Friday, December 28, 2007

A Little Western PA Tour

I hope that everyone had a nice Christmas (for those who observe) and/or break and got to enjoy good beer!

Neither my or my wife's families exchanged gifts this year, except of course for the kids ... can't ignore the nephews! Regardless, I still ended up with a gift card to Marzoni's and an 'official' 2006 Oktoberfest München ceramic 0.5L mug on Christmas Eve. For Christmas day, I was drinking Avalanche IPA (which I'd purchased with the former) out of the latter. It was a nice day.

Yesterday, friends and fellow brewers Dave and Justin (Muckney Brewing) and I got in my car and headed out of town for a day of sampling and purchasing. Friend Eli (Four Eyed Geek) was not able to go, though he sent a cooler with empty growlers and cash in his stead; and Jon (no link) was working, but had just returned from a successful beer trip to the Detroit area.

After gathering everyone/thing, we grabbed some caffeine for the road at Indiana's own Commonplace Coffee and took off. First stop for the day (after a brief detour to my parents' house) was North Country Brewing in Slippery Rock. Here we had lunch and some samples. Dave & Justin each got a sampler tray, while I had a pint of the Dubble Trouble and the cask Amber. The cask amber was terrific!

From Slippery Rock, we headed down I-79 into Cranberry, where we each got a sampler tray at the Hereford & Hops. I thought that most were mediocre at best, though the Portersville Porter (Baltic porter) was above average.

Next, as rush hour was about to commence, we headed down Route 19 into Wexford to the first of two beer stores for the evening, 3 Sons Dogs & Suds. I find that 3 Sons is a bit cheaper than D's SixPax & Dogz for many beers, though the selection is a bit smaller. I grabbed a Lindemans Framboise and Chimay Bleu for my wife (both her favorites), and a Hoppin' Frog BORIS the Crusher for myself. Dave & Justin found good offerings, too.

From 3 Sons, we slogged our way down Route 19 to McKnight Road, then over Babcock Blvd to Country Wines for some homebrewing supplies. They had reorganized some things since I was last in - seemed a bit more roomy, anyway. I grabbed a few essential equipment pieces for friend/neighbor/colleague Erick, who's going to brew his first batch of beer over Xmas break in my kitchen. Lookin' forward to bringing yet another person over to the wonderful world of brewing!

By now, it was dark and rush hour in full swing. It was also time for growler hours (5-7pm) at East End Brewing! So, down Babcock and over to 28 North until the Highland Park Bridge, etc, etc. East End was slammed by the time we got there ... must have been at least 20-30 cars parked in the street and it was a fairly long wait to get our growlers filled. I think a lot of people go there to get free tastings and bullshit, though I hope they all buy something to support Scott. (see interview I did with Scott here)

I picked up a growler of the Grisette and a bottle of the Three Year Anniversary Ale; Dave & Justin got their fill, and we got more stuff for Eli. Snow Melt and The Bitter End were running, and last year's batch of Gratitude was back on sale.

By now, we were all hungry again and had one more stop to make: D's SixPak in Edgewood. After waiting for a table (man, it was slammed in there too!), we grabbed a draft and some food and then geared up to peruse the wares in the Beer Cave. I was particularly excited, because I had a $50 gift certificate that I'd purchased for $25 in October.

I grabbed 8 bottles, totaling just over $50, but they were ones I've been meaning to try for a while - along with a few spur-of-the-moment choices. A few interesting ones were Nøgne Ø 100, Avery The Beast and Avery Samäel's Oak-Aged Ale (note the particularly poetic rating by krisbierjaeger, who offers wonderful notes on beer tasting!), DFH Raison d'Extra and a few other goodies.

These buys, along with a few trades/gifts from Jon (including Founders Breakfast Stout, some Jolly Pumpkin offerings, and probably what will be my 2000th beer rating - Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock).

All in all, it was another enjoyable and successful year end voyage and shopping trip (last year I was at State Line Liquors in Maryland) and I look forward to drinking and sharing many of the finds with my buddies listed above (and looking forward to trying some of their finds, too)!

In case I don't get a chance before the next post; Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Catching Up

My, how time flies.

For those who check in regularly, my apologies. I'm still here, still drinking beer, still reading others' blogs - but unfortunately ignoring my creative writing outlet that is this blog. But, the semester is over, grades are in, and I'm looking forward to some time away from the office.

So what has been going on?

I've tried about 40 new beers since my last post, which included some road trips to Marzoni's for Bill's Wheat Wine, Otto's in State College (twice!) for some cask Amarillo Pale Ale, Five Year Ale, and some Ottonator and to Rivertowne Pour House in Monroeville for several offerings. The first trip to State College was pseudo-business related - just a flying day trip up and back and the second was because my brother came in from Idaho and the two of us did some bar hopping last week. I had several tasty Belgian beers while at Zeno's, which never disappoints (St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, HOTD Fred, Ichtegems Grand Cru, and Smuttynose Farmhouse Ale). Great time catching up with my brother, but the ice storm we had to drive back through the next morning ... coulda done without that!

The Indiana Homebrewers Club met 'unofficially' on December 11 at The Coney for a few rounds of pints and conversation. We'll meet again officially the second Tuesday of January. We also placed some advertisements in hopes of expanding membership and getting this thing really going.

I have been very bad about homebrewing! My all grain ingredients for the second batch of Commonplace Coffee Porter still are sitting here and now with crappy weather moved in .. well, it may be a while. However, I do plan to do an extract batch or possible counter-top partial mash during Christmas break, in order to have something to share for the homebrew club's Febtoberfest. I've fallen behind my comrades in barley! (Eli and Dave & Justin) but I've been helpful watching them brew, drinking their products, etc.

I'm looking forward to visits over the break to several of my favorite establishments, including Marzoni's, North Country, East End Brewing, D's 6 Pack & Dogz, and hopefully a few others. On the Thursday after Xmas, several of us are doing a road trip to North Country, then maybe to Hereford & Hops in Cranberry, then on to D's and East End (Dave has been to neither of the latter) and I need to use up a gift certificate at D's that burning a hole in my desk drawer! If I get real ambitious, I may try to get down to Johnstown Brewing and Tulune's South Side Pub.

My wife is ready for a trip to State College, and I'll gladly go again. I'd love to get up to Williamsport and hit Bullfrog and Abbey Wright, but that's probably pushing it ;)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

2nd Homebrewers Club Meeting A Success

Last night was our second homebrewers club meeting. A few people couldn't make it, and we didn't get any new members this time. But we still had about 15 people. The highlights can be found here.

Time to recruit more people!

Monday, November 12, 2007

2nd Indiana Homebrewers Club Meeting - Preview

So tomorrow night is going to be the second meeting of the Indiana Homebrewers Club and I'm very excited. The last meeting was a great success - with 20 people showing up. Tomorrow, we're going to have (hopefully) that many and maybe a few more.

We'll start with a homebrew tasting: five or six of our members have agreed to bring a six pack of their product to share a taste with everyone. I'll be one of those sharing, and will take a sixer of my Commonplace Coffee Porter (which I need to make more of next week, hopefully). After the tasting, one of our members is going to give a presentation on the basics of extract brewing (with slides and everything!). Should be a good time, and I'll comment more later on the meeting.

Did anyone brew or teach a friend to brew back on 11/3? I couldn't, unfortunately.

Voodoo Gran Met

My, how time flies. Already closing in on Thanksgiving and the light at the end of the fall semester. I sat down this evening and cracked open the fifth bottle of my Voodoo sampler pack: Gran Met, a Belgian style ale that, to me, floats out there between a tripel and a strong ale. So far, all of Matt Allyn's beers from Voodoo are technically superb. There aren't any flaws, or what I'd consider flaws (what the hell do I know, though) but the recipes all throw some sort of curve at your palate. It's refreshing, really, and you never quite know what to expect. But, it leaves many of us beer geeks a bit befuddled, even dazed (maybe that's just the high ABV), as we try to wrap our taste buds around the mix of elements that don't always get paired quite so readily as Matt has done.

Bottled. Has a sweet, clean aroma. Light honey, tripel estery profile, and mild alcohol notes. Sweet with a bit of muskiness, like a melon rind that's not quite ripe. Alcoholic notes get more and more pervasive as it warms, reminding me a bit of a European strong. Just a bit of butterscotch, but not to a fault. Light and fruity, with a hint of mild hops. Golden amber clear, with a thin white lacing head. Medium bodied, deceptively light for the amount of alcohol but probably because of the beet sugar. Medium to high effervescence, with a bit of prickly carbonic tang; could be a little smoother, but this might be helped by a little aging. Starts sweet, with honey, orange blossom, sugary sweetness and a mild hint of peppercorn. Honey Crisp cereal notes in the finish, light spicy character like teaberry gum. Bitterness is really secondary, lending more of a dry finish to the sweet malt and alcoholic notes. Alcohol warming, with a muted dry-grainy after. A little rough around the edges, and will probably improve (hopefully) with a bit of age. A decent offering and technically solid, but not as complex as I would have imagined.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How Many Homebrewers Are Out There?

I pose this question not as a survey, though you're welcome to comment and share information, but rather as the rhetorical thought that popped into my head when some friends and I were contemplating a homebrew club in our little town.

As it turns out, a lot.

The inaugural meeting of our Indiana Homebrewers Club met last Tuesday at The Coney here in Indiana. Other than word of mouth and a few fliers posted at perhaps two establishments in town, we had done no real advertising. Despite that, the attendance was amazing.

