Monthly Archives: July 2010

Freakin’ Hilarious Pennsylvania Video

Been to most of these places on the 40/40 Beer Tour.

Check out the video…you will have a good laugh, especially if you are from this place…


Oh, Oh, Oh….It’s Almost Time for Ommegang!

Next weekend Belgium is coming to Cooperstown, NY…the epicenter of Brewery Ommegang. We are going!

Here we come to enjoy all-star Ales and future Hall-of-Fame brews. I could really care less about visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame. I was there in the 1970’s and I think that most of the ballplayers I found interesting were already enshrined. Since that time, baseball has become a circus, and an pricey one at that.

I guess we all have our passions. I like watching sports but I learned many years ago, being from the Philly-area, that if one bases some measure and worth of his life on the pro diamond, or the rink, or the court, or the field, get ready to be disappointed and depressed. I decided that I had more important things to give my time and heart to. The early to mid 1980’s Eagles broke me of my unduly affection and loyalty. I guess I would say that I like watching the Eagles, and could  conceivably like watching the Sixers (if they ever become competitive again. Sorry, sorry, team), and sometimes like watching the Phils. But, I just don’t “love” it.

Plus, the pairing of big time sports, big breweries, and the exorbitant pricing thereof, caused me to turn away.

Ommegang started out for me as a less expensive version of Chimay. Made stateside by the Belgian Brewery Duvel, it has become my favorite. I scored two tickets month ago…they went quicker than Jamaican sprinter Bolt runs. In less than 24 hours, sold-out. I had my I-Phone calendar set for 12:01 PM on the day the tickets became available, and had the link to the third party ticket processing website. Good thing too. Ommegang’s website crashed. Tickets were like chum in a shark tank.

The dilemma we faced was lodging as we were waiting for another couple who were hemming and hawing about whether they wanted to come to Cooperstown or not. They had already lost the chance to get tix but now they were evaluating whether they would still come to Cooperstown to spend a day or two hanging out with us or not. We finally found a place in Cooperstown that had a room. The Tunnicliff Inn.

I was getting desperate for lodging and figured that we might just have to sleep in my Civic. With the Baseball Hall of Fame, a perennial summer favorite for vacations and visitations, plus the Ommegang gig, rooms were far and few in-between.  The clincher for me was that the Tunnicliff Inn has  Ommegang on tap. MMMM. I was at a microbrewery festival at Stoudt’s last summer where Ommegang was so much better than the other beers it was like a man among mere boys. Or pros amid little leaguers. Stoudt’s brews were actually a solid second…and everyone else was minor league in comparison. It is not that they were bad, it just is the Ommegang is so good.

Look at the line-up:

Participating breweries thus far:

The Bruery
Micro Braserie Charlevoix
Olde Burnside
Sly Fox
Dog Fish Head
White Birch Brewing
Steen Brugge
Lawson’s Finest Liquids
Bobcat Café and Brewery
Clipper City/Heavy Seas
Sixpoint Ales
Custom Brew Crafters
Flying Bison
Magic Hat
Brooklyn Brewing
Stillwater Artisanal Ales
Brouwerij De Dochter Van De Korenaar
Brouwerij Contreras
Brouwerij ‘t Gaverhopke
Bierbrouwerij Grand-Café Emelisse
Peekskill Brewery
Haverhill Brewery
Ithaca Beer Co.

My favorite Ommegang style?

The Three Philosophers (to the right). The New York Yankees of old or new, have nothing on these heavy-hitters.

Batter up!

Dock Street Brewing Company

Based on my last post, a reader might think that I am dissing city life. I am not. Why, some of the finest experiences I had a microbreweries were in cities. At the top of this mountain of excellence was Dock Street Brewing Company in West Philadelphia…way out of the confines of tony Center City.

OK, OK, I lifted the above picture of this website.

Here is the sign out front:

Man, this neighborhood was study in contrast. South of the Dock Street location, ghetto, burned-out houses and ruin. We came up from Philly International Airport northward and it was an instructive trip. From Dock Street north, gentrification. Two G’s, co-existing like a Dicken’s novel. Dock Street Brewing Company anchors the multi-cultural neighborhood and seems to be one of the those places that will help uplift the general vicinity with its cool vibe and space. Located in a former firehouse, it now douses thirst with a wonderful array of quenching brews.

