Saturday, November 27, 2010

Music makes the beer taste better at the Jerseytown Tavern

If you look hard enough at the picture, you can see a church organist, 3 bluegrass musicians, a music teachers son and a 72 year old singer.  This group paired nicely with 16 Mile Golden Ale and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

There isn't much going on in Jerseytown, Pennsylvania.  About 20 houses, a church, hardware store, community center and tavern.  The Jerseytown Tavern has gained a splendid reputation of having "pick-and-grin" bluegrass every Wednesday night.  This open mic night draws anywhere between 5 and 20 players a night, most of whom have not played with each other before.  These bluegrassers come to play, have a beer and listen to other pickers. (Usually a couple of guitars, a couple of banjos, a fiddle or two and a standing bass are up front.)  But on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the Tavern went rock and roll, a little bluesy, and mixed in many classic love songs.

This group of musicians were thrown together.  Some of them have played with together before, but before songs, they had to tell each other what to play- and it was amazing how they pulled everything off like they rehearsed for years.  The kind of star of the night was 72 year old "Hollywood" George Bond.  This singer belted out lyrics, walked through the crowd singing to people and you could tell he was just having a great time.  (They started off with Georgia, in which George Bond sang in impersonating a few different musicians, including Louis Armstrong.)  The musicians behind him had their time as well.  Many solos allowed for them to strut their stuff, and show their versatility.  This makeshift band at the Tavern has been come to be known as the Jerseytown All-Star Review.  Around the holidays, when other well known musicians get into town, the special music nights pack the dining room, everybody eating then drinking while listening to the music.

Now to the beer review.  The Tavern is macro dominated, which is expected for a small place in the rural community.  The owner has added Sierra Nevada bottles, and 16 Mile-apparently the reps were there earlier in the day- has been on draft (they have 4 taps- Miller Lite, Bud Light-sometimes regular Bud, and Yuengling are the others).  The Sierra Nevada (when coming from a city) is a great value at $3 a bottle, the 16 Mile- $2.50 a draft.  The food is good.  They have a special board, which is worth it to check out.

But the highlight is the atmosphere.  The Tavern has family seating.  Your group of four will probably be sitting next to another group.  No one minds.  Most get along, some keep to themselves.  The waitstaff is friendly, the kitchen predictable.  What more can you ask for.  But if you want to come on a special music day or a Wednesday for the music, you better get there early.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mad Elf and the Troegs Ticket

This might be the only time I would think about buying a case of Troegs Mad Elf.  Don't get me wrong- I enjoy having a bottle or two, but could never even thing about drinking a case, until now (from their newsletter):
ISO: Tröegs Ticket and Classic Mad Elf Labels!

Starting next week an extremely limited number of Mad Elf cases will be shipped randomly to beer distributors in our home state. The purchaser of these cases will have the opportunity to be one of the first people to see the new Tröegs Brewery in Hershey when we open in the fall 2011.

So how do you know if you bought the special case? There are no markings on the outside of the case but once you open it two things will make the case special – there will be an envelope taped to the lid of case containing a Troegs Ticket and 12 of the bottles will adorn our classic Mad Elf logo.

If you get one of these special cases, read the Tröegs Ticket, follow the directions and keep one of those special bottles, as you will need it, along with the ticket, to get a special behind-the-scenes tour of the brewery next fall from the Tröegs brothers.

Good luck if you buy a case.

Think Willy Wonka style.  Hopefully, the lucky few that get the golden ticket have a good time, and maybe it might just be me!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This Sounds Like Fun: Open It!

This is a "community blog project" by our friends across the pond.  I saw the announcement on Pencil and Spoon (Mark Dredge) and thought it was a good idea- then I forgot about it.  Good thing he posted again today about it.

Open It! is, as he says, "about collaboration, sharing and having an excuse to open something special".  The idea is to open up that bottle that you have been saving over the weekend of December 3-5.  Share it with a friend.  Blog, tweet or just talk about it (you can also post on their facebook page here).  There is no better time than now to drink it. 

We will be having friends over on that weekend, and that is always the best reason for me to open up a bottle or two.  Now I just need to decide what to open.  I don't have anything super special, but many good options.  Maybe one of my BrewDog Abstrakts, Victory Wild Devil or one of the Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary bottles?  Who knows.

Why don't you join us, and Open It!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Post #200- Why I am a Beer Blogger.

I tried to save my feelings on blogging for a memorable post.  Post #100 came and went.  I didn't really realize that I was typing it, and I really didn't know why I was blogging.  Post #100 happened to be a The Session post, it was a nice post, which talked about my favorite bar, Mike McGoverns, which still is a great neighborhood bar in Baltimore.  I have talked a little before on how I got into this blog, where the name comes from and my feelings for it- but not I thought I would throw it all out there.

