Cascading from the tap into its branded chalice, a burnished pour of Chimay Cinq Cents has been a staple of Philadelphia's beer bars since our salad days learning how to be America's Best Beer-Drinking City. The dry, slightly spicy ale can please both first-timers and seasoned geeks with its approachable flavor profile and heavy, heady credibility.
Monk's Cafï¿½ owners Tom Peters and Fergus Carey traveled to Belgium in 2001 to lobby the Scourmont Abbey to export kegs of their only beer packaged for the draft tower. A year later, the first barrel of Cinq Cents breached outside of Brussels was tapped at Monk's; the brew has been flowing through two dedicated draft lines ever since.
Until now. As of July 2009, Origlio Beverage distributes Chimay to Philadelphia wholesale accounts at a before-tax price of $199.35 per 20-liter keg (sixtel). Add on the 7 percent state and city liquor taxes, and the price comes to $213.30. In 2002, sixtels cost $150 before tax, and sales were brisk. "Somewhere, I have a plaque they gave me," says Peters. "We sold the most Chimay of any establishment in the United States."
The 10-ounce glass that cost the consumer $5 seven years ago is now $8. "Thatï¿½s just too much for me to feel comfortable charging for a glass of draft beer, especially in this retracting economy," says Peters. "My keg sales went from 16-20 kegs per week a few years ago, down to around 8-10 per week these days. The consumer has spoken, and we have listened. We will run Chimay on tap occasionally, just no longer on a daily basis."
Michael Naessens, owner of Eulogy and Beneluxx, started serving draft Chimay in 2003. Both of his establishments still serve 10-ounce drafts of Cinq Cents, which run $7.99 at Eulogy and $7.49 at Beneluxx, before tax. Naessens plans to keep the beer on draft, despite its expense to himself and the customer. "I try to keep it on all the time," he says. "It is definitely expensive, but [Chimay gets] that price because they are who they are. I always do a dollar-per-ounce-of-alcohol analysis for customers ï¿½ it's 8 percent, so that's the same as two Yuenglings, [and Cinq Cents] has less calories and better taste."
In separate interviews, each bar owner identified the same reason for Cinq Cents' high price ï¿½ the weak dollar against the Euro. "I do not think the brewery/abbaye is making a huge profit on each keg," says Peters in an e-mail. "They may even be making less money on each keg than they were back in 2002. I think the problem arises in that the brewery charges in Euros and I pay in U.S. dollars. In January of 2002 the rate was 0.88932 and in July of 2009 the rate was 1.4092. Thatï¿½s a huge difference."
Naessens concurs. "From $150 to $200 ï¿½ that's about a 30 percent increase. It matches the change in the exchange rate from 2002 to today. They're killing us with the Euro, and the price of shipping has increased substantially, as well."
A few of the Philly bars that identify as "Belgian" are pouring Chimay every day. Peters and Carey's Belgian Cafï¿½ (where this writer bartends) pulled Cinq Cents off draft more than a year ago. Zot has never served it. "It's just too pricey for the size of the keg," says general manager Charles Brodvinksi. "You're lucky if you get 65 glasses out of it, and that's with no overpour or loss."
Bridgid's, near the Art Museum, serves Cinq Cents "regularly" on draft for $7 including tax. Jose Pistola's keeps Chimay in its rotation at $7.75 before tax for 10 ounces. "It ends up coming in around 40 percent cost, which is really high for draft beer," says general manager Suzanne O'Brien. "However, it is a specialty item, and we balance our costs by having Yards and other reasonable beers on tap. We sell PBR, too; Tom [Peters] doesn't."
Peters has a rep from Chimay's importer, Mannken-Brussel Imports, visiting him this week, but it is difficult to compromise on the price of a barrel without seriously denting the bottom line, since the Trappist monks who oversee Chimay do not produce and sell beer for profit. Revenues that exceed the monies required to sustain the abbey are put into numerous charitable causes and good works, including orphanages.
UPDATE:ï¿½ This post has been edited to reflect the proper capacity of a 25cl Chimay glass.
I have been known to ring up my preferred watering holes to inquire if they have certain beers (and if that bread pudding is on tonight). As a bartender, I field similar sorts of calls from folks who want me to psychically predict when the Palm will kick so we can get to the Pliny.
Though it cannot make oracular pronouncements with any more certainty than your average annoyed bartender, BeerMenus.com will tell you where you can get your brew of choice right now.ï¿½ The free, searchable site got started in New York; Philadelphia's page was launched June 29 of this year.
