Monthly Archives: April 2011

Going Yard: The Beeryard

The other Saturday, we made a trip down to Wayne, Pennsylvania, to go to Teresa’s Cafe & Next Door Bar. The Next Door Bar is the less formal and less expensive side, specializing on those Belgian mainstays of mussels, pommes frites (Belgian fries), and beer. We like going there because it keeps us out of the Philly maw of traffic and parking, yet it is close enough to Philly to have an enhanced emphasis on the cosmopolitan. Kind of the Goldilocks deal.

If you like fries, I am telling you, these have to be the best this side of Brussels. The beer is pretty mad too.

At the Next Door Bar, we were chagrined to find that there was an hour wait, so we went for a walk through Wayne. After hitting a bookstore for a 20 minutes and chilling out in the deserted and ornate Wayne Hotel for a several moments, we still had thirty minutes to fritter before the fries.  Wayne is hardly So-Ho.

Before we headed down to Wayne, I had run off a copy of the front page of the Beeryard website with the idea that we might pay a visit if we had the time. Well we had the time (wasn’t planning to having to wait an hour)…but had left the sheet back in the car,  half of a mile in the other direction and had no idea where the Beeryard was.  I had found the BY on the web when searching for Belgian beer.

Strolling along Lancaster Ave, I spotted a small sign for the Beeryard at the front part of a Starbucks lot. It looked as if the Beeryard was inside the Starbucks. My wife thought it was maybe one of those Starbucks that now has started to serve spirits. I reminded her that this is Pennsylvania. Being from Jersey, she is used to buying Jack Daniels from the 7-11. No, the Beeryard was tucked away behind the Starbucks. Just like the website is about as plain as a Word document, the place looks pretty plain and pedestrian from the outside. But don’t let the low-rent look fool you…

Although, the re-signing of the place looks pretty sophisticated.

The outside has the ambiance of a tire store. Inside, it was like the Ft. Knox of Beer:

The beer per  square foot is quite impressive. The cases go vertical to the ceiling. And, the BY has some stellar beer bullion indeed. They even had stock from The Bruery, a fancy-schmantzy Belgian place out in California that I visited in December.

There is some concern in Pennsylvania that if the legislature eases up on Prohibition-inspired restrictions on alcohol sale locations, that Beer Distributors will get beat on like the mom and pop hardware stores did by Wal-Mart. Maybe, if the Chinese start making beer. There is no doubt that the big chains will cut price and drive out competitors.  Yet, if the Buds, Millers, and Coors (and their derivative brands) are sucked out of the smaller retail operations, I am hoping that the Craft brewers will fill the vacuum.

There needs to be a change in consumers’ tastes towards quality and away from Lowest Common Brewnominator. But, I think it is battle that can be won. The Beeryard shows us how. Build it and they will come.


Man Up

Yesterday, I was watching the first game of the Sixers-Heat Playoff series. Chris Bosh, who looks like a brother from James Cameron’s Pandora planet, manned up. I am afraid it is going to be a tough series for the Philly team. At least the Sixers are respectable once again, after several years of being pathetic. We’ll see how the Sixer’s do at home, where they are a much better team.  Home-Court advantage.  Speaking of pathetic, one of the commercials yesterday on TV during the game was that new one that has the Liteguards who are being trained to save mens’ summers from bad beer.

The one thing that the big brewers have on the microbreweries are the sexy girls in TV commercials. Some of the commercials can be witty but more often than not, it portrays men as adolescent-acting clowns. And women as either sarcastic and snarky mean girls, or Freudian mommies, or busty bimbos.  All beautiful. It is practically Orwellian 1984ish where the language used is precisely opposite from what is actually happening. Man up? How about man down? Great taste…huh? It is Lite beer, neutered specifically to have no taste. The vortex bottle? What is its design purpose? Existential Inanity. The Liteguards, a rip-off from bouncy body-parts Baywatch, are more like the Sirens of Greek Mythology, drawing men to the rocks of destruction of all that is truly manly. If I was one of the Dad’s of the girls in these lusty commercials, I would be embarrassed. “But Daddy, I am an actor.” Right.

You want to Man Up? Get rid of the Lite Beer.

I went with my wife (a real woman) to Wegman’s in Downingtown to check out their exquisite beer selection. We also sampled salami and cheeses for half an hour. My wife used to live in Princeton, New Jersey, and Wegman’s is where she used to shop weekly for groceries. Now, living in Lancaster, Pa., I take her on dates to Wegman’s yearly. She even took a picture of a fish with clear eyes (how one can tell how fresh a fish is? Examine the lack of cloudiness in the eyes). My wife caught herself in mid-snap of the picture and decried, “I am acting like a tourist.”  I feel sorry for the poor girl. Moving to Lancaster, Pa., has been a real cultural demotion. Me? I prefer Redner’s. Until they closed in Columbia.

Here is some beer culture:

Belgian, European? Now, how pathetic is Lite Beer compared to these??? Like going to the Louvre.

Here is some Pennsylvania masterpieces (and speaking of Home-Court advantage):

Like DaVinci, Rembrandt, Matisse…

Sorry, the picture is not better. I was also starting to feel like a tourist…”But,” I felt like saying, “I have a microbrewery  blog.” So, I rushed the pic but Photoshop was able to sharpen it up quite a bit.

