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)

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)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Evil Genius: Under the El

North of the city center, Philadelphia gets industrial in a hurry.  The Market-Frankford transit line emerges from subway mode as it heads north, an elevated train over Front Street.  This is where
#EvilGeniusBrewing opened a taproom around the end of February.  Large-scale manufacturing is long gone, shuttered brick buildings five stories high and a block long, mark the landscape, but plenty of commercial and small fabrication firms remain.  This is where two guys who met in accounting classes at Villanova ten years ago hatched the idea of starting a brewery.  Luke Bowen and Trevor Hayward set out to learn the business of brewing and this is their result.  Their head brewer, Jon Defibaugh, learned his craft at two distinguished local breweries.
Evil Genius has a sort of partnership with a Connecticut brewery, Thomas Hooker, which brews and bottles the only packaged product, Hooray, Sports, a pale ale. There is a wide array of beers made here on tap.  Whimsical naming is the rule--"This One Time At Band Camp" (a double IPA), "Shut Up, Meg" (farmhouse IPA).  I tried a pint of "You Mad, Bro?", billed as a straight farmhouse ale (5.8% abv) with white peppercorns and juniper berries added to the wort.
The tab for that one pint was $6.50, and a 32-oz. small growler could have been filled for $12.00. The last time I bought a half-growler fill here in Philly was for a really fine saison at Tired Hands, for $10.50.  I will have to write a separate post on this topic, but have to observe that many craft breweries seem to operate as if the precepts of economics don't apply to them.  Like cross-elasticity of demand.
If you can pack the house like Evil Genius did on a recent Saturday afternoon, first nice sunny day in a while. maybe your price point doesn't matter.
(Visited 04/08/17)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Benjamin's a Saint in Philly

Ben Franklin, born in Boston, made his mark in Philadelphia and invented all sorts of stuff here,  He liked a drink as well as the next Colonial and is remembered in a number of Philly watering holes, like the Kite and Key pub and the taproom at #St.BenjaminsBrewingCo.  This small brewery began
 producing in 2014 and added a pub last year.  The location is about four blocks east of Temple University. on the ground floor of an industrial building labeled the Sewing Factory and being converted to loft apartments.  The website states that the building was originally the carriage house of the Theo Frankenaur Brewery.
 The tap lineup on a chilly day late in March featured a pair of cream ales. The Inca Cream Ale is so called, founder Tim Patton explained, because the cream ale recipe ended up a tad hoppier than planned (50 IBUs and 5.4%), so they took the first two letters of India Pale and put them in front of cream ale's initials. It has become popular enough to be one   smoothof the standard styles here and one available in 16-oz, cans. Another standard, also in cans, is the Wit or Witout (reference to the only choice a Philly cheesesteak consumer is offered at one of the classic joints in the Italian Market district; the choice is onions).  This is a Belgian wheat beer (4,6%, 17 IBUs) with a very  smooth flavor.  The other two standards are a second cream ale, not tasted, and an English
dark mild called Foul Weather Jack (4.5%, 20 IBUs), which balances a dry finish with a roasty mouthfeel.
A couple of seasonals completed my flight of tasters.  Transcontinental is a California Common (5.6%, 20 IBUs) with some rye in the grains, giving it that bit of spice in the finish.  And Le Bon Bock, released on Fat Tuesday and presented as a Lenten beer the monks in Belgian abbeys could enjoy during Lent, was the strongest at 7.4%, rich and full in the mouth.
The taproom affords a nice view of the brewery in the back.  It has a comfortable feel and would no doubt fill up later in the day.

(Visited 03/28/17)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

2nd District launches in South Philly

South Philadelphia, a close-packed neighborhood between the Italian Market and the stadiums, has gone from gritty to trendy in recent years, but they've been lacking a brewery.  Until February.  Then
the #SecondDistrictBrewing co. opened its doors--or bays--in a building long occupied by a saw and tool sharpening concern, in a light industrial block of Bancroft St. they share with a furniture maker and an auto detailer.
The owners are John Longacre and Curt Decker, the latter lately with the former Nodding Head brewpub in the center city area.  Neither the bobblehead collection, an impressive display at Nodding Head, nor the Berliner Weisse Decker introduced to the Philly beer scene, have reappeared at Second District.

A nice assortment of brews is nonetheless on tap.Three of the nine pictured here are variations on the IPA formula: a black IPA (American Economics), a wheat-based IPA (Lazerface) and an oat-based ale (Celestial Equator).  None tasted by your correspondent.  What I did try and love was the Biere de la Maison, styled as a Belgian single or monk's beer.  Aroma wonderful; they say they use French Pilsner and aromatic malts (wonder what those are) and hopped with St. Celeia (a hybrid developed in Slovenia, I had to google that one). The front-of-tongue tingle was a good second act and the full mouth feel brought out the lemon claimed in their notes.
My other glass was their take on a smoked porter, called Meta Shepherd and used in the mussels prepared in the tiny kitchen area in the front.  I can only give three stars to the mussels (Monk's Cafe gets five) but the porter (6%), based on German smoked malt and conditioned with pureed pineapple (!) hadthe smoke in the nose and that little twist of unusual in the mouth.
In the picture to the left, note the tap handles set in a length of drainpipe.  The pipe runs up to the second level (see picture above) where the brew kettle is, and where the kegs must be, too.

