- The cask festival at the Brazen Head in Brooklyn the weekend of February 22-24. Alex Hall always does a spectacular job and this weekend was no exception. Highlights for me included the eye-opening Green Flash ‘West Coast IPA’, the dark & delicious Chelsea ‘Czar’s Revenge’ Imperial Stout, the traditional Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady ESB, and the delicious in every way Allagash Curieaux. I’ll confess, the Curieaux was my very favorite and only the high alcohol content prevented me from drinking more. The fest was not as crowded as usual, perhaps due to the 6″ of snow that fell on Friday, our first real snowfall of the season. The next NYC cask festival will take place on March 28-30, noon to midnight each day, at Chelsea Brewing Company in Manhattan. Information can be found here. I hope to see you there.
- A visit to Seymour Burton, a new restaurant in the East Village. I went for the burger, fries and house-made ice cream, but the limited beer offerings are exclusively craft. No draft beer, but cans of Pork Slap and six varieties of Ommegang are offered: the Witte, Rare VOS, 3 Philosophers, Hennepin, Ommegang, & Ommegeddon. I’m an advocate of drinking locally and visiting a restaurant exclusively featuring New York craft beers warms my heart. The burger & fries are fantastic here, particularly if you’re a burger purist as this one is all about the meat. The fries were perfectly done, crispy with nice potato flavor, and the ice cream was phenomenal, chocolate bourbon being my favorite flavor. I’d love to see them offer a local porter or brown ale, my favorite beer to drink with a burger, but the Rare VOS paired quite nicely. I’ve read favorable reviews of other menu offerings and recommend a visit if you’re craving a burger and craft ale in the East Village.
- The Black Flip at PDT in the East Village. Whoa, I’d read about this historic drink but never had one. PDT mixes a great version, using Cruzan blackstrap rum, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, and an egg. This is a BEAUTIFUL drink and combines two of my passions, craft beer and old-school cocktails. Although primarily a cocktail place, PDT offers four local craft beers on draft and is a great place to take a date. Get there early as seating is limited and order one of their specialty hot dogs if you get hungry. I recommend the Chang Dog, the bacon wrapped deep fried Crif Dog topped with Momofuku kimchee. PDT is one of my favorite joints at the moment.
- Canadian Cousins night at Spuyten Duyvil in Williamsburg. Last Wednesday night Joe Carroll of Spuyten featured beer from two Canadian breweries, Dieu Du Ciel and Hopfenstark. It was a real treat to meet the guys and drink their beer. Seven beers were offered, Hopfenstark’s Ostalgia Blonde, Saison 55, and Kamarad Friedrich and Dieu du Ciel’s Rigor Mortis, Aphrodisiac, Péché Mortel, and Corpus Cristi, the latter being on cask. My favorites were the Ostalgia, Saison 55, Rigor Mortis, Aphrodisiac & Péché Mortel. A trip to Montreal is definitely in order.
- California Night at The Gate in Brooklyn. I enjoyed Green Flash ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Grand Mantis’ while listening to the Grateful Dead bootleg, nice.
- Two trips to Dram Shop in Brooklyn. Another delicious burger & fries can be found here, very different from Seymour Burton’s but just as good. Twelve taps are offered, most of which are craft. I enjoyed a Sixpoint Brownstone with my burger, a possible perfect combination. Dram Shop’s burger features two patties and is fully dressed and the fries are medium cut and crisp. My only complaint is all beer is served in frosty mugs, ugh. Be sure to ask for a room temperature glass when you go. It’s a cool place and I’ll be visiting again soon.
The voice mail announcing Las Vegas as the location of our national business meeting struck terror in my heart: I don’t gamble, it’s a 5.5 hr flight from NYC and I can’t sit still for that long, I have no need for a Girl Delivered To My Room In Only 20 minutes!, and gasp, I might have to go without a good beer for 5 days. Egads. I sucked it up and came up with a plan. I would have precious little free time at the meeting and would only be able to check out the places within very close distance, walking or cabbing, to Caesar’s Palace, my base for the week. I looked up craft beer places online, created a Google Map, and studied the public transportation options – I was ready! After the long Monday morning flight, I had a few hours before the opening session that evening and I was thirsty. Out the front of Caesars, through the Flamingo, onto the monorail, down 2 stops to the MGM Grand, through the casino, across the street, and I was at my destination in no time. New York, New York, home of the new craft beer bar, Pour 24. Things were looking up already as the bar is right inside the southernmost door off the strip, no traipsing through the entire casino to get to it, a big plus in Vegas.