Most people had done some brewing, a few had not yet brewed. The majority were doing extract, and a few of us are familiar with partial mash and all-grain. There seemed to be a current of excitement in the room as people mingled and met fellow enthusiasts; almost a bit cathartic to find out that "hey, I'm not the only person who likes to homebrew".

Our first 'regular' meeting will be in a few weeks, and one of our more experienced brewers is going to give a presentation on the basics of extract brewing. Several of us are going to bring six-packs of homebrew to share at a small tasting.

I hope that attendance will keep around this level, and that we can craft a club that meets everyones needs. It promises to be quite an adventure.

PS - don't forget that this coming Saturday is Teach A Friend to Brew Day!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Happy Mole Day

Yeah - for any of you chem or science geeks out there - Happy Mole Day (10/23)! I plan to have several moles of "beer molecules" tonight to celebrate.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


What a beautiful fall weekend in western Pennsylvania. A tad too warm for me, considering we're 3/4 through October, but a great time to be on a trip. The leaves are turning, the sunlight is crisp and bright, and beers are rotating. The last of the summer beers are kicking, the oktoberfests are just past their peak, and the winter warmer beers wait just over the cold horizon.

We found ourselves pulling into Marzoni's in Duncansville about 2:30 yesterday afternoon. Hadn't been there in quite a while and it was killing me ;)

We walked in to find the Oktoberfest and German Hefeweizen on tap as the specials. I'd had both before in seasons past, and it was nice to see some old friends. Speaking of old friends, we found James & Jo at the bar, whom we've not seen in ages. They're getting married in a few weeks and it promises to be a good celebration. We kicked some pints back while reminiscing.

The Oktoberfest was even better than I'd remembered and hit the spot - just the right balance of malt and dry nutty hops in the finish. Unfortunately, as I was about to order up another, they announced it kicked. I wasn't the only one disappointed! The man who got half a glass down the bar from me was David Cassidy, the co-owner of Cassidy's Brew Zoo in Altoona - a retail distributor from which I've bought a fair amount of beer. James introduced us, and we chatted about the beer scene in Altoona, the challenges of running a retail vs. wholesale outlet, and the somewhat restrictive laws that affects everyone in the beer chain. As we talked, the other co-owner, Rick, arrived to join the conversation.

After another hefeweizen, I settled the tab and walked out with a growler of the Avalanche IPA for the game tonight - which I enjoyed (the beer, not the game since we lost by a field goal in the last 2 seconds).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ground Pepper, Sir?

Last night I cracked open a bomber of Voodoo White Magick of the Sun - a Belgian wit brewed with tons of spices (including 12 types of peppercorns) and fermented with a house Belgian tripel yeast. Odd conglomeration of elements, but a fairly decent brew.

Without a doubt, the most peppery beer I've tried to date. It was in the nose, and it was on the tongue. In fact, when pouring the dregs, the yeast was black-ish from the pepper. Interesting.

I can see how many will miss the more subtle notes of this beer; very delicate. As it warms up a bit, sitting in a snifter, the aromas blossom a bit more. First, there is the pepper. Undoubtedly, the strongest pepper/peppercorn aroma I’ve ever encountered. The juniper berries come next, with the sweet gin tang. A bit of orange blossom and light coriander, though not a lot. Definitely a delicate nose and easy to miss. Mild tripel sweetness and light honey. Pours with a pale dull copper-amber, hazy, with non-descript off-white head. Very little lacing. Medium watery body with medium carbonation, thin but also quenching. Starts with medium tripel-wit sweetness, wheaty yet with a chalky yeastiness. Peppercorns and sweet orange essence attack next. A spicy beer, for sure, but not overbearing. Mild watery gin taste, light coriander. Overall, a bit watery with carbonic tang. Fruity juniper and pepper finish, with light chalky tripel-yeast-sweet after. I like this, but could use a bit more body to it.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

East End Brewing Article

Here's an interview I did with Scott Smith of East End Brewing in Pittsburgh.

This link goes to the article on

A Step in the Wrong Direction

Pennsylvanians already pay 81% tax on their alcohol .. Allegheny County wants to tack on another 10%.

For more information, see Stop Drink Tax.

Why, you ask, does Dan Onorato want this approved by the State? Because of the Pittsburgh Port Authority and it's clusterf**k situation, which you can read about here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Step in the Right Direction

A further step towards being able to buy 6-packs at the distributor rather than whole cases...

Post-Gazette article

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Voodoo 4 Seasons

What better way to start the weekend than with a tasty beer...
I cracked open Voodoo's 4 Seasons IPA before my wife and I headed to dinner with some friends. Apparently, a different recipe will be used for each of the four seasons, but as this was just released (and considering the delays experienced by Voodoo) right near the beginning of Fall, I'm not sure to what season this belongs.

From bomber. A candy sweet nose, bursting with malty richness, caramel and biscuit. The hop presence is definite, but for me the exact identity slips through my grasp - I have no idea what varietals exist in this batch. There is more floral than fruity notes in this one, with a bit of spicyness and what I associate with ozone; nothing as offensive as burnt rubber or electrical discharge, but a mild tang that permeates through the sweet nose. The beer pours with little foam production, as if it were viscous beyond splashing. The body is a coppery-amber clear, with an off-white foamy, thin lacing head. As for mouthfeel, this is a heavy watery body, not quite viscous as a barley wine but darned close. The carbonation is fairly mild throughout. The %abv is not listed, but there is no alcohol warming or vaporous contribution here, so most likely it's around 6-7%, if not lower. If it's higher, you won't know it! At first sip, you get hit by some medium sweetness; notes of caramel, sugar, and mild raw malt. The sweet character is almost immediately tempered by a good wallop of hoppy bitterness; dry and a bit spicy. Apple esters, chalky bitter resin, and light grassy notes. The finish is bitter, but not harsh, with a lasting sweet biscuit component under the hoppy bitter coating on the tongue. Overall, a really nice IPA with good balance. I look forward to the other three seasons.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Beer Education on the Radio

I listened to the following last night:

Matt Simpson on "Conversations with the Voice of the Arts" out of Atlanta.

The host doesn't have a very good radio presence, but Matt (aka TheBeerCellar) did an amazing job of educating the audience about craft beer and food pairings.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mojo in a Bottle - Voodoo's In Town

As I write this, I'm just finishing up a bomber of Voodoo Love Child; the first of six varieties from Matt Allyn's Voodoo Brewery in Meadville. Well, I should say, the first of six in the variety case that I bought this evening from Duquesne Beer Distributor (who gets their stuff from Vecenie).

Dave, Jon, Eli, and I ordered up two of the sampler cases (12 22oz bombers) and split them so that we each got one. This included: Voodoo Love Child, Grand Met, White Magick of the Sun, 4 Seasons IPA, Pilzilla, and Wynona's Big Brown Ale. With cost & tax in our little hamlet, it works out to $6.25 per bottle; not outrageous, but not the cheapest in the region.

Regardless, we've been hearing about Voodoo for a while now; via Bryson's site and Pittsburgh papers. Well, after having the Voodoo Love Child, I'm happy with the wait. I think for most of these beers, I may have to split another sampler pack or simply buy a whole case of each over time and set them in a cellar for a while. Love Child is still hot, but might be able to survive several years like a lambic and settle down a bit.

I got a bit wordy in my review, but here goes:
From bomber. Fruity vaporous aroma, with mild alcohol. Kirschwasser, cherry skins and fruity esters. Light tripel aroma with mild yeasty notes. Fruity and sweet, rich in smell. Each sniff gets you a little something different. Golden orange-pink-amber cloudy body. Starts initially with a pillowy white head, that dissipates to a thin veneer with a bit of lacing. The carbonation is fairly robust starting out, then smooths a bit as it sits. The beer itself is rather light bodied despite the flavors, no doubt helped along by the 9.5% alcohol. There is prominent warming from the start, and this would make an excellent after dinner or dessert beer on crisp Fall evenings. It starts with a subtle hit of fruit, with a dry carbonic tang that tapers off to give resonant notes of over-ripe cherries, raspberry must, and what must be passion fruit (not really familiar with the fruit itself). Alcohol and a fruity dry tartness that’s reminiscent of a Riesling, actually. The hops are subtle in flavor, but provide a lifting bitterness in the finish which helps subdue the tart fruity character. This is not an overly sweet beer, despite candy sugar on the label. The after leaves you with a nice fruity profile, mild yeast-hop bitterness, and some dry chalky coating on the palate. Overall, it’s a bit thin until you get some of the dregs in there. A little extra body and yeasty character is added by that. Would be interesting to set this down for a year and see how it cools down.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Odds & Ends

A lot's been going on for the past few weeks; hardly time to read my favorite blogs, let alone post on mine. I'm now full swing into another Fall semester, and it's time to start working evenings and weekends in order to keep from being snowed under with work and research.

Depressing news on the agricultural front for the near future of crops which go into beer. Many sites have visited this issue, so I'll just post a link to an informative discourse by Mr. Hieronymous. Go here. The folks at had a discussion of same, and many of us who homebrew (even infrequently) don't like the sounds of paying a lot more for our ingredients. Just say no to corn subsidies!

