Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cast a crooked eye in Hatboro, PA

     The Crooked Eye Brewing Co. is about a six-block walk from the regional rail station in Hatboro, PA, a suburb about twelve miles north of the Philadelphia city line. The seven-barrel brewery was
founded in 2014 by a couple of brothers of the Mulherin clan and their uncle.  The building is tucked behind a tattoo parlor and also shares parking with a deli, so food, while not made in the taproom, is never a lack.
   The Irish like the Mulherins are akin to their fellow Celts, the Scots, and this is most true in the beers made here.  Among what they call the core beers I saw a stout, a wit, a golden, a brown, and a Scottish Ale, Regimental 80, at 4.7% abv, a nice malty flavor.  Plenty of choices besides the usual IPAs, in other words.
   They offered a second, stronger Scottish called Angry Piper (6.9% abv) and this was wonderful.
I imagined I could taste a bit of the earth the barley had been grown in, the mouthfeel was that good.  At the recent Locals Only beerfest in Philly, where each brewer brought their flagship and one specialty brew they wanted to show off, Crooked Eye had Angry Piper on tap as the specialty.
   Ever adventurous, the brewers were also offering a Gruit called Ugly Mug Wort the day I stopped in. Gruit is German for herb, and before hops were as commonly grown as they are today, various herbs were used for bittering. This one (6.9%) used mugwort, hence the name, also some sweet gale,ground ivy, and heather tips. The end result was still on the sweet side--if you want real pucker up bitter, there's no substitute for hops.

(Visited 04/08/18)

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Yards' New Digs

The Yards Brewing Co., a mainstay of the Philadelphia brewing scene for all of the past thirteen years I've been visiting the city of brotherly love, has been turning out its revolutionary war recipes and other ales down by the Delaware River, a site that it finally outgrew.  The new quarters are a long five blocks away, at 5th St. and Spring Garden, a major crosstown arterial.
  The architecture features a striking facade and     a line of grain silos over the Spring Garden sidewalk.  The brewery passed the 40,000 barrel annual sales level in 2015 and must have been pushing 50,000 bbls by the close of 2017, when they opened the new plant.

The taproom seems vast, certainly by the standards of a Washingtonian (I'd guess you could fit Scuttlebutt's and Fremont's taprooms both in this space).  They have almost twenty of their own brews on tap, along with the occasional ciders or guest taps.  Great glass panels expose the whole of the operation to the public's view.  The very first brew kettle, encased in a brick jacket, was in plain view at the riverfront site and I was told it would be reassembled here, at some point.
Yards' packaged beer sales have been almost entirely in 12-oz glass bottles; a few limited releases have been in 22-oz bombers.

But lo and behold!  Part of the new plant is a canning line. It was almost ready to start up when I stopped by on March 31.  It may well be running by now.  Cans increase potential marketing areas--I don't think Yards sells west of Ohio now but this should certainly open up more midwest markets, at least.
I tried a seasonal release, Cape of Good Hope double IPA, 9.7% abv, and very floral along with a burst of bitterness.  Very good.

(Visited 03/31/18)

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)