever-loyal Carl P, without whom I wouldn't be here. No, he's not my father; he's the guy who flew across the country from Washington last month to help me move to, you know, here. Geez, aren't you guys paying any attention at all?

Movin' on up.
It probably slipped by a lot of people, but in a sidebar to his year-end restaurant column in the Philadelphia Inquirer last Sunday, critic Craig LaBan upped his rating for Standard Tap from Two Stars to Three Stars. Given how chary LaBan is with that grade (his second highest), this is an impressive achievement for our buddies William and Paul at the Tap. Congratulations, guys.

Brewing pioneer dies.
Joseph L. Owades, the man who created Boston Lager, New Amsterdam and Pete's Wicked Ale as well as the formulas for many of this country's leading mainstream beers, and the man who was the inventor of Lite Beer (nobody's perfect), died of a heart attack this week at age 86.

He was a biochemist who ended up in the brewing industry when he couldn't find a job in his specialty area of cholesterol. While serving as vice president and technical direction at Rheingold Breweries in Brooklyn in the 1960s, he developed a process to remove the starch from beer, making it lower in carbohydrates, calories and cholesterol. The new beer which resulted, called Gablinger's, was eventually acquired by Miller Brewing Co., which turned Gablinger into Miller Lite.

Owades also worked for Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis and Carling Brewing in Boston, among others, before starting his own consulting firm in 1975, helping both Miller and Budweiser develop beer. He taught courses called "Art and Science of Brewing" and "All About Beer" at San Francisco's Anchor Brewing Co. until his death.

[Posted 12:15 pm edt]

22 December 2005
I knew that.
Alan Edwards of Appalachian Brewing checked in late yesterday to explain that the Troegs comments directed at Lew and me while we were there yesterday (scroll down to the next to last paragraph of "Travels With Barley (and Lew)" below) were all in fun:

I have to apologize for our employee's sense of humor. Their punch-line delivery leaves something to be desired. I hope that who ever greeted you didn't leave you with the impression that Troegs and ABC are not on good terms or they are not welcome. It is quite the opposite. The Troegs "family" of employees are among the finest people we know. It is a pleasure to know and have such fine brewers and brewery in Harrisburg to help fight the good fight, "Promoting and Drinking Good Beer."

Troegs employees are always welcome at ABC, their money is just as green as everyone else's. Now that was a joke. My sense of humor may not be much better but me delivery is.

Nice of him to write but, you know, he shouldn't have had to. Both Lew and I knew it was all in fun, although it seemed a bit strange that two people in a row would make a similar comment. Still, looking back, I should have noted that both of them were smiling when they did. That would have given a clearer picture to anyone reading the item.

In another email this morning, Alan said he'd learned that the second person to razz us was head brewer Steve Sloan, who in fact thought he recognized Lew but "wasn't sure." Steve, my man, when you see somebody who looks like he's Lew, it's almost 100% that he is. I mean, Lew, he's sui generis.

Alan has invited us both back for a VIP tour of Appalachian's Abbey Bar (a proper name I also should have used in lieu of "Belgian room"). I suspect that, separately or together, we'll definitely take him up on that. As they say, it's the job.

[Posted 10:45 am edt]

21 December 2005
Travels With Barley (and Lew)
(apologies to Ken Wells).

I have to say that yesterday's most memorable moment was standing in the parking lot in front of Troegs watching Bryson chasing after and yelling at his deaf dog, Barley, who was heading for the South Forty as fast as possible after escaping the car. Lew was waving his hands about frantically as he rumbled along. As he'd told me earlier, Since Barley can't hear, that's the way I 'talk' to him, with my hands.

All I could think was that I've heard of people and animals being suspected of having eyes in the back of their heads, but never in their asses.

Okay, in the spirit of the season, I have to tell you that didn't happen. It did happen, understand, but in the spirit of the season and all that. Besides, Lovable Lew did the driving and bought lunch, and while the former frightened me and the latter I didn't really need, it was all good.

Speaking of the spirit of the season, the true highlight yesterday was surely the 3-Liter bottle of Mad Elf which I carried away when our visit was over. That, and a good story for the Atlantic Ale Trail column I have to write this week. Thanks, guys.

Lew and I met at The Windmill in Morgantown, a place which he apparently spent part of a summer painting in his distant and fading youth. It was a convenient point along the way and gave me another opportunity the "getting from here to there" possibilities of my new location.

I used MapQuest to determine the route up to Morgantown, which only confirmed my belief that the Great Circle Route is that site's default approach to everything. I chose my own path home, cutting five minutes off the driving time without even trying, despite the fact that it was moving on to late afternoon and school busses (there's one each for every kid in every grade now, best I can tell based on the number on the road) were out and plentiful).

We had breakfast at The Windmill (I bought that, I note, as a preventive measure against "Don't you ever pay for anything?" emails from architects and others with too much time on their hands) and then headed west with the fine aroma of aged dog wafting across our nostrils. Ironically, we ended up taking a Great Circle Route of our own when we missed the first Harrisburg exit while in the midst of one of our "discussions" and had to go on to the Rt. 83 exit and back around.