I'm still sitting on my ingredients for a second batch of coffee porter, which is worrisome because I'm almost out of the first batch. I believe that my Hennepin clone is kicked, and the number of Chimay Bleu clones is dwindling, too. Luckily, I have a whole batch of Fantôme clones that will be ready in a few weeks.

A friend of mine (Tom) who jumped head first into brewing last fall (all-grain, no less), got his hands on some soda kegs. He graciously gave me five of them with some gaskets, so I'm going to have to start playing with kegging as my new storage method. We'll most likely get together with a few others and make a large batch of his Christmas beer, which was a huge hit of his last year.

Plans are underway to start an "official" homebrew club here in Indiana. There are at least ten homebrewers I know of right now (and I'm sure more who I don't), and some people who just need a push in the right direction.

The biggest excitement of the last few weeks was how I spent last weekend. I hope to make an actual standalone post on it, but to avoid the suspense .. I was fortunate enough to be able to go to a beer festival (nothing new there), but see it from "the other side of the tap", so to speak.

Friend and Marzoni's brewmaster, Bill Kroft, graciously allowed me to accompany him to Harrisburg to the 10th Annual Capitol City beer festival, which was held at Appalachian Brewing Co I had a blast, but don't know if I could do a whole lot of those - makes for a very long day when you set up, do three 3-hour sessions, then tear down. But it was quite an eye opener to see what goes on behind the scenes and find out what it's like to serve the gamut of beer drinking personalities. I hope to write up something more insightful soon, but probably not until the weekend. Oh, if you're in Harrisburg ... McGrath's Pub is not to be missed.

As I finish up, I'll say that I'm enjoying a bottle of Clipper City Heavy Seas Red Sky At Night, a saison from Clipper City Brewing out of Baltimore. Very nice little ale, and really has some characteristics that take me back to Europe.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Stick A Pin In Me! Voodoo Available Soon.

A good article on Voodoo and Matt Allyn. Can't wait to get my hands on some of this stuff!!!
Post-Gazette article.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fantôme Clone Bottled

Tonight, with a bit of assistance from my father-in-law, I bottled the Fantôme clone. Even after the addition of all that fruit puree and with more bubbling, the F.G. was 1.000!!! It started at 1.050, fermented down, then fruit was added. It was definitely thin in body, but you could taste a bit of alcohol in there, too. Mild fruity character.

We'll see how it carbonates. I used DME to prime, which I'd not done in quite some time (was priming with corn sugar). Hopefully, that will take away a bit of the off-sweetness in some of my other homebrews.

I have the ingredients for another batch of coffee porter sitting here, but now I have to find the time in the next couple of weeks to make it!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Craft Beer Writer Michael Jackson Passed Away

As reported in tons of other beer-related places, beer guru Michael Jackson, author of the first beer book I ever owned, passed away this morning. If ever there was someone for whom to raise a glass, it'd be Mr. Jackson.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Racked Fantôme Clone to Secondary

Yesterday afternoon, I racked the Fantôme clone to secondary. The gravity was at 1.006, down quite a ways from 1.050 (although that starting gravity was lower than I had hoped for). It tasted pretty good, though it had been in primary for 8 days. A lot of crud had settled out!

I took the fruit puree (see below) and heated it to 160 F for 10 minutes, then cooled and poured into the bottle of my carboy. On top of that, I racked the beer from primary and about mid-volume, added 5 drops of pectic enzyme.

I checked it last night and it was throwing off a little gas, so I guess fruit sugar conversion is working. I'm going to let this sit for three weeks and see where I'm at. I'm really looking forward to this one.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Franziskaner (Revisited) A Success

Cracked open a bottle of the second batch of Franziskaner clone that was (mainly) brewed by some friends as their first homebrewing experience. I guess my supervision was successful, because the beer tasted fine. Still that odd sweet flavor at the end that's most likely from priming with dextrose rather than DME (or, maybe a hot side aeration issue). Regardless, the Weihenstephan yeast strain did a nice job. Nice banana clove esters in this one.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fantôme Clone - Adding Juice?

So the Beer Captured recipe calls for adding some fruit juice to the secondary along with some pectic enzyme. I looked around my local markets and could find no acceptable version of either strawberry or raspberry juice (suggested in book). Any juices that I did find usually had ascorbic acid added and extra sugar.

So, I decided to make my own version. I picked up two quarts of strawberries, two pints of raspberries, and one pint of blackberries. Well, I ended up putting berries in the blender, then straining them - so really I ended up with a mass of fruit puree rather than clear juice. I'm hoping that it will do what it's supposed to do, with the aid of pectic enzyme, and add some nice tart flavor in there. Or it could be a disaster!

I'll keep ya posted.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

All-Grain Fantôme Clone

Today I brewed a Fantôme saison clone, using a recipe from Beer Captured. I'm getting quicker ... I started the mash at 1 p.m. (of course, it took a while to filter and heat water) and it was chilled and in the bucket by 6 p.m.

*10.5 lb 2-row Pilsner malt
*1 lb wheat malt
*6 oz aromatic malt
*1/2 oz Hallertau Hersbrucker (60 min)
*1 oz East Kent Goldings (60 min)
*1/4 oz East Kent (15 min)
*1/2 oz bitter orange peel (15 min)
*1/2 tsp coriander seed (15 min)
*1/4 tsp grains of paradise (15 min)
*1/4 tsp coriander seeds (2 min)
*1/4 tsp ground black pepper (2 min) (my deviation)

Pitched with Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes.

My O.G. was much lower than the recipe specified, which is a first for me. Not sure why yet, but it's still at 1.050 which should still give a decent result.

Thanks to both Dave (dpjuart) and Eli (foureyedgeek) for the company and brewing assistance. Dave brought some of his homebrews down, along with a few summer Saranac beers and a Southampton Double White Ale. Eli brought over a bottle of Cadillac Mountain Stout.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Coffee Porter is Delicious

OK, so I'm going to toot my own horn, but I have to say that the coffee porter finally is carbonated well and damn if it doesn't taste fine. It the best beer I've brewed to date, and I will definitely make this again. It should get even better in the coming months.

In the meantime, I think the next batch is going to be an all-grain saison. I brought back some culinary lavender from Washington state and might throw in a teaspoon or so.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Seattle Pub Crawl

Today was our last day of vacation - well, technically I'm on 'vacation' tomorrow but will be on airplanes most of the day.

We checked out of the hotel and put everything in the rental car, then walked down to Pike Place Market. After looking around for a bit, we were seated on the second floor of Lowell's for breakfast. Pretty good breakfast grub; not as good as The Oak Table in Sequim, but the view of Puget Sound made up for it.

After breakfast, we walked around a bit; Mom did some shopping. A lot of the stores on the lower levels weren't open yet. After a brief tour, we decided to split up for the day and meet back at the hotel at 7pm. I walked around some more, picked up another memory card for my digital camera, and a souvenir t-shirt for my nephew (he's obsessed with the Space Needle right now, so what better place to buy a shirt!).

Right at 11am, I was waiting outside the door of Pike Pub & Brewery. I had tried a few of these long ago, well before I joined RateBeer, and was anxious to get some notes. I wasn't disappointed. I took a nice long break and enjoyed the following samples: Naughty Nellie's Ale, Pale Ale, Weisse, Bitter (FSB), IPA, Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale, Monk's Uncle Tripel, XXXXX Stout, and Tandem Double Ale. I also bought a bottle of 2006 Old Bawdy Barley Wine to bring back.

After that session, it was time for a bit of a stroll. I went downstairs to Western Avenue and found Market Cellar Winery, which back in 1995 was called Liberty Malt Supply. It was here that I bought my first homebrewing book, a second edition Papazian "Joy of Homebrewing". There are still beer supplies now, but the wine stuff seemed more prevalent. I picked up three beer books (two on half-price) from the Classic Beer Style Series: Porter, German Wheat Beer, and Belgian Ales.

From this area, I walked for a nice long distance up to Elysian Brewing Company. By the time I got here, I was hungry for lunch. I had a small beer sampler before getting my steak & frites with bleu cheese. Unfortunately, I couldn't handle another big session of sampling after Pike, so I stuck with the basics. Plus, you can't just choose any old beer for your sampler at Elysian. They do it for you, no matter what you ask for. They were also out of two beers I was hoping to try while there. The bartender was also my server, and I wasn't too impressed with him or his attitude. Regardless, the food was pretty good and the beers weren't bad. I tried Hydra Hefeweizen, The Wise ESB, The Immortal IPA, Perseus Porter, Prometheus Stolen Fire IPA, and Dragonstooth Stout. I also bought a bottle of Avatar Jasmine IPA to bring back with me.

Time for more walking! I headed back toward the water for the long jaunt to Pioneer Square, the older district of Seattle. I had forgotten just how hilly some parts of the city can be .. really gave the calves a workout. After walking to and around Pioneer Square, I settled on another beer break at The Collins Pub, where I chose a bottle of 2006 Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws. Yum.

After that, I started heading back toward the area of the hotel - taking my time and checking out the city and the people. I was cornered for a bit by an ambitious college girl named Jasmin who was stumping for Greenpeace. Tried to get me to sign up and rally against global warming, etc. But as I was in no hurry and a bit buzzed, I explained to her about the local problems of abandoned mine drainage which isn't as much of a problem in Seattle. That threw her for a loop and I bid adieu as her eyes started glazing over.

I decided to grab a light sandwich before meeting the parents, and ended up at theTwo Bells Tavern. I enjoyed a Mac and Jack's African Amber Ale with my burger and chicken & lime soup.

