November 30, 2010

Randall the Enamel Animal at Tria

So I'll admit - I've read before of the famed Dogfish Head invention Randall the Enamel Animal and didn't really give it much thought (thoughts like "what is this Randall the Enamel Animal?" and "why should I care about this Randall character?" ran briefly through my mind, but it didn't go much further than that). But then the email came from Tria that I would have the chance to taste Burton Baton after it had run through Randall, and I decided I needed to know more about it.

Here's what I found.

The first Randall was built in 2002 in response to a beer showdown between west and east coast brewers called The Lupulin Slam. Although DFH originally thought they would just build the one, beer lovers and other brewers asked for a Randall of their own; today Randalls are being used as far away as New Zealand, Italy, Switzerland, and Japan.

The latest Randall - Randall 3.0 - debuted in September 2010. This is a new double barrel model that was built to reduce foam. Randall is a filter that you connect to the tap of your favorite beer. You fill the chamber with hops, and as the beer runs through the chamber, the alcohol in the beer takes the flavor from the hop oils and puts it in the beer. The result - an intensely hop flavored and smelling beer.

All of which explains why I'll be at Tria this Thursday, December 2 for the Burton Baton. The Burton Baton, in case you don't know, is a blend of an English Style Old Ale and an Imperial IPA. Both batches are brewed and fermented separately, then blended together and aged for a month in an oak tank. Sounds (and is) awesome, which is why I can't wait to try the Randall-ized version. It's sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Make sure to get there early, if you plan on coming. Event starts at 5 and the beer is sure to go fast. You'll also have the chance to meet Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head, from 5:30 - 6:30.


Varga Bar Calendar Release Party

I'm not sure how things go for you, but every time I go in to Varga Bar with my boyfriend he can't stop looking at the paintings and pictures of the Varga girls. So much so that I actually did a photo shoot with the amazing Celeste Guiliano as a birthday present for him (and no, I'm not posting my pictures on this site! But I will tell you that he loved them).

Celeste and her wonderful team did what they do best - taking women and making them look just like Varga girls - for the Varga Bar 2011 calendar. And you get to reap the benefits. Next Wednesday, December 8 is the release party at Varga Bar. Drink specials and complimentary hors d'oeuvres start at 9 pm. There will also be a one-hour, complimentary open bar sometime during the night.

If seeing the models in the calendar isn't enough for you, you're in luck. Each of the girls will be introduced throughout the night, and they'll also be available for calendar signings.

So guys, bring your Sharpies. And girls, maybe you'll be inspired to do a photo shoot of your own.

November 28, 2010

For this I give thanks

It's a couple of days past the holiday, but that doesn't mean the thanks have to stop. I had a great holiday, full of good food, laughs, family, and friends. There was plenty of turkey, potatoes, green bean casserole, pies, cakes - and of course, beer.

A few weeks before the holiday my Aunt, at whose house we always celebrate the holiday, had a health scare. Well, a bit more than a scare but everything is going to be fine. And there are a few things that are happening in my life that could lead (and have led) me in to crying fits. Then I take a few minutes and realize just how fortunate I am and how good I really have it, and so I've decided to share those things I'm most thankful for.

I'm thankful for an amazing support system - my parents, my siblings, my extended family, my friends, new and old. I honestly don't know what I'd do without them.

I'm thankful for my health - because without that, everything else would be so much harder.

I'm thankful for all opportunities in front of me - I may not be exactly where I want to be and I may not know exactly where I'm going, but I do know, based on everything I've been through in the past, that I'll appreciate and trust in the journey.

There are so many other things I'm thankful for - music; books; beer; a cloudless blue sky; a dark, starry night; movies; wine; new foods to try; my car; the Phillies; a warm bed on a cold night - so many things that are such a part of our daily living that we take it for granted. I'm going to try not to do that. I'm really going to try and show thanks, in some small way, every day for the incredible people and things that surround me. Your life may not always be what you expect it to be but that doesn't mean it's not exactly what it's supposed to be.

November 24, 2010

Black Friday at Capone's

I have a tradition on Black Friday. It doesn't involve shopping (although one year I did buy a pair of Christian Louboutains. A very expensive purchase that I haven't regretted once, even though I've only worn them three times!). Unsurprisingly, it involves drinking. And my best friend. It started the way the best things do - unplanned. We went to lunch at Isaac Newton's in Newtown and had a couple of beers - including Bezelbuth, which, at almost 12% ABV, was something like the 2nd strongest beer in the world at the time. From there we moved on to the Richboro Pub, where Small Wonder was on TV. Well, that did it for us. It was officially the best drinking day ever! We knew this was something we had to replicate annually. I think I can count on one hand the number of times we haven't gotten together on Black Friday since then - and we're going back about 16 years!

