Formerly brewed in Belgium, the Urthel range of beers is brewed by native Belgian Hildegard van Ostaden at Koningshoeven (formerly La Trappe), the only Trappist monastery in the Netherlands brewing beer for commercial distribution. Urthel's small, focused range includes Samaranth (a quadruppel), Vlamese Bock (a Flemish dark ale), a golden Tripel and the cheesy, funky IPA Hop-It.
One quality all of Urthel's brews have in common is serious boozy bang â Hop-It is 9.5 percent ABV, Samaranth 11.5. Perhaps sensing a need for a more sessionable ale for the coming warm weather, Hildegard has just added the blond SaisonniÃ¨re to her Urthel lineup.
SaisonniÃ¨re was conceived in the style of saison, a farmhouse beer traditionally brewed from pale malts in March for drinking through the hot summer months. A peppery hop nose is typical of the style and evident here, tempered by the smoothness from 20 percent wheat in the grain bill, a departure from the traditional all-barley malt saison. Bottle-conditioned and unfiltered, SaisonniÃ¨re is a happy hybrid of soft wheat beer, a smooth blonde and zippy farmhouse ale, ringing in at an approachable 6 percent ABV.
Find it in 11.2-oz. bottles ($9.50) at both Tria locations (1137 Spruce St. and 123 S. 18th St.) and on draft ($8) at the Abbaye (637 N. Third St.) while it lasts.
Columnist Rick Nichols catalogs the fallout from recent unregistered beer raids - but holds out hope for a happy Beer Week - in today's Inquirer, while restaurant critic Craig LaBan talks beer in his weekly online chat. Via Jack Curtin's Liquid Diet.
Excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat, posted March 18
Reader: What do you make of this whole beer raid situation? Maybe this will begin the overthrow of our Prohibition-era liquor laws.
CL: I think the situation is complicated: There are good reasons to have basic liquor laws - but the Keystone Kops execution (to quote Don Russell) really irked people, smacking of overreaction and control-state bureaucracy and even a little personal vendetta on the part of one anonymous complainant who apparently launched the whole thing. These confiscated beers were at other unraided bars, too. Overall, it's a black eye for our liquor control apparatus to have so clumsily taken a swipe at our growing beer scene - one of the most vital engines for restaurant growth, not to mention urban renewal, such as what Resurrection Ale House has brought to the neighborhood south of South. In the end, the bad publicity may end up having a positive effect in terms of reform (there's a hearing in April, says colleague Rick Nichols, who has followed this story in today's column). But don't count on the demise of the PLCB any time soon.
It's Philly Beer Weekend (or Ghost Beer Week, which we think has a certain je ne sais quoi) and there's the freshly legal Russian River Supplication to line up for, the new Flying Fish Exit 16 to taste when it debuts at McGillin's on Mon. and the Saturday Craft Beer Express, shuttling drinkers between eight local beer-centric bars for $15.
But wait! Now there's a second boozy bus to guarantee your Sunday apocalyptic hangover. Varga Bar (941 Spruce St.) and Yards Brewing are sponsoring the Highbrow Bar Crawl from 3-10 p.m. tomorrow; their bus will visit five pubs, including Varga, the Khyber, Triumph, New Wave CafÃ© and the P.O.P.E. Just like the Craft Beer Express, $15 buys unlimited rides on the loop (riders buy their own drinks). Yards will be handing out swag at participating locations throughout the evening; you can snag at ticket at any of the participating bars.
Spring is so close I can taste it -- taste it in Dogfish Head's super-seasonal, catch-it-while-you-can favorite Aprihop, that is. The apricot-infused American pale ale is continuously hopped for mega bitters while the stone fruit adds aroma and an effervescent, fruity undertone. It debuts for the season tonight at The Belgian CafÃ© (2047 Green St.), where some of y'all have seen me tending bar on occasion.
