Friday, August 27, 2010

The Best of Philly Beer 2010 (according to me)

Alright, so if there's one thing that makes you want to come out of beer blogging retirement, it's a severe summer of surplus awesome brews. What can I say? I got bogged down by academics, an eventual job, and traveling all over God's green earth tasting awesome things. So you crack and you stop beer blogging. It's a tragic thing, especially when you've tasted both Pliny the Younger and Westvleteren 12 and 8 in one summer. That's a damn beer travesty, that's what that is...

Anyhow, working for a living, in particular in one of the top-rated beer cities in the grand ol' USA, has enabled me to track down some of the most out of control beer bars in both Philadelphia proper and its adjacent suburbs. So I bring to you, oh loyal readers, Eric Souder's Best of Philly 2010 (so far) that I've visited to date! Hopefully, you take it upon yourself to go visit one - if not all - of these tasty dwellings of ale in one of the most fun cities in America.

Mind you, these are in no particular order...

-Tria (18th and Sansom): Alright so Tria isn't technically a beer bar. It's technically a wine bar. Ok. So it's just an awesome bar. If you work in the center of town and want great beer, wine, or cheese, go here. I've never been disappointed with this place. Small, cozy, a little on the yuppie side, you're bound to always find something that you want. Generally, the beer you want is on tap, ranging anywhere from a Dogfish Head 90 Minute to a La Trappe Isid'or Amber (actually Norwegian, but brewed to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the brew company as well as the existence of Belgian-beer-brewed-outside-Belgium). The cheese is outrageously good - generally it comes from Murray's up in Manhattan. Overall, never a disappointment. (****)

-Monk's (264 S 16th): I can't leave out Monk's. About two weeks ago some psychotic bus driver crashed head-on into the front of the restaurant, generally blowing out 3/4 of the entrance. Things looked dismal, but the intense folks at Monk's persevered and opened up about a week ago. The beer menu is phenomenal: there are about 300 advertised as well as a constantly rotating duo of bars (a front and a back) generally carrying the season's best in fine beer. Go around Christmas and experience an entire bar of Belgian and Belgian-style Christmas ales. Only downside: it gets crowded FAST, so don't expect a quiet cozy environment after 5pm. (***1/2)

-Local 44 (4333 Spruce St. University City area): Local 44 is one I don't know too much about, but it's certainly worth the trip. The guy who owns it also manages two other spots, the Memphis Taproom and Resurrection Ale House (which I'll review in this entry). The unique thing is, you will only find beer on tap at Local 44. They're big on sustainability, so they cut down severely on bottled beer waste, etc. Tucked in the center of the Penn campus, they serve some of the tastiest beers around featuring brewers like Stone, Russian River, PBC and many others. Overall, a pretty fun bar and worth the checkout. (****)

-Brauhaus Schmitz (718 South Street - Old City/South Street area): Brauhaus is exactly what it sounds like - a massive German-inspired pub. Brauhaus does not mess around: they have about twenty beers on tap (all German) as well as a pretty impressive bottle list featuring rarities that I deeply appreciate such as a Baltika 7 or the Dieu du Ciel Peche Mortel. The food is pretty authentic German as well, lots of pork (try the Schweinshaxe if you like face-melting amounts of meat) pretzels, and the like. Additionally (and this is an awesome treat especially for those who have experienced Germany) they have a great schnapps selection if you honestly have room for anything after the meal and all of the beer. Definitely an awesome spot. (****)

-Devil's Den (11th and Ellsworth - South Philadelphia): It was odd: I followed this place on facebook and twitter almost a year before I ever set foot in their restaurant. Maybe that says something about the age of the internet. Well one year later, I discovered what was up. Devil's Den has an outrageous beer list. It is about the size of Monk's "Beer Bible" yet somehow, not as many people have caught on. On tap you'll get the regular seasonals, but you'll also find some awesome rarities like Great Divide's 16th Anniversary Ale or Furthermore's ThermoRefur (a beet-based spiced ale) on tap. The food is solid featuring fun things like a seafood flatbread, raw oysters, and chickpea fries served tapas style. The best part? Happy hour means half off. So that Great Divide (a 10% ABV beer by the way) sold normally there for 4.50 per glass is only 2.25. So for all of you young Philly workers chugging $5 Heineys at Elephant and Castle? Just think, you could spend about 5 bucks and get twice your fratty buzz on and simultaneously taste a better beer. THAT is why Devil's Den is epic. (****1/2)

