Attention to Detail the Key at Keystone Homebrew Supply

Photo courtesy Keystone Homebrew Supply.

When I’m not drinking beer or writing about beer or dreaming about beer, I try brewing beer. But let’s be clear: extract only (One of these days I’ll find the extra time to brew all grain).

At last count I’ve brewed 18 five gallon batches over the past 4 years (I’m not counting the two I brewed sometime in 1995/1996), with only 3 that were pretty much undrinkable – and those 3 failures were the result of simple process mistakes. Not too bad of a ratio for an amateur – but it’s the small mistakes that kill your beer, and paying attention to detail is extremely important.  I have to note – every single one of those Brewing kits have come from Keystone Homebrew Supply in Montgomeryville (even the 2 in 1995 & 1996, when they were located in a tiny little shop on Route 309)!

I was reminded of the importance of attention to detail in brewing the other day when I stopped in to Keystone Homebrew Supply in Montgomeryville to pick up my next kit. Usually I run in, get my prepackaged kit, grab the hops and yeast out of the fridge myself (because I can’t help myself – I usually tinker with the recipes), pay and leave. But the other day was different – I needed help because my favorite kit (called “Emperor Pale Patine”) wasn’t on the shelf.

So one of the Keystone employees named Alan put the kit together for me using the Emperor Pale Patine recipe that they keep in a three ring binder for just this kind of situation. When he brought me up to the counter to check out, he took the time to double check that all the ingredients of the kit were in the box (including my extra hop additions). As Alan went through the box, he scrutinized the recipe, and the first reaction in my head was “Come on man, I gotta go.”

But at each step in the recipe he asked “Do you do this?” Or “How do you do this step?” As Alan asked me these seemingly innocuous questions, he pointed out a few things that I could do (or not do!) to make my beer better. And those few simple things made so much sense that it blew my mind.

I’ve always heard that about Keystone homebrew Supply – in fact, they announce in their email newsletters – “If you have questions, feel free to ask anyone.” But I am usually on the run and don’t ask. So I’m glad Alan took the time to ask ME the questions! I’m stoked to try this next kit and just wanted to thank Alan and the Keystone staff!

And PS – if you are a Forest & Main fan, Keystone sells a kit of their “My Analog Brain,” an English bitter. That’s definitely on my list to brew – maybe it will be my 20th batch!

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2017 – all rights reserved

A Day in St. Petersburg, Florida

First stop – St. Pete’s Brewing!

Recently I found myself on what was supposed to be a four day trip to St. Petersburg, Florida. Not knowing much of the beer scene there, I did some Googling prior to arriving (and consulted my fellow beer explorer #jimantush) and found several names of breweries – so I was encouraged.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived (after the 70 degree temperature, the palm trees, the salt air and the pelicans flying on the breeze) was a Grand Prix running through the streets of the city- it was amazing seeing those cars go
whipping by on what is usually a commercial city street for commuting mini-vans!

With my brewery list in hand, I set out for the city’s namesake, St. Petersburg Brewery. According to my bartender, St. Pete’s Brewery was one of the first five breweries to open when the law changed to allow for breweries in 2013. (The other 4 were: Cycle Brewing Company, 3 Daughters, Green Bench, and Brewers Tasting Room).

When I was there, St. Pete’s Brewing had a large selection of beers on tap, and offered flights of 4, 6 or 10. I ordered a flight of 6, which was served in a curved barrel stave. Another patron ordered a 10 fight while I was there – that was a huge stave! I really enjoyed their Golden Ale while sitting in their open air tasting room – it had a very tropical vibe to it all. I also thought it was cool that they had a pumpkin beer – Drop Dead Gourd-eos- even though it was not Fall (which I believe more breweries should do!)

Cycle Brewing

After getting some tips from locals at St. Pete’s bar, I went to Cycle Brewing which is only a block away. For as bright and tropical as St. Pete’s was, Cycle was dark and industrial, with bikes hanging from the ceiling at the back of the bar. Two session IPAs were pouring; I tried the “Pedal Brakes” and listened to the punk music thumping on the stereo. Although I did not try it at the brewery, later in the evening I had the chance to drink Cycle Brewing’s “Cream and Sugar, Please Coffee Porter.” The flavor of coffee was perfect and made me wonder if I could take some to my hotel for breakfast the next day!

The next stop – highly recommended by the folks at St. Pete’s – was Green Bench Brewing. Green Bench is known in the area for their saisons and sours, so it was an absolute must visit. I enjoyed two flights in the lovely beer garden on the side of the brewery; it was an idyllic scene as I sampled their beer and watched the sky turn from orange to blue to indigo. I enjoyed Green Bench’s Saison de Banc Vert – a saison / table beer, as well as their Cranberry Vert.

