From one beer mecca to another: Philly to San Diego

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Once again I’m leaving the cold of Philadelphia in January to check out the beer scene in a warmer climate.  And what a scene – the “mecca” of west coast brewing (and IPAs) – San Diego!  Follow me live on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as I check out some of the breweries and craft beer bars in San Diego!  Probably highest on my list this weekend is Mission Brewery‘s release of their collaboration IPA with Alpine Brewing Company today at 4:00pm!

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2015 – All rights reserved

Welcoming the Christmas Season in Style at McGillin’s Old Ale House

While many people mark the beginning of this hectic season by “shopping til you drop” on Black Friday, I tend to take a more reflective approach.  I can’t think of a better way to reflect on the past year than to sit in a warm public house with a craft beer and comfort food.  In my opinion, there is no better place for this than McGillin’s Old Ale House in the “MidTown Village” section of Philadelphia. Located on Drury Street, a narrow, not well-maintained, alley, McGillin’s has provided a safe haven for those looking to drink and eat in a comfortable atmosphere since 1860.

IMG_7832On Thanksgiving weekend, McGillin’s transforms itself into a Christmas wonderland.  As described on their website, “It’s like Christmas with steriods at McGillin’s – with more than 1,000 feet of garland, 1,200 feet of lights, 350 bows and ornaments.”  It’s the perfect place to stop in for a meal and a drink while enjoying Philadelphia Christmas activities like the Macy’s Light Show and the Dickens Village, the Philadelphia Christmas Village and the Comcast Spectacular.

In what is becoming an annual tradition (see my post from 2013), McGillin’s is definitely my choice to jump start to the holidays.  Stop in and have one of McGillin’s specialty brews, crafted only for McGillin’s by Stoudt’s Brewing in Adamstown, or try another local Philadelphia craft brew like Philadelphia Brewing Company’s Walt Wit or Sly Fox’s Christmas Ale.

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Philadelphia Brewing Walt Wit upstairs at McGillin’s

Sly Fox Christmas Ale - glowing red for the season.

Sly Fox Christmas Ale – glowing red for the season.

So here’s to the beginning of the holiday season – and cheers to McGillin’s!

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2014 – all rights reserved

 

Ambler’s Oktoberfest – Fun for Families and Craft Brew Fans Alike

Pumpkin painting at the historic Ambler Theater

Pumpkin painting at the historic Ambler Theater

On Saturday, October 4, 2014, Ambler, Pennsylvania held its annual Oktoberfest, sponsored by the Ambler Main Street organization. After a scare of rainstorms in the morning, the weather turned out to be perfect for a street festival.  Butler Avenue was packed with local artisans, food, carnival games, live music and a Beer Garden sponsored by the Ambler Rotary Club.  It was a family-friendly event but still had craft brew options for those looking for it.

Ambler Rotary Club's Oktoberfest Beer Garden

Ambler Rotary Club’s Oktoberfest Beer Garden

The Rotary Club Beer Garden served Victory’s Festbier as well as a few other non-oktoberfest options; several restaurants on the street, including The Lucky Well, offered food on the curb and had their doors wide open for beverage service.  The open-container prohibition was suspended during the event, so festival attendees could walk and peruse the craft wares for sale – including bottle cap artwork from Zaps Caps.

Zaps Caps bottlecap artwork

Zaps Caps bottlecap artwork

Hop Fries!

Hop Fries!

Among the food options was “Hop Fries” – double fried french fries in the Belgian style sprinkled with an IPA seasoning and served with a smoked garlic cheddar beer cheese.  Talk about a great snack while wandering through a street festival!  Other offerings included traditional funnel cakes and kettle corn, as well as Korean delicacies and Philly cheesesteaks.

Hop fries and hop drink

Hop fries and hop drink

The official end of the festival was located at the live music stage at the intersection of Butler and Main.  But two chalkboards encouraged fest goers to wander down Main Street for an additional Oktoberfest experience.  Bar 31 offered free samples of Sierra Nevada’s Harvest Ale and had a great selection of other seasonal craft beers, including Southern Tier’s Pumking (on special for $4 a pint) and Terrapin’s Pumpkinfest.  While the selection was great, Bar 31 still allows smoking in the barroom which is not conducive to fully enjoying the craft brews.  Once smoking is prohibited inside the pub, Bar 31 will be poised to be a craft beer destination in Ambler.

Bar 31

Bar 31

Ambler’s local craft brewery, Forest & Main, opened its doors early at 12:00 pm for its Oktoberfest celebration.  As with all its events, the front yard was packed with craft beer fans and families enjoying F&M’s house made pretzels and other German fare.  Specially made for Oktoberfest was the Nico, a 5.5% ABV inspired by both German Oktoberfests and French Biere de Gardes.  It was a perfect compliment to the weather and the companionship in the front yard, and a great ending to the Ambler Oktoberfest!

F&M Oktoberfest 2014

F&M Oktoberfest 2014

F&M Nico

F&M Nico

Prost!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2014 – all rights reserved

An Oasis in the Desert – Craft Brew in Phoenix, Arizona

Four Peaks Brewing Kiltlifter in its natural state

Four Peaks Brewing “Kilt Lifter” in its natural state.

The greater Phoenix area is not known as a craft beer destination.  But after a recent trip there, I learned that the demand for local craft beer is growing, and the beginnings of a Phoenix beer culture is emerging like an oasis rising from the horizon of a desert.

