Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tria trip (Philly and back)

Philadelphia has been off our radar for a while now. Once there, you really don’t want to leave the city’s beer menu behind, it’s such a beer Shangri-La.

“Think Jersey, Drink Jersey” have been our watchwords; they still are, always will be. But allow us one an indulgence before summer folds its tent.

The trip to Philly started out as a quest for a pint of Sly Fox’s new schwarzbier, but the glass ended up going to a Belgian IPA and a rather robust London porter, rounded out with some exceptional blue-veined cheese. (With some luck, we’ll still get that schwarzbier.)

De Ranke XX Bitter (6% ABV) was a nice discovery on the beer menu at Tria café (18th and Sansom). Hoppy but not at all overwhelming, crisper than expected, quite good in fact. The one drawback: It’s a pricey proposition – $8.50 for an 11-ounce bottle (imports on Tria’s menu hit your wallet pretty hard).

But honestly, compare that to $10 for the same size bottle of Chimay at the tourist trap Phillips Seafood at the Pier on the Atlantic City boardwalk, poured by bar staff who don’t know much about the beer beyond sliding the requisite Chimay goblet in front of you, and then it becomes more about branding and less about the beer. (We’re not knocking our home state here, just pointing out a sad reality. But at least Phillips, a Baltimore import, has that choice on their beer list in AC.)

Tria’s all about matching beers and wines with great foods, so the timid and intrepid can pose their beer questions to the servers and get reliable answers.

We asked about the Meantime coffee porter on their menu, inquiring if they would bring one to our table. Meantime’s a London brewery that proudly wants you know they’re not a big UK national brewery. And they boast a cup of coffee in each bottle of the porter.

It’s a roasty, tasty beer, but to be honest it begs for some food to go with it, in our case, smoked chicken with Spanish peppers, cheese and herbed truffle mayo (a little less of the mayo next time, please).

Again, a price caveat – another $8.50. But the old saw about nothing ventured, nothing gained applies.

So how do you wrap up an excursion like this?

You hit DiBruno Bros. (Chestnut Street) around the corner for some take-home cheese (triple cream brie), then step over to Nodding Head (Samson Street) for a pint of Rubicon (we strongly considered the 3C Extreme Double IPA – Chinook, Cascade and Centennial hops – well, we did get a taste of it, and for a muscled-up IPA, it’s invitingly smooth), then you get naked, as in Naked Chocolate Café (13th and Walnut). The name pretty much says it all.

And for a nightcap at home base?

Well, this was supposed to be a Sly Fox moment, so their Royal Weisse fit the bill. And after all, it’s summer.

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