The May Meeting
By George De Piro
I didn't know I was going to be writing the summary of last month's meeting, so I wasn't paying particularly close attention to the details. Forgive me if this isn't as good as Lucy's reports! We had a terrific turn-out to see our guest speakers, Jean-Louis Dits and Vineiane Dits of the Brasserie a Vapeur, and Matthais Neidhardt of B. United International.
Our guests treated us to a "vertical tasting" of their beers, and they also made bread and pate. The bread and pate were made with spices that they use in their beers, including hops! Quite an adventure for the palate! Our guests concluded their formal discussion with us by inviting us all to visit their brewery and stay at their guest house. They brew on the last Saturday of each month, so plan accordingly.
Of course, there was plenty of great homebrew to sample, including Bob B.'s Bohemian pilsner. My Steinbier proved to be, um, unique, although some people did like it.
We discussed the club trip to the Great American Beer Festival Road Show in Baltimore. If you haven't signed up for the bus ride, call our esteemed president, Bob, at 212-989-4545 to reserve your spot.
As I promised at the beginning, this report isn't nearly as detailed as our usual summaries. I'll have to pay more attention next time...
By Bill Coleman
I have made a few trips to Philadelphia in recent years (including one covered in a previous article for this newspaper), so, when I and another former President of the club, Warren Becker, discovered that Split Thy Skull III was being held on Saturday, April 11, at an outstanding Philadelphia bar known as Sugar Mom's Church Street Lounge, we decided that it would be a worthwhile civic duty for ourselves, as official representatives of Brooklyn's premiere (and only) homebrew club to make an appearance at such a significant Beer event.
Split Thy Skull was first held 2 years ago at Sugar Mom's. If I remember correctly, Old Nick's made its first draft appearance at this festival, at least a year before it appeared in that form in this city.
Attending the festival seemed a good excuse for us to also familiarize ourselves with the current bar scene in Philadelphia, which has quite probably the finest selection of beer bars in the country, and one of the best brewpubs. On arriving at Philly, I made it my plan to concentrate on beers that were not available in New York, for the most part. That was pretty easy; there are a huge number of beers that have still not made it to our shores.
After Mr. Becker and myself arrived in the city, we made a quick stop in a local bodega, called The Foodery, and found a huge selection of hard to find beers. We walked out with a case of beer, and hadn't even made it to a bar yet!
The next item on the agenda was dropping off our stuff (including, now, a rather heavy case of newly purchased beer). Our center of operations was the home of Iris & John Hough, whom I want to thank for putting up with two fanatical beer geeks, especially while they were in the midst of moving!
From here on in, I took notes of each beer consumed; some admittedly, are easier to read than others. Nevertheless, I hope this provides a reasonable summary of what was going on, beer-wise, in the City of Brotherly Love on the weekend of Split Thy Skull III.
First stop, Cuvee Notre Dame. We arrived in the upstairs dining room, first. I was happy to see Kwak on Draft, for the first time in at least a year. The Kwak they had at this place seemed much fresher than I remember having in New York; it was quite spicy tasting, probably from the yeast, and not as malt-dominated as I remember it from the past.
We went downstairs to the comfy bar and smaller dining room. Sitting at the bar; I noticed some unfamiliar-looking bottles in the case on the wall. Eureka! It seems they had a Belgian food/beer tasting a couple of weeks ago, which I believe had something like 100-200 beers! What we were looking at in the cooler were the leftovers! This is the kind of situation that would usually make me want to stay in a bar for the night, and maybe even come back the next night, going over the unheard of Belgian ales, bottle by bottle. Unfortunately, there was a busy agenda this weekend-five bars the first night!
So, we had to settle for 1 beer each from the list, and didn't have any guidebooks to help figure out which of the unfamiliar ales to choose. So, at a random selection, I chose Bornem Triple, and Warren selected a Gulden Drak (or was it Golden Dragon? The notes are a little unclear). Both beers were from the Van Steenberge brewery, and both had huge, lava lamp-like clumps of yeast bopping up and down throughout the consumption of the beers. The Bornem Triple was, admittedly, not very close to style; it had some very unique bret, licorice and apple notes. There was a noticeable higher alcohol flavor, and considering the beer clocked in at 9.5%, it's not altogether surprising.