-Resurrection Ale House (2425 Grays Ferry Avenue): Cue the Cheers theme song. Resurrection is amazing. I can't say anything bad about this place. Having been there now several times this summer I can say wholeheartedly that Resurrection is welcoming, friendly, and most importantly, so chock full of awesome and delicious that I leave each time going "Wow, I love that freaking bar." Owned by the same people as Local, the owner has sort of put the reins in the hands of Rocco, a Gonzo-tattoo sporting bearded beer genius who will gladly tell you the story of shenanigans with a hand grenade (trust me, long story) just as soon as he'll pour you the beer that will make your evening. They keep only about 10 beers on tap, but that's ok, because each beer is unique and amazing. You will never find two IPAs or two brown ales on tap simultaneously. Names like Avery (which I had "The Reverend" on tap tonight ****) Old Speckled Hen, 21st Amendment, and once again, Russian River, pop up time and time again, never ceasing to blow the mind and invigorate the tastebuds. What's even better is the food, featuring things like braised lamb with peach butter, hoisin glazed pork belly sandwiches, a fried chicken with sriracha honey, and even a couscous that will make you wonder how someone fit so much tasty awesomeness in one small place. The atmosphere is great; go in once and they know your face; go in twice and they know your name; three times? They'll practically have your beer of choice poured. If you ever get the chance, go here! (*****)

These are only a few of the amazing bars Philly has to offer. Just wander around honestly. It keeps growing and getting more amazing. I absolutely love it.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Report from Beer Mecca (Bruges, Belgium)

There are few times in one's short, seemingly ridiculous life, that a person can state "I had the number one __________." At the very most, it's normally something like "I had the number one fishsticks in Scranton, Pennsylvania." While they might be get the idea.

I sit only inches away from the number one beer in the world. No joke. When it comes to beer ratings, I go to two sources: and . These guys don't mess around. If you go to any licensed distributor of foreign beer, craft beer, microbrewed beer, you will see a little notecard implying that either one or both of these two websites rated and approved of it. Each year (in the case of or just about automatically (in the case of these websites update a top 100 list of the best beers in the world. I generally refer to these two lists semi-religiously as, every time I've tried one of them, my mind has been blown. A few months ago, when briefly premiered a new #1 beer in the world, Russian River Brewing's "Pliny the Younger" (an American or Double IPA), I had the rare chance to taste it. This beer spawned the beginnings of a blog entry that I never published. It was IMPOSSIBLE to describe the greatness of this beer. Sure, the 11% ABV might have had something to do with it, but STILL. This beer was outrageous, and none around me disagreed.

At the time, Pliny was making a tour around the USA, blowing minds and kicking the ass of any beer in its path that dared challenge it. For a few weeks time, it supplanted one Belgian beer that rested comfortably in the number one position on nearly every beer rating website I approached: Brouweij Westvleteren (Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren) - Trappist Westvleteren 12, a Belgian Quad from the Northern part of Belgium. Following BA on Twitter, it was practically a revolution akin only to the French Revolution of 1789 or the Russian Revolution of 1917. Literally, people were going nuts about this. However, only a few weeks later (more akin to the Russian Decembrist Revolut of 1825, but don't mind me, I'm a history major) Westvleteren gave a loud and clear "Back off," and once again resumed its imperial status on the beer rating websites of the world.

So when I came to Belgium less than a week ago, I made it a point to find this beer. I knew it was rare. The beer itself is brewed in extremely limited quantity in Belgium, never exported, and barely distributed even within the country itself. So in other words, it was now or never. I had heard rumors of one establishment, Trappistenhuis Gent (in Ghent, Belgium) selling it. The night before, sitting in Rochefort (home of the fantastic Trappistes Rochefort 10, 8, and 6) a Flemish man raved about it, maintaining an almost reverent silence as I mentioned the name of this beer. The next day, my family and I wandered to Ghent.