Here is my picture of the fire-fighters:

As you can tell, it was a sunny day in Philly. Here is an on street-level picture that shows the buzz all-around:

Speaking of sun, check out this goblet of sunny liquid goodness:

Here is the description of this sunshine in a glass:

It was hot, it was sunny. Gimmee one. Just one…no need to over-indulge.

Be careful when drinking this one below. Some old black lady looked to be drinking this and fell out of her chair. Her friend said it was because of the heat and her lack of food. I think it was the brew…my wife drank one of these and then made my drive her Passat that I don’t fit in through rush hour Philly traffic to Chinatown:

8% ABV? This is like a stiletto… some beers are clubs (Olde English 800), some are pea-shooters (Lite Beer). Some taste like a pea shooter in terms of ABV but are really clubs. This brew is the paragon of this duality.

A lot of peoples’ perceptions about cities are way off. Most inhabitants are law-abiding folk trying to get by. Dock Street should be given a giant “Hurrah” for going in and setting up rather than running away to some characterless edifice in the middle of Jiffy Lube-land. Dock Street was Philadelphia’s first microbrewery and one of the first in the nation. It was fitting that 40/40 concluded there on the July 4th weekend.

As cities go, so go the nation. I liked this mural close to Dock Street as it shows a harmonious land:

Vibrant cities have a diversity in unity…we are all different, we are all the same. Savor the variety, appreciate the common and what we share. Kind of like a musical band. Individual instrumentation, group collaboration. E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one.

Dock Street Brewing Company: May we fight with thee in thy noble cause! The 40/40 battle has concluded, but the war has just begun.

Dock Street Review Friday

I will be doing my review of Dock Street Brewery on Friday sometime.

Discretionary time is less now that the Sabbatical has concluded. I loved being on Sabbatical to finish my Dissertation and Ph.D. I just concluded all of the last paperwork at Temple and should receive the actual diploma in 4-6 weeks. My wife is planning to throw a birthday party, Oktoberfest, and Graduation Party all at once around 10/11 (probably the weekend before).  Suggestions for beers? Send em my way!

Highlighting the evening will be putting on the plate on my car. In the duration of my doctoral studies (8 years), I was on the receiving end accident-wise of two different hit-and-run drivers in Lancaster City, Pa. Both of whom decimated a Temple University license plate in the process. So, I will put on a third. I am not too happy with the Lancaster City Police Department at the present time. They gave us wrong advice, then they denied it, that then turned out to be right after all. In the two months it took them to get their act together, the owner of the vehicle (she was not driving) denied all knowledge of who could have hit our car. The Lt. on the case then decided to move onto other issues without telling me.

Since I was on the ropes with my studies (my advisor had died), I had to stop being the only party involved in this incident who seemed to want to see it resolved justly  in order to not get sidetracked further. City life is an amalgamation of some of the best and worst of the human experience. I both love and hate city life. And the top hate of mine is crime, second is grime. On the plus side, I love multi-culturalism (and the food that goes with it) and the art and music scene.

I am officially back at work and spent all the day cleaning out and organizing my office. I am not one for clutter. I like things to be put away and have serious anti pack-rat tendencies. It is kind of like dwelling on the past to hold onto things.  So, I am letting go of the hit and run accident with the police malfeasance  and let it drift from my memory.  Good to remember the good things, good to forget the bad (without losing the lesson).

Oh Hoppy Day

Dang, though I had come up with an original corny hoppy pun…others have been there, done that. Now I am unhoppy.

At the very beginning of 40/40, I went to Sly Fox Brewery and came face-to-face with about the hoppiest collection of beers ever. I was not exactly overjoyed.  Yet, I am changing. My tastes in beer used to be more in the Lager direction yet with all of the microbreweries I have visited recently, it is the case (pun alert) now that I tend to favor Ales and even have started to seek out hoppier beers on occasion.  When I have examined when the change in course happened, I have placed it early on in my 40/40 journey…at Appalachian Brewing Company in Gettysburg.

I had originally planned to visit two microbreweries on my trip to Gettysburg. I discovered that one of the microbreweries, Gettysbrew Restaurant, had shut down. Apparently, according to the locals, I had not missed much. In their opinion, the beer there was bad. So, ABC and then Roy Pitz Brewery in Chambersburg became the two in one day. I was glad to have visited Roy Pitz. Good guys and good beers. It was worth the trip down Route 30/Lincoln Highway westward.

