Forest & Main’s February “Sunday Dinner“ – A Well-Crafted Success


Forest & Main Brewing Company held its second “Sunday Dinner” on February 23.  The “Sunday Dinner” is the newest opportunity for fans of Forest & Main to experience their European-inspired craft brewed beer on a different level – paired with food selected and prepared specifically to match their beer.

The meal was held in a candlelit room on the second floor of the refurbished Victorian-era home.  Limited to twelve guests, we sat at one large, family-style table.  Any initial awkwardness between twelve strangers was quickly eliminated through the welcoming atmosphere created by the smile and warmth of our lovely hostess, Maddie (and the fact that several of the attendees had been at the first dinner in January!)

The February dinner was truly a special treat for fans of Brettanomyces.  As soon as we were settled at the table we were served Forest & Main’s Peach Marius – a limited issue saison made with local peaches bottled and aged since last September.  As he did before every course, Brewer Gerard Olson did an outstanding job of introducing us to the beer with both the technical aspects of the beer as well as extremely enjoyable anecdotes about their creation.  Our first taste of Chef Kaylin Miska’s ability was a Beet Pissaladiere on Spelt crust with anchovies that paired with the Peach Marius wonderfully.  In addition, even before tasting them, the orange of the Marius and red of the beets by candlelight was a visual treat.


The first course was a Baby Russian Red Kale Salad with poached egg, a vinaigrette dressing made with Forest & Main’s St. Mary saison, and parmesan crisps.  This French-inspired offering was paired with another version of the Marius aged on plums.  This was an excellent combination – the sourness of the Marius worked perfectly with the citrus vinaigrette, and both were balanced nicely by the texture of the parmesan crisps.

For the main course, we were served Lamb Cassoulet – which included lamb prepared three ways and baby rainbow chard.  With the Lamb Cassoulet, Gerard introduced a first release for the public – Space Fox, a 5% pale ale that was fermented two times with Brettanomyces.  The Space Fox was an amazingly-crafted beer with the strong aroma and flavor of pink grapefruit.  Not only was it a delicious contrast to the succulent lamb, but the fact that we were the first Forest & Main patrons to experience it made the night all that more special.


After a meal with such rich flavors, a simple dessert of candied ginger ice cream and warm chocolate sauce was perfect.  With the dessert course we were served a special version of Forest & Main’s Omphalos – a 10% barleywine style ale that had been brewed in 2012, then placed in barrels with Brett – it was extremely smooth with notes of spice and coffee.  As we finished our glasses of Omphalos we were forced to acknowledge that the work week was creeping up on us and reluctantly bid goodnight to our new friends, suggesting that perhaps we would see each other again at next month’s Dinner.


The Forest & Main Sunday Dinner is an excellent convergence of the pillars of their philosophy:  finely crafted beer, excellent food, and a welcoming atmosphere for enjoying them.  Information about upcoming dinners can be found on their website.  In its first two years of operation, Forest & Main has already earned a well-deserved reputation for quality brewing.  The addition of the “Sunday Dinner” will no doubt enhance their reputation even more.


The Brewholder

Copyright 2014 – all rights reserved

Cape Commons Brewing Company names Christian Ryan as Brewmaster

On February 23, 2014, the owners of Cape Commons Brewing Company – under development in Brooklyn, New York – announced that Christian Ryan will be joining them as their Brewmaster.  Christian is formerly the Head Brewer of Blue Point Brewing,  Assistant Brewer at Meantime Brewing Company, and Brewmaster at River Horse Brewing.  As a good friend of ours, we will be watching Christian and Cape Commons Brewing Company with much interest over the next few months!


The Brewholder

Copyright 2014 – all rights reserved

President’s Day in Central Pennsylvania


To commemorate President’s Day, today I visited Wheatland – President James Buchanan’s home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  While there, I was reminded that because our 15th President (the only President from Pennsylvania) was the first unmarried president to take the office, his niece Harriet was dubbed, “The First Lady,” rather than “the President’s wife.”  And the title sticks to the present day.   Kudos to volunteers of the Lancaster County Historical Society for their “Living History” visit with President Buchanan!

Anytime I am near Central Pennsylvania, I try to make a stop at Pizza Boy Brewing / Al’s of Hampden in Enola, Pennsylvania.  While it was about an hour away from Lancaster, it was definitely worth the drive.  With over 100 brews on tap from a variety of breweries, today the tap list included around 20 different creations from Pizza Boy itself.  I started with the Citra Pils, which was absolutely fantastic with what I believe are the best Philly Cheese Steaks west of the Susquehanna River!


I also tried the outstanding Raspberry Sour (I liked this so much I had to bring home a growler of it), the wonderfully hopped Red Ale, and – to keep up with the “red” theme – the deliciously fruity Raspberry Cream Ale.

IMG_4299IMG_4303IMG_4305I also brought home a growler of Pizza Boy’s Hazelton Alien Saison and the Azazel Mint Chocolate Stout – both of which I’m looking forward to sharing with a few friends this week!

And on this President’s Day, let’s not forget to raise a glass to President Jimmy Carter – because regardless of your political bent, you can’t deny that he paved the way for the craft beer revolution in the U.S.!


The Brewholder

Copyright 2014 – all rights reserved


A Little Sunshine in Your Beer: Craft Brew in Florida

Last week I had had enough of the polar temperatures and piles of snow, so I headed down to Florida to check out the beer scene and warm up a little.  When thinking about Florida’s beer scene, usually Cigar City Brewing comes to mind, and Yuengling’s second brewing facility.  But after doing a little research, I learned that there is a young and growing craft beer scene in the Sunshine State.

