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7 March 04
Smash! Crash! Boom! Ouch.
This computer just now crashed, taking with it two hours of work on the best LDO ever written.

I'm sorry, but I don't have the heart or the energy to sit here and try to put it all back together again right now. Maybe later in the week. Maybe not.

Comes to that, maybe the universe is once again trying to tell me something. And maybe I should listen this time.

[Posted 1:30 pm est]

10 March 04
For those who came in late.
"Late" being the operative word here, as this posting is three days later than the usual Sunday upload. Scroll all the way down the bottom of this page if you want to learn why.

All of this has me thinking about making some changes around here, the most likely being to move away from the one long (sometimes really long) Sunday posting into a "whenever" schedule of a few times a week, depending upon when I have something to say or report. No decision yet, but that's sort of the way I'm leaning.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled rambling....

Good beer, unexpected sources.
If I begin by telling you that three of the best beers I had during Saturday's very enjoyable Main Line Brew Fest at the Desmond in Great Valley, were from John Harvard's Devon and Rock Bottom King of Prussia, you're gonna think I'm setting you up, aren't you? Well, shame on your cynical self. It's true.

John Harvard's Aaron Laramee was pouring his big ABockalypse Now, a delicious 9% abv killer, and later added Smoked Amber Ale, equally drinkable but at a more manageable 5%. Both were excellent. Aaron, as he will acknowledge, has had his ups and downs since taking over the brewing chores at Devon, but he's definitely on top of his game with this pair. Both are, or at least were, on draft at the pub. Hie thee hence. You won't be disappointed.

To enjoy Rock Bottom brewer John Thomas's Old Style Belgian Brown Ale, on the other hand, you had to know it was there, since he didn't have a tap marker for the beer. Nicely sour as you'd expect, and it went down very easily (and is on at the pub). It was The Beer Yard's Matt Guyer who put me on to this one, one of the several "favors" he did for me over the course of the afternoon (not all of them quite so rewarding as this one).

Those were very good beers, but the very best beer of the day was Le Tete Fontaine, the wonderful Dubbel which is part of brewer Chris Leonard's rotation at the General Lafayette Inn & Brewery. Sipping it, I was struck by how often it is that one of my favorites at local beer festivals always seems to be from General Lafayette. That makes it particularly sweet to be able to tell you that all the paperwork and legal stuff that needs must be done in order for Chris to take over as owner of the inn is nearing completion. I'm looking forward to seeing his hand at work in the kitchen and dining areas as well as the brewery.

The festival didn't seem as crowded as it has in recent years, so I was surprised to learn later that, with 650 attendees, it topped the 2003 total by 100 (290 people attended the evening dinner and silent auction, also a new record). The most likely explanation is that the various seminars which were held over the course of the afternoon and which were, I am told, "packed," served to keep the number of people on the floor to more comfortable levels. It had to be either that, or the absence of a Garo Yepremian autograph table in the center of the floor such as there was last year.

I have in my possession, by the way, a steamy love note written by our resident Garo Groupie, who shall remain nameless for now, slipped to me by an equally nameless Big One. He was supposed to put it into Yepremiam's hot little hands, but the Armenian kicker was a no-show (he apparently did turn up at dinner later). There must be some good use to which I can put this. Suggestions?

I'll have a pint of the Big Fish Imperial IPA, please.
Say what? Well, at Festival's end, all the cool kids hustled over to the Flying Pig Saloon on Main Street in Malvern, where Big Fish Barley Wine from Flying Fish was indeed listed as an Imperial IPA.

Wandering Joe Meloney, our beer-loving, bird-watching, rock-seeking, music-freaking advance beer scout, had been on the scene days earlier, as is his wont, and he alerted me to the mis-labeling during the Festival. I in turn told brewer Jon Zangwill, who promised to set things straight. So, when he arrived and spoke to the owner to tell him that Big Fish is in fact a barleywine, you'd figure apologies would be in order, right? No such luck. Zangwill came over to our table shaking his head. "He said he called the brewery and somebody there told him it was an Imperial IPA and that's that," he reported.

The Flying Pig is a neat place, with a great beer list, and I've learned to accept its slight level of cluelessness as charming rather than problematic. This was especially easy while I was scarfing down a pint of Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout as I was within minutes of walking through the door. And when I followed that with a pint of Brewers Art La Petroleuse Ale, a big, strong (7.8% abv) biere de garde, I could care less what they called Big, or any other, Fish.

Why pints after four hours of steady beer tasting, you ask? Because when we requested a "small" beer, that's what they brought. When I finally asked the waitress more directly if there weren't another size serving available for such high-octane beers, she smiled brightly. "Oh, you want a 23-ouncer?" Clueless. But charming.