This year we'll be spending the day in Philly. I think this will be our first time doing that. Mostly we've been in NYC or the Philly suburbs (we actually hired a driver to drive us around in the 'burbs last year. Hey, at least we're responsible) I'm looking forward to an incredibly good day.

Capone's in Norristown is obviously on the same pages as us. They're having their annual Black Friday beer event. Tap is 9 am, and they're running a brunch special from 10 am - 2 pm, as well as their regular menu. Feast your eyes upon this line up:

Bullfrog Old Toad "Barrel Aged Barleywine"

East End Gratitude

Victory Old Horizontal "Vintage 2006"

Bullfrog Busted Lawnmower

Bullfrog/ Bavarian Barbarian Collaboration Gothika "Schwarzbier"

Emelisse Russian Imperial Stout

Dieu du Ciel Péché Mortel Imperial Coffee Stout

Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch "Weasel"

Boulder Obivoid "On Nitrogen"

Russian River Pliny The Elder

Russian River Blind Pig

Russian River Consecration "Vintage Batch 2 "

Petrus Oak Aged Pale "Sour"

Ballast Point Sculpin

Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree "Triple IPA"

Founders Devil Dancer "Triple IPA"

Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout ( KBS )

Founders Backwoods Bastard

Troegs Mad Elf "Vintage 2008"

General Lafayette Raspberry Mead Ale

Great Lakes Christmas Ale

Port Santas Little Helper

Avery Beast Grand Cru " Vintage 2009" 16.9%ABV 5.5oz pour only

Prism Red Zone ""Spiced Seasonal w/ ginger,nutmeg, allspice & maple syrup"

Spring House Kerplunk "Vintage 2009 Chocolate Stout"

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout "Vintage 2008"

Affligem Noel Christmas Ale "Vintage 2008"

Southhampton Pumpkin Ale

Terrapin Moo-Hoo Milk Chocolate Stout

Yards Brawler

I personally think this is a very good reason to skip the shopping crowds (there's always Cyber Monday to look forward to!) and start your own drinking tradition.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Beer and Holiday Dinner Pairings

I can hardly believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the official start to the holiday season (although a local radio station kicked the season off on Monday, when they started playing Christmas music non-stop).

I've been reading a lot about turkey and beer pairings and have decided I'm going to bring along some beer for my holiday dinner tomorrow night. Now, my family doesn't really drink. As a matter of fact, I think they've been wondering for years where this love of beer that I have comes from. They're not exactly tee-totalers, but my mom may have a glass of wine and my dad may have a glass or two. To his credit, my dad has been trying more beers of late and often calls me when he's out with his friends to ask for my recommendation; if he can't get in touch with me, he typically falls back on his standby - Heineken (talk about wondering where the love for something comes from).

Anyway.... while you could go crazy trying to pair each different food with an appropriate beer, it makes more sense to pair the courses with a particular style to complement the foods of that course.

Start off with some lighter flavors. Some suggestions include Belgian lambics, like the rasberry Lindemans Framboise. You could also try a Pilsner or Lager, such as Victory Prima Pils or Brooklyn Lager. These will help stimulate the taste buds without killing them.

Main Course
Saison seems to be a good choice here. Saisons are complex. They tend to be fruity and spicy in flavor with a touch of tartness as well; this tartness helps clear the palate, which is what makes it such a nice match for the often fatty flavors of the main meal. Try Saison Duponte or Ommegang Hennepin.

I personally could just drink a Southern Tier Pumking and call that dessert. But if you're going to actually eat yours, barleywines make a nice pairing. These are big, malty, alcohol-y beers. Try Great Divide Old Ruffian or Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale.

Of course there are many different beers that you can try and I've listed only a very few. The point is to have fun with it. Try something new - but try a beer this year! I know that's what I'll be drinking.

November 17, 2010

12% Imports & Murray Cheese at Fork and Barrel

I know I'm going to kick myself for missing this event (it can't be helped) and I don't want you to do the same. Tomorrow night Thursday, November 18th at 7 PM Fork and Barrel is presenting a rare beer and cheese pairing. Brian Ewing, Founder/President of 12 Percent Imports, will be bringing 11 new and very rare beers to be paired with 11 cheeses from Murray's in New York.

I don't know about you, but I love beer. And I love cheese. The two together are amazing. And this is sure to be an incredible event. Here's a sneak peek of just some of the beers you'll get:

* Dochter Oak-Aged Emrasse, 10% - blend of 2/3 Embrasse on cognac & 1/3 whiskey, very limited
* Emelisse Bowmore - aged Imperial Russian Stout, 12% - "probably the best beer we've ever touched", only 8 cases in the US
* Dochter Noblesse XO, 7% Belgian IPA - will be the first time pouring in the US, only 2 kegs in the US
* Hof Ten Dormal Amber - first time on draft / limited

$65 gets you in. Call Fork & Barrel at 215.848.1990 or email them at to make your reservations.