The Gulden Drak was not Golden at all, if that is what it was supposed to be. It was dark, malty and chewy, a big, raisiny strong dark ale. It was not as wacky at the last beer, but it was more drinkable. At 10.5%, it was also a big beer.
The next stop was Brigid's, which I have been to before (and wrote about as well), and always liked very much. Unfortunately, it was about 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night and the place was packed, making it not nearly as pleasant as I remembered from the past. However, we did get to sample a Yards ESA (Extra Special Ale) on the downdraft system, which is periscope-like contraption that brings beer from the floor above to the bar, using gravity, without any pressure. The beer was fruity, with greenapple notes, and almost no carbonation.
Next on the agenda was Dock Street, which was a fair walk from the last location. It being located in more of a business area, it was not as crowded on a Friday evening as Brigid's, and it was no problem finding a seat. It the interest of meeting our schedule, we both selected samplers, which allowed us to go through all the drafts currently available without too much damage to our livers or wallets.
The beers were as follows:
1) Golden Mild. I'm not quite sure what a "Golden Mild" is supposed to be, and I have to score this beer (though I'm not actually keeping score) the lowest of the bunch, strictly because it is mislabeled. What it actually was is a Cream Ale, and a good one at that; clean, creamy, with some night malty notes a noticeable corn flavor which seemed to be due to the ingredients rather than the process, and a pale, clear golden yellow color.
2) Kolsch. A crisp, bitter, clean beer. Nice malt/hop balance. I don't know enough about the style of the top of my head to give a clear evaluation on that score, but it was a very drinkable beer.
3) American Pale Ale. A big hop nose. Nice caramel malt notes. Reddish-amber color. Lots of bitterness there, but balanced by malt.
4) Thomas Jefferson Ale. This beer is supposed to be an old recipe by the Sage of Monticello. I imagine it would be regarded as an old or stock ale. The nose was mostly malt, with hop highlights. Lots of alcohol, a little subdued butter, which added complexity.
5) Scotch Ale. A malty and toasty aroma. Big malt flavor. Good reddish-brown color, but just a little pale. Nutty, clean, with no yeast spiciness. Roastiness is just a little high in flavor.
6) Barley Wine. Our first of the trip! And a great one, as well. Very dark, vinous nose. The notes claim this beer was aged over six months, and you can tell; it is a complex, smooth beer. Rich, but no rough edges. Delicious. Probably the best brewpub barley wine I've ever had.
As you can see, there was a good selection of beers at the bar. The food was also good. However, we had a schedule to meet; so, after downing our last samplers, Mr. Becker and myself headed for the next destination, Copa II.
I've been to Copa II several times in the past, and always enjoyed it. It is a funky, unpretentious bar, which nevertheless carries a great selection of draft and bottled beer. It seems to be a little less impressive then it was a couple of years ago, but maybe I've been spoiled in the intervening years. Anyway, Warren and I only ordered one beer each, and as far as my notes say, it was the same beer; Pretzel City Abbey Double. (I believe the spelling was that way on the draft line.)
The beer was definitely misnamed, but it was not bad at all. It was not dark, and it had little malty flavor. It was golden in color. It had some nice spicy yeast character, without being funky. It definitely seemed to have spices as well. I would compare it to a strong golden ale like La Chouffe, rather than a Double. As noted, a nice beer, but misnamed.
Last on the schedule for the first evening was the Monks, perhaps the best beer bar I have ever been to. There were two rooms, a front area, which had a mix of interesting draft beers and some dining tables, and the back, which was even better. Amid an atmosphere that was both classy and comfortable, with a mixture of white walls and dark wood, and hanging tapestries. There was a bar that had about 16 to 20 draft lines, and almost all of them were Belgian! What a shock from the bars here, where you're luck if you find 2 or 3 Belgian drafts at any one time.
The one draft we ordered was Straffe Henrik Brown, which had not yet appeared in New York at that time. It had a nice malty nose, some sherry, lots of alcohol, strong, aromatic malty qualities.
After that, it was time for a rest. Tomorrow was the day for the Splitting of Our Skulls.