I settled myself at the bar and asked for the beer menu. I was given a steel covered book which contained all of the drafts and bottles, some nice beer quotes and offered several flight combinations, nice. I ordered up a custom flight of 4 and got out my little notebook. Let’s start with the pros: 24 taps, 14 of which don’t make it to New York (woohoo!), a large rectangular bar topped with cobalt blue geode slices under a thick layer of resin, about 30 comfortable backed and padded chairs surrounding the bar, free paper cones of sweet or spicy mixed nuts, a striking ice covered tap tower and educated bartenders. Yes, they all attended a 7 day school before they started, trying all of the beers, evaluating the aroma, flavor, and other aspects of each, and learning the finer aspects of craft beer. Well done! The major drawback of the bar is the atmosphere – it’s loud and exposed and rather ugly. The front of the bar is a major inroad of the whole place, with a mall-like feel it’s flowing with tourists and contains tacky gift shops, a magic shop with crazy sounds emanating from it on a regular basis, and the boisturous Coyote Ugly which provides the ever-present loud crappy rock music. The back of the bar overlooks the casino one floor down. The other con is that the beers are served a tad cold.
None of this distracted me from enjoying my flight of Alaskan ESB, Firestone Double Barrel Ale, Big Sky Moose Drool, and New Belgium 1554, served in 6 oz mini pilsner glasses for $14.00. 16 oz. drafts are either $6 or $6.50, depending on the beer and you can get flights of 5 for $16.50 or 6 for $19. The also stock bottled beer, including about 10 craft, most costing $5.50. I found those very reasonable prices for good beer in Vegas. My bartender was kind enough to give me a freebie and I finished with the Breckenridge Vanilla Porter, a perfect dessert beer finish to my first craft beer excursion in Vegas. He also told me that they are adding a new restaurant directly underneath the bar on the casino level that will share taps, something to look forward to should I find myself in Vegas again.
I highly recommend Pour 24 to any craft beer lover staying on the strip – the 24 taps, accessible location, and friendly bartenders make this bar a must.
Ah… November in New York City: weather cold enough for a scarf, insane numbers of tourists shop-shop-shopping and stop-stop-stopping up the sidewalks, hot apple cider at the greenmarkets, and the return of the cask ale festivals to Brazen Head. Three times a year, caskrepeneur Alex Hall (shown at left) and Brazen Head co-owner Lou Sones throw a three-day beer event featuring all cask ales. This weekend’s fest features 31 casks, the largest number yet, with 11 tapped at a time. Many of the casks are one-of-a-kinds, almost all are from regional breweries, and there’s a wide range of styles represented. I headed over last night around 5 pm to sample some of the wares. It was warm enough to sit in Brazen’s backyard, where I enjoyed my first half pint of Brookyn’s own SixPoint Craft Ales Gran’Dad’s Nerve Tonic, jointly brewed with local band Junk Science. Hoppy and malty with a tinge of chocolate, at 8% ABV this was a nice kick-off for tonight’s cask experience. Next was a Cascade Dry-hopped IPA from Smuttynose Brewery – a clean citrus delight, my second favorite beer of the night. I also tried the Colonial Farmhouse Cider, which was very tasty and similar to the ciders I’ve had in England – sharp, medium-dry, and not too sweet. The Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin was also good, not too spicy and not too sweet. I thought the Ommegang Abbey Ale was a little weird in cask, as this is a beer that works best with high carbonation in my opinion, but many were enjoying it. The Mohawk Trail Pale Ale, the first ever cask ale produced by the new Nomad Brewery was tapped just before 8 pm, with all proceeds being donated to charity. I ended the evening with the SixPoint Belgian Rye-PA, the only cask produced of this beer and my favorite of the evening. I love the Righteous Rye, and the Belgian styling only added to the complexity of this beer – truly delicious! Brazen Head got pretty packed as the evening wore on, with a diverse bunch of craft beer lovers, brewers, the suited after-work crowd, and local Brooklynites all enjoying cask ale – a nice site to see! I had a such a great time drinking real ale and hanging out with friends that I’m headed back as soon as I finish this post. The fests at Brazen Head are a great chance to drink American craft cask ales, I highly recommend checking one out. They’re usually held in November, February, and May and it’s best to go several times over the weekend to be able to sample as many as possible, the earlier in the day the better as the narrow bar gets quite crowded. Hope to see you there!