Shortly thereafter, I met my parents and we headed out to the airport hotel. After dropping off the rental car, I enjoyed a few more West Coast beers in my room (had no more room in the suitcase), namely Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale and Widmer Bros. Broken Halo IPA.

After this, it was time for bed because I had a 4am wakeup call in order to make my 6am flight to Salt Lake.

All in all - a damn fine trip.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Waterfalls, Lavender, and Seattle

This morning, we headed over to the best breakfast place that I have ever had the fortune to visit: The Oak Table Cafe. After all of these years, it was still terrific ... how one place can make the best bacon and eggs with side of pancakes so far beyond any other I've tried ... it just blows my mind.

After fattening up and checking out of the hotel, we started west again on Highway 101. We stopped by Sunny Farms, a really nice farm market and picked up a few munchies & drinks for the day. It was raining out, but that's rather typical for this area.

We drove through Port Angeles and out to Crescent Lake, where we stopped midway to take the hike to Marymere Falls. Even with the drizzle, it turned out to be a very nice hike and not crowded at all. Even got to see some banana slugs.

From Marymere Falls, we headed back towards Port Angeles and decided to take a small side trip up the Elwha River. All the different times that we'd been past that park entrance and never went ... odd. Anyway, it was really pretty up that way, despite the fog and rain, and we got some great shots of one of the reservoirs.

From there, it was time to gas up in Port Angeles. At that point, I grabbed the local paper: thePeninsula Daily News. Why? The day before, two very bizarre (one tragic) incidents occurred. The first was some idiot who got drunk and led police on a high speed chase through downtown. Not that odd, except for how it ended .. his car drove off a pier and flew 180 feet into the bay. Yeehaw! See this article for the amusing details.

The second article was more tragic in that later I found out that one person actually died. A family was coming down off of Hurricane Ridge and lost control of their RV, rammed several cars, and went off into a 20-foot deep ravine. "Luckily", this happened closer to town, and not way up in the hills, where a vehicle could plunge several hundreds of feet. That article is here.

Our last stop before leaving the Olympic Peninsula was in Sequim at the Purple Haze Lavender Farm. This is one of my wife's favorite shops (last time we brought home several splays of dried lavender on the plane), so since she couldn't be with us both I and my mom picked her up some lavender stuff.

At last, it was time to bid au revoir to the Olympics and head to Seattle. We drove down and caught the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry just in time for downtown Seattle rush hour. Good times! The trip over was nice, though very overcast and cold. We didn't have far to drive to make it to the hotel over on 5th Avenue (right next to the Monorail tracks).

After all of the driving and rainy weather, we decided to just stroll down the block to find a place to eat. We were recommended to Amore, a small bistro, and were not disappointed! During dinner, I tried an Alpine Weizen Bock and a Maritime Pacific Imperial IPA. Food was delicious!

After this late dinner, the parents were ready to retire. I watched a bit of TV but was still keyed up, so I decided to walk down 5th for a while. It was almost balmy (for Seattle) and the rain had stopped; perfect evening for a stroll. Within 15 minutes, I round myself walking into the Seattle location of Rock Bottom. I ambled up to the bar for a sampler and tucked in. I sampled Daylight, Faller Wheat, Peashooter Pale Ale, Rain City Red, Brown Bear Brown, Flying Salmon Stout, and Hop Bomb IPA. This was my first experience at a Rock Bottom, though I'd tried a few at festivals. I still have not been to the one in Pittsburgh (Homestead) and I'm still not in a hurry.

The more interesting part of the experience was striking up a convo with the guy two seats down at the bar ... long story short: he was up from L.A., first time in Seattle. Turns out he's originally from Williamsport, PA and had two siblings who attended the university where I teach. Furthermore, it turns out he's the brother-in-law of the lawyer who did the closing on my house two years ago. Small world freakyness!!

After that, I walked back to the hotel and called it a night.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Day in Victoria

Today was the Victoria trip. After a quick cup of java in Sequim, we drove to Port Angeles, parked, and caught the 8:20 ferry to Victoria, B.C. When we lived in Sequim, it seemed like every time we would take guests to Victoria, something interesting would happen on the ferry. Like the trip in May 1995 when the Northwest Cross-Dressers convention took a tour that day. Tons of men dressed as women (some with their wives in tow) were on the ferries over and back, and all over town. Quite a show, that trip.

Today we experienced a burial at sea. It was raining out, so we were inside the entire time and couldn't see what might have been going on. But once we were out of the harbor and into the Straight of Juan de Fuca, they stopped and had the ceremony before heading on to Canada.

Once we got over, I oriented my parents at the visitor's center. After that, since they wanted to see stuff that I already had seen - we decided to meet back up at 7pm to catch the ferry back to Port Angeles.

I started by walking around and seeing what had changed since my last visit in 2000. Hard to tell, really, but I decided to try some beer places (2000 visit was pre-beer rating) that I'd not visited. First, I stopped by the gift shop at the Vancouver Island Brewery. I've never tried their stuff, and I didn't get a chance this time either. I did, however, buy a pack of beer trivia playing cards.

Next I walked (and walked) until I reached Spinnakers Spirit Merchants. I was looking for any interesting beers and also some farigoule (thyme flavored liquor), on the off chance they had it (which they didn't).

For lunch, I stopped at Spinnakers Brewpub. I tried several beers before having a nice mushroom soup and smoked fish platter. Then I tried some more beers. These included Doc Hadfield's Pale Ale, Dunkelweizen, Hefeweizen, Honey Pale Ale, Iceberg Pale Ale, IPA, Jameson's Scottish Ale, Mitchells ESB, and Titanic Stout.

After that meal, I was ready for another walk. So, I headed back along the harbor until I crossed back over into the downtown area. My next stop took me to Swans Buckerfield Brewery at the Swan Hotel. A beer sampler included Appleton Brown Ale, Buckerfield's Bitter, Extra IPA, Pandora Pale Ale, Raspberry Ale, and Swans Oatmeal Stout.

The rain had stopped and the sun was now out - time for more strolling. Next, I wandered over for a single pint of River Rock Bitter at the Canoe Brewpub. While there, I asked about getting some good Thai food, and was directed to Baan Thai on Blanshard Street. It was a nice little walk up there, and by the time I reached the restaurant, it was dinner time. Good stuff! My head was sweaty by the time I'd finished, always a good sign in spicy eating!

I did some more meandering through town, now too thoroughly stuffed for more beer (travesty!). I did stop at a smoke shop and pick up a Cuban cigar for the boat ride back (tradition for me). I then met my parents and caught the ferry back to Port Angeles.

I capped off the day with a Deschutes Obsidian Stout.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Off To The Olympics (Mountains, That Is)

We left Vancouver just after 8am and headed up I-5. It was a beautiful day and perfect for a scenic drive. In a short time, we were in Olympia, where we left the interstate and headed up highway 101. This led us up the western shore of the Hood Canal, a very nice drive. I was surprised at the little amount of traffic for July ... perhaps because it was Monday?

Regardless, it was a painless drive on 101, which eventually led us into our destination of Sequim. Sequim (pronounced "skwim") has a special place in my heart because Dana and I both had a nine-month fellowship at Battelle here in 1995. It has been, and continues to be, a hot spot for retirees moving up from California. In fact, the average age is 68 (shudder). The town has really changed a lot, but at least the major attractions (nature) is still there.

After checking into the Sequim West Inn (meh), we drove to Port Angeles and had lunch at the Crabhouse. Unfortunately, they no longer carried the delicious fried razor clams. I did enjoy the shrimp, though, and my dad said that those were the best fried oysters he had ever had. During lunch, I was able to get two local draughts: Dabob Bay IPA and Dosewallips Special, both from the Hood Canal Brewery in Kingston.

After lunch, we walked around a bit in downtown before stopping at Swain's General Store. I bought the hydrometer, thermometer, and carboy that I still use today at Swains in 1995.

From here, it was time for some nature, so we drove up to Hurricane Ridge for a while to look around. Beautiful as always, were were extremely lucky to have good weather on this day. The next two days were solid rainy. Got some great pics and again saw a black bear (always do when I go up there). Coming back down the mountain, I again thought how tricky that road would be in a large vehicle (like a bus or RV). I wondered if there were ever any accidents. Oddly enough, tomorrow there will be one (more on that tomorrow).

From Hurricane Ridge, we drove back to Sequim, where I showed my parents where we used to live, work, and hang out. We stopped down at Port Williams and walked along the beach a bit. The end of the day was capped off by dinner at The 3 Crabs in Dungeness. I re-enjoyed Alaskan Amber on tap.

Later at the hotel, I had an Wapati IPA from Portland Brewing Co..

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Heading to Portland

We left this morning at about 9:15 Boise time and headed over to Portland via I-84. Hit the same long construction zone from Friday's Hells Canyon trip, but once we got past that, all went well.

Not much to mention for this day, other than a lot of driving again. Pretty desolate in eastern Oregon, with some forest land here and there. The drive got more interesting once we hit the Columbia River and the gorge closer to Portland.

Once we were about 35 miles out of Portland, we got off I-84 and took the scenic highway which takes you past several waterfalls, such as Horsetail, Bridal Veil, and Multnomah and ultimately up to the Vista House, the best view from any rest stop I've ever been to.

