Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Don of beers

f you already have a copy of Don Russell’s road map to Philadelphia’s beer scene, then you know that this Philly guy spends some time on our side of the Delaware, too.

(To be sure, as a man worthy of his beer hunter-chronicler occupation, Don gets around: He once returned a call to us while he was in Austria, if memory serves us correctly.)

Don’s new book, “Joe Sixpack’s Philly Beer Guide,” spotlights eastern Pennsylvania neighbors Flying Fish Brewing (Cherry Hill, pp 44-45) and River Horse Brewing (Lambertville, pp 46-47). Besides its obvious quick-read, utilitarian design, the book is seasoned with interesting tidbits.

Don will be signing copies from 5-7 p.m. Friday (May 9th) at Flying Fish. FF plans to have a well-aged barley wine and a sixtel of Espresso Porter on tap for the occasion. Like to talk beer? See this guy.

We caught up with Don at the Philly Craft Beer Fest back in March and asked him about the genesis of his book. Check out the video.

Don’s been keeping up with beer under his working-class nom de plume for a dozen years as a Philly Daily News and Web columnist. So sandwiching his expertise and wisdom between book covers was a natural beer-writer arc.

It’s not on the video, but we also asked Don for beer-consumer advice, some how to buy, not so much what to buy. He threw in a little of what to drink.

Don’s advice: Buy fresh, buy local. Fresh beer is always a goal, and what brewers save on transport costs trickles down to store shelves and tap handles. One more word: Step off your beaten path; don’t just drink your favorites from your favorite brewers. Explore their other styles, too.

To us anymore the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is as shopworn as the Mac-PC feud or Canon-Nikon debate. So our pulses didn’t quicken over that Sox jersey jinx attempt that had to be retrieved from concrete poured at the under-construction Yankee stadium.

But this one is mildly funny: A Cricket Hill fan apparently emblazoned a tribute to the Fairfield brewer’s brews on a girder at the stadium in the Bronx. Check out CH’s blog for the picture.

The Dance Card
Jersey brewers are busy this month. Check out this from the Garden State Craft Brewer's Guild calendar:

• German wheat beer specialist High Point Brewing is hosting an open house from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday (May 10) at the brewery and will be featuring their maibock. (It’s billed as a last chance for that seasonal.) High Point will also have its Ramstein beers at Spuyten Duyvil in Brooklyn May 8 for a niche brand night. (Check out Spuyten’s jukebox listing. XTC’s “Big Express” is currently in the mix; “All You Pretty Girls” is a great tune. King Crimson’s hypnotic disc “Discipline” is on the juke, too.)

Also look for High Point/Ramstein on May 25 at Old Bay Restaurant in New Brunswick for OB’s annual Maifest.

• More Fish: Flying Fish is on the card of 48 U.S. breweries at the Brewers Association's inaugural food-beer matchup, "SAVOR: An American Craft Beer and Food Experience," May 16-17. FF is among only eight mid-Atlantic brewers on the Washington, D.C., happening's lineup, and this is one of those events that (happily) breaks from oversold chug festivals and marries beer to great food in a more intimate setting. It's also rounded out with educational discussions on brew and food.
Website: www.savorcraftbeer.com

Don’t forget:
• Tuesdays are cool at Triumph Brewing in Princeton, meaning it’s a jazz house on Nassau Street. Have a pint and get Mingus eyes (that one’s for Richard Thompson fans).

• Double up at JJ Bittings in Woodbrige with two for one on Tuesdays, a good deal now that a gallon of gas rivals happy hour prices and will probably pass them before summer's done. Live entertainment on Thursdays.

• Cask of the Amarillo … OK we’re taking some wordplay license with E.A. Poe works, but cask ale is featured at the Gaslight in South Orange on Thursdays and on Fridays at Harvest Moon in New Brunswick.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Down by the river, Part 2

It’s getting to the tail end of the double Belgian wit seasonal that River Horse Brewing introduced in March in draft and bottles.

Co-owner Glenn Bernabeo says they have one more tank to run through, but the beer has exceeded expectations, doing well enough to earn a place in the Lambertville brewery’s year-round lineup.

That’s not official, Glenn says, but the brew has cleared a crucial hurdle toward life as a year-round beer. Stay tuned.

RH's wit (7% ABV) debuted around March 1 as the first of a brewmaster's reserve series, and was a centerpiece of what RH poured at ShadFest April 26-27. (Check out the stills from the video shot at RH’s back lot on the Saturday of the weekend event in Lambertville. The video is for a larger piece we have in the works on RH.)

All of RH’s beers were on tap for the event, and Glenn says the brewery went through nearly 30 half barrels over ShadFest. The brewery sold 1,200 pint glasses as well. And the overall attendance at the brewery? Well, it’s just a guess, but somewhere between 1,500-2,000 people.

FYI: Glenn and Chris Walsh are closing in on their first anniversary of taking over as owners of RH and, as you would expect, are busy making plans for the next year.

Speaking of anniversaries, Tim Kelly notches his first year at the Tun Tavern this month. Tim is an alumnus of Flying Fish in Cherry Hill, and FF’s loss has clearly been the Tun’s gain.

When he took over, Tim noted he wanted to put more pub-brewed lagers on tap in Atlantic City. That’s not always an easy task, since the longer cold conditioning required for lagers ties up tank space, compared to ales, which by nature have faster turn-around times.

But Tim has managed to keep his word, and not just with seasonal lagers, like bocks. Last fall the Tun put on a Vienna lager, although its decoction-mashed Oktoberfest was fermented with an ale yeast.

Right now, the Tun’s winding down its doublebock and pouring a dark lager that’s a response to bar patrons looking for a Yuengling-like beer. But the real treat is on the horizon, a Czech pilsner that’s due on tap some time in June.