Type in your mission, be it "Dogfish Head Punkin Ale" or "cask ale," and the search engine will spit out places eager to give you what you want. The nitty-gritty of prices, descriptions, ABV and methods of delivery (bottle, draft) are listed for comparison. Genius, right?ï¿½ Meal Ticket was so impressed with this innovation we caught up with Will Stephens, who founded BeerMenus.com along with brother Eric Stephens, Michael Leung and Elliott Draper.
Meal Ticket: Philly beer bars change their draft lists constantly. How will this information be kept up-to-date?
Will Stephens: Our site is set up so that bars, restaurants and beer stores can update their menu themselves by logging in and adding or removing beers when they change. We make it easy to browse recently updated menus so that you can easily find the most accurate information. Many bars already update daily in Philly and the number of bars updating grows every day.
ME:ï¿½ Have you gone out beer drinking in Philly yet? What do you think?
WS:ï¿½ I am in Philly every week going to bars and restaurants, and I am continually impressed by the number of local breweries and places selling local beers. Philly, of course, has a variety of places that specialize in great beer, but it's also exciting to see so much craft beer in places that do not specialize in craft beer. It's a real sign that Philly is a beer town.
ME: What are your most-searched beers for Philadelphia?
WS: Russian River Pliny The Elder, Yards Cape Of Good Hope IPA and Trï¿½egs Nugget Nectar.
From Saturday, August 15 through Friday the 21st, Devil's Den will devote an entire draft tower to all things sour, funky and tart -- the legacy of a few tiny microorganisms: brettanomyces, lactobacillus and pediococcus.ï¿½ Brettanomyces boosters include some of America's best-regarded craft brewers, with the driving edge led by the infamous Brett Pack.
Successful forays into American sours by The Brett Pack have spawned even more puckery potions, many of which you can taste during Devil's Den Pucker Up! celebration.ï¿½ Highlights from the draft tower, with our picks in bold:
- Dogfish Head Festina Peche -- a peach-addled riff on the classic, low-alcohol, lactic style called Berliner Weisse
- Rodenbach Grand Cru
- Ommegang Rouge -- one of the best introductions to Flemish-style sours, with plenty of cherries added.
- Ballast Point Sour Wench
- Dock Street Dunkel Berliner Weisse
- Cantillion Gueuze -- the definitive, unsweetened, mavericky classic. Benchmark for all gueuze, ever.
- Russian River Consecration -- aged in Cab Sauv barrels for 9 months, with 30 lbs. of red currants added to each barrel -- this is SUPER RARE and amazing
- Monk's Cafe Sour
- Duchesse de Bourgogne
There will also be 15 sour bottles to choose from; the Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus (very tart gueuze with raspberries added) and Petrus Oak-Aged Pale Ale, an elegant, hoppy pale with just enough pucker from the oak to make it a perfect partner for food, are must-haves.
If you've never experienced the wonder of lambics, Flemish sours and gueuze, get thee to Devil's Den for a minimal-commitment draft pour.ï¿½ If you're a funky lambic head, your fellows will know where to find you next week.
Devil's Den First Annual Pucker Up! Sour Fest, Aug. 15-21, 1148 S. 11th St., 215- 339-0855, devilsdenphilly.com
|Grey Lodge Pub|
|Your breakfast for the marathon|
Thirteen-year-olds are an awkward lot. Unlike most freshly minted teenagers, who generally want to disappear into a hole until the day they can get their license, The Grey Lodge Pub is celebrating their 13th birthday with the ï¿½lan of a far more sophisticated teen ï¿½ one who possesses his older brother's ID and an insatiable craving for cask beer.
On Saturday, August 15th, starting at 11 a.m., the Lodge will throw themselves a party of epic proportions. Every hour will kick off another event, featuring another brewery, another game, another live band ï¿½ you get the idea. Authors and brewery reps will sign books and body parts, hand out prizes and hold forth. Scoats, Lodge cellarmaster and evil genius behind this bacchanalia, will preside. Highlights:
11 a.m.-noon: Dock Street Triskaidekaphilia (possibly translating to "love of 13") was brewed especially for Grey Lodge's anniversary. For $8, you get half a liter of the local dunkel weisse, two ente wurst (duck sausages) and a soft pretzel.
1 p.m.: Beat Philadelphia Brewing's Chris or Dean at 101 darts to win Philadelphia Brewing Co. T-shirts; their new 6.2 percent ABV Amarillo-hopped Mayfair IPA will be on a gravity-pour firkin.ï¿½ CP assistant Copy Editor Carolyn Wyman, author of The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book, will be on hand to sign copies of her masterpiece.