And after, feel free to let me know the deliciousness that I missed.

November 16, 2010

Royal Tavern Sandwich Contest

Consider yourself a bit of a MacGyver (able to take a hodge podge of ingredients and create something incredible with it) when it comes to making sandwiches? If so, you won't want to miss this. One of my favorite bars in Philly, the Royal Tavern, is turning 8. To celebrate they're running a sandwich naming/stuffing contest. To enter you just need to come up with a sandwich name, ingredients, and the beer that should accompany it. Not able to get to the Royal in person? Send your entry to Winners will be up on the specials board throughout the anniversary week.

November 15, 2010

The Gravity Tap at Bridgid's opens this Saturday!

Brigid's, the original Belgian beer bar in Philly, is also home to the only gravity tap on the east coast. Not sure what a gravity tap is? In simplest terms it's an unpressurized sixtel that sits 3 stories above the bar. A tube runs through the building down to the bar where the beer comes out of the tap. Sound interesting? Want to see it in action? Then you're in luck.

The gravity tap can only be used in the colder months because of the distance the beer has to travel between the sixtel and the tap, and this Saturday, November 20th is the official opening! Tickets are being sold: $25 in advance and $35 at the door will get you unlimited pours of Yards beer from the gravity tap, $2 and $3 for any other Yards beers, and a food buffet. A very good deal, indeed!

The event runs from 2 - 4 PM. To buy your tickets online, click here.

November 7, 2010

Dave Matthews and rare beers on a Saturday night

A couple of months ago I heard the announcement from the Dave Matthews Band that they weren't going to be touring in 2011. The news disappointed me, to say the least. I've seen them on tour multiple times a year since 1996. I'm up to over 80 concerts at this point. I'd seen them play over the summer at the Susquehanna Center in Camden (seriously one of the best shows I'd seen in a long time. They played so many old songs it was like 1997 again!), but I wanted to see them one last time before their hiatus. I felt like had I known that when I saw them in July I wouldn't see them again until sometime well over a year later I might have done something differently. What that "thing" was, I had no idea but I felt like the show would have been that much more significant to me.

A brief history on my love affair with Dave and the boys. I first heard "Crash" when I was in college. I liked a few of his other songs, "Satellite" and "Ants Marching", but "Crash" caused me to obsess in ways I thought I reserved only for boys that didn't like me back. If I still had my college notebooks you'd be surprised that I managed to graduate; rather than taking notes, I sat in class writing the words to "Crash" over and over and over again. As I listened to more of his music, I realized that many of the songs weren't just good, they were amazing. I love how he can take an ordinary situation and write about it in a way most people would never think to do. I also love that many of his songs are about enjoying life now, because we're only here for a short time so we may as well "eat, drink, and be merry" - words I try to live by. Anyway, since that fateful beginning I have been a loyal Dave fan - even if I don't love everything he comes out with.

Having said that, you can imagine my joy when I heard that more tour dates were announced for 2010. A quick look confirmed that he would be coming through Philly, and I jumped on the fan club site, The Warehouse, to put in my request for tickets as soon the request period opened. A few weeks later I was rewarded with tickets for what would be my last show until he comes back around in 2012.

Last night was the show. It was great - very energetic, including an absolutely incredible "Two Step" to finish off the night. They also played "Christmas Song", which, while I'm a tad annoyed with the fact that I'm already seeing Christmas tree displays and Christmas cards, was exactly what I wanted to hear to get the season kicked off right.

Just as good, in my mind, was how the night started. A Ballast Point Dorado (so rare!) and some Cigar City Rye Porter (excellent!). It's only available at the brewery but some good friends brought some back after a recent trip to Florida.

So while I'll miss Dave and the gang next year, I look forward to the excitement and anticipation news of the 2012 tour is sure to bring. And I know that I'll have some good beers over the next many months to help get me through.

November 4, 2010

Foobooz 2010 Top 50 Bars in Philadelphia

Last year, shortly after I'd started this blog, I was asked by Foobooz to give my top 10 list of favorite bars in and around Philadelphia for a top 50 list that was being compiled. I was honored to be asked, and astounded when the list came out to see that I'd been one of the people thanked by name for their contribution. I'd only recently gotten in to the beer scene and, given the company I was in, I felt validated.

I was asked again this year for my list, and still felt the same excitement in being asked. The list is hot off the presses (just got posted a few minutes ago) and well worth a read-through. It sparked a lot of discussion in 2009 and is sure to do the same this year.

Although if you have comments I'd ask that you post them on Foobooz's site, I'm curious if you think any bars were left off that should be on and if there are any bars that you feel have no place being on the list.