Red Bell tales. They just keep coming...
The word around the Main Line Festival was that Red Bell's Manayunk Brewpub is gone. I checked when I got home and the website says it's "closed for renovations," but the phone number listed there is no longer operative and calls are shifted to answering machines in corporate offices. I'd assume the report is accurate, especially when combined with information from another source that recently hired brewer Bob Davis, the guy who supposedly got to at least start a brewing the Main Street location's virgin tanks, has moved on to Black Rock Brewing in Wilkes-Barre.

So who, do you suppose, is brewing at the Wachovia Center now? I can't wait to find out.

Let me admit here to an unseemly pleasure whenever I get to report on the travails of Red Bell. It has nothing to doing with the current management and ownership, indeed it is entirely unfair to them, but I bear a great disdain and anger for the brewery's founder and principal, Jim Bell, and for what he and his machinations did to the craft brewing community in this city. Throw Bob Connor and Independence Brewing in there as well. We endured too many years of dilettante stockbrokers fighting over whose was bigger.

Not that it can't all just be plain fun sometimes. I had a grand time at the Main Line Fest while sampling from a bottle of Philadelphia Lager and listening to two hired hands tell me that "this beer is brewed and bottled right in Philadelphia." When I asked where, they pointed earnestly to the label. "Right here, at 31st and Jefferson." I assured them that was not the case. "Well then," offered one, "they probably do it down at the Wachovia Center. Or maybe the Spectrum." Some days this gig is entirely too much fun.

Ho hum. Just another Monday Night Tasting.
Featured beers for our regular tasting session this past Monday were Magic Hat Mother Lager (from "The People's Republic of Vermont)," Bad Elf Winter Ale, Fuller's 1845 , Kulmbacher Reichelbršu Eisbock and, oh yeah, a couple of barleywines, Old Guardian and Old Marley. I wouldn't be so bold as to argue that Phoenixville between 5-7 pm Mondays is the epicenter of the beer universe, but damned if I couldn't make a case that it is at least right on the border most weeks.

Another Incubus Friday, and Amarillo IPA to boot.
When I walked into Sly Fox Friday night, my first impression was that everyone in the place (and it was already crowded at 4:30) was drinking the just-released Amarillo IPA. Since having my first taste of same was also foremost in my mind, I figured this might be the night that the monthly cask of Incubus actually made it past the almost clockwork 6:30 "kick time." Right. As it turned out, the cask kicked earlier than ever, somewhere shortly after 6 pm.

About that Amarillo: wow! I had two pints, grabbed a goblet of Incubus when I saw which way that train was heading, then went back to the IPA for the rest of the evening. Really good, hoppy beer and as the kick-off brew for O'Reilly's 2004 IPA Project, it sets a damned high standard he's gonna have to maintain.

A fine night as usual, but there were not nearly as many familiar faces around the bar this month. Missing were Rick and Jeanne, in Arizona for a month (thus setting the economy of breweries in Cleveland into a downward spiral), and Bob and Barbie, who were in Florida, which was also the location of Richard the Shill. I assume he wandered the streets with a sixelle of Victory HopDevil strapped to his back so he could provide pints for all those people of his own age he found down there.

Also absent was Rick (Codename: Pinky) Mayberry, who was not out of town but who has abruptly chosen to embrace an alternate lifestyle (see below for the shocking details).

How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Bogata, New Jersey?
Those two brothers from Harrisburg apparently had themselves a fine night here last week when a "Promo Night" featured Troegs Troegenator, Pale Ale, Hop Back Amber and Rugged Trail Nut Brown Ale on draft and cask-conditioned Oatmeal Stout and Nugget Nectar. Who knew these guys were so big in North Jersey?

the next Troegs one-off, I'm told, will likely be a wheat beer made with the spicy Mad Elf yeast. And chances are it will make its debut at the Harrisburg Brewers Fest, a new event on the summer festival scene which is expected to have 33 breweries on hand. It all benefits the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

The Slow Pour.
A couple of brewpubs everybody's been waiting for will not be opening this summer as planned. Here's the skinny...On the other hand, Tom Rupp, one of the brewers who passed through the "revolving door" at the Reading site which was/is/might one day be Neversink/Fancy Pants/Legacy, is apparently still out there driving around with a complete brewery in his back seat. Rumor has it that he's on the verge of signing a deal for a new site. Of course, rumor's had that long enough to qualify as a common law relationship... Speaking or rumors, here's one we know to be true: Flying Fish Farmhouse Ale, the popular summer seasonal, has grown so popular that they can't brew enough of it at the Cherry Hill plant for 2004, so it has been contracted out to The Lion. Sightings of Zangwill on the case in Wilkes-Barre should occur this week...

As noted above somewhere, our Posse Sgt. at Arms, the mysterious Pinky, has embraced a new and challenging alternate lifestyle. Pinky has gone Atkins on us. No beer!! He seeks to waste away to a mere shell of his current self by May 15. Why May 15? Why not? And there are dark whispers of a strange, cosmic event on that very day...Credit where credit is due: LDO reader Michael Campbell emailed last week to let me know he was the one who took the picture of Randall the Enamel Animal which appeared here last month. Randall, by the by, will make his first ever Philadelphia area appearance on March 19...

