Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hoke Fest: An Epic Day Of Beerdom

To date, this is the local beer trip of local beer trips. We wanted to treat our good friend Josh Hoke (Head Brewer of Liquid Hero) to a relaxing (Epic!) day of Beerdom for his birthday. So we created the 1st Annual Hoke Fest - a thirteen hour, 136 mile trip covering five breweries, a cask festival, one taproom, and one bottle shop. It was so epic we even made t shirts...

1st Annual Hoke Fest: An Epic Day of Beerdom
Total driving time: 3hrs 14min
Total distance: 133 miles
Trip Type: Epic Day Long Journey
Destinations: 8
Travel Map & Directions At Bottom Of Post

Destination #1: Troegs Brewing Company
Hershey, PA www.troegs.com

As mentioned here, the new Troegs Brewery in Hershey, PA is quite the place and should definitely be on your to-do list. It offers a large selection of beers on tap, including their entire year round line up, as well as two to three selections from their Scratch series. Call ahead to book a guided tour, or grab a pint at the bar and take the self guided tour through the actual brewery. If this is your first stop on this trip I suggest being there to open the place up at 11AM. Their new Snack Bar offers some great locally sourced food, and their french press coffee is sure to wake up and prepare your DD for the day long journey.

Destination #2: Bube's Brewery
Mount Joy, PA www.bubesbrewery.com

After your stop at Troegs, head to your next (and much different) location - Bube's Brewery in Mount Joy. This is one of my favorite places to visit and I always make a point to take my out of town friends here. Grab a seat at the bar, order one of their brews, and take the time to fully appreciate this historic land mark. As far as food goes, the wings are good, and the fish tacos are really good. Don't forget to ask someone for a tour of the catacombs and upstairs hotel!

Destination #3: Bulls Head Public House / General Sutter Inn
Lititz, PA www.generalsutterinn.com www.bullsheadpublichouse.com

The General Sutter Inn is an historic landmark in operation in Lititz since 1764, that is connected to the Bulls Head Public House. The Bulls Head offers a great selection of micro beers and Trappist selections. An epic day of beerdom requires an epic event, and we were lucky enough to schedule Hoke Fest the same day as The General Sutter in Spring Cask Festival. The festival offered 16 different cask beers all by breweries that start with the letter "S". We tried selections from Spring House, Swashbuckler, Southern Tier, and many more. They host a spring and fall cask festival each year, make sure to check their websites for details and check out the fall one.

You're probably thinking: "Wow, 16 different beers did you try them all?"

You bet your ass we did.

Destination #4: Stoudts Brewing Company
Adamstown, PA www.stoudtsbeer.com

So at this point our day was already pretty epic. After the cask festival we were, well lets say in need of a reset and some food - enter the sausage sampler at Stoudts Brewing Company...

..which includes one each of the traditional bratwurst, kielbasa and weisswurst sausage, served with PA Dutch sauerkraut, red cabbage and German potato salad. Coming in at only $22 for this feast, it's the perfect snack to split with a friend. We also had a cheese platter as an appetizer - which I would also recommend. Stoudts is another unique destination and well worth the stop. The tap list includes their year round selections as well as seasonals - their Golden Lager is one of my favorite beers for summer.

Destination #5: Lancaster Brewing Company
Lancaster, PA www.lancasterbrewing.com

After our feast at Stoudts we headed back down 222 and onto Route 30 to Lancaster Brewing Company - a local staple. You see their beers at your local case store, and on tap at several locations around York. They offer a great selection at the brewery, including my favorite, Celtic Rose:

Our version of the traditional Irish Amber Ale combines the richness of malt with the delicate and spicy British hops for a taste worthy of the Red Rose City.

Malts: 2 Row Pale, Caramel, Munich 20, Vienna, Wheat Malt
Hops: Cascade, Willamette OG: 14 ABV: 5.0% IBU: 16

Destination #6: The Spring House Taproom
Lancaster, PA www.springhousebeer.com

Tired? Intoxicated? Hungry? All of those things are expected by this point in your epic day of beerdom. There is a good chance you've been to or at least heard of the Spring House Taproom. I doubt you've been there in this state of mind though, keep it together, you're almost done your epic day of beerdom. I suggest you grab a sampler and step over to the shuffle board for a few games - remember no drinks over the table. Say hello to Zoltar (remember Tom Hanks in Big?) in the back by the bathrooms and head out - as you're close to the finish line.