You know Belgian wouldn't bring in Dogfish Head's supercool rep Wendy Domurat just to debut one brew, right? In addition to the Aprihop on draft, hard-to-find drafts of World Wide Stout, Pangaea, Fort and Palo Santo will be flowing, plus a cellared firkin of the one-off, maple syrup-hit, cask-conditioned 75 Minute IPA. The fun starts at 7 p.m.
|Bus it up.|
The beer drinkers are coming, the beer drinkers are coming! But rather than staggering through the streets or worse, operating two wheels or four, they'll be carted around in buses to eight different bars. "People can take a train in from the suburbs and jump on one of our buses," says Johnny Brenda's and Standard Tap co-owner William Reed. "The not-driving aspect was on our minds," he adds. With buses scheduled to run every 30 minutes, the fun sport of hailing a cab is also removed from the equation. Now you can just relax and savor the hops and malt at each location.
Think of this as part of a makeshift beer weekend that came as a result of the move of Philly Beer Week from March to June. Many of the bars included in this bus ride to heaven were already planning a beer related event for this weekend: Devil's Den has a beer and cheese pairing in the works and Jose Pistola's will have an Ithaca Brewing brunch. "The bars aren't competing," says Kite and Key co-owner Jim Kirk. "We're all friends." And as such, the bar owners put their heads together and came up with an event that will send beer tasters pinballing around the city. Check out the details, including bar stops and events, and purchase tickets on Johnny Brenda's Web site.
Sat., Mar. 13, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., $15, various locations, tickets available at johnnybrendas.com
|Real ale for real men|
In the early 1970s, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) coined the term "real ale," defined as "beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide." Real ales are also described by the vessel from which they are dispensed, as "cask" or "cask-conditioned" ale. Aluminum and stainless steel casks descended from wooden barrels are the most common, including firkins (72 Imperial 20-ounce pints, or one-fourth of a full barrel) and pins (half a firkin).
Yards Brewing (901 N. Delaware Ave.) will commemorate the tradition of fresh, locally produced cask ale when they commence hammering dozens of taps into as many bungs at 1 p.m. on Sat., March 21 at the second Real Ale Invitational. More than 25 breweries, invited expressly by Yards for their skillfully made cask-conditioned ales, will pour their best. Music by Jazz Horse, snacks, commemorative glassware and beer are all included in the ticket price ($50 advance/$60 day-of, if available), which can be upgraded to VIP ($65) for those who would like a private tour of the brewery with founder Tom Kehoe.
Eyeball the participating brewers after the jump. Ticket are available on Yards' Web site.
* Allentown/Bethlehem Brew Works
* Dock Street Brewing Company
* Dogfish Head Brewery
* Elysian Brewing Co.
* Flying Fish Brewing Company
* Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
* Manayunk Brewing Co.
* Nodding Head Brewery & Restaurant
* Otto's Pub & Brewery
* Oskar Blues
* Philadelphia Brewing Company
* Rock Bottom Brewing Company
* Sly Fox Brewing Company
* Stewarts Brewing Company
* Stoudts Brewing Company
* Triumph Brewing Company
* Troegs Brewing Company
* Victory Brewing Company
* Weyerbacher Brewing Company
* Yards Brewing Company
|The barrel-aging room at Lost Abbey|
Lock up your daughters and prepare your liver, 'cause The Brett Pack is coming to town.
Hot on the heels of Port Brewing and Lost Abbey genius brewer Tomme Arthur visiting Memphis Taproom tonight , Dogfish Head owner/chief visionary Sam Calagione will be stopping by Earth Bread + Brewery on Thursday; you'll have to wait until March 11 to see Allagash Brewing founder Rob Tod when he does events at Jose Pistolas, Teresa's Next Door, Beer Yard and Craft Ale House.
Tonight at 6 p.m., Memphis Taproom (2231 E. Cumberland St.) will begin pouring Tomme Arthur's Mongo Double IPA, anniversary Hop 15, Wipeout IPA, frankincense-and-myhrr-infused Gift of the Magi '08 vintage, Carnivale and the super-boozy, seriously coveted Older Viscosity aged barleywine on draft, as well as "some super limited edition surprises". I would say arrive early to this one; the ubergeeks have no compunctions about setting a pick/and or boxing the neophytes out from getting the truly rare stuff. In addition, bald folks with glasses get an extra dollar off all drafts. I'm headed out to buy a swim-cap now.