More pics on Flickr.
228 Atlantic Ave, b/w Court St & Boerum Place
closest subway: F train to Bergen St, walk N on Smith, then W on Atlantic
I recently traveled with four friends to Portland, Oregon on a beer trip. Three of us (Slander, Ken, & me) flew in late Wednesday night. I watched the movie American Beer on my Mac on the plane – a very entertaining film that I highly recommend all craft beer lovers watch. Check out the website for a clip. It was the perfect way to start a beer trip. Davo met us at the hotel (as he had been beering it up in California and Seattle for the previous 5 days) with two chilled bottles from Baron Brewing Company in Seattle. The Helles Bock and Uber-Weisse weizenbock were both very nice – and perfect after the 5 1/2 hour flight! I preferred the helles, which was very clean with a nice caramel-toffee maltiness, lightly sweet, bittering a bit at the end – quite refreshing. The weizenbock was quality, but a bit too smoky for my particular tastes (I really respect the smoked beers, but just don’t love them). Our friend Jon picked us up the next day for our pub crawl. We started at John’s Marketplace, a beer/wine/grocery store. I had brought my friend Warren’s beer suitcase (a brilliant piece of luggage for anyone travelling with beer or wine or liquor) and filled it up with West Coast beers that can’t be found in NYC. We also picked up a few bottles to enjoy at the hotel, of course.
Back in the car and on to our first brewpub, New Old Lompoc. Located in Portland’s Northwest district, the current New Old Lompoc has been open since 2000 and brewing beer since 1996. Upon entering, a beautiful hop mosaic (created by one of the bartenders) above the bar caught my eye. We sat in the room to the right of the bar area – bare wood floors, casual chairs, tables, and booths, old pictures and ads on the walls, and a high shelf lined with beer bottles give this brewpub a comfortable, laid back feel. Slander and I split the sampler (key to making it through an all-day brewpub crawl) NOL brews eight of their own beers and features six guest tap. The sampler was $6.50 and included the seven in-house beers available and one guest, Caldera Dry Hop Orange. Our friendly waitress gave also gave us a sample of the Caldera Pilsener Bier. We tried the Fool’s Golden Ale, Parliament Red, Sockeye Cream Stout, Condor Pale Ale, Centennial IPA, Lompoc Strong Draft(LSD), and the C-Note. All excellent, but my favorites were the Sockeye (creamy, roasty, sweet, very smooth), the Condor (citrusy, biscuity, subtle yet tasty), and the LSD (malty, toasty, some smoke in the back, complex yet easy to drink). Both Caldera’s were also good. Slander and I split the French Dip(eating a bit at every place, another key to my lasting all-day), which was quite tasty – the gorgonzola used adds a whole new dimension. The house-made lemon basil vinaigrette on the accompanying salad was delicious. I admired the spacious back deck after I finished and the wall of hop vines growing back there. New Old Lompoc is a must for a Portland brewpub crawl.
Lucky Labrador Brew Hall was a short walk. The brew hall is a large, garage-style space, with a very long back counter where you order and pick up your beer and food. A terrific hand-drawn chalkboard behind the counter displays the beers available. 1/4 pint samples are $1.25 each – Slander and I ordered five and took a seat at the family-style tables. We tried the Hellesaurus Rex, Crazy Ludwig’s Alt, Stumptown Porter, Wheat Stout, 5-ton Strong, Bike Route Rye, and Triple Threat on nitro (thanks to Jon for sharing). My favorites were the Hellesaurus (sweet maltiness, a bit grainy, clean), the 5-ton (intense citrus/pine/floral hoppiness and sweet clean maltiness in the aroma and flavor), and the Triple Threat (all piney/citrusy hoppiness with some sweet maltiness to back it up). A bowl of roasted peanuts was eaten. Lucky Lab also has a side room with more seating and a nice outside area (complete with hop vines and recycled keg planters). Darts are available as well as a few board games. A cool place.