It took about twenty minutes to walk to the Trappistenhuis. Within one minute, however, I was disappointed: the waitress quickly informed us that "It was forbidden to continue selling such a beer." Don't get me wrong though, with a few hundred Belgian beers, many of which were brewed only ten minutes away, I had nothing to truly complain about. I bowed gracefully, assuming that I would have to wait to travel to the monastery itself at St. Sixtus to try this beer. Then I came to Bruges.

I've been in Bruges about four hours now. I've had a few beers already of course, including a Kwak served in the standard "Yard" style glass. Ok, maybe I had one and a half of them. That's not the point here. Casually strolling after lunch, however, we stumbled upon a place named "The Beer Temple." Normally, I'm not one for gimmicky names. This place, however, couldn't be more aptly named. Imagine two whole walls of every Belgian you've ever tasted. They have just that. After marvelling however, I jokingly asked the manager of the store, "I guess you don't have Westvleteren?" Straight-faced, he told me "Yes, I do. All of the varieties are in the back." I guess it pays to ask.

Interestingly, I purchased four of the top ten Belgian beers listed on I had the opportunity to purchase eight of the top ten. I will be trying these in the near future. I hope you will tune in for the reviews. Signing out from Bruges,

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A fun beer rant (Brew Dog, Scotland),8599,1978705,00.html

I've had a few beers from Brew Dog, particularly their collaborations. (One of the best being their recent collaboration with Stone Brewing, Bashah, a fierce example of an American Strong Ale). If I've learned anything, it's that they make fantastic brews.

So they've come out with a beer of outrageously high ABV. About 41% to be precise. So what?! It's time, ladies and gentlemen, for an "ALCOHOL RELATED RANT!"

America has a problem with alcohol. I don't mean we're drunkards...far from it. But since the Puritan days of old, we've hidden from the very thought of alcohol, producing (until recently) sub-par beer, wine, and liquor, none of which can actually tastes good enough to drink long enough actually get drunk on. So now we get a few rabble-rousers who want to push the limits on brewing a bit! Hang them! Hang them!

The truth is, high ABV beer is nothing to be feared. Actually, I'd argue it's something that encourages more responsible drinking. Anyone who has had a beer over 9% ABV knows that you generally want to take a long, delicious beer nap after consuming said beer. It's not the "uproot some fences, objectify some women, fight the power" alcohol experience that the American media likes to paint it as. Try a North Coast Old Stock Ale for instance. I encourage you, TRY not to take a peaceful snooze on your nearest sofa or recliner! Try it!

Plus, at a whopping $40+ a bottle, who in their right mind is going to be pounding these beers? This is the problem with the American concept of the consumption of alcohol. Our mainstream is used to a beer that's light enough have five of, so we assume every beer must be that way. Wrong. Beer isn't - once again - that yellow fizzy stuff your grandfather may have drank. It can be that, but it can also be akin to a cognac, a champagne, and a wine. Beer can be sipped. Beer can be smelled. It can be enjoyed slowly and in moderation. Get used to it! Appreciate beer! And in the words of, ENJOY BEER!

That said, I'd love to get my hands on one of these...
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Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Beer Even an Anarchist Would Love - Founder's Brewing Nemesis Anti-Establishment Ale (MI)

Imagine if Marx, Che, Malcolm X, Susan B. Anthony (and about ten other historical figures who shouted the proverbial "We're not going to take it" all while offering a serious backhand to any sense of "societal norms") all got together and made a beer. Then add an ABV about as epic as anything Teddy Roosevelt ever did, make it smell and taste like maple, and you're about scratching the surface of this beer: Founder's Brewing Company's Nemesis Wheat Wine "Anti-Establishment" Ale (2009 bottling).

I poured this into my trusty Piraat glass and witnessed a very nice and cloudy copper-toned wheat wine beer. I've had barley wines before, so I was anticipating good things. The head is relatively minimal, but leaves a fair amount of lacing. The scent, like I suspected was very maple-filled along with some hints of bourbon. Go figure: Founder's ages the beer (or wheat wine, technically) in bourbon barrels.

The taste really sold this brew for me. You automatically get a serious hit of dark caramels and light maple flavor. Then, while you're still reeling a bit from that taste, you notice the bourbon. The aftertaste (a word which I think needs to be viewed in a more positive light at times) is great. Imagine a great sip of Maker's Mark right after you cracked the bottle: warming, flavorful, and overall, just great. There is a bit of an alcohol taste present, but the rest of the flavors tend to overwhelm it.