It'd been a long day, so after we checked into the hotel in Vancouver, WA, we had dinner at a local restaurant and called it an early night. I didn't fret too much, since at some point in my life I plan to visit Portland for at least a week to hit all the different breweries and pubs for which they are so famous. Tonight I settled on a Deschutes Black Butte Porter at dinner, and then a bottle each of Redhook Long Hammer IPA and Deschutes Bachelor ESB at the hotel before turning in.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Jail & Sockeye

So after yesterday's lonnnggg journey, we decided to chill out in Boise for the day, do some laundry, etc. After a leisurely breakfast, we headed to the east side of Boise to visit the Old Idaho Penitentiary. Interesting, but also rather depressing.

Next, we had a late lunch at the Sockeye Brewery, a brewpub in west Boise. Here, we met up with a fellow RateBeerian BückDich (aka Jordan) for a few pints. He told us more about the area and we BS'd about, what else, beer. While there, I tried the Horse Thief Hefeweizen, the Dubbel Tail, some of the Dagger Falls IPA, and, for rating number 1800, the Galena Summit Kölsch Ale. Nothing fancy, I know, but it was a nice kölsch to be fair.

After lunch, Jordan had to be getting off to work (I'll now plug the Superb Sushi in downtown Boise). I gave Jordan the two Penn Brews I carried from D's 6 Pack, and he presented me with a bomber of Full Sail Black Gold Barrel Aged Impy Stout. I would have much rather been able to get him some East End Smokestack, but it wasn't out the last time I was there.

After a few errands, we headed back to my brother's place to relax. We had a late dinner again, steak and lobster tails, and played cards. During the course of the evening, I tried North Coast Pranqster, La Trappe Tripel, New Belgium Skinny Dip, and Deschutes 19th Anniversary Golden Ale.

Friday, July 13, 2007

One "Hell" of a Road Trip

Got up this morning and headed back to the Alamo in Boise to pick up our rental car (a Toyota Sienna, actually), and after yesterday's fiasco we were hoping to be placated and on our way. My brother and I show up at 8:45 and find out that the car still hadn't been cleaned.


Anyway, at 9:15, I finally get the stupid thing and we head back to my brother's house. Now we can begin our day, albeit a few hours later than we'd hoped, since it was going to be a long one.

We drove up I-84 into Oregon to Baker City, then headed on the scenic route 86 driving east towards Hells Canyon. We stopped for lunch in Halfway, Oregon at a place called Mimi's Cafe ... very nice little place to eat if you ever find yourself in Halfway.

From there, we continued on to Hells Canyon. Very nice drive the whole way, and the weather was beautiful if not a bit hot. Once you get toward the Oregon entrance to the canyon near Oxbow, you can take a 23-mile long, single lane road down to the damn and visitors center, which we did. Pretty drive and very impressive to visit. Once we got to the center, it was 105 degrees in the canyon ... felt like standing in front of a hair dryer.

On the way back out, we stopped a couple of times to pick some ripe blackberries and, of all things, apricots. Apparently back in the day, there were a couple of brothers who owned orchards in the valley before it was dammed up, and you can still find plenty to eat near the road.

From Oxbow, we continued on Rt 71 to the Oxboy Reservoir on the Snake River, where it reached the high temp of the day ... 109. Ouch. We continued on 71 to Cambridge, then took 95 to New Meadows, hooking up with 55 that took us into McCall. By this time, we got a good afternoon storm and between the rain and passing over some big hills, the temp by dinner time was 65 degrees. Quite a differential from a few hours before!

By the time we hit McCall, we were all tired of driving, and needed dinner. Didn't realized before I drove past it that there was a brewery in town. So, dinner was at the McCall Brewing Company. While there, I tried the Mountain Light, the Hefeweizen, and the IPA. I opted for fish and chips, which were absolutely horrid ... just sopped with grease and squirted when cut into. Everyone else got a roast beef sandwich, and there were pretty good. I ended up eating half of one because I couldn't stomach any more fish.

After dinner, we drove down 55 for two more hours until we reached Boise and Meridian. All tolled, we put in 430 miles in 12 hours.

I finished up the day with a Big Sky Scape Goat Pale Ale and a Kona Brewing Fire Rock Pale Ale. And we played more blackjack.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Downtown Boise

Today we all decided that after a long day of traveling, it would be best to just go to downtown Boise (about 30 minutes east) and check out the town. You can look up the pertinent facts, but suffice to say that for a state capital and small city, it is very nice and easy to get around in.

We parked downtown and spent a few hours just wandering around, checking out different parts of the downtown, window shopping, etc. Of course, as the late morning/early afternoon wore on, the clouds departed and we were now in full sunshine ... at a lovely 98 degrees. By later that afternoon, it was 102. It's true that a 'dry heat' is more tolerable than high humidity, but hot is still hot.

For lunch, we went to the TableRock Brewpub. It's a nice little restaurant near the Julia Davis Park. Over lunch, I tried a few samples as well as tastes from the beers my family enjoyed. These included the Orange Blossom Special, Laughing Dog Pale Ale, MacLobie's Scottish Ale, Peregrine Porter, St. Andrews Amber, HopHead IPA, and the Hopzilla IPA. All in all, not a bad lunch.

From there, we strolled over to the Idaho Historical Museum where we learned quite a bit about the state. Rather impressive setup considering it only costs $2 to get in.

At this point, we decided that it was time to get some groceries for dinner before picking up the rental car (more on this below), so we headed back to the car and drove over to the Boise CoOp, a very nice grocery store with huge selections of great foods. The beer selection is pretty good, including a bunch of Belgian beers, and in Idaho you can break six-packs (as with Oregon & Washington). I snagged a few to try while at my brother's place.

Now, I mentioned before about a rental car. My brother's car sat all of us, but it's a bit sporty and uncomfortable on longer trips. In addition, after my parents and my visit with my brother is over, I'm driving my parents over to the Northwest for a few days ... hence the need for a rental.

So, we head to the airport where we're told Alamo exists. Sort of. Turns out, they're not really at the airport, but about a mile away. That delayed us a bit. Originally, we were going to pick it up as late as possible because we didn't want to have to pay for an extra day (huge charge), because we'd be turning it back in Seattle in the early evening.

Well ... we get there and find out that even an extra four hours is going to cost a full day ($130!), which sucks considering a full week was only $413 when we booked it. We decided to worry about that later and take the car now, since we didn't want to have to drive back to the airport later that night or the next day.

Get everything set up, go outside. All looks well on the outside. My mom and I get in. Smells like fish. There is a tree branch in the front seat, an ice cream drink lid in the second row of seats, stains all over the floor, ice cream stain on the doors, and a child's toy in the very back. Assholes hadn't cleaned the van.

Go back in to complain. No other cars available (have to rent a corporate for one-way drives), and it will be at least an hour or more before there is someone to clean this van. Long story shorter, we leave with intentions to come back the next morning to pick up. We're assured it will be ready anytime after 6am, cleaned and ready to go. I leave a clipped message on the voice mail of the branch manager, who had left for the day (natch).

Enough of that - we head back to my brother's (now in rush hour traffic) to relax for the evening. That night we made dinner at his place: fresh sockeye salmon, grilled, and my brother made an awesome risotto. That evening, I tried a Deschutes Inversion IPA and a RJ King Wingwalker Lager, both beers my brother had bought before we arrived.

The rest of the evening we spent playing blackjack before heading off to bed.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Heading Off to Boise

Today I started my vacation. I'd been looking forward to this for a while (months) particularly since I'd be seeing my younger brother for the first time since January. He moved from Pittsburgh to Boise and will be there for a couple of years, unless he decides to stay.

Anyway, despite this excitement about traveling, I was also a bit bummed because my wife could not accompany me due to her work schedule. We'll make up for that next summer!

I left Indiana around noon and headed to Pittsburgh. I was thinking about having lunch at the Rivertowne Pour House, but decided against it because of time/traffic. I stopped at D's 6 Pack to pick up a couple of bottles to take to Idaho for a fellow RateBeerian (BückDich). I couldn't find a couple that I was hoping for, so I grabbed him two Penn offerings (St. Nikolaus and Penndemonium). I also got two bottles of Southampton (Grand Cru and Abbot 12) to have later (and I should have grabbed that 07.07.07 while it was still available!!!).

From D's, I drove to Robinson and had lunch at Bocktown. While there, I sampled the Sprague Farms Lightning Ale and the Great Lakes Prohibition Pils. Awesome fries at Bocktown.

Finally, time to head to the airport. Parked off-site and caught a shuttle over, checked in and hung out at the gate. My flight from Pittsburgh to Salt Lake City left on time, arrived early, and was without incident.

Too good to be true, of course. How foolish of me to expect with my Irish luck that the whole trip would go smoothly. Upon arrival at SLC, I found that my 45 minute layover was going to be at least a couple of hours. I was supposed to leave at 7:35, but actually left at 10:00. So, while waiting there, I sampled some Utah brews at both the Wasatch Pub and Squatter's Pub and Brewery. If you're going to be stuck at SLC for an hour or so, I recommend Squatter's.

At Wasatch, I tried the Polygamy Porter and the Hefeweizen. Now I was hungry, so I decided to have a small pizza at Squatters Pub and try their beer sampler, which included Provo Girl Pils, Full Suspension Pale Ale, Chasing Tail Ale, and Captain Bastard's Oatmeal Stout. Passable offerings, but nothing spectacular ... hardly surprising for Utah beers considering the overall religious tendencies of the state.