Another short walk brought us to Laurelwood NW Public House. Set in a lovely house built in 1902 with wood floors, a fireplace, natural lighting, and a great color scheme (golds, oranges, brick reds) the public house is a cheerful, charming place. A hand-written chalkboard by the bar displays the available beers (brewed at their other two locations). Slander and I again split the sampler, 8 beers for $8.00. We enjoyed the Mother Lode Golden, Ettinger Amber Bier, Organic Free Range Red, Organic Tree Hugger Porter, Space Stout, Hooligan Brown, Piston Pale Ale, and Boss IPA. All were excellent, but my favorites were the Hooligan Brown (toasty melanoidins with coffee in the back), Tree Hugger (toasty with some roast, malty, bittering a bit at the end), and Space Stout (roasty coffee aroma and flavor, dry, licorice in the back). We also enjoyed an order of the garlic fries (delicious). The Public House also has an upstairs seating area with an outdoor balcony as well as a front deck. The service was excellent. Laurelwood is another must when in Portland.
A drive across the river brought us to Amnesia Brewing.
Set in a converted warehouse, Amnesia’s high ceilings, wood bar, chalkboards, and varnished picnic tables under a large outside tent give it an eclectic and laid-back vibe. We again split the sampler and took a seat outside. We drank the ESB, Summer Ale, Dusty Trail Pale, Desolation IPA, Copacetic IPA, plus the Laurelwood Porter, as they were out of theirs. All were drinkable, but we found them to be quite similar in taste. My favorites were the ESB (more hoppy than a traditional one) and the Copacetic (Amarillo goodness). We also shared a hearty sausage appetizer, which included 2 sausages cooked on the outdoor grill, bread, cheese, and pickles. I was digging the board welcoming Oregon Brew Fest attendees (especially since we were going the next day). Amnesia has free wi-fi and an altogether chill feel.
Our last brewpub of the day was the all-organic Roots Brewing Company. Decorated in the spirit of the islands, Roots has green walls hung with interesting artwork and island memorabilia, a wood bar with mini-surfboards for taps, and picnic tables – yet another cool place! Surprise – we split the sampler, 7 for $7.00. We supped the Gruit Kolsch, Burghead Heather Ale, Island Red, Exxxcalibur Stout, Roots Rye, Woody IPA, and Snake Bite. All were quite good, favorites were the Gruit (all herb/spice in the nose and on the tongue, ta-sty) and the Roots Rye (nicely spicy). Slander and I split the jerk rubbed smoked pork wrap, yum. Roots brews on-premises in side and back rooms. A marvelous place – free wi-fi, unusual beer styles executed well, all organic beers and good food. Another must-hit Portland brewpub.
Horse Brass Pub was our next destination. Wow – walking in, I felt like I was back in London (it reminded me a bit of Market Porter, actually). This is a fascinating place – the walls and ceiling practically drip with English paraphanalia, the L-shaped wood bar is massive, it’s a big place with a completely cozy feeling. Very English and way cool. Horse Brass features 55 taps and 5 cask ales. I ordered a glass of the Caldera Exotic Erotic Passion Fruit Ale (I needed something light at that point) – quite nice, very refreshing with a natural passion fruit flavor. I also tasted Slander’s Walking Man Cherry Stout, Full Sail’s Son of Spot IPA, and Ninkasi Brewing’s Total Damnation IPA (we’re a sharing group). I didn’t order food here, but shared Ken’s Fish & Chips and Davo’s Scotch Egg. Everything was good. Yeah, you guessed it, another must-see.
A few blocks over to Belmont Station, which previously resided next door to Horse Brass. Belmont is both a beer bar and store. We entered via the bar room, and I promptly ordered the New Belgium Eric’s Lips of Faith Sour Peach (oh, yeah, a beautiful sour ale). Belmont Station has four drafts in the cafe and over 800 bottled beers and ciders, as well as wine and sake, in the store – an impressive place. We wandered around for a bit, picking up a few more bottles and some English chocolates. Nifty place.
