Monday, October 16, 2017

Appalachian Brewing celebrates the Appalachian Trail

     The Appalachian Trail, a 2200-mile hike from Georgia to Maine, is the grand-daddy of all long distance footpaths.  I hiked most of the Maryland segment fifty years ago, getting ready for Army basic training, and my feet want to be in boots whenever I pass near the A.T. today. The midpoint of the trail is near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and that proximity inspires the Appalachian Brewing Co., headquartered in that city, a short walk from the train station.
     Brewing started twenty years ago, in a building that had seen many uses over the years (I do commend their website's page Our Rich History for a wealth of detail).  On a recent stop, I sipped a
pint of Trail Blaze Maple Brown, a sweet malty brown (6.7%, 30 ibu), one of eight flagship beers here.  Others in this lineup--Water Gap Wheat, Mountain Lager, Hoppy Trails IPA--also take note of the nearby trail.  Note the imprint in the burger bun, a bear paw, also seen on their bottle caps.  ABC bottles its flagship beers and also makes and bottles craft sodas in a nearby plant. My server said the root beer outsells any of their beer beers. 
   The company has begun opening other locations, typically small-scale breweries with taprooms, such as at Gettysburg, nearby, and Collegeville, just outside Philadelphia.
This Harrisburg plant produces most of the kegs for the other locations and all the bottles.  One of the 120-bbl (approximately) fermenters can be seen beyond the elegant old bar.  The brew kettles are smaller, three batches are needed to fill one of these fermenters. 
   ABC was going strong back in 2006 when I took my daughter and her classmates at a nearby college, all just turned 21, to dinner here.  It's going stronger today. 

(Visited 10/13/17)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Urban Village Brewing: glossy launch with hands-on owners

       Northern Liberties is one of those Philadelphia neighborhoods that has gone from industrial to run-down to hip and trendy, all in the past half century.  When it was industrial, the Schmidt Brewing Co. was part of the scene and its beer was the PBR of its day.  The block the old brewery occupied has been done over as the Schmidt Commons in the past decade, packed with trendy shops and
bistros.  At the northern end of this shiny new development sits the Urban Village Brewing Co.
Open since June, its pub and brew works are definitely upscale, the kind of place that can make you think venture capital is going straight into craft brewing now. That was the vibe I got on a first visit in early September.
    But I went back at a slack weekday time, early afternoon, and talked to some of the folks there and got a clearer picture.  Of the six main owners, Dave Goldman is the head brewer and Tom Revelli is the general manager. Brewing takes place on a 7-bbl system, made in Italy by Prospero.  Two of the fermenters are 15-bbl,

ready to handle double batches. Four other fermenters handle single batches.  Atop two of these fermenters sit a pair of brite tanks, a configuration that allows quicker tap filling and kegging. 
     While the tap list shows three IPAs, they do offer good choices here for the less embittered.  I liked Liquid Courage, a strong belgian ale at 8.6%.  The first time I tried the coconut chili porter, another proof of porter's almost infinite capacity to tote bizarre ingredients around.
   Looks like a good reincarnation for old Schmidts.
(Visited 10/2/17)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Broken Goblet: good back story, good beer

In a business park in Bristol, PA, a few miles NW of Philadelphia, the intrepid beer-tourist finds Broken Goblet Brewing, a fairly new (3 years in) startup,  The road there from the SEPTA station at Croydon winds along Neshaminy Creek, sidewalks give out after a few blocks and a ride via Lyft or Uber begins to look good.  Whatever.  My feet got me there and Lyft got me back.
  This is one of those plucky startups I love.  The barman, Righteous, pointed out the founders wall of fame and said the first 18 names had given the business so much in-kind stuff (drywall, plumbing, etc.) that they would have $3 pint fills for life.  He said the business has prospered to the point that they are building out a 10-bbl system three miles away, boosting what they can produce on a 2 1/2 bbl system now,  Broken Goblet--what's in a name?  Here, plenty.

Hope you can enlarge the sign on the wall of the taproom..They started out brewing life under the name brewta(umlaut over the a)t.  Got sued for trademark infringement by a heavy hitter brewer they call Voldemort (It was Rogue, I learned).  So they got out-lawyered, had to change their name, and smashed a goblet full of imperial stout when the news came.  I had to share the story of
Foggy Noggin's #Cease and Desist IPA (Go Hawks).
  So now they are Broken Goblet and they make some nice beer.  I had a taster flight of five of the eight on tap,  Worthy sips for their Bubba's Tea Bag (five teas blended into a Rote Grutze base), fruity and sweet, and a good coffee stout on nitro they call Diane's.  But the winner, the one I asked for a quart growler fill of to take home, they call Can't Wait One More Minute, a wheat ale wet hopped with three of our good Yakima hops.
  Hope they place more kegs in Philly taverns!
(Visited 09/16/17)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Drop In to this brewery in Middlebury, Vermont