The sentence on the bottle states "Every batch diabolically brewed to decimate ordinary-average-run-of-the-mill tasting beer." They hit the nail on the head with that. Try this beer and you will not be disappointed. My only caution: this is a slow sipper. As I'm still enjoying this beer, I have the feeling it might catch up to me in about a half hour.

Founders - Nemesis Anti-Establishment Ale (Michigan) ****1/2/***** (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Upcoming Beer Adventures

My apologies for not updating in recent days, but duty, and thesis work calls.

I do however, have several beer adventures coming up in the near future.

1) TJ's Paoli, Pennsylvania: On March 20, 2010, TJ's will be hosting an event featuring former Beer Advocate #1, Russian River Valley Pliny the Younger, as well as about 10-15 other amazing brews including North Coast - Old Stock Ale, which is counted in the ranks of "A Beer for Everyone's" Top Ten (a publication coming in the nearest of futures). For more information go to: (You may need a B.A. account to get the info, but seriously, who doesn't want a personalized B.A. account?)

2) An "A Beer for Everyone" exclusive: From May 27, 2010 to June 7, 2010, I along with my parents will be traveling western Europe including Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. This obviously means an endless number of beer tastings at restaurants, abbeys, and the like, all to be published in borderline excruciating detail on the blog of yours' truly. The world may never be the same after this truly enlightening trip, during which I estimate I will try an obscene amount of ridiculous beer.

3) Great Lakes Brewing Co. : I will be making a trip out to Ohio to visit some good friends. While out there, why not visit a really solid brew company? Apparently, I will be taken at one point or another to tour or just plain drink at Great Lakes. Once again, that will offer me the chance to have one of my favorite beers, The Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. Definitely looking forward to this.

Some more reviews will be coming soon. I personally have to get paid, and then, buy more delicious beer in order to provide for your reading pleasure.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Few Weekend Acquisitions

Mixed up a nice 6-pack at Scalle's Restaurant in Carlisle. Forthcoming reviews therefore, will be on one or more of the following:
-Weyerbacher Brewing: Quad (Easton, PA)
-Smutty Nose: Robust Porter (NH)
-Heavy Seas: Imperial Stout (MD)
-Magic Hat: Vinyl Lager (VT)
-Victory Brewing: Golden Monkey (Downingtown, PA)*
-Tröegs Brewing: Trögenator (Harrisburg, PA)

*The Golden Monkey review is slated to be written in tandem with the fine folks over at The Garlic Press & Co. More to come in the near future on that...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Keeping It Simple Tonight - Lancaster Brewing Amish Four Grain APA (PA)

Sometimes it's great to go with a basic beer. One's taste buds probably should only withstand two or three serious ravages per week to be on the safe side. In moments like that, I turn to brewers like Lancaster who make those great "go-to" brews.

Lancaster Amish Four Grain Pale Ale is an APA, or American Pale Ale. These are (typically) the slightly less hoppy relative of the IPA of British origin. American Pale Ales in general are made from local ingredients and according to many sources, acted as a major catalyst in the resurgence of American microbreweries. If that is true, what a glorious contribution to society. If it isn't...well they're still good beers, so that's all that really counts, right?!

Amish Four Grain Pale Ale is comprised of Saaz hops, rye, malted wheat, and oats (hence "four grains"). The idea is that these four grains will all balance one another and make for a great, smooth - although pale - ale. Let's see how they do.

AFGPA pours a nice copper hue with about a finger-width head that gradually recedes, offering a little bit of lacing. In terms of smell, go figure, it's very grainy: lots of wheat and bread-like aromas, maybe even with a bit of autumnal fruits (apples, etc.). The taste is about the same: slightly malty, almost nutty, but overall, very well-balanced. The hoppiness isn't terribly evident, but for a beer with 22 IBU (International Bitterness Units), that's to be expected.

Overall, there isn't anything too complicated about this beer. It's a great session beer, just for kicking back during dinner (in other words, what I'm doing right now) or even on its own.

Lancaster Brewing - Amish Four Grain Pale Ale ***/***** (3 out of 5 stars)
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