After stocking up on a big breakfast, and some heavy deli food at the Famous Deli, a Philadelphia equivalent of Katz's (with the addition of a phone museum in the back), we headed over to Sugar Mom's.
Sugar Mom's, which I've visited a few times before, is a fun place. A big, cavernous space, with bumper cars strategically placed around the floor. When we arrived, the Split the Skull Festival, which was scheduled from 2-5, had been on for a while already. It was well planned. There was no fee for entry-a very smart idea, so there were no idiots getting themselves stewed to the gills in order to get their money's worth. You paid for each beer; it was $2.75 for a sample glass, which was about 2 or 3 ounces. This allowed you to sample everything there without getting too plastered.
We went through most of the beers on the list. A couple of beers, which were easy to find in New York, we passed up, but otherwise we covered the menu pretty well. Herewith the notes:
1) Big Hole Brewmaster's Reserve 1997. This was from Montana, and it was it's first appearance outside the states. The beer had a big malty nose. Big alcohol. It had very fruity, apple-y yeast notes. Lots of resiny, chewy hop flavors and bitterness; some hop aroma. Pale in color. Very still; almost no carbonation. I found the fruitiness of the yeast a little too much. No sherry. O.G.: 27 Plato, F.G.: 2 Plato. ABV 11.25% (Note: These figures were supplied by a Pamphlet provide by Jim Anderson's Beer America, the sponsor of the event.)
2) Rogue Old Crustacean, 1996. This was unfiltered, unfined and cask-conditioned. A familiar beer, which I've always liked in the past. Anyway, the beer had a nice, very sherried nose. Lots of malt and bitterness in the aroma. A little rough and intense. I found the bitterness too much for my taste. Maybe a few more years! O.G.: 26 Plato, F.G.: 3.6 Plato. ABV: 9.5%.
3) St. Stan's. Dark. Malty, fruity apple notes. Sherried. Malty tasting, lots of hop bitterness. Sweet with licorice notes. A very intriguing beer. O.G.: 22 Plato, F.G.: 3.6 Plato, ABV 9.5%.
4) Old Horizontal (Victory Brewing). A typical American-Style barleywine. Very bitter and dry. Nice balance of hops and malt for style. A little sherry fruitiness. Nice hops aroma. Like a mellower Bigfoot. O.G.: 25 Plato, F.G.: 5 Plato, ABV: 10.5%.
5) Dock Street B&W Barleywine 1997. This was last year's, and it was similar to the one we had the night before. A very intense sherry nose; lots of vinous notes. Nice balance of malt, and beautifully aged. Even a little bret in the nose, but it works! Lots of alcohol. Once more, I was impressed very much with this superb beer. O.G.:27.5 Plato, F.G.: 6.2 Plato, ABV: 11.2%.
4) J.W.Lee's Harvest Ale 1996. Another one I've had in bottles, and in the keg at DBA's. This was cask-conditioned. Complex, malt, sherry, licorice flavors. Classic English barley wine. Along with the Dock Street, my favorite beer of the festival. O.G.: 30 Plato, F.G.: 8.1 Plato, ABV: 11.5%.
5) Anderson Valley Horn of a Beer. Good malt/hop balance. Clean, drinkable, smooth. Very good in the bitter American version of the style. O.G.: 24.75 Plato, F.G.: 5 Plato, ABV: 10.3%.
6) Kasteel Golden Tripel d'Or. Obviously, not a barley wine. What a wild beer! This was the palest, most innocent looking beer of the evening. It was also so still, that, combined with the color and clarity, it appeared like a cider! However, it was the strongest beer of the festival. A huge bret nose, as is typical of this beer, especially on draft. No barley wine, as noted. Not even really a Tripel in the draft version. I like the bottled version much better, but even this one makes for an interesting drinking experience! O.G.: 25 Plato, F.G.: 2.1 Plato, ABV: 12%.
7) Achouffe N'Ice Chouffe. The last of the lot. Another beer we'd experienced before. Malty, sweet. Nice yeast character. Pretty smooth, well-balanced.
Well, that's it. We exited the festival to find to our amazement that it was still bright and sunny out-a spring later afternoon.
