Craft Beer Memories Relived: What Is Your Groundhog Day?

In my recent article in Ticket to Entertainment, I asked several people in the craft beer industry to describe a day that they could relive over and over again (beer related of course!), as Bill Murray did in the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day.”  Due to space limitations, I had to edit their responses – so below are their full, unedited responses!  Cheers!

Bill Covaleski, Victory Brewing Company, Jan. 17, 2017

“This is a great question that everyone should answer because, hopefully, it rewards a person with a backwards winding movie off all of the moments of their lives in which the experienced great fulfillment. For me there were many candidates for this honor, but one offered great clarity so I’ll go with this…

Years ago Greg Koch (Stone Brewing) had invited Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head) and I to participate in a big way in the opening of Stone Berlin, with a special version of our Saison du BUFF to be brewed there. Time went by and the day arrived, September 20, 2016. I walked to Sam’s hotel and there he was, as planned, with bikes for us to make the 45 minute trek. Greg rolled up at our arranged meeting point, Brandenburg Gate, a historic spot indeed that added some gravity to what was feeling like a very exciting day. I have to admit, the importance of this American craft beer flag that Stone had so boldly planted in Germany was thrilling me, a student of German brewing school (Doemens, 1993) whose earliest flavorful beers were German imports. I could not wait to experience it.

Along the bike path the folks from BRLO Brewery were starting another busy day of construction on their brewery built into shipping containers so we stopped in to meet them, Greg being the friendly neighbor he is rather than the American beer icon. A sense of anonymity and freedom were a big part of the blissful experience that day. The peak of which may have happened as we rode the quiet path. Just three anonymous friends sharing the path with pensioners and their pets, off to a great, secret adventure like grade school pals skipping school. The sense of promise and place were rich and immediate.

Stone Berlin exudes a calm confidence. It is impossible not to be impressed with the way grand spaces lead to cozy nooks and interesting views, all designed to enrich the experience of flavor and conversation. The artist in me found delight in the facility at every turn. We were joined that day by friends and guests from the UK and America and eventually got to work sorting the rosemary, sage, lemon thyme and parsley that make this winning collaboration beer so delicious. The staff were wide-eyed as well, only one week into the brewpub’s operation. All around was sense of promise, and risk, an intoxicating combination that we entrepreneurs can’t get enough of. Speaking of risk, I recall that the menacing traffic at more than one intersection nearly claimed Sam though we laughed right through it with shouts of encouragement.

Similar to the Stone staff an incredible and close-knit bunch of beer lovers gathered throughout the day, culminating with magnificent beer dinner in which a commemorative boot of Saison du BUFF was passed around and enjoyed by each dinner guest in a somewhat irreverent take on a highly codified German beer drinking tradition.

We shook ourselves from this dream to remount our bikes, this time a larger group including friends and family. At one point I dashed ahead into the darkness to live a moment within my own thoughts. I wondered what force brings busy friends, competitors some might insist, together to a foreign place to add vitality to the vision of a friend It is friendship itself, and the promising energy that flows from a group on the same mission. That’s how you should drink beer, with friends on a mission of discovery. Doing so will make each day different, better and memorable.”

Sam Calagione, Greg Koch and Bill Covaleski celebrate after brewing Saison du BUFF in Stone’s new brewpub in Berlin, September 20, 2016. Photo courtesy of Bill Covaleski.

Julius Facenda, The Brick & Barrel, Jan. 21, 2017:

“Something I’d love to relive every day….One of my most enjoyable beer experiences:  When I started working at Iron Abbey, I had a lot of friends that were judgmental to craft beer scene at the time – it was fancy for them.  And I was getting into it because we had 36 lines on and 300 bottles – so I’m tasting 40 different liquids every day – sour, hoppy, imperial stout, all this crazy stuff.  The boss plans a trip to Sly Fox Bock Fest.  Bock Fest is at Sly Fox, in the parking lot of a shopping center.  We took a bus there – we had 5 cases of Sly Fox “113 IPA” and a good selection of the Sly Fox cans (this is before cans were cool, too!)  So we’re on the bus with a whole bunch of people and I brought a bunch of my non-craft friends – cause they like to party.  Everyone is singing on the bus, and we pull up to Sly Fox and there’s 1000 people in the parking lot – it maxed out at 5000 people!  There’s busses from all kinds of bars and god knows – just random people!