The Brothers Trogner, Easy Ed Yashinsky (who's forgotten to send me the jpg files he promised but will remember as soon as he reads this) and the brewer who always brings out my best Seinfeld imitation--Hello, Brugger--were on hand to greet us and ply us with beers. Beers are good.

We toured through the brewery, of course, enjoying in particular seeing the "Franken-filler," as Yashinsky dubbed it, a contraption put together by John Trogner to facilitate filling those 3-Liter bottles. And we talked about what's coming up next from this very good brewery, but that's a story for another day.

Then The Big Guy and I headed over to Appalachian for lunch, hoping to each get our first glimpse of the new second floor Belgian bar, but it was closed off for a private party, so we repaired to the downstairs bar. Lew was wearing his new logo-ed vest he'd bought at Troegs and the first thing the bartendress said to us was "Do you work at Troegs?" followed by a warning that "the brewers" are sitting right over there. Later, another guy passed behind the bar and asked the same thing, commenting after we said we didn't, "oh, you're welcome here then." Geez, folks, lighten up.

As I said, my ride home from Morgantown was a piece of cake. Lew's, on the other hand, was a horror show on the Turnpike (as it had been coming in during the morning) and he spent roughly an hour tied up in traffic. At least he had Barley to talk to, but, man, when he got home, were his hands tired.

This is, well, dumb, it's hard to figure out what she was thinking.
Nice article here from the London Sunday Times about the developing high-end beer culture in Britain, mostly centered around Deus and the cost of same. It all goes to hell, however, when the paper's wine critic gets into the act:

Joanna Simon, the Sunday Times wine critic, said: ďItís a very good beer. But no matter how itís dressed up ó and, boy, it is dressed up ó itís still only beer.

ďThe palate is creamy-smooth, fruity and malty-sweet, and the finish is clean with characteristic beer bitterness. But itís short and thatís the problem. Why pay good money for a taste that disappears in a couple of seconds? Iíd rather have half a bottle of good champagne.Ē

Seriously, I don't even know how to respond to that. It's just plain scary.

[Posted 11:03 am edt]

18 December 2005
This coming back thing? It ain't easy.
Lots of reasons for that, but nobody cares, right? I mean, the natives are definitely getting restless.

At the Friday Firkin Fest at Sly Fox Royersford two nights ago, some One (not The Big One, so you know it had to be an-Other One) tugged at my sleeve as I was leaving and pleaded plaintively:

Youse have to start posting stuff again. We're desperate. We live vicariously through youse.
Fortunately, I managed to break away when Big Dan pulled him aside to ask what "vicariously" meant.

Here's what's going on, for whatever it's worth.

After a month off, I kinda got used to having some free time here and there and I'm only slowly working back to that compulsive state where I'm consumed by guilt if I'm not in front of the computer screen.

Then there's the "real work" issue, by which I mean "paying" work. Moving took much of my time and all of my energy in November, which means I'm under Big Deadline Pressure at present. I have Atlantic Ale Trail, a major feature story and a book review due to Celebrator Beer News by the end of the year and a long, needs-lots-of-research-and-interviews piece due to American Brewer the first week of January.

Plus I just picked up three assignments from a new publication (more about that later) and although two of them are long-term, one has to be done as soon as I finish the AmBrew piece. There are several other stories in process as well (including one I really, really want to get done as soon as possible). When I do get in front of the computer, these are what I work on, 'cause the bills gotta be paid, and that ain't never vicarious, y'know?

Finally, new digs mean a new routine and that's still got me a bit off my game.

Add to all that the fact that, as I mentioned in this month's other posting, I'm thinking seriously about some changes in LDO's focus and purpose. My first idea along those lines was a pretty dramatic one but I'm backing off that of late. In any case, that has to be resolved one way or the other before year's end and the uncertainty makes me loath to post much right now.

But here's a promise. There will be at least one new posting this coming week, probably Wednesday or Thursday. The Big Fella and I are taking a mini-road trip on Tuesday and that adventure will surely yield some inspiration. I mean, I should be able to do a whole riff on his driving alone unless I give in to abject fear and keep my eyes closed the whole way.

[Posted 2:57 pm edt]

3 December 2005
Hey, whatever became of me?
I'm back. I survived the move, thanks to the kindness of friends (better than strangers any day), and am almost organized again.

Big changes are coming.

Not only did sorting out my life in order to relocate it bring all sorts of things to light that I'd forgotten all about, it made me take a hard look at some of the things I'm doing, including LDO. I'm evaluating exciting (at least to me) options right now and will keep you informed as I slowly slide back into regular posting here.

Meanwhile, the big event coming up is the one detailed in these stories (scroll down, there's some other important news there as well); maybe I'll see you there this Friday.

Also, I've continued posting all the important beer news over here and I'd suggest you stop in there daily, as some other surprising stories are about to break.

So, did ya miss me?

Archived.
No LDO Archives for November, of course, since there were no postings. The complete October 2005 postings have been archived here.

And the December 2005/January 2006 "Atlantic Ale Trail" column from Celebrator Beer News, is now available here.

[Posted 3:25 pm edt]




Malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.

--A. E. Houseman

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