I find myself blogging because I find my random thoughts throughout the day revolve around beer, beer events and, now, homebrewing.  I started blogging as a reminder of what I drank.  It was a way for me to express in words what I am tasting.  This helped develop my palate and allow me to explore the beers fully.  Throughout the past year and a half, I was able to discover more beers than I ever expected.  I have had to opportunity to try some amazing beers, and I just missed out on trying others.

Another reason I love to blog is the beer blogger/twitter community.  I have met some great people and feel fortunate when I get to meet them, and then run into them at different events or randomly at the bar.  They have been mentors as well as friends, and have been able to educate me on brands/styles/business, motivate me to explore more and keep me humble at the same time (no one wants to be a beer snob, beer geek yes, not beer snob).  To these guys, thank you.

Selection of Groomsmen Bottles

The knowledge and further understanding of the different beer and beer culture has developed and intense love.  This love is recognized by many of my friends when we go shopping for beer or are sitting in a bar.  They respect my opinion, and many times come to me looking for advice.  I translated this into my gifts for my groomsmen.  I feel that my gifts were heartfelt and, if I may say, perfect.  We were able to get coolers personalized (soft-sided, picnic style) and inside I placed a six-pack of beers that I felt they would like.  I included a Oktoberfest or two (wedding was in October) along with beer specifically for the guys.  Some included all three Saison du BUFFs, BrewDog Tokio*, Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, Flying Dog Dogtoberfest and Ommegang Abbey Ale.

Finally, if you are not blogging about something you love, I invite you to start.  If you are already blogging, I hope that I am following you (if I am not, let me know, I love to read others posts, no matter what the subject). Thanks again to those who I have met through this great Blogging World, and I look forward to meeting more people as I progress.  This has been a great journey, one I am looking forward to continuing.  

I would also like to apologize for the cell phone pictures, some day I will use our good camera.
How Many Can You Identify?
My Prize- Westys for the Wedding

Friday, November 19, 2010

Beer Series

For whatever it is, there is a certain allure about drinking beers that are released in a series.  Recently, I have had the opportunity to partake Vertical Epic 10-10-10, Three French Hens and Scratch #35.  These beers are a part of a series that have will have the next bottle released a year later.  They are special releases, but not as limited as beers such as Dark Lord, Pliny the Younger, et cetera.

The Stone Brewing Vertical Epic series have been around since 2002; the beers are released on the matching month, day and year.  The first was released February 2, 2002 (hence 02-02-02).  This year's Vertical Epic was released on October 10, and is a Belgian Strong Ale that has honey and spices. 

The Bruery's 12 Days/Years of Christmas series is in its third year.  It started with Partridge in a Pear Tree, last year's release was Two Turtle Doves, and this year gives us Three French Hens.  These beers are all Belgian Dark Ales, but each has a twist.  A portion of the Three French Hens is aged in French Oak Barrels. Two Turtle Doves features cocoa, taken from the turtle chocolate candies.  Partridge in a Pear Tree was a Belgian Dark Ale that helps form the base of the future beers.

Troeg's Scratch Series are one-off beers that the brewers make when they want to try something out.  It could be an IPA, saison, Belgian pale ale or stout.  The sky is the limit, and sometimes the beers have been bad, and sometimes the beers have been so good they put it into production (like the Flying Mouflan).

These two lines of beers are very good, and I have enjoyed them immensely.  But what makes them special?  Being special releases helps.  Knowing when the beers are released (Vertical Epic on the matching day, The Bruerys around Christmas) allows beer geeks to plan on them.  I have found that they are great beers.  The Vertical Epic 09-09-09 has been one of my favorite beers to drink.  And has lead me to pick up the beer whenever I see it on the shelves.  The Scratch Series is different, as the beers are released on a more random basis.

These series are very intriguing, and have lead to many people being happy.  The Vertical Epic series is always highly regarded, the 12 Days/Years of Christmas are always great Holiday beers and the Scratch Series are always well crafted beers that leave you wanting more. 

I look forward to finding and trying more beer series, and eventually becoming addicted to them all.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Variety Case Top 5

I started thinking about the variety cases that are available, and which are really worth buying.  I was able to come up with a strong five that I feel are well worth it. 

