2015 marked the 5th year for the Washington Crossing Brewfest but this Gal’s first year to attend. Truth be told I just always figured it was rinky dink little festival. However, I stand corrected and admit I was very wrong.
With 64 breweries on hand serving at least 2 beers each plus, Isaac Newton’s had a booth pouring several different beers it’s no wonder this Brewfest sells out in advance each year. The list of breweries was impressive – to name just a few: Avery, Allagash, Ballast, Bullfrog, Clown Shoes, Firestone, Flying Dog, Founders, Heavy Seas, Ommegang, Southern Tier, Stone and Weyerbacher. Truly just the tip of the ice burg.
Not only is the list of breweries impressive but the setting for the festival is beautiful. It’s held outside under a canopy of trees along the banks of the Delaware of River. This particular year the weather was gorgeous and the trees provided not only a nice breeze but plenty of shade as well. It’s a spacious setting with ample room for the 2600 folks in attendance. Three things that stood out to me about the planning of this festival: 1. A brochure was provided to each person clearly marking which breweries were located where along with a full festival grounds map. 2. Each and every brewery tent was clearly marked. 3. (and this is a big one) Each and every brewery either had a brewery rep or distributor rep pouring their beer.
As with past festival reviews I’ll just give a quick recap of the standouts…
Put a Smile on this Gal’s Face: Bullfrog (love this brewery and glad to see distribution of their beers) the Sunny Disposition IPA was very refreshing
Most Excited to Try: Ballast Sculpin on tap – it lived up to it’s reputation
Surprise of the Day (is a tie):
The Lost Abbey Red Barn Ale Saison (this beer made me do a double take – wonderful)
Capt. Lawrence Kolsch (nice to see a Kolsch represented)
Highlights – Dark Horse End of the Spectrum Belgian Strong Pale Ale & Sapient Trip Ale Tripel (Whoohoo a Belgian Strong and a tripel on tap at a festival)
Shout Out to Long Trail for their Long Trail Imperial Stout. Say what, an imperial stout at a spring festival? Thank you Long Trail for remembering stouts can be enjoyed year round and aren’t just a winter beer. Oh and it was might tasty.
New to this Gal:
Rivertowne Brewing Grateful White
Roy Pitz Greatful Red Scottish Style Red Ale (Roy Ritz is brewing German beers with a twist – be sure to check them out)
Best Selection: Brooklyn Brewery with 1/2 Ale (a session saison!) and Wild Horse Porter
Favorite Beer of the Day: Boulder Beer Shake Chocolate Porter (decadent)
Very Happy to see representation of Saisons
Great Divide Saison
The Lost Abbey Red Barn Ale Saison
Brooklyn Session Saison
Bonus: Proceeds from the brewfest benefit the non-profit Friends of Washington Crossing Park.
Two Nights, 40 Beers sounds like a lot – it was – 40 beers of fun!
A writer for Philly Beer Scene recently posted for help in reviewing beer for an upcoming article. Of course, this gal had to try and be one of the lucky 15-20 folks to garner a spot on the panel and woohoo I was. Two nights, 40 beers!
Not only was it fun getting to try 40 different beers for FREE but being given the opportunity to hang out with some fellow craft beer lovers that I haven’t met before, hear about their beer likes/dislikes and their recommendations for different beer places to visit is always makes for a good time as well.
The tasting took place upstairs at Bottle Bar East – bonus I had never been so got to try out a different beer bar as well.
First thing – parking. Street parking only folks but I managed to find a spot nearby fairly quickly. (2nd night it took some time but finally snagged a spot). Once I arrived at Bottle Bar East I made my way upstairs to where the tasting would be taking place.
When one first enters Bottle Bar East your eyes are immediately drawn to the cold case displays to the left of the entrance. It’s a beautiful display of individual craft beer bottles for sale. One can take them home or drink them on premise. To right of the entrance is the cashier, straight back are the stairs (that lead to a 2nd floor seating area) followed by a long bar on the right and about 4 to 5 high top tables to the left and the “kitchen” is in back.