Destination #7: The Fridge
Lancaster PA, www.beerfridgelancaster.com

The Fridge is a direct result of the economic downturn of '08/'09. Two friends lost their 8-5 day jobs and took a risk. The result of that risk is The Fridge, an amazing bottle shop that offers both unique and classic takes on flat bread pizza, a nice tap list of about ten beers, and the largest bottle selection I've seen locally. If you've been searching for something, there is a good chance their selection of over 500 varities has it. The Fridge is a great stop in this epic journey, but is also a great Saturday afternoon lunch destination.

Destination #8: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaraunt
Lancaster, PA www.ironhillbrewery.com/lancaster

Finish line...I'll be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect from Iron Hill. Is it a brewery? Is it a restaurant? Usually when I see the words "Brewery & Restaurant" I translate that to "mediocre beer & generic food". Not the case with Iron Hill - at all. I was really, really impressed with all aspects of Iron Hill. The beer selection was not only huge, but full of quality. The service was great, training for their servers includes tasting, food parings, and general beer knowledge. The food is also very good, I went with my usual fish 'n chips.

We left Iron Hill and got back to York around midnight. It was a long day since we were at Troegs at 11AM. You can try to do this in one day. Don't plan much for the day after though. All of these stops are great places to visit, each with a different and unique experience. A huge thanks to my wonderful wife for being our DD for the day. If you do decide to take this trip, let me know how it went, or feel free to email me at travelsinbeerdom@gmail.com for info or logistic questions.

And remember, always, ALWAYS have a designated driver.


View Larger Map

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Changing It Up / Baltimore Bound

In an effort to make this page more of a resource instead of just a digital journal of my beer adventures, I've decided to offer more information about the places I've been, how to get there, travel, et cetera. I started doing this with my reviews of the places I went to while in Austin (granted Austin TX isn't Central PA) My hope is that you will eventually be able to use this page as a resource - want to do a 5 hour brewery tour of Lancaster PA, here ya go. It's Sunday afternoon and you want to visit a brewery, but aren't sure what ones are open and where are they, I got ya. Or you want to take the EPIC Day In Beerdom Hoke Fest Trip that consists of drinking for 13 hours straight and visiting about a dozen breweries / bars - I've got ya covered on that too...any comments on format or suggestions in general are welcome.

Baltimore Bound
Total time: 4 hours
Total distance: 115mi round trip
Trip Type: Single Afternoon / Lunch
Destinations: 2
Travel Map At Bottom of Post

Ask anyone that knows me and they can tell you I like beer, ask the people that know me a little bit better and they'll tell you I also like rum, Bermudian rum, old Bermudian rum... Joe Squared is one of Baltimores finest rum bars and also offers a great list of micro brews and great coal fired square pizzas. Stop in here before lunch for an appetizer and some selections of rum. I recommend the Gosling Old Rum, but we've already been over that.

Joe Squared (Station North Location)
133 W. North Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21201

Atmosphere: 4
Beer Selection: 2.5
Beer Quality: 3
Food: NA
Rum Selection: 4

From the moment I first saw the black and white logo of the Hudson Street Stackhouse it instantly became one of my favorite logos. Then I saw the actual stack house infront of the place, and it gets a thumbs up for realistic accuracy as well. Just a few blocks away from Fells Point in Baltimore, the Stackhouse offers an amazing selection of beers. Full pints or get a flight of samples, it's up to you. Great atmosphere and THE BEST BBQ CHICKEN PIZZA ever, and that's quite a statement for me - but it was, the best. After Joe Squared head here, order a few samples (they had plenty that even I had never tried) and order the BBQ chicken pizza, just do it, trust me.

Hudson Street Stackhouse
2626 Hudson Street
Baltimore, MD 21224

Atmosphere: 4
Beer Selection: 4
Beer Quality: 4
Food: 5

So there it is, the new format. Simple and informative. Planning on taking this trek? Let me know how it was, and if / how useful this new format was on your journey. Below is the Google Map with full directions - aren't the interwebs awesome.

Thanks Jack!

View Larger Map

You Love Me! You Really Love Me!

Remember this?

So this is a heavy beer...here are the numbers:

OG - 1.112 (1.114 with temp adjustment)
Temp - 75degrees (60 degrees with adjustment)

That leaves us with an ABV in the 10-12% rage.
So we're up there in the barleywine "oh God what have I created" region.

Just over a year ago, I brewed the strongest beer I've ever brewed. The Double Play is a 10.8% ABV barley wine, brewed in the summer and intended to be enjoyed in the cold witner months. I dry hopped three gallons of it with a bunch of Simcoe (credit is due to my buddy Jack, as dry hopping was his idea) and was really pleased with the final product.

