A Beertastic Saturday

So this past weekend was a most unexpected experience. On Friday, I learn that a brother of a friend of mine was having a bachelor party in Philly on Saturday. I had nothing better to do, so I hopped on a train and met up with everyone in the city. It turns out that a bunch of us were big beer nerds, so it wound up being a pretty exciting day for beer (amongst other things).

Things started off unimpressive on the beer front though. We had club box seats for the Flyers game on Saturday afternoon, which means free beer… but the choices were severely limited. I settled on Bud and Bud Light, and drank quite a few. I must have built up a bit of a tolerance with all my recent big beer drinking though, as I was barely buzzed by the end of the game (a disappointing third period loss, though some of my friends were Sabers fans, so they were at least happy). After the game, we hopped on the train again and ended up at the Yards Brewery:

Yards Brewery

We didn’t get to take a tour, but we hung out at the restaurant/tasting room for a while. I had a few interesting beers:

  • General Washington’s Tavern Porter (Bourbon Barrel Aged) – Exactly what I was hoping to find! I commented in my earlier review of the base Washington’s Tavern Porter that the bourbon barrel aging could help impart some additional complexity and flavor notes to an already solid beer. I’m certainly not an expert when it comes to picking out barrel aging flavors, and I didn’t drink both versions of the beer (even though both were available – perhaps a future Double Feature is in order), but I really enjoyed it.

    Yards Washington Tavern Porter (bourbon barrel aged)

    Perhaps it was just that I had spent the majority of the afternoon drinking Bud Light, but I did enjoy this quite a bit. The last time I had this, I felt like the mouthfeel was a bit too light. The bourbon barrel aged version seems to be fuller bodied than the standard version, and there’s a bit of a bite to the beer which I can only assume is coming from the bourbon. Otherwise, the standard roasty chocolate flavors that characterize the style dominate the beer (as they should). The barrel aging effect is subtle, but there seemed to be enough additional complexity to make it worthwhile. I’ll reserve judgement in lieu of a true double feature, but hey, if you see the Bourbon Barrel Aged version of this beer, get some! Porter style beers are still not my favorite, but I’m definitely acquiring a taste for them and I might be convinced to up my rating of the standard version of this beer to an A-, though again, I’d like to taste both together to get a better feel for the differences. (Beer Nerd Details: 7.0% ABV on tap, drank from a small goblet)

  • Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale – Alas, no bourbon barrel aged versions of this around (perhaps they’ll have some later in the year). The last time I had this, I felt that the alcohol dominated the taste, leading to an oily mouthfeel that I thought wasn’t especially well balanced with the rest of the beer. Well, maybe I got a bad bottle, as the goblet I got straight from the brewery was much better. The sticky alcohol flavors and oily mouthfeel were nowhere to be found. The alcohol was certainly present in the taste, but it’s much better balanced with the malt backbone, and the carbonation lead to a better mouthfeel. Overall, I was quite pleased. I’d probably revise this up to a B+ (Beer Nerd Details: 8.0% ABV on tap, 12 oz in a small goblet)
  • Extra Special Ale (on Cask) – I’d never had a beer on cask before, and boy was this a revelation. I’ve had the ESA before and while I enjoyed it, I also didn’t think it was anything special (with the caveat that I was drinking it in less than ideal conditions). But the version on cask was quite different.

    Yards ESA from a cask

    It poured a dark amberish color with a thick, creamy head (almost like you’d get out of a nitro tap). The taste has a nice malt backbone with some bitterness in the finish, but the real difference here was the mouthfeel and carbonation. There is some light carbonation, but it’s not nearly as strong or assertive as it was from the bottle. Sometimes beers with low carbonation seem, well, flat, but not in this case. It was perfectly balanced and a joy to drink. I can see why our British friends are obsessed with “Real Ale” (which is what they call ale served from a cask), as this would make an excellent session beer (though it’s perhaps a bit too strong for that sort of thing). I’m going to have to find me some more places around here that serve cask beer. Provisional B+, maybe even an A- (though that’s probably the novelty of the cask talking). (Beer Nerd Details: 6.3% ABV on tap, drank from a pint glass)