Beer Geek Question of the Week: what recently introduced and well-received brew from a local brewery will likely be a one-time thing since the Head Guy, who never wanted it brewed in the first place, isn't all that impressed?

Bonus Beer Geek Question of the Week: why are they humming "Lullaby of Broadway" at one local brewpub? Can a humble little beer from [Name Deleted] really make it to the Great White Way?

[Posted 5:10 pm est]

14 March 04

Welcome to the 21st Century.
I'm gonna brook no arguments on this one, so don't try. Presented above is the first great "modern" (i.e., 21st Century) beer label. When I finally pried this image out of Dan Weirback so I could put it up here, I knew it really required a larger showcase. So I gave it one.

I can be had for a couple of beers and a t-shirt.
I have determined in recent years that I have a pretty basic and obvious metabolism. Simply put, when my weight goes over a certain level, my blood pressure goes up, cholesterol rises and I become somewhat "at risk." Used to be I could bring both down to acceptable levels by dropping a few pounds, but I've since lost the cholesterol battle and now depend on a daily pill (since recent research indicates that pill also may prolong my life, I got me no complaints). High blood pressure still appears to be at least somewhat weight related.

The point? Well, when the scale began to give me some alarming news early last week, I shifted into diet mode, restricting food consumption and pretty much eliminating beer and wine. Enter Brian O'Reilly, agent of Satan. Starting Wednesday and proceeding in a regular drumbeat into Friday morning, he argued vigorously that I had, that is to say, was required, to accompany him Friday night for a light dinner at Johnny Brenda's and then the tapping of a cask of his Whiskey Barrel Gang Aft Agley Scotch Ale at the The Grey Lodge Pub. I weakened as time passed, but fought him every step of the way.

Enter Lew Bryson, disciple of Evil. He called to tell me he'd been back to visit Bob's , a marvelous breakfast and lunch spot we'd discovered together while at the Pennsylvania Microbrewers Fest last summer, and that he'd acquired a Bob's t-shirt for me. Was I coming to the Grey Lodge or should he give it to O'Reilly to carry back to me? Trust such a treasure to O'Reilly? Heaven forfend. I caved.

Johnny Brenda's was hopping (somebody told me the other day that it's already too hip to be hip any more, if you know what I mean), noisily so, with a DJ on hand to play that kind of music you kids like today. Owner William Reed was also there and joined Brian and me and brewer Tim Ohst (of Flying Fish) at the bar where we all chatted about, of all things, beer.

I started with a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA (the others all had Victory Prima Pils) and then, on William's advice, we all sampled the just released 2004 Yards Saison, which, as William promised, was lip-smacking good. If it's as tasty in the bottle, a case will join me at my humble abode as soon as possible. For dinner I had a bit of shared Humus and a healthy Caesar's Salad. Damn, I'm good.

When we reached the Grey Lodge, we found Lew sitting quietly at the bar. Yeah, I said "quietly," and no, I have no idea what that was all about. Never seen it before. Over the next couple of hours, he got louder, as we chatted up the inimitable Scoats and talked about, of all things, beer, amusing ourselves while O'Reilly charmed the small but lovable band of geeks who'd come out to touch his garment. Along the way, we came up with a great idea for a joint beer article. All we need now is somebody to buy it.

My consumption? One pint each of Gang Aft Agley, O'Reilly's Amarillo IPA and Heavyweight Baltus OVS. Not bad. I expect I'll live to fight another day.

Oh yeah, I forget the t-shirt in O'Reilly's car...

This Monday, the beer tasted curiously like champagne.
The Man Called Pinky, as reported here last week after the copy was vetted by the CIA, has gone Atkins and begun Carb-ing along with the mindless herd, but that doesn't mean he isn't showing up for the regular Monday Tastings at Sly Fox. Or that his generosity is in any way impaired, because he came bearing a fine gift this past week: a bottle of the much sought after DeuS Brut des Flandres from Brouwerij Bosteels. What a guy.

DeuS is a very interesting, very expensive (average $20 per bottle) champagne-style beer which has the beer world all a-twitter. I like it quite a bit, but wouldn't pay the price for it under most circumstances. Both a prominent beer writer and a local beer purveyor have told me they don't see what all the fuss is about, but that seems to be a minority opinion. O'Reilly, for example, seemed fascinated by it, swirling and sniffing and tasting and wondering half aloud if he might be able to produce such a thing (apparently he knows of some secret caves somewhere in Phoenixville where he could age his version).

We actually had something quite similar before, Brian and I, Malheur Brut Reserve, which we got from, and you can read about, here. Well, at least I did; Brian may have misplaced his bottle somewhere in the vast cache of beer he has hidden away at home. I'd love to compare the DeuS and Malheur side-by-side and am looking into finding another bottle of the latter somewhere. What's most fascinating is that both come from breweries located in the same little village in Flanders (I touched on this in the beer description at the Beer Yard site which I linked to in the second sentence of this section).