The flight to Boise got in by 11:00pm, and I took a cab to my brother's house out in Meridian. He had already been at the airport to pick up my parents, whose plane arrived on time two hours earlier.

By the time I arrived, everyone was pretty tired from traveling. I had a few snacks and tried a New Belgium Skinny Dip before heading off to bed.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Franziskaner Clone Revisited

This past Tuesday (July 3), I hosted a brew party with a former student and his friends who were interested in homebrewing extract batches. As they had tried the Franziskaner clone I made back in January and liked hefeweizen, they decided to go for this one as their first attempt. I followed the same recipe as before, with the exception of using the Weihenstephan yeast strain, rather than the Bavarian wheat strain.

We started around 4pm and I let them do most of the brewing work. We were finished around 7pm with the brewing. I let the wort chill just a bit longer while I grilled hot dogs and we played cornhole (like horseshoes, except with bean bags) in the back yard. Over dinner, we enjoyed some Troegs Dream Weaver Wheat and a growler of Marzoni's Avalanche IPA.

As of today, the primary was still bubbling a bit. I'll rack to secondary tomorrow or Tuesday and bottle it up in a few weeks. I'll keep a six pack as a "brewing fee", but the rest will be enjoyed by (hopefully) some new homebrewing fanatics.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Coffee Porter Bottled

This evening I bottled up the coffee porter. The final gravity was 1.013, and the coffee aroma to this one was fantastic! I got a full two cases out of this batch plus just a bit more. This so far was the best tasting of my homebrews at bottling time, so I hope that translates into the final carbonated product. I can't wait!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rivertowne Pour House

I stopped by to visit the Rivertowne Pour House in Monroeville yesterday. It's just less than an hour drive from Indiana, and well worth the travel. They just opened last week, so I'm sure that they're running through the normal business opening pangs, but I have to say that the service on a Saturday afternoon during the US Open was tops! Great attention from the staff and they all seemed to know a lot about the beers (or weren't afraid to say they didn't know rather than trying to BS their way through).

Menu looked good, and I tried the Bacon and Cheese Fries. Tasty.

The beers? Well, they have 15 on tap plus one on beer engine. The full list is found on the web and there are samplers available. I tried several (10 to be exact) and was very impressed by the quality and range. Two fruit beers, two Impy stouts (one barrel aged), a pale ale, an IPA, a golden ale, a scottish ale, irish red, amber, ESB ... Wow!

All the ones I had were tasty, but the two imperial stouts (Buffalo Trace Bourbon Barrel Stout and Clavrock Imperial Stout) and the Wylie's IPA were top notch.

Check it out if you're in the area! Two great brewers working together can only be a good thing :)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Penn Microbrewers Fest

On Saturday, June 2, I drove down to the Penn Brewery in Pittsburgh with three friends and attended the Pennsylvania Microbrewers Fest from noon to 3pm. We were very fortunate to have been given some complimentary tickets from one of our local publicans, Tim McQuaide, who owns and runs The Coney. He couldn't make the event, and since he knows what a beer geek I am, he passed them on to me.

We arrived just at noon, so I dropped the guys off and parked down the street. By the time I got up to the gate, the line was finished so no waiting. I'd been to this event in 2002, and this was done a bit better. First, there seemed to be fewer admitted guests, so that cut down a bit on the lines and the heat. Second, they finally had rinse stations set up and since the event was in the parking garage, waste beer/water could be thrown right in the drains. Nice.

It was a pretty darned good showing of Pennsylvania's finest, along with some regional brewers from New York, West Virginia, Ohio, and even a few from Vermont and Colorado. (see the link above for full listing).

Unlike some other festivals I've been to in the past, I didn't try to get a bunch of ratings this time. Since I didn't pay for a ticket, I felt more like wandering around and chatting with brewers and seeing what was going on.

I did try Penn Brewery's Penndemonium, a doppelbock by label but really more of a heller Bock. Two others that I particularly enjoyed were Weyerbacher Muse and Southern Tier's Un*Earthly Double IPA.

I also tried two beers from Union Barrel Works, the Kölsch and the Doppelbock. Pretty good stuff. And finally a West Virginia Brewing Baltic Porter and Yards Saison. I didn't think much of this saison, really.

The neatest beer I tasted was a very raw and young beer from the Bullfrog that will be called "Black and Blue". It's a fruit beer made with blueberries and black raspberries. Just the small taste I had was extraordinary and I hope I can get the finished product when it comes out! Thanks Terry, for a taste (and thanks to Bill and Mark for cluing me in about it!). Everyone keep up the great work.

Coffee Added to the Porter

We are fortunate in Indiana to have our own coffee roaster, TJ Fairchild, who owns and runs the Commonplace Coffeehouse ( or The 'ipacoffee' is for Indiana, PA (not India Pale Ale - but it's certainly easy for me to remember!).

Anyway, TJ has been to a couple of beer-related events, including one of our Indiana Beer Club tastings and the Pittsburgh Microbrewers Festival. When I told him I was making a coffee porter for my latest batch, we got to brainstorming as to the best way to add some coffee to secondary. Most recipes that I've seen have you add some strongly brewed coffee to the secondary, rather than boil coffee with the wort. The downside, we both thought, is that a hot-brew method picks up a lot of tannic bitterness along with the good essential oils and might make for a more bitter contribution.

TJ came up with the Toddy Coffee press - basically a cold coffee extraction method that has you add cold water to ground coffee and sit overnight, then filter. So, this afternoon, I picked up a quart of cold-brewed Sumatran Mandheling coffee from TJ, brought it home, and (after a quick boil and cool) added it to the secondary fermenter.

I'm going to let that sit for 2 weeks and bottle it up. Can't wait to taste this one!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Porter Moved to Secondary

Well, I was a bit late on this, but I don't think it will be a problem. I racked the porter to secondary tonight and the gravity was down to 1.011 ... much lower than the 1.022 that I was expecting, so perhaps I won't have as much body in this one. Regardless, it tasted phenomenal. Just the right amount of bitterness and there was definitely some good notes of chocolate and coffee in there.

This week, I hope to add a quart of cold-brewed coffee in there to give it an extra coffee kick. Meanwhile, the secondary sits happily in the basement, covered in aluminum foil.

Friday, June 01, 2007

All Grain Coffee Porter

After a two-month hiatus in brewing (didn't brew in March, April), I was able to squeeze in a batch of all grain coffee porter yesterday afternoon. It was only my second batch of all grain, so I was still running into unforeseen glitches, but nothing that corrupted the beer - just took up more time than I was hoping for.

Last time, I used a bucket with false bottom for sparging, and I had done the mash in the kettle - applying direct heat for the different temperature rests. Well, this time I decided to try a modified picnic cooler and do a two-step infusion mash; it worked out pretty well! Catches this time included not getting the second infusion temp high enough, so rather than add more water, I scooped out several quarts of thick mash and brought to a boil on the stove. Voila! (I guess that'd be a partial decoction mash??).

Even though I made a dipstick for the keg this time, I still misjudged the evap rate. I had to add in two quarts of filtered water to get the five+ gallons I needed. Other than that, everything seemed to work well. I'm waiting for the bubbling to start.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hennepin Clone Bottled (Finally!)

So, after two months in secondary, I finally got to bottle the Hennepin clone today. It was certainly clear. Had a final gravity of 1.019 (right on target) and tasted pretty darned good. I got 11 bombers filled and 28 12oz bottles out of the batch. I had two Jolly Pumpkin 750mL bottles that I wanted to fill, but my capper would not fit around the neck. Bummer.

I'm hoping to brew my third batch of the year sometime next week. An all-grain recipe, but I have to decide what style yet.

Friday, May 11, 2007

More of Burlington

Today we decided to get up and get going. We had a lot of little things we wanted to do, including shopping (gifts for family, etc.). After another great breakfast at the B&B, we drove downtown and parked, then hit Church Street. For those who've never been, Church Street in Burlington is a 4-5 block-long pedestrian street in downtown, with all of the major shopping and dining within several blocks of that street. Great place to people watch, especially with all of the eccentric types hanging out in Vermont.

Had lunch at Leunig's Cafe - sort of a french bistro, and enjoyed a duck confit salad along with a pint of Leunig's Ale (which is really just Long Trail Hit the Trail Ale). More shopping after lunch, then we stopped for a quick pint at a local, slightly seedy joint called JP's Pub. We stopped to try the Long Trail Blackberry Wheat on tap, which we'd not seen elsewhere. Back to the car, then up to the B&B.

Dana decided to chill out for a bit, but I was ready for more beer exploration. I drove back downtown and stopped in front of the American Flatbread. I walked in to find no one ... they don't serve any food after 2 and before 5pm. However, the bar was open, so I came in to try the limited beers on tap (by limited, I mean they happened to only have 4 of their Zero Gravity beers, rather than the usual 9-11). There were plenty more taps and bottles to sample if I chose. So, I had samples of Zero Gravity IPA, Fruehfest, D'Kinna Bock, and Old Schtick. All of them were very nice and I would have loved to stick around for the tapping of the schwarzbier and the Friday cask - however, I had one more place I wanted to visit before leaving town...