Turns out, some others thought it turned out ok too, because it won 3rd place in the Dark Ales and Lagers Category at this years annual York County Heritage Trust Homebrew Competition that coincides with they annual Micro Fest.

Having not brewed since August, I needed a kick in the ass - this was that kick. Thanks to all the people that gave my beer good marks and for the York County Heritage Trust for the opportunity - see you next year.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beercation: Austin, TX

Another Beercation in the books, this time we traveled to Austin, TX. We ate, we drank, we took in some live music, and had a great time visiting with family. There were a lot of beer high lights on the trip, The Flying Saucer (shown above), meeting Dan from The Free Beer Movement (more on that later), my first Alaskan beer on tap, the Stash IPA I had at The Spiderhouse, and of course all four of the breweries we visited.

NXNW Restaurant and Brewery
Austin, TX

After we left NXNW I thought, "that was just like ABC". What I mean by that is, it seems as though they are more interested in appealing to the masses with mediocre beers, and are focused on making the chunk of their profits off of running a restaurant that just happens to have a brewery in it. No disrepsect to the brewers of ABC or NXNW, the beers weren't "bad", and they certainly fit their respective style profiles correctly, they just weren't great. The highlight of the bunch was the Duckabish Amber.

Atmosphere: 3
Beer Selection: 3
Beer Quality: 2
Food: NA
(all out of possible 5)

The Draught House Pub & Brewery
Austin, TX

The Draught House is the perfect example of what I want from a bar. In house brewery? Check. Several house beers on tap? Check. Tons of other local and craft beers on tap? Check. Dartboard (indoor and outdoor)? Check. Large outside seating area? Check. Random food truck in the parking lot? Check. They had their system down too, no servers, you walk up to the bar to get your beer and take a seat inside or outside wherever you want. And it works, you're never waiting for a beer w/ an empty glass in front of you, and as long as there's a good bartender tending bar, you only have to wait a few minutes in "line" for your beer. I have a good feeling the Good Dog Tap Room is going to be a lot like this place. We were on a tight schedule so the only beer I got to try was their Red, served in a half pint and coming in around 9% with a full body, a great hop bite and clean finish.

Atmosphere: 4
Beer Selection: 4
Beer Quality: 3.5
Food: NA

The Faust Brewing Company (& Hotel)
New Braunfels, TX

With the tag line "You Don't Have To Go Home, You Can Stay Here" the Faust Brewing Company certainly has an advantage. Located in the historic Faust Hotel (1929) in the small German town of New Braunfels, the copper tank brewhouse of Faust Brewing Co. fits quite nicely behind the beautiful wooden bar. Just like the Draught House, they offer a selection of their own beers, and a nice selection of others. Given the German heritage of this town, it wasn't a suprise to see two Spatens and a Warsteiner on tap.

We got to sample their three beers they had on tap, the pale, the stout, and a seasonal made with ginger and honey. The stout and the pale were just fine. I could see the pale being a good thirst quencher in the TX heat. The seasonal though, that was different, the first thing that hit both of us was the nose of the beer, giving off a huge aroma of beets. That's right, beets. Weird I know, but the smell was unmistakable. We both decided to go with off site selections for our full pints, Lauren with another local brew Alamo Golden Ale, and I with a large glass of Spaten Oktoberfest (apparently they make it year round now??)

The food at Faust was amazing, probably the food highlight of the trip. I had the beer cheese soup made with their Golden Ale, and the Croque Monsieur, "thinly shaved ham and gruyere cheese on sourdough bread, grilled to perfection and topped with a parmesan mornay sauce. Served with house-made potato chips". Now that's a sandwich.

Atmosphere: 4
Beer Selection: 2.5
Beer Quality: 3
Food: 5

Austin Beerworks
Austin, TX

"Hell bent on Excellence" is their slogan, and they mean it. I had the opportunity to try Austin Beerworks before actually heading to the brewery. I had their DIPA at The Flying Saucer, a DIPA that could go head to head with Nugget Nectar any day of the week. They don't have a tasting room, or restaurant attached to their brewery. They do have an open space in their brewery that features a cement floor and four picnic tables - and they make it work. Open on Fridays for tours and tastings, guests can either try three 4oz samples for free, or for $10 can purcahse a logo pint glass and have it filled three times. Then you can hang out in the brewery, play darts, fooseball, or even get in on a game of Boggle that was going on.