This was an ideal tasting by my standards, five beers and enough time to enjoy and talk about them all. We also tried Avery White Rascal Belgian Wheat, Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA (love those labels) and another world-class homebrew from the (can you believe it?) ever-creative Tom Foley--his version of Amarillo IPA. There was also some beer which I've forgotten but which I originally listed here as Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. We only talked about that one (yeah, it was a truly stupid error, but at least it explains why I have no notes on that beer).

Good brews all, even the one we didn't have. Pity poor Pinky, who could only watch.

The Slow Pour.
You will note that, despite my conjecture last week, LDO is maintaining its Sunday posting date rather than going to a more random schedule. That's the way it is, at least for now...All of you crazed hopheads, be reminded that Sam Calagione and his new bestest pal, Randall the Enamel Animal, will make Randall's very first Philadelphia area appearance this Friday night at the Beer Yard...

Certain things bug the hell out of me (ya think?). Of late, I'm seeing more and more references in print and on the web locating Victory Brewing Company in "Downington." Enough! I ask each and every one of you to join with me in a Great Crusade. Whenever you see this error, send a message to the publication or site with a correction. Let's restore than missing "w." Just this once, as this is not a universal thing. If, say, a different W were to disappear from the scene next November, that wouldn't be so bad at all...Did a well-known beverage writer, who is paid big bucks to advise readers about the local drinks scene, really call one of Philadelphia's best known beer bars recently to ask "do you sell pale ales?" Oh yeah...

The Book and the Cook 2004 started Friday night and runs through the coming week. I'll be covering the Eric Tucker Vegetarian Dinner at Nodding Head on Thursday evening and expect to be at the Michael Jackson Tasting (third session) at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology & Anthropology on Saturday. And who knows where else I'll turn up? Hmmm. Ever so neatly, that last bit of speculation leads quite naturally to...

The Beer Geek Question of the Week: Forget me, where will Michael turn up? Every year during his visit to B&C, MJ spends at some time visiting local establishments to familiarize himself with, or refresh his memory of, their products. I followed him around two years ago when he visited Weyerbacher and Bethlehem Brew Works; last year he stopped in at McKenzie Brew House and Dogfish Head. This year, look for the rumpled guy with notebook in hand at...???

[Posted 1:00 pm est]

21 March 04
Whoa! What the hell was THAT?
To my immediate left, Foley smiled slightly and picked up the bottle to inspect the label. Next to him, Mayberry sputtered and made a face. O'Reilly was, as O'Reilly will, swirling and sniffing. Meloney looked like he'd just seen the face of God. Ruch looked bemused and happy. Behind us, the Shoemaker boy gasped in shock in unison with Mayberry.

Thanks to The Beer Yard's Mark Sauerbrey, who went to Belgium and did the heavy lifting, and Matt Guyer, who footed the bill, I was able to bring a bottle of Rodenbach Grand Cru to last week's Monday Tasting at Sly Fox. It was a real shocker to those who had no idea what to expect; something close to a religious experience for Meloney who, amazingly, had never tasted it before; the high point of yet another evening of sampling incredible brews.

The other beers of the evening are a bit hazy. My tasting notes have joined several other documents in becoming hopelessly lost in the horror show that my desktop became this past week. I've never been all that well organized--"neatness is the art form of the uncreative" someone clever once wrote--but I also never allowed a shambles such as this develop. I know there was another winner homebrewed by Foley (a bier de garde?) and a beer from Magic Hat which O'Reilly pulled out that none of us had ever had (or was that last week?) All else is gone from my overtaxed memory cells...

The Tasting, by the way, could be on the verge of becoming...well, even more mind-bending. At least three different people approached me this past week, either in person or via the internet, asking about it and wondering if (insert name of spectacular and/or rare beer here) would be an appropriate contribution if they should want to show up some evening. Come in from the wilderness, says I, and welcome.

One of those offers came at The Beer Yard Friday night (see further down) as a result of my writing last week that I hoped to find a bottle of Malheur Brut Reserve to match with DeuS Brut des Flandres at a future tasting. Quoth he: "I have a bottle of Malheur, but I'm not sure it's what you're looking for. It's, well, chocolate." "Say what?" responded I, the knowledgeable beer writer. "Ain't no such thing as Malheur chocolate anything." Pride. Fall. In that order. Keep reading and you'll see what I mean.

Meanwhile, I had planned to bring a very unusual and certainly rare "import" to tomorrow night's event, a bottle which was presented to me at Nodding Head on Thursday night (see further down), but O'Reilly, who is off to New Hampshire until Tuesday, has insisted that I hold off a week so he can be part of the fun.

Some days, you just can't get there from here.
I was scheduled to attend the Stephen Beaumont-hosted dinner at Monk's Cafe on Tuesday night but that didn't happen because of the snow. Out here where I live, in Oaks, about five miles west of Valley Forge Park, there are basically two ways to get in to the Main Line, which is where I normally catch a train downtown.