Once the sun set and the sample glasses were empty, I set off for Urban Comfort Restaurant and Brewery, which was added to my list on the recommendation of a local beer drinker I met earlier in the day, who raved about their comfort food. What struck me the most as I arrived was the fact that the brewhouse was outdoors – under a roof of course, but outdoors nonetheless; which would never be seen in the harsher climate of my home state of Pennsylvania.

Outdoors at Urban Comfort

I ordered a flight of four brews and asked for one of the most comfortable meals in existence – meat loaf and mashed potatoes – but they had already sold out. So I chose the braised pulled pork on mashed potatoes with fried pickle chips, which had a surprising spicy kick to it.

Once the flight was gone, it was time to head back to the hotel and make a plan for the next night. But first – on another recommendation by a local – I stopped into Right Around The Corner Bar. Known for its selection of sour beers, Right Around the Corner Bar is owned and operated by Tom Rockhill, a passionate craft beer fan.

Right Around the Corner Bar

As I sipped a quick nightcap, Tom pointed out his “Sour Tower” list (3 taps that always have sour beer) and the main draft list on the wall. I was surprised to see a brew from Weyerbacher and asked Tom how a Pennsylvania brew had gotten to his bar! He explained that Weyerbacher had participated in the St. Petersburg beer fest the prior week, so there were a lot of unique brews in town! At last call, Tom suggested I return the next night so that we could talk more about the St. Petersburg and Tampa Beer Scene, and I enthusiastically agreed.

Unfortunately, when I awoke the next morning, the news from Philadelphia was bad – snowmageddon was approaching, and the Eagles had acquired Nick Foles again. I reluctantly moved my flight and returned to Philadelphia, and promised myself (and Tom) to return to St. Petersburg again soon to finish what I had started!

Cheers to everyone I met from the St. Petersburg beer scene – thank you for your hospitality and hosting a wonderful beer day!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2017 – all rights reserved

Philly Beer Week 2016 is here!!

Once again the City of Brotherly Love is showing its love for brew to the World!  On Friday, June 3, 2016, the official opening of Philly Beer Week 2016 began at the Fillmore in Fishtown, with a beer festival / celebration of all things beer – The Opening Tap!

Anxiously awaiting the arrival of the HOG to open to first keg of PBW!

Anxiously awaiting the arrival of the HOG to open to first keg of PBW!

For those holding VIP tickets, the doors opened at 6pm – all the breweries on the main floor were giving out their samples, while some newcomers – Brewery ARS, Hidden River, Highway Manor, and Death of the Fox – delighted with their tasty brews upstairs.

VIP session with Highway Manor's excellent strawberry and blueberry sours.

VIP session with Highway Manor’s excellent strawberry and blueberry sours.

As it neared 7:00pm, anticipation began to rise for the arrival of the Hammer of Glory (The HOG), the sledgehammer used to crack open the first keg of Philly Beer Week – that had begun its Olympic-torch like journey from bar to bar since 8am.  Once it arrived, Joe Ortlieb, 91 years young, used the HOG to get the Brotherly Suds 7 flowing – “Ryebock Lager,” a  collaboration beer between “The Big 7” Philly brewers – Sly Fox, Yards, Victory, Iron Hill, Flying Fish, Stoudts and Troegs.

The view from the mezzanine of the beautiful Fillmore.

The view from the mezzanine of the beautiful Fillmore.

Casey Parker and Will Reed welcome the HOG to the stage

Casey Parker and Will Reed welcome the HOG to the stage!

Check out my Facebook page and Instagram for videos of the tapping of the keg and Joe Ortlieb’s toast!

Once the beer was flowing, the beer festival began – and so did Philly Beer Week!

Here’s a few more photos as the celebration continued! As Joe said in his toast – “Good beer, good friends, GOOD TIMES!” – that’s what Philly Beer Week is all about!  Hope to see you out there!

On this night you can call me The Hogholder.

On this night you can call me The Hogholder.

Will Reed of The Standard Tap brings the HOG to the stage!

Will Reed of The Standard Tap brings the HOG to the stage!

A Victory Yakima Glory at Johnny Brenda's was a perfect end to the first night of Philly Beer Week!

A Victory Yakima Glory at Johnny Brenda’s was a perfect end to the first night of Philly Beer Week!

 

The Stanley Growler Test – #thebrewholderstanleytest

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When I was at the Craft Brewers Conference this month, I visited the Stanley Products      booth at the Brew Expo to check out the Stanley Growler.   I had only heard about them for the first time in February – a friend had one filled with Oskar Blues Ten Fidy – and I was impressed!