2 p.m.: Compare and contrast two vintages (2008, 2009) of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, a bomber with no chocolate in it at all.ï¿½ Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver suggested this be paired with chicken mole over rice, so it will be.
4 p.m.: Victory Pils and Phils (wear your Phillies gear to get Victory pint glasses) and really old Old Horizontal. Scoats squirreled away a case of Victory's killer barleywine and is breaking out his 1997 vintage stash for the Phillies game.
5 p.m.: Putting the bar in bar mitzvah will be Grey Lodge's reigning Beer Geek, Steve Hawk, who will read some Hebrew before passing out cake. Pin the yarmulke on the (paper) Steve Hawk for prizes.
10 p.m.: It's Always Sunshine-y at the Grey Lodge: Dress up as the Green Man and definitely win a T-shirt; re-enact scenes from everyone's favorite loser bar-owner slapstick show for prizes; It's Always Sunny trivia contest. Also, a special keg of Keller Trï¿½egs Sunshine Pils and Trï¿½egs Naked Elf on draft.
11 p.m.: Have you ever wanted to wear a traffic cone on your head and allow strangers to attempt to chuck rings onto it? Flying Fish head brewer Casey Hughes has! Flying Fish Exit 11 on draft and Exit 4 in bottles.
Check out the entire schedule for 13 events in 13 hours on The Grey Lodge's amusing Web site.
|AP via Telegraph
On Monday, we asked you to nominate the beer for President Obama's Rose Garden sit-down with Harvard prof Skip Gates and Cambridge cop James Crowley. Some great responses in the comments, in addition to our selection of Sam Adams Boston Lager as the one beer to end racial strife.
The so-called Beer Summit finally took place last night, and here's who drank what (veep Joe Biden ended up chilling along with):
- Obama: Bud Light. The most popular man in American selects the most popular beer in America. Works on paper, we suppose ï¿½ but straight-up Bud would've endeared this choice more to all those people in the Rust Belt or wherever who still think O is Al-Qaeda. [GRADE: C]
- Biden: Bucklers. The VP is a longtime teetotaler, so he opted for this "beer," which carries less than 1 percent ABV. We've never had Bucklers, but for some reason it seems more legit than O'Doul's, so respect. [GRADE: B]
- Crowley: Blue Moon. Coors makes this some-ladies-love-it wheat beer, which is often served with an orange wedge. (They wouldn't let photogs close enough to the meeting for us to determine whether or the sergeant went with the citrus.) Kind of an anemic choice, but in post-racial America, we suppose it's OK for a cop to be seen drinking this in the company of men. [GRADE: C+ with orange wedge; B- without it]
- Gates: Sam Adams Light. Leave it to the Ivy League brain to listen to us! Though he didn't go with Boston Brewing Co.'s flagship beer, this works ï¿½ Meal Ticket typically tries to avoid light beer at all costs, but we've had this stuff on several occasions and were pleasantly surprised. [GRADE: A]
Wait, wait ï¿½ here's what Gates said to some reporters post-summit regarding the circumstances of his arrest:
"Sergeant Crowley and I, through an accident of time and place, have been cast together, inextricably, as characters ï¿½ as metaphors, really ï¿½ in a thousand narratives about race over which he and I have absolutely no control," he said, striking a suitably scholarly tone.
People who drink beer shouldn't talk like that. A REVOKED! [NEW GRADE: B]
Saison Dupont, in addition to being possibly the finest, tastiest, classiest and most delightful beer in the known universe, has some pretty stylish graphic design and marketing material. Case in point: this set of educational coasters that invites the drinker to identify some of the elements of their brew.ï¿½ We're feeling the Lemon Zest, noticing the Earthy Fruitiness and digging the Black Pepper... but what the hellï¿½ is Snap?
After the jump, one beer expert's tasting notes on Saison Dupont (pictured above, upside-down)
|Craft beer + hometown pride = NJ tattoos|
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant (124 East Kings Highway, Maple Shade, N.J., 856-273-0300) opened its first-ever Jersey brewpub last week, the local chain's eighth location. Lance "Chris" LaPierre, former brewer at Iron Hill in West Chester,ï¿½ crossed the river to get the new place up and running. The multi-medal-winning LaPierre is also working the computer, writing a blog that provides an insider's view of the opening of the brewpub.
Uno Chicago Grill (2803 Route 73 S., Maple Shade, N.J., 856-722-5577) has been flaunting its 10 craft taps on a giant LED billboard for a while now, so we got in touch with general manager Sean Dunleavy to find out what's what.
Meal Ticket: What are you pouring right now?