One is Rt. 422, a road anyone living in this area is probably familiar with by name if nothing else, as it is pretty much certain to be a part of every morning traffic report: "Rt. 422 is backed up between..." Going in toward the city in early evening, even in the snow, might not have been a problem, but I tend to be leery of limited access roads where I might end up stuck in traffic forever and a day, so I chose the alternative, which is Rt. 23 through Phoenixville and down into or around the Park. Bad idea. There's this hill, you see...

At least there were leftovers in the fridge when I finally worked my way home. Fortunately, I'll get my Monk's fix tonight at the Michael Jackson Dinner (and report on it next week).

Eric Tucker at Nodding Head.
I did get to this dinner featuring the executive chef of San Francisco's Millennium Restaurant on Thursday night, but since it's going to be written about in a forthcoming "Atlantic Ale Trail" for Celebrator Beer News, I won't have much to say about it here. It was an excellent Vegan meal from the opening sundried tomato and cashew spread served with a selection of breads all the way through to an extraordinary German Chocolate Cake which Tucker's pastry chef, whom he brought along, conjured up for dessert (I'm not sure anyone will ever completely convince me there were no dairy products at all involved in that one).

The beers? 60 Shilling Ale, Grog, PBA, 3C Extreme Ale, Chocolate Stout (made with real Valrhona Chocolate) and Wee Heavy, as promised on the menu, plus a surprise pouring of Rudy Kung Fu Grip, a Belgian style Strong Ale.

Of course, Heavyweight Brewing's Tom and Peggy were on hand, accompanied by Blind Tiger Ale House's David Brodrick. They told me they planned to go pub crawling in Philadelphia yesterday so some of you may have run into them.

Randall comes to the Beer Yard. Sam too.
As his two-hour stint during this past Friday's regular Beer Yard Sampling drew to a close, Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione just shook his head and laughed. "This is unbelievable," he said. "I kicked an entire sixelle tonight. I've never had that happen before at a retail tasting."

Yes, the thirsty and curious hoards gathered to attend the first local appearance of the rapidly-becoming-legendary "Randall the Enamel Animal," a "hop transducer module" which was originally born as a three-foot long stainless steel cylinder but which has, as you can see, now been dressed up in a more attractive package. It's packed with hops, Amarillo in this case, and the beer, 90 Minute IPA in this case, is pumped through it. "The alcohol in the beer strips the oils off the hops and you get the freshest hops experience known to man," says Sam.

By the end of the evening, with the help of the invaluable Sauerbrey, Sam was dismantling Randall and squeezing the last bit of brew out (below) for the crowd. Following that, he frantically telephoned the brewery to get more 90 Minute sent up for Saturday's Michael Jackson Tasting at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Several other Dogfish beers were poured over the two hours, plus drafts from a sixelle of this year's Aprihop. Among the bottles opened were three-month old ones of 120 Minute IPA, a beer about which I have ragged Sam, both face to face and here, since I first tasted it, on the grounds that it is virtually undrinkable. Well, now I have to back off some. While it's still much too sweet for my tastes, this bottled version was much more palatable than any I'd tried previously. Damning with faint praise, perhaps, but Sam assures me he'll eventually win me over completely. We'll see.

Before heading off to Sly Fox to sit at the bar and drink the just released East Kent IPA for all too long a stretch with O'Reilly, I did my civic duty and turned my camera away from the beer taps to capture the photo below and fire it off to Homeland Security. There's something very suspicious about the tall ungainly guy lurking there at lower right, with his back to everybody.

Michael at the Museum, 14 years on.
The annual Michael Jackson Tutored Tastings at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology this year, his 14th straight and his longest standing beer event commitment in the world (almost short circuited this time because of a leg infection), was "Beer or Bread: Which Came First?"

Eight beers were poured, to be matched in pairs with small food samples: Yards Saison (recall I had this on draft last week and wondered it would be as good in the bottle; first impression is "yes"), Saison Dupont, Flying Fish Belgian Abbey Dubbel, Super Baladin (a nice surprise and something I'd not tasted before), Troegenator, Aventinus Eisbock, Nodding Head Chocolate Stout and--are you ready for this?--Malheur Black Chocolate.

Yep, Malheur has come up with a new beer. The sample I had at the tasting, and a second inside at the Beverage Bistro table, were not enough to form a firm opinion, but my initial impression is definitely favorable.

To be honest, I was pretty exhausted by week's end and spent only about an hour at the general tasting, which seemed both smaller (28 participants) and more crowded than in the past (I've been informed by enough people that I'm wrong to consider that a real possibility). I let Tom Peters sooth my battered psyche with a bit of Cantillon, Calagione to tempt me to the dark side with a bit of Honey Brown Rum and Unibroue to delight me with a dram of 10 (11 was all gone).