We had reservations at Fogo De Chao for dinner, so alas, we had to leave the brewery. The restaurant is a Brazilian steakhouse, one of them all-you-can-eat affairs where you have a little card in front of you that you can turn “green” to let the servers know you want more food. Leave it on for a while and you’ve got a plate full of roasted meat. It’s amazing. Beer selection was a bit sparse, so I started with the only interesting beer on the menu:

Xingu Black Ale

Xingu Black Beer – Pours a dark, well, black color with minimal head. Aroma of sticky dark fruits, with a surprisingly sweet taste to match. I got a distinct flavor of raisins out of this, which was a rather interesting beer and went with the massive helpings of meat rather well. Despite the black color, there was little in the way of roastiness, which was surprising, but welcome. I wouldn’t say that it was particularly special or earth-shattering, but it was pretty tasty for such a low ABV beer and definitely the most interesting thing on the menu. I would give it a solid B. (Beer Nerd Details: 4.7% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a small goblet.)

At this point, we had sorta switched to Wine and I was also downing water like crazy, but it was otherwise quite an enjoyable meal. Many perfectly prepared hunks of meat were had by all, full stomachs and meat sweats all around. Our hope at this point was to hop across the street and hit Lucky Strike Lanes, but we were informed that the wait was 3 hours, and thus began nomadic trek through the city, eventually ending up on Delaware ave at about midnight. Mass transit had stopped running at this point, but we were only about 15 blocks away from the hotel, so we decided that hey, if we’re going to walk 15 blocks, we might as well stop and have drink at every opportunity. I had a few other drinks, including a Victory Golden Monkey (one of my favorites, so I’ll save that for its own review at some point), but the real fun began when we arrived at Eulogy (previous trip to Eulogy here). Of course, we had to move further away from the hotel to get there, but the beer nerds in the crowd all wanted to check the place out. It was surprisingly not that crowded, and I ended up having two good beers before last call.

  • Eulogy’s Busty Blonde – House Beers are an interesting breed. The first time I saw one (at this point I don’t remember where), I assumed it was brewed in-house and ordered it eagerly, only to find that it was basically some boring Genesee monstrosity (or something, I don’t remember what it was). I’ve since learned that nearly all house beers are like that – a macro beer that the restaurant just came up with a new name for in the hopes of suckering naive patrons like myself into buying it. But I always give it a try, and being the awesome Belgian Beer Bar that it is, it looks like Eulogy’s house beer is actually brewed in Belgium by Brasserie La Binchoise (of course, I’ve never heard of them or any of their beers, but they still seem a lot more promising than a relabeled American macro). I didn’t know it at the time, but I figured I’d give it a shot anyway, trusting that Eulogy wouldn’t steer me wrong (apologies for the craptacular picture, but that’s all I could get):

    Eulogy Busty Blonde

    And it turns out to be quite good. Beer Advocate is listing it as “retired”, so maybe that’s not the same as what I was drinking, but it seemed like an archetypal blonde ale. Cloudy light yellow/orange (er, blonde?) color, some citrus and spiciness in the nose, and a taste to match. It was quite refreshing at that point in the night, if perhaps a bit less complex than some of the bigger beers I’d already had. Definitely worth a shot, I give it a provisional B. (Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV (on tap). Drank from a big goblet.)

  • Mikkeller Koppi Coffee IPA – I hadn’t had anything that was particularly hoppy all day, so after consulting with the ever-helpful bartender, I settled on this beer, despite the fact that I generally dislike coffee (see here for some respectful coffee hate). They poured me a little taste of it, and it was decent, so I got me a full snifter of the stuff and was glad I did. (Again, sorry bout the picture quality, it was dark and, uh, I was drinking.)

    Mikkeller Koppi Coffee IPA

    It was also a pretty good beer. It’s not my favorite IPA style beer, but it was quite good (especially for a non-double IPA). Strong citrusy hop aromas, a nice sweet, malty start with bitterness in the finish, and just the right twang of coffee in the finish and aftertaste. I wonder if I’d even have picked up that it was coffee if the bartender didn’t tell me (or if the name of the beer didn’t say it), as it’s really quite subtle. Given that I don’t really care for coffee in my beer, that subtlety is actually quite nice. It adds complexity and flavor without overpowering or dominating the taste. A provisional B+! (Beer Nerd Details: 6.9% ABV (on tap). Drank from a snifter.)