A general rule is that I would not visit the same Microbrewery twice. My interpretation meant that if the microbrewery was in two or more locations, I would not count it twice, three times, etc. It would have been too easy, for example, to hit all of the Iron Hills and take out five visits (I.H. has 5 locations in Pa) . However, due to Swasbuckler’s incompetence, I had to amend the rule. And, ABC Gettysburg filled the slot. It counts because I want to develop the “hop” aspect more.  BTW, do a search on  40/40 using the microbreweries names if you want to see what I have written.

Here are the three hoppy beers I had at ABC that day:

Each one of these beers was brewed with only one hop apiece. I liked that…a lot. I found that I really enjoyed the Zeus and the Horizon, the Simcoe was a bit too bitter for me at the time. If I were to drink these again, I might favor it though since my tastes have changed. Here is some more information about hops. Interestingly, the Horizon and the Simcoe have the same acid content, so ABC may have done something to make it bitterer. The IBU (International Bittering Units) ratings were the same too. I am not knowledgeable enough to figure this out. It will just have to remain a mystery to be savored.

The story of IPA’s is an interesting one…the hops kept bacteria from ruining beer on long seafaring voyages from England to India. Hence the name Indian Pale Ales. Here is more of the story

In general, beers are in a see-saw type of scenario between the hops and the malt. The hops are bitter, the malt (from barley) are  sweeter. Brands and types of beers exist somewhere on that continuum. It is possibly to have also a lot both hops and malts and to have the flavors both be prominent.

Like this.

Olde School Barleywine

This is from Dogfish. I had a bottle last night at a couple’s house where good beer and good friends and good debate happens on a routine basis. There should be a warning on the label of this beer that one should not operate heavy machinery after drinking even one. It is the first “four fer” beer I have ever consumed, that is, one of these nearly equals–in terms of alcohol–four regular beers. I had taken the bottle out of the fridge in the darkened man cave and saw it was Dogfish. Only until I open and drank some, did I realize that I was in Barley Wine land.  Let us just say, that my beer-drinking slowed nearly to a stop after this one. Bone-crusher indeed.

I have one final blog to write about 40/40…Dock Street Brewery. Then, my blogging will not be as frequent but I do plan to keep writing about beer. I have found it to be interesting and by the stats that I get from WordPress, it does appear than many others concur. Thanks for following 40/40!

Stoudt’s Brewing Company

In Lancaster County, we are blessed with many good things…the best farmland in the world, scenic country roads, produce stands, a long and rich history (before 1776, Lancaster city was the largest inland city in Britain’s American colonies), and outlet shopping malls (only kidding about the last item).

Think it kind of funny and I think it kind of sad (to steal a line from a Tears for Fears song), and a tad bit ironic, that the Tanger Outlets have a farm-like look with the faux grain silos:

Those silos are probably full of pairs of shoes and other cute clothing accessories…

Maybe because the retail operation was built on former farmland? Like McMansion housing developments  with names such as “Pheasant Run,” because when built, pheasants were run off the property? There is an apartment complex in Carlisle, Pa. called Pheasant Run…looks quite bucolic to me. Maybe you can shoot a pheasant in-flight off the second floor balcony. With the real estate crash–seen as all bad–a blessing has been a stop to the madness of the building of blight.

Farm Retail Theme? Rockvale Outlets does the same thing (have to laugh at the brazen and banal SHOP in  the screen…like Duh):

Amos taking Annie in the buggy to Rockvale to get some new styling work boots? Ah, one could convulse on the irony. I also really don’t like those cloying kid commercials from Rockvale…using kids as props for your operation. Not cute, manipulative.

This is a funny picture…a fundraiser carwash soaping down  a buggy:

“Hey could ya scrub down my horse while yer at it. Or, is that extra?”

Is there nothing real? Is it the triumph of image over everything? With the return of microwbreweries in Pennsylvania, there is a refreshing river supplanting the backwash of macro big breweries. And, if we go to the headwaters of where microbreweries originated in Pennsylvania, you will come to Stoudt’s Brewing Company in Adamstown, Pennsylvania. Adamstown sits a top of Lancaster County, about as far north as one can do without crossing the line into Berks County.

In the words of president Carol Stoudt, “We were Pennsylvania’s first microbrewery since Prohibition.”