Concordia Ale House was our last stop of the evening. We walked into a room that felt a little like a giant shoebox, then back into the sophisticated yet intimate bar area. The high ceiling and shelves of extra tap handles on the right wall are nice touches. We chose our beer (22 taps and a lot of bottles in a glass-front cooler behind the bar) and retired to the the long and narrow side game room (pool tables and several arcade games). I chose the Deschutes 19th Anniversary Golden Ale, their first Belgian-style ale. I found it imperfect but drinkable, a nice fresh fruitiness but a lot of alcohol heat and a bit rough around the edges, which will probably change with age (everyone else either liked it or hated it, interestingly). I ordered the enticing mussels appetizer (the rest of the food menu looked equally tempting) and ate while the guys played games. Sated, stuffed, and completely satisfied with the Portland pub scene, we headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.
1616 NW 23rd Ave
Open M-Sat 11 am-1 am, Sun 11 am-midnight
2 other Portland locations: The Hedge House and 5Q
Lucky Labrador Brew Hall
1945 NW Quimby
Open M 11am-10 pm, Tu-Sat 11 am-midnight, Sun noon-10 pm
2 other Portland locations: Lucky Lab Brew Pub and Lucky Lab Public House
Laurelwood NW Public House
2327 NW Kearney St
M-Sun 11 am-11 pm
2 other Portland locations: Laurelwood Public House & Brewery and Laurelwood Pizza Co
832 N Beech St
M-Thu 2 pm-11 pm, F-Sun noon-midnight
Roots Brewing Company
1520 SE 7th
M-Th 3 pm-11 pm, F 3 pm-midnight, Sat noon-1 am, Sun noon-10 pm
Horse Brass Pub
4534 SE Belmont
M-F 11 am-2:30 am, Sat & Sun 10 am-2:30 am
4500 SE Stark St
store hours: M-W 10 am-10 pm, Th-Sat 10 am-11 pm, Sun noon-9 pm
cafe hours: M-W noon-10 pm, Th-Sat noon-11 pm, Sun noon-9 pm
Concordia Ale House
3276 NE Killingsworth St
M-F 11:30 am-2:30 am, Sat 9 am-2:30 am, Sun 9 am-midnight
(All in Portland, Oregon)
Chris Post e-mailed me an update on his new endeavor yesterday. I know Chris through the New York City Homebrew Guild, where I have drank many of his excellent beers. Chris has also brewed at Chelsea Brewing Company and Greenpoint Beer Works. He is starting his own brewery, Nomad Brewing, in North Adams, Massachusetts. The Massachusetts business license, as well as the necessary approvals from the city and local water treatment plant, have been received.Chris is hoping to negotiate a deal with the local spring so that he can brew with their water. Plans are to move in early September, although trial batches are being brewed now. He brewed Gyle #1, a bock, in the brewery building a few days ago. A saison, American pale ale, and Belgian witte have also been brewed. A corney keg of the Saison will be on tap at 4th Avenue Pub in Brooklyn this Sunday evening. 4th Avenue Pub is located on 4th Ave between Bergen Street and St Marks Place, phone number 718-643-2235.
I stopped into the new Whole Foods Bowery last night after the tasting to pick up a few bottles of the Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weisse. I was told by a very reliable source that Whole Foods will be opening a craft beer store at this location. Located on the corner of Houston and Chrystie, the store will feature six local taps (with at least one being Sixpoint) for growler fills and an extensive bottle list. Cross your fingers for a late August opening.