I made my way upstairs for the tasting where each table was set up with water and tasting forms. The first night was a blind tasting of 20 beers approximately 15 of them either IPA’s or Pale Ales. For each beer we were told the style and alcohol content but that’s it. Each person had a sheet to jot down a few tasting notes/descriptions plus a score from 1-10 with 10 being the best. For a non hops lover it was a bit of hops overload but I managed. However, towards the end my tasting notes took a nose dive eventually leading to a one word description for one of the beers – No. By this point I was pretty sure hops were sprouting from my tongue. I couldn’t wait for some malty goodness to hit my taste buds. Yards Love Stout to the rescue.
A fellow taster and I made our way downstairs to one of the high top tables. I requested a taster of the Punk’n Harvest Pumpkin Ale – Uinta Brewing Company 4% – light body with good pumpkin flavor but my taste buds required something more full body so I treated them to a little slice of malt heaven – Yards Love Stout – Yards Brewing 5%
Oh my taste buds were so happy to be coated with malts, roasted chicory and chocolate. I enjoyed this malted beauty with the Roasted Vegetable Flatbread that was down right tasty. My taster buddy enjoyed the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. Side note: sandwiches come with salads since fries are not served at Bottle Bar East. In fact, it would seem there is no deep fryer at all, which I find pretty cool, leading to some different bar menu options.
By this point murmurs of speculation as to what the article was about were swirling around with the tasting panel. All we knew for sure was that we really didn’t have a clue. We were told we find out the names of the beers from the blind tasting and what the article is about in a few weeks. Looking forward to both.
For night two we were informed of the beer name and style and bottles were put out on display – no blind tasting this time. The styles varied a bit more on night two but still leaned towards hops. Food was available for purchase each night but the folks I shared a table with all agreed that we didn’t want food skewing our judgment of the beer. As we all know a beer on its own vs. paired with food could alter ones judgment of the beer.
Night 2 leaned towards “local” brews. I don’t want to say much more than that since the article hasn’t been published yet. I will say that I was happy when Weyerbacher Merry Monks made an appearance.
By around beer 14 it was obvious some of us were losing steam and short on words to describe the beers but we managed. At this point I was thankful for the wall behind me. Having a wall to lean on is so underrated. By the end of the panel tasting I found myself daydreaming about some malts; so my taster buddy and I headed downstairs to the bar.
BTW – hooks under the bar for hanging ones belongings – love it!
The experience at Bottle Bar East was a bit different on this night compared to the previous evening. Night 1 the service was excellent and very attentive, unfortunately, I can’t say the same for night 2. As a former bartender, I understand wanting to spend some time chit chatting with friends that stop in for a beer but PLEASE remember you have other customers as well. Wait on customers and then chit chat – that is the order. Grrr, pet peeve.
At Bottle Bar East there’s a good varied selection of beer on tap to choose from plus the wonderful selection in the cold case. However, I wanted something on tap, just tried 20 beers and still had a drive home ahead of me so something not real high in alcohol content was preferred so, once again, the Yards Love Stout won. This time I paired it with the homemade Mac & Cheese with asparagus mixed in. This was a wonderful crock of stick to your ribs comfort food!
The 2 night experience was a blast. I got to taste 40 beers, meet new people and try a place I didn’t even know existed – all in all pretty cool! Plus, after 40 beers in 2 nights I was temporarily beered out. Not something that happens often, if ever.
Blend Bar & Bistro recently hosted a party to celebrate New Jersey’s 350th Birthday. It was quite the celebration showcasing New Jersey Brews and some classic Jersey food, think pork roll. Around 12 to 14 New Jersey Brewers participated and several of the breweries had reps at the event as well. With both indoor and out door seating there was plenty of space for the large crowd which the staff did a great job handling. There were door prizes too but in the 3 1/2 hours this Gal was at the event I never heard ticket numbers being called out so not sure how that worked but the prizes were pretty cool looking. Mostly swag from the Brewers.
The evening started off with a beer from a company I hadn’t had the pleasure of trying before – NJ Beer Company.
