Philly Beer Week: 8 Days down… 2 to go!

It’s been eight days since Philly Beer Week officially kicked off at the Independence Visitor Center and the grand finale has yet to come. What better week to extend by a few days?!?! I’ve never made an effort to fully experience the sights, sounds, and suds of the city wide celebration until this year. Armed with the official PBW 2012 iPhone app, I carefully mapped out the events I wanted to attend. You really need a well thought plan with literally hundreds of events ranging from tap takeovers, opportunities to meet the brewers from around the world, food/beer pairing dinners, classes and a slew of other beer-centric shindigs. Here’s where my adventures have taken me:

Friday – Opening Tap – Independence Visitor Center
After the Mayor tapped the third annual firkin of Brotherly Suds on a gloomy evening, we shuffled into the Visitors Center to sample the best local breweries had to offer. Many brewers were there pouring some limited releases. The crowds were manageable but there were too many new beers to recall all the standouts. I do remember enjoying new offerings from Yards and Boxcar, Manayunk Brewery’s Grand Cru, Dogfish’s 75 Minute IPA and a sour quad aged 17 months by Stoudts. Good to see a big Barley Legal crew out to support Vince and Lappy receive kudos for Belge.

Saturday – Appel Arts and Music Festival
Okay not exactly a Philly Beer Week event, but a great time nonetheless. Beautiful venue and perfect weather! Flying Fish was the beer vendor so we stayed hydrated. Tedeschi Trucks Band headlined and played a great twilight set to close the fest. Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra were pretty good too. More to come later about this one.

Sunday – Rest
REALLY wish I went out on this day. That is all…

Monday – Belge Release Party – Iron Hill
Iron Hill in Maple Shade hosted their Belge release party with two of the collaborators behind the brew: Chris LaPierre and Vince Masciandaro. Their trip to Belgium is well documented on other sites if you want to read more. Along with the peat smoked blonde, the Hill offered a flight of beers from both Iron Hill and Brasserie Dupont. Dupont BelÅ“il and Iron Hill’s Saison were my favorite. As an added bonus the “Three Stooges” brewed and homebrew clone to compare to the Belge. I found it more malty with less up front smoke, but equally as enjoyable as the real deal.

Tuesday – Celebration of Sours! – Eulogy
This was more of a pilgrimage then a night out. Eulogy is known for it’s wonderful collection of Belgian beers, but this was an achievement even for them. Phenomenal sours and two I’d consider the best I’ve ever had: Hanssens Gueuze from a firkin and Cantillon St Lamvinus on draft. Truly incredible blends and beers I’ll remember long after Beer Week.

Wednesday – Dunkel Dare – Frankford Hall
Marc Summers. Physical Challenges. Slime. Authentic German beer and food. What better way to spend a beautiful Wednesday with friends? The place was packed as Marc Summers hosted a round of “Dunkel” Dare the same way I remember it from the early 90’s. Great Lakes beat Vicorty and I hear they went on to win it all. Victory did, however, have the better selection on draft, including Summer Love and Prima Pils. The night was complete after a Franziskaner and some green slime.

Thursday – Farmers Cabinet/Boilermaker
Both bars had some really unique events this night so I went bar hopping. The first stop at the Cabinet featured three brewers offering eight variations of the same low alcohol base beer. Surprise, they were pretty much all sour! Stillwater had saisons spiced with different teas (vanilla chai was my favorite), Evil Twin made eight “Bikini” beers of various IBU’s, but the standout was Cabinet’s golden ales. Each variation was aged on different wood. The cherry wood and hard maple versions were both great with subtle differences. The Sour Bikini collaboration by Jeppe and Terry was awesome as well.

Boilermaker featured two breweries I’ve been especially excited to try: Tired Hands and McKenzie. The tap list was great with a lot of each breweries beers, but they’d have to wait. I was here for the blends. There one light and one dark featured beer. The dark variation, a blend of Tired Hands’ Guillemot and Mckenzie’s Dark and Stormy was a wild ale with so many complex flavors. Definitely a favorite of the week.

Friday – Rest

Thats it for now. Enjoy the last bit of PBW. I’m off to brunch.

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Help New Jersey Craft Brewers!

Monday is a big day for craft beer in the Garden State. New Jersey’s Senate Law and Public Safety Committee will be voting on a bill that will bring some significant changes to the craft beer business. Some of the most noted changes are:

  • Allows one company to open more than two brewpubs
  • Allows production breweries to sell beer for on and off premise consumption
  • Allows breweries and pubs to conduct informational tastings on and off premise
  • Allows brewpubs to distribute beer through wholesale network

The law in New Jersey currently prohibits the amendments listed above and are a real hindrance to the breweries in the state. Passing this bill would not only be a huge win for the breweries, but consumers alike. It would provide more opportunities to experience the craft beers New Jersey has to offer, create jobs and encourage tourism. Sounds like a win-win, right?

You can help NOW! Please email or call the members of Senate Law and Public Safety Committee by the end of this week and let them know you support this bill. This is an opportunity to directly influence the direction of craft beer in New Jersey.