Jimmy’s No. 43 presented a bacon, beer & pickles tasting last night. Bacon and beer, mmmmm, how could I resist? Food writer Josh Ozersky aka Mr. Cutlets hosted, along with Jeff from Sixpoint Craft Ales and the Rick’s Picks folk. Six different bacons and five Sixpoint Ales were available, including the delightful “black market” porter on cask. We started with Oscar Meyer bacon and the Brownstone brown ale. Eh, not bad. Next up was Dines Farm smoked bacon. I found that this bacon completely overpowered the Brownstone, but worked pretty darn well with the Righteous Rye. The match amplified the salty-smokiness of the bacon and brought out the spicy character of the rye beer. High Hope Hogs wood-smoked bacon was paired with the Otis oatmeal stout on nitro. The High Hope is a balanced bacon, but lacks smokiness due to the low fat:meat ratio. Josh explained that the fat in meat acts as a flavor amplifier for smoke, etc. The bacon has a nice “porky character”, though. The Otis was pretty stirred up, with quite a bit of yeast cloudiness and I didn’t get much from the pairing. Violet Hill’s bacon was passed around next. This is made from the butt, or shoulder, of the pig. It was very salty, with substantial texture (a bit chewy, really), and had more of a ham-like flavor. I found that this worked very well with the Brownstone, enhancing the porkiness of the bacon and really bringing out the maltiness of the beer. Flying Pigs Farm’s bacon was next, a belly bacon. Flying Pigs is one of the top butchers in America according to Josh. It’s a very balanced bacon. I tried it with the porter, which is made with carob. The bacon brought out the chocolate goodness of the beer, but the beer overpowered the bacon. Last was freshly-smoked bacon from RUB BBQ. Their bacon is thick-cut Berkshire pork bellies, aged for ~7 days, cold-smoked twice, and hot-smoked once (with the traditional hickory, which is the signature flavor of bacon according to Josh). This bacon has lots of fat and lots of flavor. It paired pretty nicely with the Bengali Tiger. A bite of bacon, ohhhh, hickory-smoked goodness; a sip of Bengali washed the smoke away and woke up my tongue with its intense bright citrus. Wait, where’s the bacon? Ah, there it is, back after the swallow. An interesting pairing. I snacked on some Rick’s Picks as well. These deserve beer pairings all on their own – with a bit of creamy cheese (fresh goat, maybe?) I bet some marvelous flavor combos would arise. Another night, maybe. Jimmy’s puts on regular food & beer pairing events. The next is this Wednesday, the 25th, hosted by Chris Cuzme and Anne Saxelby of Saxelby Cheesemongers. Chris and I will be hosting an evening of beer, ice cream/sorbet, and fruit pairings on August 1 (who doesn’t love a good beer float?). Should be fun.
Well, I did get my waffle but not my nap as I wandered the campsites taking photos and chatting with people Saturday evening and into the night. The waffle makers were Waffle Cabin (formerly Waffle Haus) and the waffles were delicious! A few more highlights of the tasting session: Brian O’Reilly, head brewer at SlyFox, pouring the new Incubus, a “tripel in the Abbot style, Jeff O’Neill, head brewer at Ithaca Beer Company, pouring the White Gold (the AbbeyIPA had kicked by the time I got around to the booth, bummer), chatting with Chuck Cook (beer writer and all-around-good-guy), tasting Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche (which they were running through a Randell packed with fresh peaches) and Iron Hill Brewery’s F. Red (thanks to my friend Ray for sharing the last two). The first of my wandering after the tasting took me to the Offshore Ale campsite. I met Matthew Steinberg, the head brewer at Offshore for only 3 weeks longer (Joe Cleinman will be taking over after that). Matthew has brewed at John Harvard’s Cambridge and Concord Rapscallion in the past and will now be brewing at Mayflower Brewing Company in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Matthew is taking delivery of a brand-new 20-barrel brewhouse in mid-September and hopes to release beers by mid-November. He will be brewing “classical brews with historical significance”. The first beer out will probably be a pale ale with hope of an old ale after that. Good luck on your new venture, Matthew! I hope to visit in future travels. I tried the Offshore Hop Goddess Belgian IPA before I left, a nice beer at 6.9% ABV, 69 IBUs, and an OG of 1.069, “cunning and blatant and hopped with a heavy hand” and met the Hop Goddess herself. I next chatted with the Blind Tiger crew and friends (looking appropriately laid back in the photo, huh?) and moved on to the Troegs/Iron Hill/Southampton/Captain Lawrence area. Chris Brugger, brewer at Troegs Brewing Company, poured me a Scratch beer #3, a tripel. Chris has been with Troegs for 8 years. This is the 10th Anniversary of Troegs (Congrats!) and they are brewing a special beer about once a month or so in celebration. These are beers that were originally pilot brews or recipes that never quite made it to liquid form (but written on scratch pads and saved, hence the name). They are brewed in 25 barrel single batches and are only available at the brewery. About 150 cases worth will be bottled and the rest will be on draft at the brewery for events and growler sales. Scratch #1 was a California Common and #2 a hoppy porter. I missed those, unfortunately, but was really glad to try #3 – if you live near the brewery, be sure to check it out! Oh, and possible future scratch beers: a barleywine, bitter, and