Sean Dunleavy: We rotate our drafts all the time, except for Rogue Dead Guy, which stays on. I also have tons of beer backed up in the cooler, so we change most drafts every week.
- Left Hand Sawtooth
- Southern Tier Cherry Imperial Saison
- Rogue Dead Guy
- Green Flash West Coast IPA
- Lagunitas Hop Stoopid
- Allagash White
- Allagash Black
- Weyerbacher Zotten
- Stone Russian Imperial Stout
- Dogfish Head Burton Baton
MT: Not bad. Everyone is looking for that Green Flash IPA in Philly and almost no one has it.
SD: Yes, that one is tasty. It was just approved in New Jersey like two weeks ago.
MT: Does the selection extend into bottles?
SD: Yes, we have 50 craft bottles at all times, plus the big brewery beers, for a total of 90.
MT: Is this interest in craft beer a chain-wide thing? Or is Uno a franchise?
SD: We're a franchise, a part of The Bock Group, a Philadelphia-based group that has eight restaurants in the greater Philadelphia area ... but none in Philadelphia. We all have at least two craft beers on draft, and most stores participate in the American craft beer market.
|Photo l Lisa Schaffer at Skylerbug.com|
The 10,000 people expected to attend the 48th annual Philadelphia Folk Festival in Schwenkswille, PA will be asked to re-use their beer cups, or face additional charges, when purchasing brews from the event's Official Beer Sponsor, Yards Brewing Company.
Yards is seeking to set an environmentally responsible example by pouring their Philly Pale Ale, ESA, Brawler and IPA on draft only, as well as managing their own recycling throughout the 3-day festival.ï¿½ Production has already been ramped up at the Delaware Avenue brewery, the first in PA to run on 100 percent wind power, to keg the heady quantity of beer required to sustain the festival-goers, including the 5,000 camping on-site.
The Fest has updated its lineup this year to attract new fans, including The Derek Trucks Band, The Del McCoury Band, The Decemberists, Iron and Wine, The Works Progress Administration, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, Sonny Landreth, Tom Rush and almost 40 other local and national performers.
Philadelphia Folk Festival, Aug. 14-16, $44-$131, Old Pool Farm, Schwenksville, PA, folkfest.org
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Flying Fish brewer Casey Hughes doesn't like wheat beers. The hazy yellow liquids are as popular as a prom queen and almost as insipid, largely owing to their lamentable lack of hops. "I wanted to make a wheat beer that I liked," said Hughes.
So Hughes, with Flying Fish owner Gene Muller, put enough Columbias, Cascades and Amarillos in their brand new Exit 11, the second offering in their Exit Series of big bottles, to combat the sweetness of wheat and produce a brew to satisfy hopheads. A grain bill split 50/50 between Belgian pale malt and American white wheat is magicked by the multiple hop additions into a light-bodied, citrusy and superdry summer ale.
With only 1,000 cases of the 25-ounce bottles and 40 kegs in the run, Exit 11 will likely sell through just as quickly as the debut beer in the series, the golden Belgian-style Exit 4. Speeding sales is the mini-controversy the Exit Series has sparked ï¿½ in the wake of a AP video piece, Mothers Against Drunk Driving interpreted the turnpike-themed labeling as promoting drinking and driving. Muller responded to M.A.D.D. in this Courier-Post article:
Gene Muller, who owns the state's largest craft brewery located in Cherry Hill, said the Exit Series beer was never intended to associate drinking with driving as suggested by an MADD official."Our families ride on the same roads as everybody else, so we're all very strongly against drinking and driving," said Gene Muller.
Visit Flying Fish's Web site to contribute photos, videos, ideas and testimonials for more Exit Series beers, an interactive brew-development process that Muller is quite excited about. "The ideas that have come through the site are amazing, innovative, and stamped front to back with New Jersey pride. They encompass everything we're trying to honor with these special beers."
Look for Exit 11 at local Philadelphia bars, or pick up a bottle at both Foodery locations; 837 N. Second St., 215-238-6077 and 324 S. 10th St., 215-928-1111
|Photo | James Saul
When the dog-day weather screams G-funk and you need to crack a cold one, Sierra Nevada Summerfest is perfect for those grill-and-chill rites of summer. Its crisp, bright smoothness comes from an extra-long lagering period, which means that itï¿½s good at sitting around ï¿½ just like you. The 5 percent ABV Summerfest is so tasty, it even made our Top 5 Summer Beers list last year.
A case will set you back about $35, depending on where youï¿½re buying. Please enjoy responsibly ï¿½ if you look up in the sky and the lights of the Goodyear Blimp suddenly read "Ice Cube's a Pimp," it's probably time to switch to water.
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