(Editor’s note: Here is a poster at the Black Angus Restaurant/Stoudt’s that shows the breweries in Pa. before Prohibition):

(Editor’s Note Again: Bube’s Brewery, still in operation in Mt. Joy., is at the center. Appropriate, as it is the oldest beer brewing building still standing in the United States. Must have been a pain to do this poster as it was pre-Photo Shop).

This website quotes her and writes (non-italicized text):

“Twenty-eight years ago, on our honeymoon, Eddie and I went to Germany,” Stoudt said. “We visited more than 60 breweries in the Southern Bavarian region alone. We tasted the Kolsch beers in Cologne and decided that we were going to bring good beer back to Pennsylvania.” Bierker aside, visited 60 breweries in Germany? Puts my 40/40 to shame. I am a piker in comparison.

In 1987, Stoudt introduced her inaugural brew, Golden Lager. For the first couple of years, Stoudt hand-crafted the beer herself in small batches.

Our beer has evolved since then. We’ve probably brewed over 60 styles of beer,” she said. “At first we would invite our customers to taste the beer in the Beer Garden. We don’t do that anymore. It was never our intention to do training-wheel beers. We wanted to replicate German beers.”

Lancaster County  was a natural fit. Carol Stoudt’s family, the Texters, settled in Lancaster County in the 1700s. Her husband’s family, moved to Stoudt’s Ferry in Berks County around the same time.

“They came here because the rolling hills are like a mountain chain, only a “hill chain” of hills that roll on and on continually. You will often find them in between plains and mountains, near major rivers, or randomly anywhere. The only places without rolling hills are deserts and flood plains.  reminded them of their homeland,” Stoudt said. “The area is rich in German history, and beer is part of German culture. Our intention was to handcraft the beer in the old artisan way.”

OK, back to Bierker writing. So, if Pennsylvania Brewery in Pittsburgh is the grandfather of Pennsylvania microbreweries, Stoudt’s is the grandma. Maybe her husband Ed Stoudt could be Jed from the Beverly Hillbillies. Instead when he shot, up came some golden lager.  Kind of the first shot in a war.

So, to pay homage to their hunting skill and battle prowess, I loaded up the truck and went to town, Adamstown that is…Stoudt’s Brewing Company.

The medals for victories won for their great brews:

Now, that is some hardware!

The warriors, the beers:

Kind of like the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines….sorry don’t mean to diss the Coast Guard, but there were only four beers in my flight. I didn’t keep notes that night, but take my word for it, you can’t go wrong with anything beer-wise from Stoudt’s.I think I had the four flagship beers but I could be wrong.  I like the Scarlet Lady Ale the best:

My wife Lina and I were at Stoudt’s last summer and there were about 15 microbreweries there. In my first place was Ommegang…a Belgian brewery in Cooperstown, New York (have I mentioned that we are going to its Belgian Fest at the end of July?…Tickets for the event sold out in less than 24 hours). In second place was Stoudt’s. And all the rest were so far behind these two, that I didn’t even bother coming up with a Bronze medal. It takes equanimity and confidence to host others on  your turf. It speaks well of the microbrewing community that there is a brotherhood and sisterhood of sorts in the ranks. Kind of like the “enemy of my enemy is my friend type of deal.” Sometimes smaller competitors can get petty and then get stomped by the big boot of corporate America . To the credit of all, this has not happened yet. Remember, divided we fall.

I also had a very stimulating and cordial conversation with a guy at the bar, a fellow beer-lover, studying and training to be a Catholic priest. Although I am now by theological conviction and practice an evangelical Christian of the Presbyterian (PCA) denomination, I was raised a nominal Catholic. So I know both sides better than most. Traditionally, Catholic and Presbyterians were fierce enemies. Read John Calvin’s unabridged Institutes of the Christian Religion and it doesn’t take long to see the vehement anti-Catholic and anti-Papist polemic nature of the work. Calvin’s goal in writing the opus Institutes was to convert France from Catholicism to what He thought (and I tend to agree) a more pure and holy understanding of Christian theology and polity.