1. Weyerbacher's Big Beer variety case- you can't beat a variety case of big beers.  And if I was to chose a brewery to drink their big beers, Weyerbacher is one of the top breweries on the list.  Included in the case are 6 each of Old Heathen (Imperial Stout), Merry Monks (Tripel), Blithering Idiot (BarleyWine) and Double Simcoe (Imperial IPA).  All very good beers, and I believe that Double Simcoe is a top 5 Imperial IPA (if you haven't had it, you must).
2. Troeg's Anthology (Fall/Winter)- I love all of Troeg's beers.  Included in the Fall/Spring case are HopBack (Amber ale- more of an IPA), Java Head (stout), Dreamweaver Wheat (American wheat), and Pale Ale.  These are all solid beers, that offer a wide variety of styles- something for everyone.
3. Great Divide- one of my favorite breweries from Colorado gives Titan IPA, Samurai (rice ale), Denver Pale Ale and Hades (Belgian Strong Pale Ale).  While they do not offer a large range of styles, Great Divide does give solid beers and all offer something a little different than the others.
4. Bell's- this is what I am drinking right now.  These beers all offer a great range of styles and are all solid.  Kalamazoo Stout, Oberon (American wheat), Amber Ale and Two Hearted (IPA) are included.  The Two Hearted is the shining star. but the Kalamazoo Stout would also be a contender.  The Amber and Oberon are basic solid beers (although I feel Oberon is one of the better "put a orange in your beer" American wheats).
5. Southern Tier- an often overlooked brewery gives a great variety pack.  Southern Tier continually produces great beer, even though they do not get the credibility they deserve.  Their variety case includes their IPA, Tripel, Porter and Phin & Matt's Extraordinary Ale (Pale Ale).  Whatever it is, Phin and Matt's is and Extraordinary beer.

There are many, many more breweries that produce a variety case.  Breweries such as Magic Hat, Founders, Arcadia, SlyFox, Yuengling, Flying Dog, Clipper City (I am saying Clipper City since their variety pack are their basic beers, none of the branded Heavy Seas beers), River Horse, and Sam Adams.  If there are more that you think of, pose below and I will add them.

Edit: Another great, and I mean great variety case is Ithaca Brewing.  Grab it if you see it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How to get the best out of the case stores

One thing about moving back to Pennsylvania that I dislike, is the case store.  In Baltimore, I would be able to go into Wine Underground, Wine Source or Chesapeake Wine and pick up a six pack, or sometimes just single bottles of the beers that I wanted to try.  Not so in Pennsylvania.  Unless a bar has a carry out license, you cannot buy singles/sixers (there are a few exceptions, but they are very few and far between).

This lead me to buying a case of beer.  Which leads to the question- What beer do I like enough to buy and entire case of?  This was a hard thing to answer.  My tastes can go from saison one day, to stout the next.  IPA to Belgian Dubbel.  Sure, a case of Dale's Pale Ale, Dogfish Head 60 Minute or Troegs Hopback are welcome in my house (I am almost always in the mood for those beers), but I like to experiment and get something different.  This was the internal confrontation that I was dealing with.

In comes the variety case.  The variety case, normally a brewery's main year round beers packaged together (many times it is 4 six packs in a case) gives the buyer the opportunity to sample four different beers in their case.  I have been accustomed to buying the Troeg's Anthology Series (they have 2, one Spring/Summer, one Fall/Winter), Magic Hat's Variety Case with their seasonal Odd Notion mixed in and the Victory variety, but these cases all contain beers that I have had what feels like a million times.

Sitting next to each other on the shelf were the variety cases that I narrowed my choice down to.
1. Bell's Brewery (Kalamazoo, Michigan)- to many beer geeks that live in Pennsylvania, Bell's is a regular find, but you cannot get it in Maryland.  The case includes their Amber Ale, Two Hearted ale, Kalamazoo Stout and Oberon. I have had the Oberon and the Two Hearted previously.  How I explain the Oberon (an American wheat) is like Magic Hat #9, but a million times better- and that is not saying #9 is bad, but Oberon is very good.  Two Hearted ale is a delicious IPA, that any hophead would be happy to drink.
2. Founders (Grand Rapids, Michigan)- like Bell's, Founders can be found in Pennsylvania, but I have not been able to get it in Maryland.  I have had few beers from them, but they too have a great reputation.  Included in their case was Centennial IPA, Pale Ale, Porter, and Breakfast Stout (not the Kentucky or Canadian Breakfast Stout).  I knew the Centennial IPA was a good basic IPA, and the Breakfast Stout was good, but did not know much about the other two.

I ended up purchasing the Bell's.  The huge difference was the range of beers that was offered.  I was able to get a wheat, IPA, amber and stout all in one case.  This should allow me to be satisfied no matter what beer I am looking for.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A New Hobby Begins

Sunday, October 31 was Halloween, it was also the start to a my new hobby- homebrewing.  After the success that was my Wedding Beer, I decided to take the plunge and become a solo artist.  This does also have a duel purpose, hopefully lowering my beer costs, while allowing me to increase my beer knowledge and understanding.

I chose to brew a simple pale ale, based on a Sierra Nevada clone.  I used both Centennial and Cascade hops, hopefully giving it a slight bitterness.  I wanted to brew something that would appeal to not only me, but to anyone that would want to try my beer.