   The name is in my title: Drop-In Brewing Co. in the super-quaint town of Middlebury in the middle of the Green Mountain State.  If Congress were ever tempted to add National Boutiques to the National Park System, Bernie's whole state would be the obvious first candidate.  This brewery and brewing school is several miles south of the town and its eponymous college, along Otter Creek. It shares space with the Grapevine Grill, an eatery run by a couple of ladies from Maryland, who brought their crab cake recipes with them.
The school side is the American Brewers Guild, an organization founded in Davis, CA and purchased by Steve Parkes, a native Scot who crossed the pond in the 80s.  He is now the brewmaster for Drop-In and head educator for the Guild.  A classroom for sit-down note taking is in the back of the building, while I surmise most of the learning takes place in the 15-bbl system that turns out the Drop-In beers.
    Heart of Lothian was the first beer that caught my eye.  I remembered the Heart of Midlothian, a mosiac set in an Edinburgh sidewalk along the Royal Mile, which one is supposed to spit on for good luck  Mr. Parkes and his students forego the expectoration as they make a deliciously malty Scottish Ale.  The abv is 5.6%, the hops are Fuggle and Kent Golding, and the malts and yeast are also Brit.
  One of the IPAs has a catchy label.  Dude Are You OK? features a photo of a guy (one of the brewing students?) dangling from a chairlift. My friends Paul and Linda and I went through a tray of and liked the Scottish Ale best. (Visit date 09/01/17)

Friday, August 4, 2017

This brewery IS in a farmhouse--Haywire Br., Snohomish

Farmhouse is not just a style of beer here at the Haywire Brewing Co outside Snohomish, it's a description of the premises. It hasn't been a working dairy farm for close to thirty years, but it has been refurbished as the Dairyland event center, used for wedding receptions and the like, and now the milking barn houses the brewing operations.  Bryant Castle, brewer and co-owner, started home brewing about ten years ago and got his father-in-law, David Jez, hooked on the home brew fun five or six years ago; David also brews and is the other co-owner. They work on a 2-barrel system and figure to stay under the legal definition of a nano-brewery, under 1,000 bbl/yr.

The taproom comes with tractor seat barstools and a convivial vibe.  The brewers have named their beers with a bow to agriculture: I tried Hen Pecked Amber (6.9% abv, balanced taste), U-Pick Strawberry Pale (5.6%, do you like tart strawberries?), and Fox Trail, a malt-fwd Irish Red with 5.4% abv.
Haywire is just off the Snohomish-Monroe Road, which runs all the way into Monroe, good to know on those days US 2 traffic is just impossible between those towns. It looks to be a fun stop for families, with treats like a ride on an antique tractor and a christmas tree show in the winter.
(Visited 07/21/17)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Des Voignes: a new twist in Woodinville

   He Said Beer, She Said Wine: a really fun book by Sam Calagione (yes, the Dogfish Head founder) and Marnie Old, a top wine sommelier in Philadelphia. riffs on badinage and pairings, like "what could you possibly uncork, Marnie, for a pepperoni/feta/black olive pizza that would go half as well as my 90-minute IPA?"  And she has lots of put-downs, too.
   I was reminded of this cross-cultural mix when I went into the Des VoigneCellars and Brewery in Woodinville recently.  The wine culture is, let's face it, striving for a retail shopping experience a la Nordstrom, with elegant tasting rooms in buildings Louis XIV would have been at home in. While the prevalent mode of a craft beer startup is a metal building in an industrial business park (or in Snohomish Co., a garage).  So when a winery, around for eleven years, decides to jump the culture gap and make some beer, it's news.
  This is the opening scene going into Des Voigne, tasteful furniture and art. Turn right for wine, straight ahead for beer. The Des Voignes, Darren and Melissa, started making upscale wines eleven years ago.  Darren studied winemaking at UC Davis and handles that side, but they hired brewer Bob Thorpe when they began making beer a couple of years ago.
   The culture cross carries over into our flexible beverage of choice.  My pint was a Fusion Barrel Aged Red Ale, 6.2% abv and 23 IBU, aged in barrels that previously held Des Voigne Cabernet Franc (a great wine, usually blended).  Hopped with Fuggles and Golding, you know it's beer but that sweet grape note lingers on the tongue.
  The seven-barrel system, presented here by Anna, a bartender from Bellingham, is modern and busy.  The plant is in a business park, typical for newer Woodinville wineries given the pricey real estate there.

(Visited 07/01/17)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

River Time passes muster in Darrington

The small, extremely scenic town of Darringon, Washington won't draw many tourists on their way to somewhere else. State Route 530, rebuilt after the tragic landslide in 2014, may lop a few miles off a journey coming up from Seattle to the North Cascades National Park, but that's just a summer route.  The first effort to brew beer in the old city hall, by the Whiskey Ridge Brewing Co., couldn't sell enough the rest of the year to justify staying open, and they eventually moved to Arlington.
But brewing has returned to Darringon, as the River Time Brewing Co..
A couple of guys down in the Seattle area, Lon and Troy, loved hanging out on the nearby Sauk River, and got to know Neil, a guide who has built his home on said river.  Lon and Troy came up with the idea of starting a little brewery here with Neil to handle the brewing.  And when he is doing that, Kristin is behind the bar pulling pints.
The backers found  a nice 3-barrel system, so River Time misses out on the nano category.  They have a 7-barrel fermenter for the times Neil feels like double-batching.

The most popular style here, as it is most places,. is the IPA, so that is likely to go in the bigger fermenter (there is a 3-barrel tank for that function, too).   I chose a Scotch Ale for my pint, 6% abv and malty all the way, a rich mouthfeel.
Summer having shown up nicely, it was not a day for stouts or porters, but Neil gave me a little sample of each. His stout, in the drier Irish style, had a spicier aroma but the porter won the battle of the taste buds. Neil gave some of the credit for the porter's flavor to Liberty hops, which he described as way underrated.

 Did I start out saying Darrington was kind of scenic, even by Washington standards?  Look out the front door of the pub and you see Whitehorse Mountain, the most jagged of several peaks that surround the town.

(Visited 06/22/17)