Well, time for a little light entertainment. Just down the street from Sugar Mom's is Brownie's, an unpretentious, though authentic, Irish pub, with only four or five taps. One of them, however, was cask-conditioned Victory Hop Devil! That was a pleasant surprise. We unwound with a glass of Hop devil (!!??) and a few hands of darts, a game I have yet to master.
After that, it was time to swing over to The Khyber, once known as the Khyber Pass. It had been tidied up a bit since the last time I was there, but the place still has a very good selection of beer. I ordered a Shepard Neame Bishop's Finger, which was good, with nutty and sherry notes, but too much butter for my taste. I got a sample Victory Storm King Imperial Stout, which was very nice; malty, roasty, smooth and clean for style, though with plenty of alcohol. Warren ordered a Flying Fish Grand Cru. I had a sample; it was clean, with an interesting malt/hop balance, and lots of alcohol, but no Belgian yeast character to speak off. A little too clean!
Last, we wrapped up the weekend by returning to Monk's, this time for the evening. The first beer I ordered was Bellegems Bruin, a wonderful Flanders Red, and probably my most pleasant surprise of the trip. A wonderful balance of malt and sour flavors. Nice body, smooth and delicious.
The next beer to sample was Scotch Silly, from the Brasserie de Silly, which apparently has not yet sent its Saison to these shores. Anyway, the Scotch had intense malty, sherry, sweet, English-barley-wine like flavors. A very nice beer!
Next was Cochonette, which has also since arrived, thanks to Matthias Neidhart. It was in a corked, capped bottle. Low carbonation, huge sherry/fruity/apple flavors. Also some spices, which, with the apple, made an almost apple-saucelike flavor.
Next was Piraat Ale, from Van Streenberge. It was another big beer, at 10.5%, with sherry notes. A pale, cloudy beer, with chunks of yeast floating around. Spicy yeast notes, sweet, some caramel maltiness. Very nice.
Next up was Cuvee de Konick. A big Saaz hop nose; very unusual for a Belgian Ale! Some sherry, big hops, but balanced by malts. Clean malt flavor. Packaging, with painted glass, was very nice.
The last beer I had was on draft in the front; it was Titanic, from a Canadian brewery whose name I don't remember. It was pure sherry, with some malt buried beneath.
After all that beer, it was time to rest, drink lots of water, eat lots of food, and then go back to New York! It was a wonderful visit, though; next time, it's worth taking in at a more relaxed pace. I am happy to see though, that my opinion of Philadelphia as the best beer-bar city I have ever been to is still unchanged!
The Malted Motorcoach is waiting to take you on a Zymur-journey to Beertown! RSVP now for your seat on the bus to the Great American Beer Festival in Maltimore on May 16! Here are the details so far: the Malted Barley Appreciation Society (MBAS) will rent a 50 seat bus to drive to the GABF on Saturday, May 16. We will leave Manhattan at about 6:45 am, arrive at the fest at 11am & return to NYC, getting in at about 12:30 am that night. The cost for MBAS members is $15 for the bus trip ($30 for non-MBAS). You have to buy your ticket to the actual Festival on your own!
Admission costs $25 per session (we will be there for the 12:30pm session only). Tickets can be bought by credit card at: 888-822-6273. We suggest that you buy your ticket now, in case of a sell out. AHA members & a guest can get into the 11am early session by calling the AHA at 888-822-6273 for a voucher. We are working on a special dinner/event, possibly at a brewpub, to follow the Festival.To insure your seat on the bus, contact Bob a.s.a.p. & send a check (made out to the Malted Barley Appreciation Society). First come, first served -we expect to sell all 50 seats quickly! (1/5 of the seats are already sold!) You can contact Bob at: 212.989.4545 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to see you on the bus!
-- Bob Weyersberg,
President, Malted Barley Appreciation Society .
On Wednesday, May15, 7:30 PM, the Malted Barley Appreciation Society will have our next monthly meeting. The guest will be Paul Sylva, of the Ipswich Brewing Company from Ipswich, Massachusetts, who is expected to bring a number of samples from his Microwbrewery.
In addition, many good homebrews should be available for the tasting. As usual, the meeting will be held at Mug's Ale House, 125 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. See you there!
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