If you haven’t heard about the Stanley Growler yet, here’s the deal:  a stainless steel, double wall, vacuum insulated body, this growler is advertised to keep beer cold for 16 hours!  When I was drinking the Ten Fidy – an imperial stout – in February, I wasn’t too concerned about the coldness.   But now in the summer months – and my affinity for pilsners and saisons at picnics and outdoor events – keeping them cold is paramount!

So I acquired two full sized Stanley growlers (as well as a lidless Stanley tumbler that is advertised to keep beer cold for 4 hours), and over the next few weeks I’m going to put them to the test!  Follow me – #thebrewholderstanleytest – on Instagram,  Facebook and Twitter to see how the Stanley Growler stacks up!

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2016 – all rights reserved

Victory Brewing Opens Brewpub in Kennett Square

Victory's Kennett Square Brewpub opened on April 21, 2015

Victory’s Kennett Square Brewpub opened on April 21, 2015

Tonight I attended a media event at Victory Brewing Company’s new brewpub in Kennett Square.  Victory President and Brewmaster Bill Covaleski was on hand to introduce the new brewpub and guide us through an amazing food and beer pairing.  In addition to the samples of beer we tried, we each left with a bottle of Moving Parts 03 and the highly anticipated Summer Love Ale in a can.  The summer is truly on its way!

Victory's Summer Love Ale now portable in a can!

Victory’s Summer Love Ale now portable in a can!  Photo courtesy of Victory Brewing Company.

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2015 – all rights reserved

A Moment of Zen from Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens

An Arrogant Bastard at the Stone Gardens

An Arrogant Bastard at the Stone Gardens

It’s been a busy week in San Diego for me, but I was finally able to slip away to Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido.  It’s a perfect night to sit back under the trees and enjoy one of my all time favorite craft brews, Arrogant Bastard.

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2015 – all rights reserved

San Diego: The Craft Beer Rumors are True

San Diego in January

San Diego in January

In the middle of a cold, Mid-Atlantic winter, I was lucky enough to have a quick visit to balmy San Diego.  Over the years, I have read and heard stories from craft brew fans testifying to the fact that San Diego is the “craft beer mecca” of the West Coast, so I was curious to see how a 48 hour trip with limited time for beer tourism would turn out.  I was not disappointed.

The Knotty Barrel

The Knotty Barrel

I started my visit with a late lunch at The Knotty Barrel.  The comfortable craft brew bar had over 22 taps and 18 bottled beers, with the majority from the Bear State.   I made sure that my first taste of San Diego was a flight of California’s finest – Three Weavers ESB; Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss, Ballast Point Fathom IPA, IronFire 51/50 IPA, and BNS Brewing Ma Deuce DIPA.  The flight did not disappoint – especially when paired with Knotty Barrel’s Potato Chip Nachos and Knotty Wings.

Mission Brewing Company

Mission Brewing Company

Don't act like you're not impressed..with jazz flute..and 2 versions of the IPA

Don’t act like you’re not impressed..with jazz flute..and 2 versions of the IPA

After The Knotty Barrel, I headed to Mission Brewing who, by chance, was releasing their “Don’t Act Like You’re Not Impressed” IPA, that day.  The brew was made in collaboration with Alpine Brewing Company and embraced the San Diego-based film “Anchorman.”  The “Don’t Act Like You’re Not Impressed” IPA was brewed in two varieties – one with Mosaic and another version with Simcoe.  Both were perfect examples of a West Coast IPA for an East Coast visitor!  After sampling a few other Mission creations, I took bottles of Mission’s “Carrack” Red Ale and “Dark Seas” Russian Imperial Stout for the road and went on to explore more of San Diego, which included the grand opening of Half Door Brewing Company.

Coronado Brewing Company

Coronado Brewing Company

Coronado flight

Coronado flight

The following day I took the ferry to Coronado Island, home of Coronado Brewing Company.  There was large crowd at the bar, but it was a friendly, comfortable group enjoying a warm Saturday afternoon.  Between my flight and my companion’s flights, I was able to sample every one of the beers available that day.  Although I hate to make lists or rank beers in any way (to each their own!), Coronado’s Algerythm was the perfect pairing with the weather and the fun people I was with at the time.  A highly aromatic India Pale Lager, the grapefruit and citrus flavors were contrasted nicely by the crisp lager beer.

A golden treasure

A golden treasure

As I departed Coronado Brewing, I was treated with a stunning visual nightcap to a fantastic day – the San Diego skyline was bathed in gold from the setting sun.   Between this sunset and the many outstanding local brews I had encountered in less than 48 hours, I am convinced that what you read is true – San Diego is truly a treasure and should be considered a “mecca” of the American craft brew movement.

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2015 – all rights reserved