(Visited 04/08/17)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Breaking. Barley: Two high school teachers cook beer after school at Artisanal Brewing in Saratoga

It was April Fools Day when I ventured up into Saratoga, New York to check out Artisanal Brewing Co.  This new outfit (open since July) shares space with a distiller in a metal building last used to make bicycle frames.

A set of the region's iconic Adirondack chairs sits out on the front deck, awaiting a first coat of paint or finish.  The location is some distance from the city's pricey downtown, located across the highway from the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in the state park.

One of the draws here is that Artisanal was founded, is owned and operated by two teachers at Saratoga High School.  Both were working behind the bar on a Saturday afternoon.  Colin Quinn (French) and Kurt Borchardt (Technology), pulling pints and washing glasses.  Yes, the brewer has to do it all in the startup days.

They have resisted the  impulse to give their beers names like Study Hall Stout that would reflect on their day jobs.  Some titles evoke local geography, like SPA (Saratoga Pale Ale, a 3.6% session ale--Spa City being a nickname from the local mineral waters) or Trappist at the Track, a non-session trippel at 9.1%      
I limited myself to a wee taste of the trippel in. order to give a pint's justice to a Whole Lotta Trouble, a Belgian Strong Dark Ale weighing in at 9.9% abv.  A floral aroma and a rich mouthfeel, like that delicious black bread you can get in a Jewish deli down in the city.  The yeast, Colin says, is a proprietary culture they developed during the home brewing years that usually run up to a commercial opening like this,

The taproom offers Mexican dishes like burritos and tacos prepared by a restaurant in town and kept warm in a box plugged in on the bar.  The brewers are getting enough hops and grains from New York growers to meet the minimums of the state's new farmstead brewing license.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 (Visited 04/01/17)

2SP tells Delaware County story

As a traveler leaves Philadelphia in a southwesterly direction toward Wilmington, Delaware, the last Pennsylvania city of any size is an urban wasteland called Chester. Several miles inland  a more tranquil-looking town called Aston reclaims the landscape with trees, grass, and suburban amenities.

2SP Brewing occupies about a third of a business park where Aston begins.  It's a production brewery with a taproom and ample space for food trucks out front. On a sunny afternoon late in March, the brewery was celebrating the availability of The Russian, a 9% abv imperial stout which won gold at the last Great American Beer Festival. The taproom was serving flights of this rich, malty brew along with a dunkel lager called af,  and a golden stout with the glorious name of Alternative Facts Stout. Kellyanne Conway, this brew's for you.                                                                                                                                                                                              
2SP (stands for Two Stones Pub) makes and cans a lager called Delco Lager.  Delco being the local shorthand for Delaware County, the local government that stretches from Philly suburbs to the eponymous state.
Alternative Facts Stout

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ambler, PA: Forest & Main

How does a newer brewery stand out from the crowd?  Here's the formula at #Forest&Main, brewing since about 2014, Start with a graceful 19th century house, with a long front porch and a front yard with tables for the nice weather.

The building is said to be the 3rd oldest house in Ambler, a Philly suburb now, with history dating back to 1736 or so. The floor is original and the bar is refinished barn board. Two dart boards and no TV screens that I could see It's what sits on the bar that makes this pub a go to spot for fans. of the British real ale tradition.
Yes, fellow American CAMRA sympathizers,  you are looking at three, as in 3 , hand pumps (or to use the Brits' term, beer engines) always behind the bar and in front of five conventional draft taps,  And from those casks, the server draws pints of unmistakably English style ales at somewhere between forty and forty-eight degrees Fahrenheit.

I sipped on a half pint of each of the ales here caked. First, a dark mild, 4% abv, chocolate-y. Malts, lightly hopped, a nice session ale called Memories of a Man. Then another wee dram of Thoughts Like Brambles, labeled a baby IPA at  something under 5 %.  Nice apricot and honeydew flavors. The third cask: a muscular barleywine called Omphalos, 8.5%, with figgy pudding flavors.
The five draft taps appear to be dispensing saisons and other Belgian styles, for the most part.  I gathered, from chat in the taproom, that the two brewers do a lot of one-offs and do not really have flagship or signature beers they make on a regular rotation.
(Visited 03/22/17)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Stone's Throw: my neighborhood brewery

The Fairhaven area of Bellingham has been popular with locals and visitors for some years now, real estate a bit pricey for craft beer startup.  So it has been fun to watch the Stone's Throw brewery take shape. Founder and brewer Tony Luciano found several used cargo containers to place into a small lot.
Stacked crosswise, one of the containers holds some of the tanks used in the x-barrel system while another repurposed container has storage and restrooms for the popular taproom.
Even without their own pub food, Stone's Throw has two good pizza places within a block and other food options, so it looks to succeed as a destination beer spot.  Their pale, porter, IPA,  and seasonals are solid craft beers that will bring us locals back,
(Visited multiple times in 2016)