I got in the car and drove to South Burlington (close to Shelbourne) and took the 4pm tour of the Magic Hat Brewery. There was only me and two other people on the tour at 4pm, and it didn't take very long - though I got some interesting history and some pictures. Afterwards, I retired to the tasting room and sampled several beers on tap that, unfortunately, aren't available in bottles here in western PA. Several good ones I got to sample included the Braggot made with honey and chamomille, the Single Chair Ale, and the Roxy Rolles. I picked up a hat, too.

Had there been time, I wanted to stop by Switchback Brewing and check out their operation. But alas, it was 5pm and time to head back to meet my wife and make dinner plans. We decided on a neat Indian place up by the University (UVM) and I got some really spicy chicken tikka masala.

Tomorrow - it's time to go home, but I'll be leaving with a few extra pounds of weight brought on by great beer and food from Vermont, many memories, and a cooler filled with bottles that I bought at stores during our trip!

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Today was a bit more relaxed. Took a long walk along the causeway north of Burlington - the old rail bed that stretches out into Lake Champlain. Very nice morning stroll. For lunch, we were going to hit the American Flatbread Company, but it was closed (Fri-Sun only for lunch). Ate next door at the Pacific Rim Asian Cafe - fair, but nothing special. While there, had a Rock Art Whitetail Ale and a Trout River Rainbow Red.

Bummed around most of the day, including a nice siesta in the afternoon heat. I got most of the way through Harris' "Hannibal Rising" before we decided to get cleaned up and try American Flatbread for dinner. We parked a block away and walked down, only to find that there was an hour long wait to eat. Screw that - no pizza is that good.

We decided to hop in the car and make the 25 minute drive down the interstate south to Waterbury, where we found immediate seating at the Alchemist Pub and Brewery. My, oh my. First, the owner/brewer is from Pittsburgh and there was a Steelers pennant above the bar. Brownie points right there. There were seven beers on tap, and you can get 3oz samplers for $1 a piece. All of them were delicious and made very well - not a loser in the bunch. My wife particularly enjoyed the Tweiss (sort of a weizen-bock), and while I tried all of them, I had a full pint of Pappy's Porter with dinner. The food is wonderful, and we really enjoyed the fries - coated in a spicy dry rub and served with garlic mayo and homemade spicy ketchup. The reuben panini was great and Dana's margherita pizza was top notch. The only thing I didn't care for was the dim lighting - I like ambiance as much as anyone, but when you have a hard time reading the menu ... that's a bit too dark. Makes it hard to see the beer you're drinking, too.

In all, however, I highly recommend the Alchemist. Great beer and great food!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Trip up through the Center of Vermont

This morning we checked out a few places in Brattleboro, including a nice bakery and a used bookstore. The we hit the Brattleboro Co-Op for a few local bottles of beer for the road and grabbed a sandwich at Breuggers. From Brattleboro, we took route 30 north, up the river until we hit route 100.

We stopped to eat our sandwiches at Lowell Lake near Magic Mountain ski area. Very nice, though a bit buggy at this time of year. Also, the abandoned summer camp on the edge of the lake was a bit too Friday the 13th.

After that, we checked out the Vermont Country Store and then wound our way over to Rutland to catch Route 7. From there, we headed north until we made it to Middlebury. Here, we took a slight break and visited the Otter Creek brewery. We didn't make the right time for the tour, which wasn't a problem, but we were able to sample several beers on tap, including Wolaver's Witbier and the Oatmeal Stout, and Otter Creek 15th Anniversary IPA, ESB, and others. I took a few bottles for the road and we took off.

After checking out the town for a few minutes, we got back onto the road and headed up to Burlington, which was our final destination for the trip. Checked into the Willard Street Inn and chilled out for a while.

For dinner, we walked down to Church Street and ate at Smokejacks. While there, I had a Smuttynose IPA and a Orlio Organic IPA by Magic Hat. Finished up with a nice Armagnac.

All in all, not a bad day.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Brattleboro, VT

So, for the first time in a while, my wife and I were able to get a few days off at the same time and during decent weather! We decided to head up to New England for a few days, and the timing couldn't have been better.

We hit the road about 9am on Tuesday morning, and made our way to I-80 at Clearfield. From there, we traversed the state until the merge with I-81, then up to I-84. We took I-84 over to the Taconic State Parkway, then north on that until Rt 23. That took us through the Berkshires in western Massachusetts until the meet up with the Mass Pike. After one exit, we were on I-91 north until Brattleboro.

We stayed the night at the historic Latchis Hotel, an interesting if not slightly worn out joint right in downtown. Our dinner was some light fare at the Flat Street Brewpub, which really isn't a brewpub, per se, but rather a purchase point for most of Berkshire Brewing Company's draft options. The menu is limited and not that impressive. Right before we got our food, my wife noticed a mouse scurrying across the floor. Good times. I grabbed a sampler tray of five Berkshire Brewing beers, including the Pale Ale, River Ale, IPA, Draymans Porter, and a milk stout. Dana had a Ommegang Rare Vos on tap.

In all, the place wasn't that impressive, though we were happy just to get some beers in us after spending almost 10 hours in a two-door Honda!

After dinner, we walked up the hill and around the block until we happened upon McNeill's Brewpub on Elliot Street. Very low key, but there were about 10-12 beers on tap, including 2 on hand pump. I opted for the Alle Tage Altbier and the Imperial Stout, while Dana had the Ruby Ale and the Slop Bucket Brown.

We had a very nice discussion with a gent named Bill, who's a nurse? at the local hospital. If you go, try the chips and salsa - very good. Also, you can get most of the McNeill's line in bottles to go - but at no discount over local food co-ops. They're also available at a few local food co-ops, such as the ones in Brattleboro and in Burlington. I brought home several other McNeill's to try in the coming weeks.

Until tomorrow,

Friday, April 27, 2007

I've Just About Given Up on Ironwood

So my wife and I wanted to go grab a pint tonight and she suggested going to the outdoor porch/bar of the Ironwood Grill. We arrived at 6:30 or so and asked to be seated outside. Well, as we were escorted to the outdoor bar/seating area, we were met by two unsavory elements: (1) a ton of cigarette smoke wafting out from the second floor bar area (newly renovated and now joined to the outside by an open bar area); and (2) music so loud that we would have to almost shout at each other over drinks. This is outside, mind you.

I have to say, this is not our speed. The indoor dining area seems to be fine - nonsmoking, relatively quiet. But if you just want to go sit outside or enjoy a beer at the bar - be prepared to get smoked out and blasted by music.

We left without even sitting down. After a side trip to Lowe's, we ended up back at the Coney for a nice meal and good draughts. Sorry Ironwood, I'll keep checking you out for the occasional sixer and bomber of Old Guardian, but you can count me out for a pint at the bar or overpriced dinners. I want to taste and enjoy a good beer, not snort a shit load of second hand smoke.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Spring Is Here!

What a beautiful weekend this was! Sunny, warm weather - perfect for grilling and smoking (salmon, that is), yard work, and good beer.

Last Tuesday, the core of the Indiana Beer Club met here for a small tasting. We did a few wheat beers (Bells Oberon, Troegs Dream Weaver), Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, and a great vertical of Stone Old Guardian from 2005-07.

Friday night, my wife and I met some of her classmates at Amici's Restaurant and Pizza in Ebensburg. I was floored that they had 14 taps, and even more so to find 2 beers that I'd not yet had. That's saying something for Ebensburg! The Brooklyn Antwerpen Ale was a decent lighter Belgian ale, but not on par with traditional fare from the land. Amici's is worth a visit for a good meal - entrees range from 12-27.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Personal Milestone

Wow, it's been a busy few weeks! Work is bogging me down in the last month of the spring semester. Haven't had the time or resources to brew lately, and the last batch is still aging in secondary. Couple more weeks before bottling the Hennepin clone. Meanwhile, I've been enjoying some stuff I've had cellared for a while and a few new acquisitions, like a case of Dream Weaver Wheat.

On a geeky note - today is my 5th anniversary as a member of, and by sheer coincidence I enjoyed my 1700th beer this evening - an Uerige Doppel Sticke Altbier. Picked it up over New Years down at State Line Liquor in Elkton, MD. It was a nice quaff for a Tuesday evening, I must say.

This Thursday, I hope to try the selection at the re-opening Coventry Inn here in Indiana. I don't think the tap/bottle selection will be all that great, but the atmosphere looks inviting (an English-style pub). I'll try to report back for any of those interested.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Trip to the 'Burgh

Weatherwise, last Saturday was pretty dreary, even for Western PA. It was quite reminiscent of the weather in Northeast France & Belgium, actually - dark, gray, and rainy. Not cold, but not exactly picnic weather, either. I ran a few errands that morning, including a trip to Agway to buy some grass seed, fertilizer, and lime ... the back yard needs some work.

Dana was slated for a day of studying, as is normal right now for her. But the thought of sitting in our living room all day was not that appealing, and we were both in the mood for a change of scenery. She suggested that we drive to Pittsburgh for the day; she'd study in the car on the way down, and then we'd hit a few beer places. She'd study, I'd read, and we'd both drink some good beer. I love my wife.

So, at 12:30 we got in the old Honda and headed off to the Strip District. First stop was a late lunch at the original Primanti Brothers on 18th Street. Now, for the uninitiated, this place looks a little seedy. Outside, the streets are pretty dirty and worn, and the smells coming from all the produce and fish warehouses don't exactly fill one with wide-eyed wonder. Regardless, perhaps you've seen Primanti's featured on one of the Food Network shows - it's a Pittsburgh institution.