dunkelweizen. Chris also had Naked Elf on tap. Naked Elf is the Mad Elf with no honey or cherries and a slightly lower ABV (7%). The Naked Elf is a one-time beer available on draft only (although future seasonal production might be possible). Nearby, Spencer Niebuhr of Southampton, and Brian of Sly Fox were up to shenanigans. No bullying needed to get me to try the new Southampton tripel! Spence’s brother, Ryan, was nearby living it up. I headed back to my own campsite to put on jeans (it was getting a bit chilly) and take a breather. My campmates were chowing down on grilled burgers and dogs (thanks to Ed) and taking it easy. I headed up the big hill behind the brewery and fest tents to check out the sunset (it’s true, I have a hard time sitting still). The music was going strong in the big tent – they had some outstanding musicians during the day and into the night. I met some very nice people on the way down, including a fellow Brooklynite. The folks next to us were living it up – screen house with strung lantern lights and quite the feast. I met a lot of very kind and generous people at the fest – lots of sharing of food and beverages! Back to our area, where I broke out the s’mores and tasted the tasty new imperial porter that Victory is brewing using the Heavyweight recipe (as yet to be named). Tom Baker had very generously given a growler to Steve to bring to up. Hopefully, it will be released for public consumption soon! I ended the night hanging out with friends and enjoying more beer (and a little of the absolutely beautiful single-barrel Four Roses bourbon that Larry shared with me). A fabulous day.
Ah, where to begin? Beautiful weather, great company, way too much really good beer… The festival started at 2, so many good breweries and beer, live music, more good food. I’ll hit some highlights now and get a bit more in-depth when I get home (and sober up, ya know). I started with a Lost Abbey Devotion Ale – a Belgian blonde dry hopped with Northern Brewer hops, niiiice. Around to the 3 Floyds booth – Steve (whom I had met at the Extreme Beer Fest in Boston in February, back when he was brewing for The Tap) was representing with the Gorm Noir – a Brussels Style Black Ale – fermented at 80 degrees, spiced with coriander, cardamom, and an African relative of cumin. Really interesting, in an all too good way. Honestly, I’ve never had a bad 3 Floyds. Oh, a disclaimer… I concentrated on the breweries and beers that I don’t normally see in New York City. Southampton, Ithaca, Sly Fox, Captain Lawrence, and many more of my local favorites are here representing very well. Back to my faves… a few months ago I attended the Connecticut Real Ale Fest (also a very nice festival) and met a guy named Shaun who was trying to start a brewery. Well, he’s here and brewing some absolutely outstanding beers. Shaun E Hill is his proper name and he is building a brewery from the ground up at his family farm in Greensboro, Vermont. He’s planted 100 hop vines and is aiming for a “diversified agricultural farmstead brewery”. The name will be Hill Farmstead Brewery and it will hopefully be open in March of 2008. I started with the very nice Terra Madre Spring Saison, brewed with hand-cut dandelions, hand-picked lilac flowers, and honey. Really good, and interesting to boot. Next up, the Seraphin “Saison of the Highest Order”, 6% ABV, a wild saison, also very tasty. Last was the Black Star Stout, a very nice (yeah, I need better descriptives…) Belgian-style stout. I was very impressed with Shauns’ beers and am looking forward to trying more. It’s always exciting to see a new craft brewery! Moving on to Boulevard Brewery and their George Brett beer. A bretted saison – yeah! They had the ’06 and the ’07 – both nice, although very different, as you would expect. The ’06 was all farmhouse funk, while the younger ’07 was a nice saison with just a touch of funk. Both good. I’d had several recommendations for Bullfrog at this point – how could I resist? I grabbed a glass of the tasty Sour Black & Blues – aged in a 2nd generation Bourbon barrel (which had previously been inoculated with a wild yeast) – oh yeah, nicely fruity, sour, funky – everything I love in a beer. Bullfrog is a brewpub located in Pennsylvania. Terry, the brewer, and Nate, the assistant brewer, are doing a fine job – they told me they generally keep 9-12 beers on tap and have a barrel cellar downstairs with about 6 beers aging at a time. A Pennsylvania beer trip is definitely in my future. Sustenance was badly needed at this point. Red Lion Vending & Catering was selling lunch on one side of the tent. Steve & I had sliced prime rib sandwiches ($8 each) with a side of fries ($3). Wow – I’ve had a lot of fest food and this really was some of the best. Another brewery I’d been hearing great things about – Cambridge Brewing Company. I had had several of their outstanding beers at the Extreme Beer Fest and was happy to revisit. The Cerise Cassee (barrel-fermented wild sour ale), the Tripel Threat, and the L’Amour du Jour were all fantastic (really, I’m not exaggerating, I didn’t have a bad beer all day). Will Meyers is the head brewer at Cambridge – I look forward to visiting next time I’m in Boston. My last visit of the day was the Shelton Brothers table – Will Shelton was in attendance. I’d had a very nice Tsjeeses earlier and was back to try the Pannepot vs Pannepøt. I’ll be honest, my satiated palate could not detect a difference, but they were both good, a spicy brown sugar – carbonated, dry, and sweet – liquid candy!