LBIPA – NJ Beer Company 7%
By now most know this Gal is not much for IPAs, although, they are growing on me. I do believe it’s always good to try new things so went for a full pint and was glad to have a pint worth’s of this beer. This beer is perfect for kicking back and enjoying the summer with. It’s has nice crisp citrus tones with hints of floral and just the right amount of hops. It’s a very refreshing and a pleasing drinking beer that would be a great addition to any picnic menu. I look forward to trying more selections from this brewery in the near future especially their stout. (Was enjoying the LBIPA so much forgot to take a pic of it until it was almost gone, whoops.)
Next up was a taster round…
Trinity Smoked Scottish – Rinn Duin Brewing Company 4.%
I was really looking forward to trying this beer. It’s been a while since I’ve had a smoked brew. Unfortunately, this one really didn’t hit the mark for me. I don’t want the smokiness to overwhelm the beer or knock my taste buds over but I do want to at least enjoy some smokiness and there really wasn’t much to this beer. This beer is on the light end of medium body with some malty sweetness and just a faint hint of smoke.
Boaks Abbey Brown Ale – Boak Beverage 7%
This Gal was really excited about this ale. I love me a Belgian Strong Dark Ale and this didn’t disappoint. Nice rich brown color with nice roasted malts, dark cherries and just a hint of chocolate that finishes nicely. Well done!
Happy Buck’n Anniversary – Bolero Snort Brewery 7.7%
Between this being a porter and the brewery having a fun name I had to get this beer. I loved how dark this beer pours such a deep rich black color with a nice cocoa taste accompanied by roasted coffee. This is a good medium body porter that can be enjoyed year round.
Morning Bell – Kane Brewing Company 9.2%
Oh mother love this beer is tasty. It’s got the wake me up in the morning coffee punch that I love in porters and stouts. One can smell, as well as taste, the coffee in this little black beauty. Along with the chicory it has a nice amount of dark chocolate bitterness, roasted malts and slight hints of vanilla. Finishes solid and is a very well balanced porter that I look forward to having again and again.
I finished the night with a firkin offering from Pinelands Brewing Company.
Pinelands Farmhouse Ale – Pinelands Brewing Company 6%
What’s better than a Saison? Well, a firkin of Saison. This beer has the true hazy golden color associated with the Saison style. One can immediately smell the yeast, lemons and wheat and this beer offers a good balance of both citrus and spice.
Garden State Brewers Festival 6/28/14
Aboard the Battleship New Jersey
This event was a ton of fun. It’s been several years since I’ve attended this festival and have never been since it started being held on the Battleship which let’s face it is a really cool setting for a beer festival.
This year I decided to volunteer and help out which was a great way to meet fellow beer folks. After my shift was done I had the pleasure of enjoying the festival itself. I have to say this particular festival is run nice and smooth and there is plenty of room for everyone with both seating on the open deck as well as coverage under tents and there is always a nice breeze on the deck even on real hot days. Bonus, the live band was really good as well! Great beer accompanied by Grateful Dead tunes is a win win for this Gal!
Too many beers to review but will highlight a few.
Most interested in trying – Village Idiot Brewing
I have to say their Tripel didn’t disappoint
Best Selection – Triumph Brewing
They were pouring 4 beers and had something for everyone. Pleasantly surprised by their Saison and their Porter was nice too.
Most Surprised by NJ Beer Company
I didn’t think I would see an Abbey on tap and was surprised they offered one – delish by the way. Keeping my eye on this brewery – this was only the 2nd time I’ve tried one of their beers and both times really enjoyed them.
Second Favorite Beer of the Day Cricket Hill Nocturne Chocolate Ale
I found myself at this tap a few times and directed others there as well
Favorite Beer of the Day – Kane Brewing Morning Bell Just had this beer for the first time 2 days prior but it’s quickly becoming a favorite of this Gal’s!
As some of you may have heard this Gal was pretty excited about Philly Beer Week 2014 and was looking forward to enjoying several events. There were so many events to choose from but one particular one caught my eye; the Weyerbacher Tap Takeover at the Hulmeville Inn. I had never been to the Inn but was looking forward to trying it out and no better time than a tap takeover.