I stopped by at Legacy Brewing to try the brand new Euphoria, a strong golden ale that a buzz has started about. Not bad at all, I thought, but, again, it was a small sample in a plastic glass. I then I went over to Eddie Friedland's table, conveniently located by the exit and drank Heavyweight Biere d'Art before I slipped away into the waiting night.

A HopDevil loose in the old country.
A week ago yesterday, at 4:30 pm local time, HopDevil IPA, brewed on site by Bill Covaleski on February 22, was poured for the first time at Vienna's 1516 Brewing Company. 120 liters of HopDevil were sold over the course of the evening according to 1516 Brewmaster and owner Horst Asanger, who sent the report which follows to Covaleski the following morning. The Eric Toft mentioned is brewmaster of Privatbrauerei Schonramm in Germany and a Victory "Friend of the Brewery." The photos are of Covaleski and Asanger during the brew.

Here's Horst Asanger (unedited):

we celebrated the official relese of the hop devil last night. Hosted by the european rep from the victory brewing company, eric toft. who also is a hobby master brewer in bavaria, when he finds time besides promoting the devil. straight away the hop devil is our 2nd best sold beer, beating our weissbier, who had that spot ever since we had it on tap. we had alot of very happy us citizens, all saying how happy they are that they don`t have to suffer in vienna without an ale like that anymore. 2 californians compared it to their favourite, sierra nevada. all together it was one of our best events, and we had a very jealous american brewmaster fro 7stern in, cos we used whole hops.

i have to confess though, that we were not able to get the traditionalist out of eric`s wife. her enthusiasm for cascade is rather low, nicely said. we sold 120 liters of hop devil, now we won`t be able to do that every night, but it was very surprising to the brewers that conrad invited, to see their clientel drinking a strong, very hoppy, ale. hopped with some strange hop from america. especially one looked quite stupid, because his opinion is, that hops just makes bitter, and beer shouldn`t taste bitter and or have hop aroma. was very funny when he looked around himsel, and saw a bunch of austrians socialising with an international community, drinking top fermented, hoppy, strong beer. i hope it enlarged his horizon a bit. one american guy who is working in greece, spend a weekend in vienna. he came to 1516 7 !!!!!, in words: seven, times in 2 days just because of the devil. he wouldn`t know when he`d the opportunity to taste a beer like that again, he said, especially not in greece. he chatted to erica bit as well.

i didn`t know that eric worked in belguim before, so i worked a bit on him and got his word that he would do an ale in fall. he got the yeast still in his freezer, he said. and if he could, he would just use whole hops as well he said. so i will go down now and have a few sunday afternoon devils with my daddy. thank you so much bill, we owe you.

The Slow Pour.
Some may suspect that, when I raised the question about where Michael Jackson might turn up in his travels this past week in last Sunday's posting, I knew very well that it would be at Sly Fox. How can you be so suspicious after all I've done for you? I am saddened. Anyway, you can read the report about the visit in a story by reporter Dennis Wright which appeared in The Phoenix right here or get a brief overview (with a link to the Wright story) here...Several of the Fox regulars showed up, as you'd expect, trying to look inconspicuous as they lingered over their four-hour "lunches." And the funniest part of the afternoon, I am told, came at the end as Richard the Shill desperately chased after MJ as he was leaving in order to thrust bottles of Hop Wallop into his hands...Tim Ohst, who's been at Flying Fish the last two years, has signed on at Sly Fox to be O'Reilly's assistant brewer, beginning April 5. Prior to brewing at Flying Fish, Ohst was interim head brewer at John Harvard's Devon for a brief period a few years back and was scheduled to become O'Reilly's assistant at New Road before that doomed ship went down...

Reasonably reliable sources inform me that not only is the Red Bell pub in Manayunk down for the count, they're looking to get out of the Wachovia Center pub as well. That one looks, on the surface, like a real opportunity for someone but, from what I've heard about the way the folks who run the building treat the beer, I suspect it would be a real headache...

Tomorrow's Philadelphia Daily News will reportedly carry a story by Joe Sixpack on the beers which will be available at the new Phillies ballpark when it opens, brews from Victory, Yards, Iron Hill, Manayunk, Flying Fish, Ortlieb's and Dock Street, plus a "big surprise." This tidbit comes courtesy of Ruch, who has been harassing Sixpack via email even though he's trying to slip out of town for a Paris vacation in his civilian identity as Don Russell. Russell accompanied Covaleski on his Vienna brewing trip and Ruch has been beside himself waiting for the story. It will be in this coming Friday's regular biweekly Sixpack column...

No Beer Geek Question this week; rather, an answer (of sorts) to an earlier one. Remember when I noted several months back that "somebody" was searching for a site for a full-scale brewery in Philadelphia? Well, I am told that a building was found and a lease signed just recently. Who, when and where? Ah, that's for another time...