I need a crack waffle (really, those crispy sweet Lieges waffles) and a nap. More coverage tomorrow….
Ah, it’s finally here! Belgian Comes to Cooperstown at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York. This is one of the Northeast’s premier beer festivals. We had purchased tickets months ago. Attendance was limited this year – the 200 VIP tickets (at $120 a pop) sold out in a mere 5 days. We were lucky enough to buy early. $120 might sound like a lot, but it includes a VIP brewers dinner, a 750 ml bottle of the new Ommegeddon (being debuted at the festival), 2 Ommegeddon glasses, Friday and Saturday night camping and admission to the Saturday beer tasting (which includes both Belgian beer and American-brewed Belgian style beer). Quite the deal, really. We arrived a little after 3 yesterday afternoon. It’s cloudy, extremely windy, cool, and now it’s raining – not a great weather start, but we’re kids in a candy store regardless. We headed for the check-in table and received our yellow wristband and Chouffe hats. Up to the campsite, got the tent up and staked (cause it is really windy!), and headed over to a friend’s shelter. The beer was flowing – way too many to list, but highlights include Russian River Temptation batch 2, a mini-keg of Bell’s Oberon, several New Glarus and lots more tasty treats. We mosied down to the big tent at 7 for appetizers and drinks. What a spread! Mixed salamis, pate, 2 cheeses – a hop cheese and a beer-washed cheese, and veggies. The bar was directly across: pouring Duvel, the brand new Ommegeddon, and McChouffe. We found a seat with friends and started munching. There were eye-catching menus at each place setting listing the courses and the suggested beer pairings. The first course was Big John’s locally-made Ommegang beer brats served with a red cabbage salad. The brats were fantastic! Next up was a Belgian endive salad with Ommegang beer dressing. The mussels and frites served next were fantastic – the frites were hot, crisp and fresh. Hellman’s mayonnaise was on the tables to dip in. Oh – all the food was brought out from the cooking tent behind in large bowls or platters to be passed around family style. The main course was roasted stuffed pork, pork bellies stuffed with liverwurst, oven-roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts. The pork was amazing – and served with a scrumptious gravy (like mom used to make, you know?) and a plum sauce. The gravy was so good I was tempted to lick my plate clean! Really. Next out were plates of cheese and fruit followed by dessert – puff pastry served with vanilla ice cream and a berry sauce. The perfect end to a tasty meal. Brewery Ommegang really went above and beyond the with quality and quantity of food – three cheers! Oh, and you might be wondering about the beer pairings, right? Between every 6 or so place settings was a trough of beer. Rodenbach red, Rodenbach Grand Cru, Maredsous 10, Ommegang Witte, Three Philosophers, Hennepin, Rare VOS, and the Abbey. Multiple bottles of each – enough for everyone to pair the proper beer with each course. And, of course, McChouffe, Duvel, and the Ommegeddon were available at the front bar – no shortage of beer! The very special Ommegang Kriek (“Don’t ask, it isn’t for sale at any price”, stated the menu) was passed around with the dessert course – the crowning cap to the meal. Back to the campsite for more beer, lively conversation, cigars for some, and eventually to bed. I hydrated well, so I woke up quite cheerful this morning. It’s cleared up and is warm – the perfect weather! A nice hot shower was had (again, props to Ommegang!) a bit of Dogfish Head Festina Lente, and I was good to go. More later….
(and thanks to Eric, Ommegang’s IT guy for hooking me up to the net!)