Wegman’s is able to sell beer because they also serve food…I did get to my ounce limit and had to give Lina (my wife) the last two liters of Belgian to purchase. Pennsylvania beer laws reinforce the Big Brewers’ hegemony. Once other retails operations can sell beer, then the monopolistic containment of craft breweries will be breached.

Look at the puny section for the Big Boys at Wegman’s…a mere trickle.

May the waves come and clear the beaches of this Liteguard drivel.  It should be mocked because it is pathetic…

Rumspringa-Lancaster Brewing Company

A Friday ago, after strolling in town through some art galleries and the like, a small group of us headed over to Lancaster Brewing Company, for beers and food.  LBC is the microbrewery I most frequent and it has a home feel to  me. Good beers,  decent food, and more affordable than Iron Hill or Spring House’s Tap Room. Plus, it is where good friends of mine like to go. It has a cool space both inside and out….urban chic…but consider yourself lucky if you find a parking space in their lot.

In the spirit of the spring season, I decided to drink the Rumspringa. The LBC website has something goofy going on with their description of the brew. In the picture graphic above, they rightly call it a Bock (Lager). In the written description, it is called an Ale. Unlike light being both a particle and a wave, to call a Bock an Ale is contradictory. Bock’s are by their very definition Lagers….stronger and maltier versions of the mainstream Lager-style. Here is a good article about the Pleasures of Bocks. The only thing I can think of is that maybe LBC used lagering yeast but fermented at room temperature? But, that seems improbable.

For a drinking novice, Bocks and Ales can seem to be the similar. Lagers are brewed for clean and crisp flavors where consistency reigns. Bocks are boisterous and big and are traditionally made for consumption in the Spring where the weather is warming and life is coming back after the winter hiatus. A rowdy beer. I have riffed and ranted before on the Amish-based themes before in LBC’s beers…it just has a cutesy and touristy-vibe kitsch. But, it is what it is. It is how LBC has branded itself like a steer. And the Rumaspringa Golden Bock is no exception. The word Rumspringa refers to an extended Spring Break of sorts for Amish youth to decide if they want to join the Amish community for the long haul. It can go from a time of wholesome fun, sing-a-longs, and volleyball, to plain (or is it “Plain?”) old hell-raising Jakey-style. I have a beef with the Amish lifestyle as a whole because radical separatism is not a biblical doctrine, instead the biblical more is more of an “in but not of” type of thing. But, that is a rant for another day.

The Rumspringa beer is fine…..good but not great.  The word “good” describes LBC to me. Good, but not great, beers. Friendly, comfortable, and a place that won’t break the bank. Sometimes good is good enough.

First Mango in Lancaster

When I shared with my astute wife, the play on “The Last Tango is Paris” movie with Marlon Brando (1972) in this blog post title, she didn’t get the reference.  So, I felt I needed to be more explanatory. That said, it is what it is. The film was controversial and sordid, but that is not the direction this post is going to take besides noting that Marlon Brando was perhaps the best method actor of all time.

There a number of actors on the Pennsylvania Microbrewery scene, and from its humble start in a Spring House in Conestoga with its tasting room reminiscent of a man cave in the air (or tree fort), Spring House’s Tap Room is fast becoming a major superstar. The founders seem to have a methodical plan. From their superior beers, to its stellar downtown location, to having its food prepared by the upscale but accessible Carr’s Restaurant,  it just seems like everything is following a well-written script. Behind the scenes, I am sure it is chaotic and improvisational at times, but the execution and delivery of its lines seems on cue.

I appreciate how the proprietors have delegated the food to another entity rather than trying to do it themselves (for now). At some point, they may assume the reins for the culinary aspect of the production, but for the time being it is wise that the beer is the focus. It is the star, and the food is in a supporting, yet critical role.

Last Friday night, I assembled with two couples who are good friends of my wife and I. We as couples share a love of great movies and great beers. My wife was in San Francisco for business, but I can assure you that on this night, Lancaster brought a production to the stage at the Tap Room that can rival the big city.  The debut of the Mango Ale was in the spotlight this evening, a Noir-type of night–rivaling the Paris nights of yore.

The Tap Room’s beers tend to be on the hoppy side, which means if you enjoy hops, you will like the beers. Some brewers use hops to hide bad brewing technique and ingredients, just like a filmmaker might throw in gratuitous sex and violence into a flick to make it more palatable to the non-discerning rabble of an audience. Assuredly, this is not what Spring House is doing. The hops are a critical yet refined ingredients in their brews and the Mango Ale for sure. Although the Mango Ale is not a regular actor and gets no billing in the billboard of Spring House beers. The Mango Ale was both tart and sweet…and I am sure packed all kinds of healthy phytochemicals into the mix.   I would make one suggestion to make the Tap Room more exquisite…turn down the music a bit. No need to try to have a Frat House vibe with the volume.

The Tap Room in Lancaster City is fast becoming a destination location for the discerning beer-drinking public who have a penchant to drink better beers. For those who follow the Microbrewery scene in Pennsylvania and regionally, this is one affair that looks to be one that will last. Like any good relationship based on the enduring qualities of love, trust, and commitment, animated by elan, one just senses that Spring House is going to be a significant player. It indeed could be, and is, a contender…