[Posted 3:35 pm est]

28 March 04
From Duluth to Oudenaarde.
This week's Monday Beer Tasting at Sly Fox was honored to have among the attendees that fine human being, Steve Rubeo, my favorite posse member and a man I respect deeply. Mr. Rubeo had been out of town over the weekend on "family business," if you know what I mean, and was kind enough to bring back with him a growler of El Nino Double Barrel IPA from Fitger's Brewhouse in Duluth, Minnesota on the beautiful shores of Lake Superior. It was very nice of him to do that and we certainly hope he was in no way inconvenienced. The beer, of course, was absolutely wonderful because Mr. Rubeo has exquisite taste, and his "family connections," if you know what I mean, have nothing to do with my saying that.

Had Mr. Rubeo not been so generous, and in that regard I want to stress once again his wonderfulness and forgiving nature toward anyone who might have appeared to ever be making fun of him on this or any other website, the most notable beer of the day would likely have been Liefmans Kriek, the world-famous Kriekbier brewed in Oudenaarde, Belgium, which was provided by peripatetic Joe Meloney. Meloney's wanderlust has since taken him to sunny Arizona where he and his spouse are, at this very moment, wildly partying with that footloose Smiledge couple, Rick & Jean. Hide the women and children...

Other beers of the day: Dupont Moinette (which I provided, again through the courtesy of Matt Guyer, whose true colors will be revealed three items down); Geary's Hampshire Special Ale (1996 vintage, from Richard Ruch); Stone IPA and Wild Goose IPA (contributed by Rick Mayberry), a growler of Tom Foley's homebrewed Belgian Golden Ale and Lost Coast Indica IPA, contributed by the absent Lori Limper.

As usual, a very fine day. Especially so with Mr. Rubeo on hand, although one among us seems to have missed the point...

All in the family.
Present at the pub throughout the tasting, but adamantly refusing to participate, was regular Karl Shoemaker, who had never been known to turn away a free beer previously. When asked, he allowed as how he'd had an attack of the vapors and just needed a week off. I tried to warn him that his obstinacy could be interpreted as rejection of the unusual presence of Mr. Rubeo, but he wouldn't bend.

Mr. Rubeo said nothing, as is his wont, but I did notice him glancing over at Karl several times during the tasting and, when he was leaving, he muttered under his breath, in a strangely guttural voice, "you have shown me no respect," while staring at our recalcitrant member. It would not be at all surprising, I'm afraid, were Karl and his kneecaps to soon have a visit from a couple of big, burly "family members," if you know what I mean.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

An organic night.
Fresh off my vegetarian beer dinner a week ago Thursday, I enjoyed an organic beer and food dinner at Monk's last Sunday. It was the annual Michael Jackson Dinner for which that nice Tom Peters and inventive chef Adam Glickman have to come up with a new and striking concept every time.

I was seated up front at the long table in the window facing out onto 16th street, right opposite Lew Bryson. I can't imagine that the sight of us did much for business. Seated next to us were Anna Bauer, who is the events coordinator for the Museum Catering Company, which runs the Jackson events at the Museum along with lots of other things, and her friend, Gina Mazzulla. We were eventually joined by Rogue Brewery's Sebbie Buhler and Tony, an assistant brewer at John Harvard's Springfield, which is a good thing as it gave Anna and Gina someone to talk with whenever Lew and I wandered off into one of those discussions about quirky editors, annoying brewers, criminally low pay and similar matters that we just can't believe others don't find as riveting as we do. I promised to make our tablemates famous for putting up with us, so here they are, after dinner: Gina, Sebbie, Anna & Tony.

This was a five course plus dessert evening, with eight beers. We opened with Chilled Mussels and Cantillon Bio Gueuze, followed by Poached Organic Egg and Brasserie Dupont Foret (the organic version of the Moinette we had at the Monday Tasting). Third course was Organic Steak Frite Salad, a wonderful combination of rare, tender grass-fed beef, Monk's frites with bourbon mayonnaise and organic greens (am I showing my predilection for occasional meat in my diet here?) and two, count 'em two, brews, both from Brasserie Silenrieux: Sara Organic Buckwheat Ale and Joseph Organic Spelt Ale. The Buckwheat was my favorite beer of the night.

Savory Organic Onion Tart was the next course, accompanied by Beersel Bio from Brasserie de Proef, Belgium's experimental and recipe development brewery. The fifth course replaced the legendary "big honkin' piece o' meat" which used to mark all Monk's dinners and a big honkin' piece of Poached Turbot, moist and delicious, accompanied by organic white asparagus which even I, an asparagus hater, enjoyed. Two beers came along with it: Brasserie Dupont Saison Bio and Caracole Saxo Bio.

Dessert (half the fun of Monk's marvelous desserts is keeping watch to see just how close to the bone "the dessert lady" cuts it when delivering same) was (oh my!) a White Chocolate and Honey Mousse served with organic raspberries and Dupont Bio Biere de Miel.

It was the good evening you'd expect, complete with MJ telling us about the beers and digressing when the spirit moved him. And the very best part of it? I'd never let that be forgotten. Read on.