Visit the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild for information. A copy of the bill can be found HERE

Members of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee

Norcross, Donald – Chair
Audubon Commons Shopping Center
130 Blackhorse Pike
1st Floor
Suite D-3
Audubon, NJ 08106
(856) 547-4800
sennorcross@njleg.org

Greenstein, Linda R. – Vice-Chair
7 Centre Dr.
Suite 2
Monroe, NJ 08831-1565
(609) 395-9911
sengreenstein@njleg.org

Bateman, Christopher
36 East Main St.
Somerville, NJ 08876
(908) 526-3600
senbateman@njleg.org

Holzapfel, James W
852 Highway 70
Brick, NJ 08724
(732) 840-9028
senholzapfel@njleg.org

Sacco, Nicholas J.
9060 Palisade Ave.
North Bergen, NJ 07047
(201) 295-0200
sensacco@njleg.org

A couple news stories of interest

We’re only two weeks into 2012 and there’s already been some headlines that caught my attention. They aren’t stories making national headlines on CNN or Fox News, but in the world of beer I find them pretty significant. There were two breweries I consider local in the news and one legislative bill signed by Governor Christie.

1. Yuengling named the largest American owned brewery

With year-end sales being reported, it’s official that Yuengling will surpass Boston Beer Co. as the largest American owned brewery. This distinction has been held by Boston Beer Co. since 2008. It’s important to note that the amount of barrels produced by these breweries are pale in comparison to Anheuser-Busch, Miller Coors, and Pabst who are all owned by companies outside the US. To give you an example, Anheuser-Busch (Purchased by InBev in 2008) sold a reported 98.8 million barrels compared to 2.7 million by Yuengling in 2011!

It’s hard to say whether Yuengling is still considered a craft beer in the mind of the consumer, but it once was. Both the Black and Tan and Porter were offered long before the new craze for dark, complex beers (i.e. smoked, bourbon aged, etc..). Whenever we would secure keg of it in the college days it was considered very highbrow. There was something about the old Hoff Stevens two-pronged tap that seemed fancy. Having seen their expansion first hand, I applaud the company for their achievement.

I think it’s interesting to see two breweries who started as local craft beers topping the list of sales leaders in the beer industry. Yuengling’s ability to pass Boston Beer Co. has been contributed to their expansion of distribution to Ohio near the end of 2011. What’s more compelling is the potential for more breweries with modest beginnings growing to this level as the craft beer market continues to grow. How breweries handle expansion while maintaining the craft quality is one major factor that will define a craft brewery in the coming years.

2. Sam Calagione calls out beer snobs

One of the founding father’s of Dogfish Head Brewery responded to a discussion on Beer Advocate regarding the most overrated breweries. If you haven’t seen it, the entire thread can be found here. In typical Sam fashion, he was very outspoken and let his opinion on the subject be known. Only in the ever-expanding craft beer world would you find an owner engage in such candid discussion about their industry on an internet forum.

For the record I LOVE Dogfish and also enjoy looking on Beer Advocate, so I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand I commend Sam for sticking up for his brewery. If you look at some of the beers discussed in the thread he’s right. Many of the best craft breweries are bashed for one unwarranted reason or the other on Beer Advocate. He also makes the point that taste is in the eye of the beholder. Since Beer Advocate is a site dedicated to rating beers, this is even more applicable. That’s just like, your opinion… man.

On the other hand I think the phrase, “You can’t please all the people all the time” applies. Haters are gonna hate. Beer Advocate provides a forum for strong opinionated beer lovers to debate topics like this. I don’t view the negativity as a hindrance to the future growth of craft beer. The small percentage of people who post to the website don’t represent the entire market. I’m sure for every one person with a negative opinion on Beer Advocate there are hundreds of others who consider them exceptional. Yeah, I made that last stat up, but I’m sure it’s not far off the mark. Even if a really great, small startup brewery receives some flack on Beer Advocate, their beer will shine through if the product is good.

3. Governor Christie passes bill eliminating homebrew license in NJ

Buried within a myriad of legislative bills signed by the Governor earlier this week was one that eliminated the requirement to possess a license to brew beer at home. This law was eliminated almost as quietly as it was enforced. For the past 21 years any homebrewer in the Garden State was required to fill out an application, pay $15 and receive a permit to brew up to 200 gallons of homebrew per year. This license would need to be renewed annually.

When I started getting into the hobby I heard about the license and thought I should apply just to be safe of any potential penalties. After meeting other homebrewers it was obvious a very small percentage actually secured a license. Many new brewers never even knew it was a requirement. It’s not common for a state issued license to be homebrew requirement. Just recently I discovered that anyone in possession of this license agreed to be subject of state alcoholic beverage regulators. This essentially means the state could pay your home a visit at anytime, although I’m sure this didn’t happen too often. Regardless, here’s to the state getting rid of such nonsense. P R I V A C Y is priceless to me. (If you’re a Pearl Jam fan, hopefully you get this one!)