Here are a couple of pics of the beer:

my brew partner

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Wedding Recap

After the fun of brewing and kegging the beer for my wedding, the day came for our guests to experience it.  We used forced carbonation for the kegs, thinking it was more reliable than natural carbonation.  More reliable as in easier to control. 

When we woke up on Saturday morning, took the kegs to the reception hall and picked up a couple of jockey boxes (one for the homebrew kegs, one for the Yuengling), we found that the homebrew tasted a bit under carbonated.  The beer tasted good, but the lower carbonation didn't make it as drinkable as we were hoping.  My brother called his homebrew buddies, seeing if they had a quick fix.  With no solution in sight, we just went with it, ordered a macro light lager to make sure we had drinkable beer, and continued our set up.

The jockey boxes came set up for macro half kegs.  Not being the same as our homebrew connections, we tried multiple fixes, but had to settle on one jockey box, and the homebrew being poured from our simple taps.  The gas on the Yuengling and Bud Light was screwy all day, but we settled on filling pitchers and pouring (which probably made it go faster for the guests) and the homebrew from the tap.  All in all, it was very successful.

The homebrew Oktoberfest Ale was tapped first.  We had multiple people come up to us to say how well it tasted.  Once the beer was on ice, the carbonation really showed up.  It became the super-drinkable beer that we knew it would be.  After the Oktoberfest kicked, the Wheat (with coriander) came on tap.  This beer was also very drinkable, and it was enjoyed by those who favor Blue Moon.

I was extremely happy that the wedding and reception went so well, and couldn't be happier.  I feel we turned a lot of people's head with our homebrew.  I think they came into the reception thinking it would be some "cooking lager", but came away knowing that people can brew great beer out of there home (this is something that beer geeks know, but I feel the general public doesn't believe).

I rate my beer an A+.

I didn't take any pictures of the bar (full bar, two friends were bartenders), but here is our favor (chocolate/caramel apples) and the room all set up (we had to do everything, way too much work).

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Session #45- Wheat Beers

This month's version of The Session is hosted by Beer Taster and dips its feet into Wheat Beers:

"We have the honour of hosting the 45th session which allows us to choose the topic we will all be exploring, we wanted to get back closer to the roots of the Session and pick a topic which was simple and yet gives a wide range of interpretations so we chose, simply (or perhaps not so simply), Wheat Beers.

Feel free to take this topic in any direction you like, specific reviews, historical information, or any other twist you'd like to use. Wheat beers are a pretty wide topic and actually cover German style Weizen, Heffe Weizen, etc. along with Belgian style Witbier and even Flavoured Wheat beers.

There are very few guidelines here, just have some fun drinking Wheat Beers in the fall instead of the summer."
What I would like to highlight is the last part of the last sentence- "just have some fun drinking Wheat Beers in the fall instead of the summer".  What turns me on about this sentence, is that I have never really felt you must drink certain beers in certain seasons.  Sure, I love a good crisp pilsner (Victory Prima Pils) after mowing the lawn on a hot day.  I love sitting infront of our fireplace with a nice coffee stout (Southern Tier Mokah). But more often than not, I just go for whatever I am in the mood for.  I try to keep a nice balance of beers on hand.

This year, I have been drinking a lot of Saisons.  What was one of the beers that I had during the Christmas festivities last year?  I went with an Ommegang Hennepin.  Multiple times I grabbed a Guinness while sitting outside for lunch during the summer, and one of the best beer experiences this year was having an Organic Shade Mountain Oatmeal Stout (Selin's Grove Brewing) while chatting with my brother on a very warm April day (sure April is still a "dark beer" month, but it was very warm and we were sitting outside in the sun).  Hopefully, I am getting my point across that I like all beers in all weather.

As for the Wheat Beers, I do love them.  But when I started my journey, I strayed away from them.  Why?  Blue Moon and Hoegaarden.  Blue Moon was a Miller rip off.  I had strong feelings against BMC.  (I understand there is a lot ok with BMC- you know what you are getting, everytime.  Too bad it isn't something good.  Blue Moon is standable, but I would rather not have it.)  Hoegaarden was good, but I viewed it as the Belgian Macro.  A beer that you could obtain a million places (well now looking at it, it is good and I don't blame those places for having a very drinkable beer on tap).  Now I have been keeping Wheat Beers (more Belgian then German) in my rotation.

A couple of the "usual" wheat beers that fill the beer box include: Allagash White, Hitachino Nest White Ale, Flying Dog In-Heat Wheat, Sierra Nevada Kellerweis and The Bruery Hottenroth.

I love drinking these beers year round, and look forward to opening my next.  What do you suggest drinking?  How do you feel about drinking certain beers during the seasons?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Do the right thing.

Some people may say that it doesn't really matter, but if you don't vote, you aren't allowed to complain.  And remember, Good People Vote, then Drink Good Beer.