And you are...?
As suggested above, there are moments which are just too wonderful to be allowed to slip away without being recorded for posterity. One such occurred Sunday night.

About midway through dinner at Monk's, who should wander over to our table but The Beer Yard's Matt Guyer, who proceeds to begin massaging Sebbie's shoulders and addressing the entire table. Since I've learned to, y'know, tune him out even though I look like I'm paying attention, I have no idea what he was talking about (I'm sure there were a few untoward remarks about me as those are part of his regular spiel), but it goes on for a while and suddenly Gina looks up. "Who are you?" she asks.

Matt looks flustered for a brief moment but then resumes his patter. When he finally pauses for a breath, it's Gina again: "But I still have no idea who you are." Anna chimes in. "I don't know who you are either." All of us are now paying attention to see what he does. Abruptly, he reaches into his pocket, pulls out two business cards and hands them to Gina and Anna. Then he turns and slinks away.

Anna looks at her card. "So this is who he is?" I take it from her. It's a Beer Yard card all right. And the name on the card is...Mark Sauerbrey.

My guess is that Matt carries these to use in embarrassing situations. My guess is he carries a lot of them.

Invasion of the killer BAs.
This weekend marked the 2004 BA Rally in Philadelphia, unleashing a horde of Beer Advocates on a (mostly) unsuspecting public. Those of us who had been forewarned wisely stayed inside, kept below window level and hoped for the best.

Well, okay, I finally did give in to curiosity late yesterday afternoon and headed on over to the Fox to see what the Saturday suburban pubcrawlers would look like after about five hours of beer travel. In a trip that could only have been designed by the devious but apparently not altogether logical mind of Richard Ruch, the BA travelers boarded their buses in the Victory Brewing parking lot in late morning, traveled south to spend an hour or so at McKenzie Brew House, then went back to Victory for lunch, and then would come east to Sly Fox, ultimately returning to Victory.

They were, of course, behind schedule, so I was able to sit out in the fading sun on the Fox patio in lovely solitude for about an hour and sip a couple of the beers O'Reilly'd put on tap especially for the BA group ('fessing up here: the lure of the patio and the beers were probably even more of an incentive for my visit that curiosity). The beers? I began with cask Amarillo IPA, so hop bitter and mouth puckering that it had me a-feared I might not even taste the next beer. Since the next beer was a glass from another special of the day, the last keg of the 2003 Instigator Doppelbock, it more than managed to dispel my concern and proved to be the best beer of the afternoon. I had a second Instigator and just a dollop of the Whiskey Barrel Gang Aft Agley Scotch Ale before settling down with pints of quaffable Pale Ale as the crowd arrived.

When the BA busses pulled in, the troops were all atwitter about the cask Hop Wallop that had been put on for them at Victory (the beer most mentioned from McKenzie was the Baltic Porter) and many were carrying growlers and bottles from the first two stops, with at least one empty growler in hand for this final one. They were in great spirits and quickly filled the patio and bar area, pausing between beers to attack the free buffet with a ferocity that belied their just having finished lunch at Victory.

From what I could find out, the Friday night center city pub crawl had also gone well. The official tour began mid-afternoon at Monk's, moved on to Ludwig's Garten, then to Nodding Head and finished up at Eulogy. The consensus seemed to be that Nodding Head was the favorite spot among the four. This was based primarily on the beer and ambiance as you might expect, but I was told that the wild table-top Flamenco dance by brewer Brandon Greenwood won over a lot of BA-ers as well. All you gotta do is show a little love, man...

Even as I sit here today and slave away, what's left of the BA crowd is scarfing down brunch 'n' beers at either Drafting Room Exton (where GM Patrick Mullen also promised to have some special brews on tap) or Standard Tap.

The Slow Pour.
I'm working on a fascinating and as yet unreported local beer story, maybe two, which I hope to pin down this week. This is good stuff, big enough that I'll want to post it right away before the likes of Bryson and his ilk stumble onto it. Check out The Beer Yard News Pages on Wednesday or Thursday and be the first in your neighborhood to know.

Otherwise, it's pretty much all Joe Sixpack, all the time down here in the Slow Pour section today. On Friday, Sixpack posted his long-awaited story about the HopDevil brew in Vienna and last Monday he revealed that Ballantine's back in a story about local beers being poured in the Phillies' new ballpark. All that, and Sixpack's alter ego Don Russell also got to run off to Paris for a vacation. Some guys...

I meant to mention The Rogue Creamery Website last week, but I forgot. Their Rogue River Blue Cheese, which I sampled at the Rogue Brewing table at the University of Pennsylvania Museum Book & Cook beer event, is extraordinarily good, good enough so that my primary purpose in tracking down their website was to find out how I can order some. Despite the similar names, there's no relationship between the creamery and the brewery other than geographical proximity.

[Posted 3:20 pm est]

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

--A. E. Houseman


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