Within the past few years craft beer fans have been pleased to see the emergence of craft taps in Phoenix bars.  While larger “chain” pubs such as “The Mellow Mushroom” and “The Yard House” have  a decent selection, some bar owners are providing more options for Phoenix craft drinkers.  The Angel’s Trumpet Ale House, owned by Sharry & Mat Engelhorn, is ensuring that no tap will ever be dedicated to just one beer.  Once a beer is kicked, another, different craft beer takes its place.  The night I was there, a variety of New Belgium beers were showcased during a tap take-over with New Belgium Brewer Grady Hull on premises.

Angel's Trumpet Ale House

Angel’s Trumpet Ale House

Another craft beer bar that has a very nice selection is the Union Barrel House, located in Old City Scottsdale. With over thirty taps of local and other craft beers, it can be difficult to choose which ones to try.  Here’s a tip – make sure you use the paper menu to order, because the beer goes quick and the chalkboard over the bar may not be current.

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The beginning of Grand Avenue Brewing’s barrel program.

As far as breweries are concerned, there are several in the Phoenix area.  But right now there is a flurry of excitement and anticipation for Grand Avenue Brewing Company, which is expected to open in early 2015 and is the collaboration of brewers John Coll and Steve Robson, Philly Beer Geek winner 2008.  “GAB” plans to have a barrel aging program and produce “niche” beers that have not previously been available in the Phoenix market – maybe we’ll see an Ice Bock or a sour similar to Russian River’s Consecration?  Check out an upcoming issue of Philly Beer Scene to learn more about GAB’s plans, and follow them on Facebook to see their progress leading up to opening day.

Other Arizona brews to be on the look out for:

Four Peaks Brewing Company, Tempe, AZ:  Their “Peach Ale” was the perfect compliment to a poolside afternoon, and their “Kilt Lifter” is a local favorite.

Four Peaks Peach Ale

Four Peaks Peach Ale

Sleepy Dog Brewing, Tempe, AZ: “Leg Humper” is a mild hefeweizen that is easy to drink and may lead to other activities.

Papago Brewing Company, Scottsdale, AZ:  Serving and brewing since 2001, their “Orange Blossom” is an American pale wheat ale packed with orange.

Mother Road Brewing Company, Flagstaff, AZ:  If you took a sip with your eyes closed, you’d never guess from the aroma of the “Lost Highway Black IPA” that this was a dark colored beer – wonderful.

Historic Brewing Company, Flagstaff, AZ:  The “Piehole Cherry Vanilla Porter” would make a great compliment to a cooling dessert of vanilla ice cream.

College Street Brewhouse & Pub,  Lake Havasu City, AZ:  Let the stranger take you away in the “Big Blue Van” – a blueberry and vanilla wheat beer that drinks like candy.

Big Blue Van

Big Blue Van – in the only available glass.

So if you find yourself traveling to the greater Phoenix area, make sure you search out some local brew.  No longer will you be lost in the desert with only macro brews – an oasis of craft beer can be found in the Grand Canyon state.

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Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2014 – all rights reserved

Blind Tasting Event at Lucky’s Last Chance Hosted By Philly Beer Scene

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Last night Philly Beer Scene hosted a blind beer tasting event at Lucky’s Last Chance in Manayunk.  Fifteen brave volunteers came out to sample and provide their opinions on a variety of unnamed beers.  Although the point of the event was not to test our ability to identify the brewers of the beers, it didn’t stop us from trying!  From Belgian wit to porter, our taste buds were working on overdrive.  When the sampling was over, we were not told who made the beers – we’ll just have to wait until the next issue of Philly Beer Scene is released at the end of this month!

As a side note, I stopped in at Taqueria Feliz in Manayunk after the tasting.  If you like gazpacho, Taqueria Feliz’s version that is currently being served – with mint and avocado slices and just the right amount of spice – is outstanding!

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Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2014 – all rights reserved

Lansdale Beer Tasting Festival A Great Success

The Lansdale Beer Tasting Festival was a great success once again! The Fifth annual festival included a “Brewmaster Series” beer pairing dinner on Friday night, a VIP early opening on Saturday and a three hour General Session. There were some amazing offerings (including the Bell’s Kalamazoo Hopsoulution), perfect weather and a friendly crowd! Read my full report on Philly Beer Scene!
Cheers!
The Brewholder
Copyright 2014 – all rights reserved

Weekend Wrap-up, June 22

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Another great weekend for craft beer in Montgomery County!  Last Friday, Forest & Main Brewing Company in Ambler put on their “Naked Knees,” a mix between a saison and a Berliner-weiss, conditioned on grapefruit – get this juicy treat while it lasts!

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On Saturday, I made a quick stop into Sir Winston’s Pub (and G.G. Brewers Brewing Company) in Keswick Village and tried the Olde Winnie – an old ale whose handcrafted quality came shining through!  I’ll have to get back soon to try the Arch Bishop (which was not on tap just then) and their Lemon Curry Pepper Wings!

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Then a quick jaunt to the other end of the county to watch some World Cup action at Champps Americana in Collegeville.  The manager, Rob, was extremely attentive and very helpful in making beer selections to match the menu – I was impressed with the Southern Tier Sonnet, their take on a Belgian saison, but weighing in at a slightly high 8.5%.

The best pairing of the night was the Starr Hill Little Red Roostar Coffee Cream Stout and the Champps Mile High Dessert!  I shared the dessert (but not the stout)!

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Stay tuned for next weekend – the 5th annual Lansdale Beer Tasting Festival starts on Friday night with a VIP Beer Pairing, and continues on Saturday afternoon – 12:00 noon VIP session, and general session at 1:30 – with over 100 different brewers and 300 beers!  Tickets are still available here.  Hope to see everyone there!

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2014 – all rights reserved