That was pretty much the end of beer-related happenings of the night, which, of course, featured lots of other happenings that are perhaps best left undocumented (nothing inappropriate, I swears). There were still a few hours left in the night, including a trip to some strange pizza place where I burnt the shit out of my mouth (good thing I was done drinking at that point). I haven’t quite partaken in this sort of all day affair in a long time, but it was a welcome surprise and a great time.

General Washington’s Tavern Porter: A Screenplay

1. INT. CITY TAVERN, PHILADELPHIA – OCTOBER 1775

After a long day of Constitutional debate at Independence Hall, George Washinton, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson grab a table at the City Tavern, settling in for a long night of drunken Constitutional debate.

GEORGE WASHINGTON: I say, barmaid, fetch us some of my fresh-brewed Porter! My dear friends must try this new brew.

The BARMAID delivers three brimming pints of General Washington’s Tavern Porter.

THOMAS JEFFERSON: I say, George, you’ve outdone yourself with this brew.

BEN FRANKLIN: The barmaid is pretty fucking hot.

GEORGE WASHINGTON (ignoring Franklin): I say, thank you Thom. That is quite generous of you.

BEN FRANKLIN: Do you think she likes me?

THOMAS JEFFERSON: I say, you’re quite welcome George.

BEN FRANKLIN: Why do you idiots preface everything you say with the phrase “I say”.

THOMAS JEFFERSON (sighing): It’s fucking gentlemanly, that’s why. Anyway, I prefer my brews to be a bit stronger than this porter, but this is still quite enjoyable…

BEN FRANKLIN: Yes, well, I SAY, we’re not all alcoholics like you Thom.

GEORGE WASHINGTON: Oh SNAP!

BEN FRANKLIN: You’re both capable brewers, but I prefer to use more unconventional, off-centered ingredients.

THOMAS JEFFERSON (loudly): Hey everyone, look at this guy! He uses some spruce in his beer and he thinks he’s Sam fucking Calagione!

The door to the bar opens, and ALEXANDER HAMILTON walks in, scanning the room.

BEN FRANKLIN (attempting to hide his face): Oh shit, how’d he find us?

GEORGE WASHINGTON glares at THOMAS JEFFERSON

THOMAS JEFFERSON (hiding his iPhone): What?

GEORGE WASHINGTON: You checked in, didn’t you?

THOMAS JEFFERSON: Hey man, I’m the fucking Mayor of City Tavern. If I don’t check in, I’ll lose my discount!

BEN FRANKLIN: You asshole! We could have been free of Hamilton’s nincompoopery for an entire night, but NOOOOO, you have to check in to FourSquare to maintain your lame Mayoral status.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON: HI GUYS!

GEORGE WASHINGTON (in an unenthusiastic tone, accompanied by a sigh): Hello Alexander.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON: HAVE YOU TRIED MY FEDERALIST ALE!?

BEN FRANKLIN (whispering to Jefferson): What the fuck is he going on about? I don’t see this beer on the menu.

THOMAS JEFFERSON (whispering to Franklin): I think the brewery is just humoring him. They don’t even list that beer on their website.

GEORGE WASHINGTON: Um, Thom, I challenge thee to a DUEL!

WASHINGTON takes a glove and slaps JEFFERSON in the face.

THOMAS JEFFERSON (surprised, but catching on): Hey! Uh, oh, OH, yes, I accept!

WASHINGTON and JEFFERSON down the remainder of their pints and exit.

2. EXT. MARKET STREET, PHILADELPHIA – OCTOBER 1775

WASHINGTON and JEFFERSON run down the street, stealing furtive glances behind them.

GEORGE WASHINGTON: I think we lost him.

THOMAS JEFFERSON: Thank God! Franklin’s gonna be pissed that we left him alone with Hamilton.

GEORGE WASHINGTON: Nah, he’s probably fucking the shit out of the barmaid by now.