I’ve been hearing for some time how great the Hulmeville Inn is but truth be told the smoking kept me from seeing for myself. Luckily it’s smoke free now! As soon as I walked in I knew this was going to become a Geeky Beer Gal hangout. Upon arrival I loved the little garden area outside that lead you to a wonderfully cozy (think lots of nice dark wood and brick) bar area with table options and a descent size horseshoe shaped bar and a closed in porch area off the front of the building. Another words plenty of seating options for those who want to be in the heart of things and those who want to be off on their own in a more quiet setting. What really got this Gal’s attention the room with POOL TABLES – hello! Great beer + pool tables = fun.
The pool tables were going to have to wait for another visit for this visit it was all about the beer. My companion and I took seats at the bar and were presented with the tap list. The tap list consist of 20 beers 16 of them excellent and 4 of them that need not be discussed any further. My favorite way to experience a tap takeover is with a tasting rounds so I can try as many beers as possible. I was a wee bit disappointed that the Inn doesn’t offer tasting rounds. Oh well, no biggie just meant I would have to choose wisely since all the Weyerbacher beers came in at 9% and above.
Rhumpshaka American Strong Ale – Weyerbacher Brewing 11%
Nice oaky color with a small eggshell white head. With just the first sip one can immediately tell this ale had been aged in rum barrels. Not only can you taste the rum but you can smell it as well. Along with the rum there’s flavors of citrus, vanilla, caramelized sugar and some spices. Even though this beer has an ABV of 11% it’s a very easy drinking beer. Another words be careful it can seek up on you have too much. I decided to move on after the one.
Before ordering my next beer my companion and I decided it was time for some food. The menu is very much bar food that is made right in front of you at the grill “kitchen” area. I’m happy to report the Inn is both meat and vegetarian friendly and they over some great deals.
Once the food was ordered it was time for Round Two:
Quad 2010 – Weyerbacher Brewing 11.8%
Smooth, smooth and smooth very little carbonation on this honey color beer. A nice quad with banana, cloves with hints of honey, toffee and very faint notes of tobacco.
Tango Belgian Dark Ale – Weyerbacher Brewing 10.6% (taste)
I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to a full glass of the Tango so the bartender was kind enough to pour me a sample taste. Right off the bat you can taste the cherries and what tasted like rye to me. It was interesting but I just wasn’t in the mood for a cherry beer. The taste was plenty for me this time around.
Sunday Morning Stout – Weyebacher Brewing 11.8%
For my last beer I decided to treat myself and request the Stout be mixed with the Framboise Lambic. Folks I highly recommend experimenting with mixing your beers. Stouts and lambics go wonderfully together and it’s so rare to have both on tap I had to go for it. The bartender was very accommodating and was happy to oblige. This combo was outstanding the richness of the stout complimented the Lambic wonderfully. I could still taste the chicory, bourbon and cocoa of the stout with the sweetness of the raspberries from the lambic. Ahhh, heaven.
I’m looking forward to a return visit to the Inn. The atmosphere at the Hulmeville Inn really lends itself to enjoying the day hanging for a while with some friends. Very pleased I finally got to try it out.
Side Note: Weyerbacher donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of every drop of Last Chance IPA to small, regional animal rescue operations. These shelters offer dogs, cats and other pets their last chance to find a new home.
Looking to spend a day or two checking out the beer scene in the city of Brotherly Beer? Following is a list of suggested Pub Crawl destinations for Philadelphia broken up by neighborhoods. This is just Geeky Beer Gals suggestions for possible Philly Pub Crawls. YES, there are a lot of good beer bars in Philly but I tried to keep the list to exceptional beer places. So if you don’t see one on the list it could mean:
a. I didn’t know about it or
b. it’s good but not exceptional
I haven’t tried each place personally, a number of them but not all of them. However, I trust my beer team with their recommendations.
Have fun tasting your way through the city of Brotherly Beer.