Sam Calagione will be bringing 7 or 8 of his "wild concoctions" to Earth Bread + Brewery (7139 Germantown Ave.) on Thu., Feb. 25 at 6 p.m., and guests get to keep their curvy "off-centered" pint glass. Expect the juice-infused Red+White, Black+Blue and Fort, Raison d'Etre, 60 Minute IPA and Indian Brown Ale, plus limited seasonals like ApriHop.
Check back for details on Rob Tod's March 11 appearances closer to the event.
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
|Vinyl's fanciful label by poster artist Jim Pollock|
One of the first craft beers I ever really got my tongue around was Magic Hat #9, brewed in Burlington, VT. Not quite as bitter as a true pale ale but still appealingly dry and slightly touched with apricot, #9 was a veritable staircase out of my grim, sweaty NattyIce dungeon into the sunshiny wonderland that is craft beer.
Magic Hat's Spring Seasonal Variety Pack, samples of which arrived at my door on Tuesday accompanied by a branded coaster in the shape of a record (pictured), includes the brand-new Vinyl, a limited-run amber lager.
Magic Hat scores straight off with unique graphic design that should grab consumers by the eyeballs when the beer is on the shelf. Vinyl's whimsical label artwork is by artist Jim Pollock (he of Phish concert-poster fame), who is also producing a limited-edition Vinyl poster series to benefit the nonprofit Waterwheel Foundation.
Once cracked, the 12-ounce bottle poured a deep coppery color with a moderate bright white head that quickly dissipated. The nose is slightly toasted and grassy -- true to the Vienna or amber lager style, fruitiness from esters is considered a defect. This has none. On the tongue is a solid, not-too-sweet malt backbone with a fresh bread quality and a very slight, crisp hop presence that finishes dry. Vinyl is certainly easy-drinking at 5.1 percent ABV, the result of lagering at the low end of ale fermentation temperatures with bottom-fermenting yeast.
Overall Vinyl is extremely quaffable -- smooth, clean and pleasant. It's what Yuengling Lager would taste like if it wasn't mass-produced crap. You can find Vinyl, as well as the Spring Seasonal Variety Pack, with Magic Hat's Sipcode locator.
|Taste and learn|
On Thursday, Feb. 18 at 4 p.m., take-out craft beer destination the Foodery will convene the first session of the Foodery Beer Academy at Cantina dos Segundos (931 N. Second St.). The professional beer geeks who scour the festivals and man the phones tracking down the world's best craft brews will be teaching students how to describe the flavors that haunt them, with samples of 12 beers representative of major styles poured during three one-hour Academy classes, each $15 per person.
For those who can't play hooky on a weekday, the second class meets in West Philly at Local 44 (4333 Spruce St.) on Sat., Feb. 20 at 3 p.m.; the third will be in session at Nodding Head (1516 Sansom St.) on Sat., Feb. 27 at 1 p.m. Tickets are on sale at both Foodery locations (324 S. 10th St. and 837 N. Second St) and all participating bars.
|Photo l Michael Persico for KeystoneEdge.com|
|Joe Sixpack on the job|
Philly Beer Week co-founder and writer Don âJoe Sixpackâ Russell will host a Brooklyn Brewery beer dinner this Wed., Feb. 17 from 7-9 p.m., at Iron Abbey Gastro Pub (680 N. Easton Road, Horsham PA). Forty bucks gets you innovative fare paired with Brooklyn Brewery's finest pours. (It must be mentioned that dessert is a "beer float" of Black Chocolate Stout. Like, whoa.) âSixpackâ, who makes a living drinking beer and writing about it for the Philadelphia Daily News (as well as organizing beer events, authoring books and making public appearances) will also be giving guests the run-down of the brewery, its origin and those beers they are throwing back. Reservations required! Call 215-956-9600 so you can taste that float.
UPDATE: Thanks to commentor Pete LaVerghetta, who correctly noted that Joe Sixpack has more revenue streams than just the Daily News. This post has been corrected to reflect his many jobs.
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