Monday, October 13, 2008

Hi-ho, Silver!

Congrats to Flying Fish for winning a silver medal in Denver at the Great American Beer Festival over the weekend.

FF placed for their Abbey Dubbel, a brew that a while back won kind words from the late Michael Jackson, the Beer Hunter himself.

Bishop’s Tipple Trippel, from Main Street Brewery in Corona, California, took the gold out of the 53 entries in the Belgian-Style Abbey Ale category.

At 7% ABV, the Dubbel is the biggest beer in FF's year-round lineup. (BigFish, a 10% ABV commemorative barely wine, tops the Dubbel as, indeed, the biggest Fish in the brewery's pond.)

FF's Web site says the Dubbel was first released in January of 1997. We seem to recall its inaugural brew on a Saturday in the fall (October?) of 1996, a brew day that also served as an open house, a couple months or so after beer started flowing for FF.

Folks who popped in at the brewery in Cherry Hill that day got to try their hand at an essential element of the commercial brewing experience – cleanup! The handful of beer aficionados got to help dig out the mash tun, but were rewarded with some samples of FF's Extra Pale Ale and ESB, first two styles under the brewery's belt.

FF's Web site lists demerara sugar as one of the adjuncts in the Dubbel, but we seem to remember Belgian candy sugar at some point (or more like we remember seeing sacks of candy sugar stacked in the brewery.)

Nonetheless, congrats. Next year, gold.

Speaking of MJ, congrats also goes out to Lew Bryson, who was named one of the three Michael Jackson Beer Journalism Award recipients. Lew won for trade and specialty beer media.

The complete winners list can be found here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dark beers, new frontiers

We shot up to Lambertville on Saturday for a return visit to River Horse Brewing’s Oktoberfest observance.

But that’s only half the story. The lead is what’s going on with RH. The hippo’s got a new swagger.

Sure, the O-fest was fun, and if you’ve never been to one of RH’s two-day affairs, you should go. Good bands (519 South rocks, no lie), good food, good time. That's Rich Dalrymple (above right) sporting the lederhosen. Rich just returned from a two-year stay in Hamburg, Germany, for work purposes. (He had to skip Oktoberfest in Munich this year, but was there last year.)

Rich gets rock ’n’ roll points for exiting Germany via the Reeperbahn, the city’s happening nightlife district that's also famously remembered as the place where The Beatles honed their chops before going on to wider glory.

Rich says he made one final tour of the Reeperbahn before catching his flight to the States.

But the story here is the beer.

When Glenn Bernabeo and Chris Walsh, two beer enthusiasts from the finance world, took over RH a little more than a year ago, they knew there would be some changes to come under their stewardship. To their credit, Chris and Glenn spent some time getting a feel for the topography before making those changes.

That’s the backstory. What’s new is this: gold medals, dark beers and new frontiers.

For instance, RH’s Double Belgian Wit and Cherry Imperial Amber, the first two installments of RH’s Brewer’s Reserve series (a stout will be the third; more on that in a bit), each won World Beer Championship gold medals. The wit was popular enough to earn a place in RH’s regular beer lineup. The cherry, well, we recommend you try it. Some nice flavors unfold with this beer, and cherry is just one.

But there’s more.

Dunkel Fester, RH’s draft-only dark lager for the autumn, proved so popular that demand outpaced availability (RH did a limited brew of one tank with Fester). Rest assured, that lesson has been taken to heart and Fester will come back in 2009 in bottles, too.

(Fester was in a lot of glasses on Saturday, and one chap we talked to had this to say upon being told of the bottling plans: They better!)

Did we mention there’s more?

Down the road, look for a double IPA, featuring Perle hops. But next month get ready for Brewers Reserve 003, an oatmeal milk stout that we got an advance taste on Saturday. It’s silky smooth from the oats, roasty in a lot of places and sweet in between. The fusion of oats and milk was the brainchild of Jeremy Myers, RH’s assistant brewer since May.

A Penn State grad, Jeremy’s a product of Lambertville, and comes to the brewery by way of Churchville, Pa. When he’s not helping brewers Christian Ryan and Tim Bryan, he’s probably working with his screen printing business, Jump Start, in Philadelphia.

Jeremy’s friends had a hand in RH’s new packaging (photo above): Jon Loudon did the layout on the new variety packs, and Bruno Guerreiro designed that hippo with some attitude.

Wait, there’s even more.

Tried RH’s lager lately? They switched to a Danish yeast and are bottling and kegging the beer unfiltered. It has a biscuity signature and gentle hop smack, quite drinkable at 4-and-change ABV. (The lager and Fester were the beers we had seconds of on Saturday.)

RH ... new swagger and making a splash.