A Primanti Bros. sandwich is everything slammed between two thick pieces of Italian white bread. You order based on the meat selection (or cheese if you're a vegetarian). I normally get bacon, egg, and cheese. This is grilled by a grumpy old lady with tons of other orders being screamed at her by various employees - all rather terse (but not outwardly rude). The meat & cheese is put on a piece of bread, on top of which is slapped a handful of hot, fresh-cut french fries, then some sweet & sour cole slaw, and a slice of tomato. Last piece of bread, cut in half - Voila! It's even better when sprinkled liberally with some Louisiana hot sauce.

If you get a chance to go, try to get a seat at the counter in front of the grill - dinner and entertainment all in one.

After lunch, we hit a few stores to stock up on some hard-to-find items (well, hard to find in Indiana). Penzeys Spices is there now - grabbed some cooking supplies and some whole coriander seed for homebrewing. After that, the PA Macaroni Co. for some good olive medleys and some European cheeses. Picked up some Appenzeller, Comte, and a sharp Dutch cheese that's a little better (for its age) than Gouda. Stopped off for a quick coffee around the corner.

Now it was time for some beer. We headed up to East End Brewing, where I returned my empty Ugly American bottle. I tasted the Fat Gary Nut Brown Ale and the new session beer, American Wheat". The Nut Brown I'd had before but wanted a reminder. The American Wheat was good, and very hoppy for the style. But, after a taste, I decided to get a growler of the newly formulated East End Witte. It's a lot more orangy and spicy that previous batches, and it quite refreshing.

From East End, we drove over to the Sharp Edge Beer Emporium and grabbed a table. While there, Dana had a draught Hennepin, which was good; I prefer it from the bottle so you get the dregs! I tried both the Pink Clouds Porter, an East End Brewing interpretation of Kevin Kost's winning homebrew recipe, and an Atwater Vanilla Java Porter, which I have to say didn't impress me.

After an hour, we decided to head down the road to Robinson. First stop was the Bocktown Beer & Grille, a new pub near the Target store. They have a really nice beer selection, both on tap, and for bottles (for drinking or takeout). My only criticism is that the bottle prices are a bit on the pricey side, even for Pittsburgh. The food smelled and looked great, but we were just there for a drink.

Sitting at some high tables in the bar area, Dana ordered a limited release Penn Weizenbock on draught. Very yummy, and I suggest you try to get your hands on some before it disappears. I settled on a draught Great Divide Hercules Double IPA. Very good stuff, that.

For the road (well, not literally), I grabbed a 75cL Sly Fox Saison Vos, a Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Impy Stout, and a Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball.

After a quick trip to Target, we hit our final destination for the evening: Mad Mex. We were both craving Tex-Mex for dinner, and this place is great. Their beer selection is usually pretty fine, too, and I always find something new. Tonight was no exception, and I enjoyed a draught Green Flash Barley Wine. That stuff was hot, and I should buy a bottle and let it sit for a while.

Grabbed a post-dinner coffee and hit the road home. All in all, not a bad way to spend a Saturday with my wife.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Beer Hearing in Harrisburg

From - "The prospect of selling beer in grocery stores and convenience stores was the subject of a legislative hearing in Harrisburg today."

Full article

Comments at the end are interesting, too. Apparently, PA is the 4th worst state for alcohol related deaths. Maybe if people didn't have to buy beer a case at a time? Or if everyone wasn't so hung up on alcohol like it was evil, rather than something to be enjoyed in moderation, responsibly?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Road Trip!

Wednesday, March 14 was a darned good day. The weather, albeit rainy, was unseasonably warm. I had a day off. Car? Check. Plan? Check. Empty growlers and some coolers? Check.

Jon, Lacey, and I left Indiana at 8:30am for one heck of a beer-related road trip. After a brief detour to St. Francis in Loretto (long story), we arrived in Duncansville to Marzoni's Brick Oven & Brewery at 9:45. I had made arrangements to meet up with Bill Kroft, brewmaster, and get a look behind the scenes of a brewpub that I've been going to for the last several years.

Our thanks to Bill for taking time to meet with us. He was in the middle of cleaning out his lauter tun and boiling a batch of the Amber Lager. For a more in depth talk with Bill, you can check out this article. We got a sneak preview of the Weizenbock, which should be ready to go in about two weeks, once the Doppelbock kicks. A new yeast strain this time around, and it was really good. Bill also said that he'll be getting busier soon, as the new Alison Park Marzoni's is going to be opening sometime around May. That'll be double the brewing for him, but good news for the folks over on Route 8, north of Pittsburgh.

After leaving Marzoni's, we headed up 'the back way' to State College (Rt. 45 up through Spruce Creek). We arrived at Otto's Pub & Brewery just in time for lunch. This was Jon & Lacey's first time to Otto's. For me, it was visiting an old haunt from my five years in State College. I got to try two new beers this time: 1) Wee Heavy Scottish Ale (cask conditioned, hand pumped) and 2) Rauchbier. Both went well with a Brau Burger! We also met up with two fellow RateBeerians, Mike and his wife Annie. Great to meet both of them, considering all of the posts I've read from Mike ;)

Well, we lingered a bit long at Otto's and found ourselves ready to hit the road to Williamsport at 1:30 or so. In an hour or so, we found ourselves pulling into Duboistown, a little village across the Susquehanna River from Williamsport. Luckily, it's a small town, so we didn't need to ride around too long before finding our next destination: Abbey Wright Brewing Co. situated in the Valley Inn. From the outside, this place looks a little sketchy. Throw up a neon light or two and you could call it the 'Double Deuce'. Anyway, never judge a book by its cover. We walked into a nice surprise!

Bart Rieppel, a former construction worker and long time homebrewer, is the brewmaster here. He was brought on by the Inn's owners a while back to completely set up the old 8 barrel system bought from Red Bell. Bart did all the plumbing and cleaning (he said there was still old beer inside from three years prior!) and troubleshooting before starting the brews. Bart is concerned only with one thing: quality. Several of his beers are now in their third or fourth generation. He admits having some real dogs at the start, but from what we tasted on Wednesday, those dogs learned to hunt! The Flower Power Pale Ale and Alpha Deuce IPA were wonderful - just the perfect balance of sweetness and that grapefruity aromatic hops that sends me into an altered state. He says his secret is not to add bittering hops early in the boil. I'm gonna have to try that next time I brew an IPA. All the other offerings were spot on as well: Mosquito Wheat, Irish Red Ale (excellent!), Patience Pilsner, Frosty Pumpkin Ale, and Vanilla Cream Stout. I took home a growler of the Pale Ale, and I'm sipping it now as I type up this travel report.

While here, I got in touch with my buddy Mark (whose culinary skills were praised here). Shortly thereafter, he and a colleague (Richard) came to meet us at Abbey Wright for a couple of pints. We all enjoyed the offerings on a lazy Wednesday March afternoon.

Ah.. tempting to hang too long. We were on a mission! Time to head across the river and meet up with Mark and Richard at the Bullfrog Brewery. This place has been around for a while, and you can read the site for more information. I had never been here, but had enjoyed several of their offerings at festivals and from growlers supplied by my father-in-law, who travels this area once a week or so. This is a nice brewpub atmosphere, with upscale decor and quite a good menu selection. I didn't eat here, though everyone else did - it looked really good. I focused more on the beer offerings, and was not disappointed. I have to say, though, after Abbey Wright, these beers didn't "WOW" me as much as previous samplings - but they were solid. Among the samples: Billtown Blonde, Holy Helles, Inspiration Red, Wolfsblood Scotch Ale (cask conditioned, hand pump), Phat Frog, Friar Frog Dubbel, and Tripel Trubbel.

Ooof. How did the day go so fast?! It was now shortly after 6pm and we still had one more place to hit before heading back west - Selin's Grove Brewing Co., about 45-50 minutes south of Williamsport on the Susquehanna. We arrived shortly after 7pm and made our way down the stairs to the cellar of an old Victorian style house. A perfect place for a pub! Cozy, crowded, and warm. Fireplace and wooden tables, intimate lighting and a raucous but friendly feel. We had to wait for 10 minutes before a table opened up. Both the food and the beer were tops, and I took away a growler of the Tripel with me. Bummer that this place is three hours from Indiana!!

Again, never been here, but I had tried a few of their beers at festivals - most notably the Phoenix Kriek. Tonight's offerings were: Cream Ale, Dunkelweizen, Goldings Special Bitter, Crystal IPA, Stealth Tripel, White Horse Porter, and Snake Drive Irish Stout. These were used to chase down a turkey wrap that was delicious! Very simple foods here, but quality and a lot of it's vegetarian and/or organic.

By this time, we were all sated and slaked. The trunk was full of growlers (only two of them mine!) and some souvenier glasses. We left Selinsgrove at roughly 9:15pm and got back to Indiana at about 12:30 am. All of us were spent, I dare say, but quite pleased with the effort and the good times at each and every place. I know that I'm looking forward to the next time I can get out on the road for a day and hit up some great new places (or old favorites) and try some world class beers right here in our back yard.

Thanks to all of our companions of the day: Bill Kroft, Mike & Annie, Mark, Richard, Bart Rieppel, our very pregnant bartender at Abbey Wright, and our servers at Otto's, Bullfrog, and Selin's Grove. It made for a great day off!