Their four flagship beers, Fire Eagle (American IPA), Black Thunder (German-Style Schwarz), Pearl Snap (Pilsner), and Peacemaker (Pale Ale) are all fine examples of what good quality craft beer is. Each one able to stand alone, but when put together, form a portfolio that any brewer or brewery should be proud of. On tap they also had two versions of their DIPA. One fermented with a Belgian yeast, and one fermented with an American yeast strain. I had had the American version before, so my first sample of the night was the Belgian DIPA, then I moved on to the Black Thunder. For my third and final selection I went right back to the American DIPA. This was THE beer highlight of the trip.

Luckily the guys at Austin Beerworks are can lovers. And it just so happens that cans fly better than glass bottles - so I'll be enjoying Fire Eagle and Black Thunder for quite some time.

Thanks for the hospitality and letting me play the "out of town" card to get in on the tour guys!

Atmosphere: 4
Beer Selection: 3
Beer Quality: 4.5
Food: NA

Austin is a really great city that offers a lot - music, food, beer, arts, just about everything. It seems that people really put a lot of thought and effort into the things they do in Austin. Whether it's the food they make you in their food truck, or the handmade beer you get from one of the many local breweries, the people of Austin care. All I ask is that you folks in Austin learn how to drive...please.

Huge thanks to Dan, The Free Beer Movement, the Cone family, and the Austin Beerworks guys.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Happy American Craft Beer Week!

Happy American Craft Beer Week folks! This is sort of a round up "catch all" post. There are a few events around town this week celebrating American Craft Beer Week.

Beer School - Troegs Traditions & Innovations - May 14th @ Maewyns 7PM
Troegs Scratch Tapping - May 14th @ Maewyns 9PM, York, PA
Troegs Scratch Tapping - May 17th @ Vitos Pizza and Beer 7PM - York, PA
Long Trail Day - May 18th @ Maewyns, York, PA

For more info on these events visit The Beer Ace

Troegs Flying Mouflon Cask Tapping Wednesday May 16th 5PM @ The Fridge, Lancaster PA
(keeping you posted as more events roll in / get annonced)

FREE Mudhook Tasting at Maewyns 7-9PM May 15th
FREE Liquid Hero Tasting at Maewyns 7-9PM May 16th

If you haven't tried Hop Hero #6 (a 9%ABV double IPA) by Liquid Hero yet, you should. It's available in 10.5oz pours at the brewery and to celebrate American Craft Beer Week they will be selling 22oz bottles to go of Hop Hero #6 by the weekend. Visit Liquid Hero for more details. I'll also be working the taps Thursday - Saturday nights this week, so stop in for a pint or two.

Across town at our other local brewery Mudhook will be serving up wings for Wing Night on Tuesday, and tacos for Fiesta Night on Wednesday - both nights offer $2 off growler fills. Visit Mudhook Brewing Co. for more details.

The York County Heritage Trust Micro Brew Fest is right around the corner. Tickets are limited and go fast, be sure to consider the new VIP Session they're offering this year. Ticket information can be found here.

In The Fermenter: Stay tuned for a recap of the First Annual Hoke Fest: An Epic Day in Beerdom. The wife and I will be heading to Austin, TX in just a few short weeks. There we will expolore the local beer offerings and plan to visit more than a few breweries. A recap will be posted following our return. In June Hank, my good friend and co-owner of Catalina Brewing Company in Tuscon, AZ will be visiting, so we're looking forward to another "Hanging With Hank" day, the write up of last year can be found here.

Know of some Beerdom happening in the area? Be sure to help your fellow beer lovers with a heads up and post it in the comments section.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

WOCAAWN Round Two!

What a weekend. This year the Haymans and Kelemens headed to their second annual Weekend of Compelling Ales and Whatnot. We were also lucky enough to have Josh Hoke (head brewer of Liquid Hero) join us. You can read last years write up here.

Where to begin...we arrived in Milton, DE at the Dogfish Head Brewery around 11AM on Saturday. Our first order of business was to head to the tasting room and stock up on beverages before diving head first into the tastings. There was a good selection available this year, I was able to pick up some Pangea, Namaste, Chicory Stout, Ta Henket, and a lovely 4pack of 120 Minute IPA. Usually when I head to a brewery I like to get something other than beer to remember my trip, but after spending about 20 minutes wandering around the DFH store, I realized, I have just about everything, glassware, shirts, a sticker for the Jeep, coasters, and even a Sam Calgione singed DFH sign. Bummer. Then while standing at the register to pay I did see the new DFH sign with a picture of the treehouse and the slogan "Analog beer for the digital age", ya, we'll take one of those.