Just because I don’t dig some of what the Catholic Church preaches, teaches, and practices, I see them as brother and sisters in the Christian faith, albeit misguided. Seems like we religious types could learn a few things from the microbrewery “all for one” ethos without downplaying our differences and distinctiveness. Over a beer (or two, I might add)

Barley Creek Brewing Company

Going up into the Poconos is like taking a trip through the mini-Alps. I know the reason that the Alps are impressive is because the mountains are big, so it really doesn’t make sense to say “min-Alps” and have it mean much. Yet, every time I head up to the Poconos I feel like yodeling. O Lay He Ho….

On a beautiful and sunny June day, a buddy, his girlfriend, and I made a trip up to Barley Creek Brewing Company in Tannersville, Pa. The brewpub is very close to Camelback Mountain.

I got this photo off of a VRBO site:

Visions of snowboarding all day and then retiring my aching frame to the hearth for food, friends, and crafts beers, danced like sugar plumbs in my head.Visions of my skiing wind up with me in the hospital. Snowboarding is more my thing (my good knee compensates for my bad knee; in skiing, my bad knee is on its own like a child out in the ocean without a life preserver). Not that I am much of a snowboarder either.

If my wife and I stay in Pennsylvania, I hope to get a place up in the Poconos. I love the mountains and the lakes…I guess that is why she and I fell in love with Montana. I can go to a beach for a day or two but then I get hot, bored, and start to eat sand. When I start to crunch sand in my sandwich, I know it is time to go. Sit on beach, roast. Go in water, cool off. Sit on beach, roast. Go in water, cool off. Repeat. I get it.

I also love summer in the mountains. Here is a summer picture from another VRBO on Camelback Mountain:

I was in no way compensated by the owners for displaying their fine homes…although I am open to it they contact me!

Here is a picture from the top of the Camelback mountain…I was finding that my I-Phone camera just could not capture the majestic beauty of the valley….or maybe I am just a doofus…

You fill up my senses like a night in a forest, Like the mountains in springtime….I found this song with German subtitles to enhance to Alp-like theme.  John Denver’s birth name was Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. Now that is a German name!

The affection I have for the mountains must be because I spent part of my youth living in West Virginia. I do not however have a love for moonshine or…never mind I won’t go there. I think that qualifies as “course jesting” that the Apostle Paul warns about.

I did take a picture of a mountain meadow of flowers:

As a caveat, danger lurks in these mountain paths. My buddy found like ten regular-sized ticks on him. I found one and his girlfriend found one. For some reason, he was especially attractive to the blood-suckers, even though we pretty much stayed on the same path. I thought of a saying, “Every trail has its ticks.” Kind of like every rose has its thorns type of idea.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: I had contracted Lyme Disease in the fall of 2009 so I am especially wary of ticks, big and small. The small ones, the deer ticks, are the real dangerous ones. The big ticks are just gross but not as deadly. If you ever get flu-like symptoms in either the spring, summer, or fall, get a doctor and get tested for Lyme’s. Not everyone gets the red bulls-eye. If you don’t catch and treat Lyme’s in the first phase with antibiotics, the second and third phase of the disease are really bad. Most Dr.’s are clueless or underinformed. Fortunately, I did get the bulls-eye and demanded that the waffling doctor put me on antibiotics even before the test came back. It is dangerous to wait even a couple of extra days…it is that bad.   I recovered fine…I think.

Now, to focus like a bulls-eye on the beers:

I have to say that I found the beers to have a distinctive taste streaming through them all except for the IPA where the hops dominated. My buddy’s girlfriend thought it was like wine…I was thinking more along the lines of vinegar. You know how all of Dr. Seuss’s characters look the same even though different…ie: the pointy fingers, arched brows, and the elongated bodies and lumbering gate? Well, these beers had Seuss-like qualities and it wasn’t good in my book.  I really can’t define it but I am fairly certain I could ID these BC beers in a blind taste-test. With Seuss, his style is cool and quirky. With this beer, in my opinion, it was kind of displeasing.

The setting in a mountain-lodge type of structure is nice. My buddy Jeff is one of these build anything type of guys and he was impressed with the framing and construction. The food was delicious and both the drink and food were a little higher than average but not egregious. It is a tourist area after all. The waitress was very friendly. So all in all, it was a good visit.

Yet, I think that the brewers need to stop being so rote in their brewing. In simplifying their system and recipes, it seems to my relatively untutored taste that they have lost creativity and innovation. It just all tasted the same despite the superficial differences in color. Maybe switch yeasts and the malts and hops. Maybe they do…I just don’t know what it is. But, it just is.