Sunday, February 18, 2018

From a sun break in Guatemala--Antigua Brewing Co.

It's been a long, soggy, gray winter this year, although the variety of winter ales is up and helps to dispel the gloom.  However, the itch to wander needed a little scratch and I just came back from a week in Guatemala. Got some natural Vitamin D and a taste of craft beer in the old colonial city of Antigua, a few miles from the capital, Guatemala City. The stucco walls come in all sorts of pastels and the brewery, a couple of blocks from the main plaza, contributes a bright blue.
This operation started up a couple years ago, brewing on a small system that looks to be capable of making three or four barrels at a batch.
The pint I tried poured real pretty and tasted like a well made pale ale. They sell at forty quetzals (around six dollars) a pint, closer to U.S prices than what the locals would be used to getting their Gallo cervezas for.  Indeed, the other customers I saw on a Thursday afternoon were turistas like me, speaking English.
The treat here was the roof patio, looking out over the town and several of the volcanoes that surround it.  The mountainous part of the country is mostly made up of volcanoes, like our Cascades, but considerable more active.  The most recent activity came out of a volcano called Pacaya, which blew in 2010 and again in 2014.    (Visited 02/08/18)    
Volcan Agua, not erupting, just catching clouds

Illuminati: Bellingham's newest

    Our fair city of about 80,000 is now home to 11 brewing entities, making beer in 12 buildings (Kulshan has two). The most recent to open, last October, is Illuminati Brewing, way up on the north side.  Like DesVoignes in Woodinville, Illuminati makes its beer under the same roof as a related winery, Masquerade Wines. The taproom is not a pub per se,  but a cold case holds a fair assortment of artisan cheeses, a nod to the winery adage "Buy on bread, sell on cheese."
The logo is unusual, reminding one of the odd pyramid on a dollar bill
When I first stopped in, the crew was celebrating the opening weekend of the latest Star Wars movie with Millenium Falcon IPA on sale at three dollars a pint. They also participated in the state beer commision's Belgian Fest down in Seattle in January, pouring Spinal Tap Tripel, a hefty 11% abv done in the Belgian tripel ale style, and a Belgian style pale ale called Rickshank Redemption, a more civilized 5.6% abv.

(Visited 12/16/17  and 01/27/18)

Monday, December 18, 2017

Fermenting in chains: Lost Canoe Brewing

     I stopped off at Lost Canoe Brewing in Snohomish recently and did a double take at the hanging fermenters in their taproom. They went with plastic fermenters, originally mounted in steel frames.  The weight of the beer in a full fermenters was enough to cause the plastic to bulge out over the frames.
So they came up with this novel solution, hanging the tanks from a strong girder in the ceiling.
     Lost Canoe has a fondness for fruity beers like raspberry wheat ale and rhubarb  hefeweizen.  The latter fruit is rather tartan tart, takes a lot of sugar for the usual dessert recipes, so it meshed well with the hops in the chef.
(Visited 12/02/17)

Monday, October 23, 2017

This brewery's ARS is really in a garage--in South Philly

   South Philadelphia, between the pro teams' stadiums and the touristy Italian Market/cheese-steaks district, is a gritty blue-collar neighborhood that would support craft brewing only if it doesn't look too yuppie. IMHO, at least.  Earlier this year I wrote about 2nd District Brewing and its presence in a block of auto repair and detailing shops down here.  Just lately I got over to the south end's newer

brewery, which has taken over the space of a garage on Passayunk Ave., the main drag in these parts.  A couple of pizza joints and a sandwich shop are the neighbors across the street. The block is cheerfully mixed, residential, commercial, industrial would have been welcome back in the day.
A couple of brothers, Andy and Sean Arsenault, using the first three letters of their name, called it BreweryARS and opened (rolled up?) their door to the public last December.  They fit a 10-barrel brew system with six fermenters into what had been an auto body repair shop.

   How did these guys choose this path?  Andy is the beer guy. After some homebrewing time, he went out to UC Davis, near Sacramento, and earned a degree in brewing.  Then he went to work at Victory Brewing, Pennsylvania's most nationally distributed craft beer, for a while.  Sean, a contractor-builder in the neighborhood, acquired this space and the two hatched their idea. 
    Follow the link to their site and look at some forty styles that have come out of this little plant in their first eight months.  They like to play around.  Much like the pre-Inbev Elysian, which turned out over four hundred types of beer in the eight or nine years preceding the buyout.  And admire the graphics--Andy says that's one of Sean's contributions; he didn't go to art school but he loves to draw. 
     With all this brewing background, you would think Andy has both imagined and brewed these beers, some of them unique.  But, he says, we've both had to keep our day jobs and hire someone to do the brewing (90% cleaning and sterilizing, 10% cooking, as even us homebrewers learn).
Andy's day job is an east coast rep for the Hop Union, and he does have to be in Yakima five weeks each year.  If you can't stir the mash, at least you get to smell hops on the vine, right?

If you took my suggestion and looked at their site, you'll have seen many examples of Sean's artwork (ars is also a Latin word for art or skill, but it ain't yuppie if its what the folks around here shorten your name to). Here's one:Diggable is billed as an "IPAish" beer, meaning it ferments on a Belgian yeast rather than the customary ale yeast.  The fruity esters do cut the bitterness down some.  As brewers experiment more and more with the IPA style, this might get some copiers. 
   I took four cans of Diggable home as it was not on tap when I was there.  What I did taste was (1) Maple Hill, a smoked sweet potato saison, 6% abv, and (2) Bright Lights, which they call the House Blonde, 5.0% abv (does "house" imply you would keep it in a regular rotation? Andy: maybe).  Now the Maple Hill is smoked only in the sweet potato part, not the malt, so the applewood smoke is subtle, not heavy.  Worth coming back for.  The Blonde presents no unusual tastes, would be a good gateway craft beer.

(Visited 10/22/17)

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)