There’s trailers and people with their goats for the goat races.  When we get off the bus, the first interaction we have is with a bunch of goats who are just standing around with no one watching them!   We look at the goats, and one comes out and head butts my leg!  Not vicious, a black goat with huge horns – my friends start laughing;  they are not used to drinking this stronger beer, so they are starting to have a good time.  We came across this beer called EisBock – I was not aware of it prior to that day.  I went into the brewpub – they served the Eisbock in 5 oz servings – so I ordered a few for me and my friends.  It’s different but it’s good – I think it was 14% ABV.

I remember there were people in the trees watching the goat races; I was sitting on a bench with some regulars from Iron Abbey.  Meanwhile, I’m sipping this 14% beer – and my boss comes up and says, “Let’s go – you’re racing this goat!”  I said “I’m drunk bro – I’m not doing that.”  But I chugged the beer and went to get the goat.  It was cool because I have a little salt and pepper in my beard and I got a goat that was salt and pepper too!  One of the guys that worked at Na Brasa also got a goat, and before the race began, the goat took off on him.  He chased it down and finally got the goat back.  I was in the second heat, and I was watching the first heat.  I learned  after the fact – there’s a trick to racing goats – you can’t get in front of your goat, because if you do your goat stops.  Whichever goat wins, that name is used for that year’s bock beer.  Peggy was a three legged goat that may have won a few years in a row and was racing the year I was there.

It was an amazing time – and it wasn’t just all about craft beer.  It was more about the camaraderie with my friends between the beer, the event – Bock fest – being an old german festival.  And my friends were really into this idea because they were partying but there were still people drinking PBR cans.  As I was waiting for my turn in the second heat of the goat race, I look over and my friends are standing next to some random guy with a cooler of PBR cans and they are waving PBR cans! On the way home on the bus the whole bus was singing.  It was such a cool event because it brought non-craft beer drinkers to the real craft beer world where its like every one was just enjoying the time together.  And it was one of my first beer events, to tell you the truth!

Daniel Endicott, Forest & Main Brewing, Jan, 22, 2017

In January of 2009 I traveled to England to study brewing at the University of Sunderland. After a long over night flight and a day of exhausting traveling I arrived in York, where I would spend a few days before classes began. After a quick nap I set out to enjoy the history and beauty of York. I wound up in the Minister Inn, a little bar that makes our bar look enormous. Over pints of bitter I made friends with the locals. Over pints of bitter I watched the inauguration of Barack Obama. It was a momentous time, both for my country and myself. It was a night full of optimism, joy, and pride… and some of the best beer I’d ever had. I returned to the Minister Inn the next night and enjoyed more pints with my new friends, it was one of the most welcoming pubs I’ve ever set foot in. If I could relive one beer related day of my life I think I would choose that one.  It was a big inspiration for our pub.

John Remington, Founder, Conshohocken Brewing Company, Jan. 22, 2017

“This is an easy question for me!  May 2016 – when we won the Silver at the World Beer Cup right here in our backyard in Philadelphia for our ‘Puddlers Row ESB.’  It was amazing to win at the world level, but to do it in Philadelphia made it that much more special to us.  The festivities afterward got a bit hazy after hitting several of our favorite Philly local spots into the early morning.  Definitely worth reliving a few times!”

Jim Carter, Ambler Beverage Exchange, Jan. 22, 2017

“Hahahaha….the one day I’d relive over and over is when I went to Monks Cafe for the 1st time…I could live with doing that for the rest of life…hahaha.  The beers that I had were unbelievable …each one was better than the next ( can’t even remember how what they were but definitely Belgian) the food was spot on and the atmosphere was perfect…I would do it everyday if I could…”

* * *

As Covaleski said, “This is a great question that everyone should answer because, hopefully, it rewards a person with a backwards winding movie of all of the moments of their lives in which they experienced great fulfillment.”  And truly, the question helps one recognize the real value of beer; it should not just be a liquid consumed in a vacuum, but a vital part of a social experience that becomes inexorably intertwined with our life experiences.

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2017 – all rights reserved

Bringing Meaning to “Brew Local” – “Brewing for the Greater Good”

On Saturday, February 21, 2015, Forest & Main Brewing Company, along with From the Boot Ambler, and the “God on Tap” Community, came together to support the Mattie N. Dixon Community Cupboard.  I was proud to attend this wonderful beer tasting for a good cause – read about it on Philly Beer Scene Online Exclusives!  And thanks to Ambler’s own Stacey Salter Moore for providing the photographs for the piece!

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2015 – 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