3. INT. COMPUTER DESK – PRESENT DAY

MARK: So this is my third of Yards’ Ales of the Revolution series. I quite enjoyed the first two, based on recipes from Franklin and Jefferson, and picked up Washington’s entry on a recent trip to the local bottle store. I’m not sure why, but Alexander Hamilton’s entry into the Ales of the Revolution series seems to be disappearing. I’ve seen it referred to as Federalist Ale and Treasury Ale, but as Jefferson notes in the above dialogue, Yards doesn’t even mention it on their website anymore. I’m pretty sure you can still buy a variety pack with Hamilton’s contribution, and judging from BA and RateBeer, it’s some sort of pale ale (I think I saw something once about Yards’ Philadelphia Pale Ale being basically the same beer, so perhaps Yards just rebranded Hamilton’s beer? That’s just blind speculation though.) Anyway, this post was supposed to be about General Washington’s Tavern Porter:

Yards General Washington Tavern Porter

Pours a dark brown color (perhaps a hint of dark red in there) with a medium sized, light colored head. Roasted malts in the nose, maybe a little bitter chocolate. That chocolate hits pretty well at the start of the taste, followed by some bitterness in the middle and finishing with a bit of a roasty taste. There’s a bit of a sticky alcohol flavor in the finish as well, something I was not expecting, but which suits the beer well. At 7% ABV, it’s not a monster, but it’s got enough zing to give it a distinctive character, which I can appreciate. The boozy tastes that were more overwhelming in Jefferson’s beer are more balanced here (perhaps due to the sightly lower ABV, or maybe just the different malt backbone, or probably both). Mouthfeel is a bit lighter than expected. Plenty of carbonation and a medium body, which again helps offset the booziness. Not exactly a session beer, but quite drinkable. I’m not particularly an expert on Stouts or Porters, nor are they really my style of beer, but I rather enjoyed this. Also, like Jefferson’s beer, there are rumors of a Bourbon Barrel Aged version of this porter, which could really impart some really nice additional notes to this beer. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7.0% ABV bottled (12 oz). Drank from a pint glass.

So overall, I’m pretty happy with these Ales of the Revolution. Maybe I will pick up the variety pack and get me some Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Ale. In the meantime, I suppose I should include the standard disclaimers: No, I don’t think that Jefferson was an alcoholic and as far as I knew, no one hated Alexander Hamilton (nor was he considered a nincompoop by his peers) and I’m pretty sure Jefferson and Washington never participated in a duel with one another. However, Franklin was a noted poon-hound and Jefferson was a total Apple fanboy and angel investor in FourSquare.

Update: The mystery of Alexander Hamilton’s Ale of the Revolution… solved! Sorta.

Again Update: More on Franklin and the ladies…

Flying Dog

A little while ago I picked up Flying Dog’s variety pack and in between all of the holiday beers and whatnot, I’ve been working my way through them and their awesome Ralph Steadman artwork.

Flying Dog Logo
  • In Heat Wheat: Sweet, light, crisp and wheaty – a rather typical wheat beer. More details here. B-
  • Tire Bite Golden Ale: Light and crisp, perhaps a small step above crappy “fizzy yellow stuff”, but not by much. C-
  • Old Scratch Amber Lager: Nice amber color, medium body, a little sticky and overall, it’s a very drinkable session beer along the lines of Yuengling lager (maybe even a little better, but that’s hard for me to admit!). B
  • Snake Dog India Pale Ale: A nice west-coast style hoppy, earthy IPA. It does well on its own, but pales (pun intended!) when compared to other good IPAs (including Flying Dog’s own Raging Bitch Belgian-style IPA). B
  • Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale: Solid hoppy pale ale, a little darker than the IPA, but a nice quality session beer and maybe the best overall beer in this pack. B
  • Road Dog Porter: Dark and a bit roasty, it wasn’t quite as complex as I’d have hoped. I’ve never been a big fan of the style though, so that’s probably part of my distaste. It’s not bad, but definitely not my thing. C+

Overall, while most of them are quite drinkable and solid beers, none are really all that exceptional. This isn’t to say that they don’t make exceptional beers though: Raging Bitch IPA is actually a big step up from the Snake Dog IPA, and I’ve heard good things about the Gonzo Imperial Porter.