So Lauren and I were loaded up and we headed back to the Jeep to stow the goods. Let me paint the scene..Ryan carrying one of those large 750ml case boxes, and Lauren carrying a large brown bag with two four packs in it - new sign under her arm....walking to car:

Ryan: (inside head) "Oh, there's a curb here, let me step down"
Lauren: (inside head) "This chicory stout inside this bag is going to taste so good"

Yes ladies and gentlemen, my lovely wife took a fall scuffing both knees and twisting an ankle. The first thing out of her mouth? "It's ok, I saved the beer". Gotta love her! So that was the first contestant for "Most Memorable Moment"...there are others.

After we made sure we got all of the beer safely to the car (and made sure Lauren was ok...of course) we headed into the tent to start the festivities. Upon entering and showing our tickets we got a special 2012 sampling glass, a special 2012 WOCAAWN tile coaster, and our sampling card. I have to give credit to DFH, they really had their act together this year. The tastings (15 of them) were spread out over a large tent on the lawn, and there were a few inside the tasting room and a few by the bocce ball courts. The flow was great, practically no lines, and the crowd of 400 people was spread out so there was plenty of room just about everywhere.

The tastings were, Aprihop (with cheese pairing), 120 Minute IPA, Immort Ale (cheese pairing), Midas Mojitos, Red & White, Black & Blue, My Atonia (pretzel from spent grains pairing), Namaste (cheese pairing), Sah'tea, Ta Henket, Chateau Jiahu, Palo Santo Maroon, Burton Baton, Dirty Fermentini, Diablo Verde.

When stamped correctly it read "Off Centered Ales".

Most Memorable Moment Contestant #2 - Josh got to talk shop with Sam of DFH! Most Memorable Moment Contestant #2.5 - Sam mentioned Josh and Liquid Hero Brewery in his presentation to the entire tent! Ladies and gentlemen...instant celebrity = Josh Hoke. So Sam mentioned LHB / Josh, out of nowhere pops the paparazzi and cameras, Ken and I supplied security and quickly rushed Josh away from the crowds and to safety. OK, it didn't happen exactly like that, but plenty of people did make their way over to our high top table to meet Josh and ask about Liquid Hero. Did I mention Josh brought growlers of Liquid Hero beer to share with Sam, and did I mention that while Josh and Sam were talking they set a time to meet in the tasting room to swap beer? Well I have now, so after a few more samples we headed back to the Jeep to get said growlers and head in to meet Sam.

At this time I'm proud to present the Most Memorable Moment Contestant #3 and WINNER! - the moment Josh opened up the cooler to find 4 growlers, 4...empty growlers. We forgot the beer, this misfortune was a total team effort, a mixture of oversight, and bad communication. Lesson learned, but poor Hoke. This brewers dream, to meet Sam Calgione, owner of Dogfish Head, and the opportunity to share his wares with him, shattered, right there at the tailgate of my Jeep in a parking lot in Milton Deleware. I'll never forget his face the moment we all realized we forgot to get the Liquid Hero growlers out of the fridge that morning.

At the end of the day it was ok, Sam thought it was pretty hilarious, and Josh had some LH tshirts and glassware for Sam that we did remember to bring with us. I'm happy to report that as of writing this, communications between LHB and DFH were made, and there is some Liquid Hero traveling through our lovely postal system on it's way to Dogfish Head right now.

The rest of the day included more tastings (Hoke was very thirsty by this point) a private tour (thanks Steve!), a stop at the nacho bar, and the opportunity to watch some DFH employees brew a small batch on what I think was the origianl 10bbl Sabco system Sam started on.

With our sample cards full, we headed to the brew pub in Rehoboth Beach DE for some grub. The food highlights for me were the antelope sliders and the fish 'n chips (made with dogfish of course). Our evening concluded with a walk on the beach, some late night wings and brews (butter beer!) at the Rehoboth Ale House, and a short stroll back to the hotel where we shacked up for the evening.

We were lucky enough to even make the official Dogfish video! Look for Kenny rocking the orange and black and all of us walking down the sidewalk at the :30 mark.

A huge thanks to all the great people at DFH, to Sam Calgione, Steve for the awesome tour, and the great firends we met there. If after reading this you're thinking - that sounds awesome I want to go next year - keep an eye one the Dogfish website, tickets are limited, and sell out fast. If you're lucky enough to get a ticket, we'll see you down there next year!



Tuesday, February 28, 2012

St. Patty's Day Kick Off Party at Liquid Hero

On Satuday March 17th I'll be behind the bar working the taps at Liquid Hero Brewery in York, PA. This is a special day at Liquid Hero as it's their first St. Patty's Day Kick Off Party. There will be food, great beers, a silent auction and tours. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door, proceeds benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. More information on the event can be found at their website.