On the 10/4 I had the pleasure of attending my first, and certainly hope not my last, Beer Exchange. It was so much fun. My fellow beer buddies and I had giant smiles on our faces the entire time and were amazed when we first arrived and saw the abundance of good beer waiting to be picked. I was downright giddy with excitement and I think it’s safe to say so were my fellow beer pals.
Each person participating in the Exchange brings 1 6-pack for the community coolers and 1 case of beer for the picking table. The case can be a mix or 24 of the same. If you are not interested in participating in the case exchange you can just bring a six pack and kick back and relax with a beer. Also, several none drinkers where there as well and just enjoyed socializing. The group was very inviting.
Beer Picking Tables
Upon arrival we were directed to the beer tables. The tables were set up under a tent with lighting so when it came picking time one could read the labels. There was also a bench set up in the middle to set your case on while picking. (very well thought out) After setting up my beer I placed my empty case with the others to be used later when it was my turn for picking.
Then I checked in with the host. Each participate is given a number upon arrival, mine was lucky 16, then a copy of the number goes in the picking bowl plus a slip of paper with your name on it goes in the door prize bowl. As if the great beer wasn’t enough there were door prizes too!
After checking in my friends and I wondered over to the community beer coolers and selected our first brew of the night. Mine was Mountain Ale from The Shed Brewery. We then perused the beer picking table eying up beers we hoped would be there when it was our turn to pick.
After socializing a bit we settled into our lawn chairs to enjoy our beer and wait for our numbers to be called.There was another large tent set up with chairs under for people to kick back and relax as well as chairs around a roaring fire pit. We brought our own chairs and water but wasn’t necessary. The hosts had everything well thought out and provided chairs and a large cooler of water. Plus, there was a table with all sorts of food on it for the guest to enjoy.
Not long after arriving and getting settled the hosts gathered everyone around to explain the picking rules and to make sure everyone knew where the bathroom was. While listening to the rules I enjoyed a Rogue Dead Guy Ale.
When your number is called you take the case you originally came with to the picking table and pick 12 beers of your choice. After everyone has gone and picked their 12 we then go again in reverse order that the numbers were originally picked. Very fare way of doing it. Otherwise, the person who goes last would just have what is left over and not really get to pick what he/she may want to try. So the last number picked gets to choose all 24 at once. If someone has to leave early then when their number is called they get to pick all 24 at once. While numbers are being called so are door prizes. The prizes ranged from the goofy mardi gras necklace to amazing beers. Very nice touch provided by the hosts.
About midway my number was called and I have to say it was a bit overwhelming trying to choose my first 12. You really want to look through them but at the same time not slow everyone else down. I did scope out the lineup early in the evening so I had some I knew I wanted to grab but others I planned on where already gone. While I was busy choosing my beer one of my buddies had her named called for a door prize and won a Samuel Adams hat. It looked great on her.
While waiting for my turn again I enjoyed a Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate Peanut butter Stout and a Leffe. After my beer buddies and I picked our final 12, which didn’t take as long as the first 12 since so much was picked by this point, we happily packed up each of our cases, thanked the hosts and left with huge grins on our faces. Others stayed and hung around the fire and the beautiful night.
Super fun evening and I encourage you to gather some friends and friends of friends and plan your on Beer Exchange.
The beer I picked.
Scrumshaw Pils, CA
Lagunitas Little Sumpin Wild Ale, CA
Wells Banana Bread, UK
Left Hand Black Jack Porter
Paulaner Salvator Double Bock, Germany
Big Muddy Brewing Pumpkin Smasher
Flying Dog Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout
DuClaw Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout
Otter Creek Black IPA
Left Hand Sawtooth Ale
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
River Horse Hippo-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin
Hoogaarden Wit Blanche
Left Hand Milk Stout
Weyerbacher Autumnfest (some how picked this one twice)
Post Road Pumpkin Ale
Grittys Halloween Ale
Lakefront Brewing Fuel Cafe Coffee Stout, Wisconsin
Woodstock Inn Brewery Pig’s Ear Brown Ale
Troegs Dead Reckoning Porter
Breckenridge Brewery Vanilla Porter
Erdinger Weissbrau Oktoberfest, Germany