Funky Buddha Brewing Company

My first stop took me to Funky Buddha Brewing Company located in their relatively new facility in Oakland Park, Florida, which is right outside Fort Lauderdale.  The front of the brewery was deceiving – I thought I was walking into a much smaller place, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a large, well-lit room with a high ceiling and a long, angled bar.


The common area is painted in a subdued orange, and two walls are decorated with brightly colored murals that reflect the philosophy of the brewers and owners.  [Unfortuntely, one of my pictures was blurry, but after a few beers it should be fine – so drink up!]




After taking it all in, my first impression was that this would be a great and refreshing place to have a beer after spending some time in the hot Florida sun.

Funky Buddha has been in operation since 2010 and opened their current location in June 2013.  Most well-known for its “Morning Wood” Imperial Stout aged in a whiskey barrel, the brewery has a strong following throughout the state.  At a rare bottling event for its Maple Bacon Coffee Porter in January 2014, almost 4,500 people stood in line to take home some of the brew.


My companion and I took a seat at the end of the bar and we each ordered a flight of four beers.  We shared eight samples of Funky Buddha’s finest offerings – Floridian Hefeweizen; Hop Gun IPA; Crusher Session IPA; Dubbel Dragon Belgian; French Oak Hop Gun IPA; Starfruit Floridian; Tropical Lindy; and OP Porter.  All of these selections were nice examples of the styles; my two favorites were the Starfruit Floridian and the Crusher Session IPA.


Despite its large size, Funky Buddha does not serve food.  No worries though – like many other breweries, food trucks are located outside the brewery, and you are welcome to bring in your own food as well.  Brewery tours, including four samples in the brewhouse and a Funky Buddha pint glass, are available at the top of each hour for $5.00.

Overall, Funky Buddha is a great place to try some well-crafted beer on a sunny afternoon if you need a break from the beach!

Hollywood Organic Brewery

In Hollywood, Florida, there is a craft brewery on the boardwalk that prides itself on the healthy benefits of its creations.  In operation since December 2011, Organic Brewery uses only organically grown German hops and barley, does not filter its brews, and uses a natural carbonation system.


Before speaking with Organic Brewery’s General Manager Johnny Quinones, I took a seat at a table outside, which offered a beautiful view of Hollywood beach and the Atlantic Ocean.  A warm ocean breeze was blowing as I ordered a flight of the four beers on tap – German Pilsner, Belgian Ale, Russian Stout and German Wheat.


Compared to other beers, these are much lower in carbonation and much cloudier.  But the tingling on your tongue confirms that they are indeed carbonated, and the flavor of the beer tells you that this was definitely not a mistake. My personal favorite of the four was the German Wheat – the expected clove and banana flavors were certainly dominant, and it had a solid phenolic taste as well.


Once I had sampled the brews, I went inside to speak with Johnny.  I asked him what his customers’ reactions have been to his special beers, and especially to the lower carbonation.  He explained, “People who aren’t familiar with traditional European brewing – especially in Eastern Europe – think the beer is flat.  But it’s not – this is what we wanted to do.”  According to Johnny, a large number of people in the Hollywood community trace their roots to Eastern Europe, so Organic Brewery certainly has their support.  In addition, Organic Brewery has one of the only natural carbonation systems in the country, manufactured by Zipbier,  so it is rare to find at a commercial level.



Johnny explained that they do not filter their beers because they believe it makes the beer healthier.  “When you filter a beer, you take out most of the yeast and Vitamin B.  We leave it in and our customers appreciate that.”  In fact, while I was there, several patrons were ending bike rides on the boardwalk by replenishing vitamins with the German Pilsner.

But of course, the traditional brewing methods result in the beer having a 30 day shelf life.  Johnny told me that this can be frustrating to their distributors.  To ease that frustration, and in response to the great demand for their beer, Organic Brewing will soon be enlarging and moving their production away from the brewpub location.  Johnny was quick to add that the brewpub would remain because the location is so great.  “Sometimes I’m sitting at the bar during the business day making phone calls or emailing, and I see the beach and ocean, and I can’t believe I’m working!”


When I asked whether they have plans for other styles of beer, Johnny said possibly, but, unlike other craft breweries, their concept of traditional, healthier brews is unique and so they have no immediate plans to brew any “crazy” beers like candy or bacon infused beers.  “I don’t put bacon in my body, so why would I put it in my beer?

Once I had a better understanding of Organic Brewing’s concept and process, it was easy to truly appreciate these brews – especially when sitting next to the ocean on a 72 degree Februrary evening.  If you ever find yourself in Hollywood or the surrounding area, you should hop on a bike and make sure your last stop is Organic Brewery.  Your taste buds – and the rest of your body – will thank you!


My trip to the Sunshine State in the middle of a brutal Pennsylvania winter was regrettably short but thoroughly enjoyable!  Besides Funky Buddha and Organic Brewery, other Florida brews that I sampled and would recommend included:

Native Brewing – “Lager”

Tequesta Brewing – collaboration with Funky Buddha – “Polish Hammer”

Florida Avenue Brewing Company -“Blueberry”

Inlet Brewing Company – “Monk in the Trunk”


The Brewholder

Copyright 2014 – all rights reserved


AB Inbev to Purchase Blue Point Brewing Company

As reported in Business Insider, Anheuser-Busch Inbev will purchase Blue Point Brewing Company for $24 million in the early part of second quarter 2014.  I guess this means we’ll see Toasted Lager in a lot more bars across the country.  That’s pretty amazing since I’ve seen it recently as far south from Long Island as Hollywood, Florida.  Well, hopefully they won’t tinker with the recipe for Old Howling Bastard, their 10% barleywine, which I thought was outstanding.