Metal and Beer Part Two.
Check out Part One here.
After a quick breakfast Friday morning, we visited the historical Reading Terminal Market to peruse. All of the shops weren’t quite open yet, but it was cool to see all the fresh seafood, produce, local cheeses and meats getting setup for the day. There were a few retail shops open that featured homemade honey, jams, and anything pickled you could ever want. I would have liked to go back later in the day for lunch and more shopping, but we had beer to drink!
We headed out to Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA for beer flights and lunch. The drive from Philly to Downingtown was about an hour which isn’t too bad considering our longest beer road trip been the 6 hour NOLA trip for Zwanze Day last year.
Victory is located in a big industrial park, sort of out of the way of the main part of town. There were 10+ beers on tap that we don’t get down in Texas, so picking out five for a flight was just a matter of which styles I wanted to try. I went with, from left to right in the picture below:
- Helios Farmhouse Ale: This is one of their saisons, and a great way to start drinking on a hot afternoon. It was refreshing and I liked the carbonation level. It had a slight spice and funky characteristics and finished with minimal hop bitterness.
St. Boisterous: A hellerbock style lager that was pretty unassuming and easy drinking. At 7.5% ABV, a few of these would definitely sneak up on you.
Saison du Buff: This is one of the three Saison du Buffs- Victory, Dogfish Head, and Stone each brewed their own versions. To be quite honest, I haven’t liked the other two versions, but I was willing to give it a chance. It was lemony, grassy, and too bitter for me.
Donnybrook Stout: Victory’s Irish dry stout- at 3.7% ABV it was a bit thin, but it didn’t surprise me. I enjoy the dryness in this style and the roasted malt profile, though thin, was nice and not too bitter.
Feistbier: It seems a bit early for a Märzen style beer, but what the heck. The aroma was toasty, with a touch of sweet malts and a little bready. It was crisp and refreshing.
We asked some of the people at Victory if there were any other local breweries to check out before we headed back into Philly, and the closest option factoring in traffic was Boxcar Brewing in West Chester. They weren’t technically open, but one of the owners showed up at the same time as us to get set-up for an event that evening. He let us in and showed us around the small brewhouse; it was ingeniously put together with a 1963 bottling machine from Crown, two dairy tanks used for fermenting and as a mash tun, and the brew kettle that previously made barbecue sauce. We tried five of their beers: Original Ale, an IPA, Mango Ginger IPA, a red ale and their Brown Ale. Their IPA was hardly what anyone would consider as an IPA in a world full of hop-bombs, so I liked it as there was hardly any bite to it. The Mango Ginger IPA was sweet on the front with a ginger bite in the back, without being overpowering. Boxcar’s brown ale was toasty throughout with a nice chocolate flavor. The Original Ale is an English Mild, of which I’ve only had Jester King’s version, Commercial Suicide. It was enjoyable and light, especially in a hot warehouse brewery.
- After visiting for a bit and comparing silly beer laws in our respective states, we headed back into Philly to check out Yard’s Brewing. I am a total sucker for the Independence/USA/historical vibe in Philly, and Yard’s definitely played on that with their beer names and logo. John and I each oredered a flight plus we shared the other four offerings on tap afterwards, a selection of their root beer, cask beer, and two one-offs.
Signature Series, in order as pictured above: Brawler- Pugilist style ale, ESA- an English style ale, Philadelphia pale ale and the IPA. This was John’s flight, obviously, since I am admittedly not an IPA/pale ale lover. The Brawler was very tasty as it was malt forward with a nice caramel bready flavor. The others didn’t really do it for me. In my flight however, I had some interesting styles. In order of the picture above, I had: Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce Ale, Thomas Jefferson’s Tavern Ale, General Washington’s Tavern Porter and the Love Stout (actually part of the Signature Ales). My notes became a little skimpy at this point, unsurprisingly, but the Spruce Ale tasted like a christms tree, piney, in a way that wasn’t off-putting. I had the Love Stout the night before and definitely enjoyed it again. I liked the Tavern Porter as well, very solid representation of the style, but the bourbon barrel aged version I had next was better, also unsurprisingly. How do you make an oyster stout even better? Add a little vanilla and put it in a cask. Though it was a bit flat, as expected, it was still very tasty. I liked the play between the slight brinyness of the oyster stout with the sweetness of the vanilla. The root beer was very enjoyable, if not just for a change of pace. It was nicely carbonated and had a good balance of sweet molasses and spices.
As our friends were landing in Philly we made a quick trip over to the Standard Tap, recommended to us by several people. There just so happened to be a bottle shop next door, the Foodery, that had an awesome selection. At Standard Tap, I had a Johnny Berliner Weisse that was a collaboration between Standard Tap’s and Johnny Brenda’s owner, Scott Morrison and Dock Street Brewery, that we didn’t have a chance to visit. The beer was made for Philly Beer Week and was a really nice Berliner. It was light, crisp, and had a slight tartness. We really lucked out coming into Philly so close after their awesome beer week.
- After buying beer at the Foodery, we headed back to Yard’s to meet our friends (it’s on the way in from the airport) for a beer before heading out to dinner and a few more bars in Philly. I had another bourbon barrel porter, because duh.
We took a walk past the Betsy Ross house and dined at Philadelphia Bar & Restaurant, a dimly lit, laid back place with a great craft beer list. I started off with a Left Hand Ambidextrous, a cross between a barleywine and a milk stout. That sounds weird, but it really worked. Don’t ask me how…. Next, I went with the Dagger Stout from Bell’s that was also enjoyable. It was a big, but balanced imperial stout. Afterwards I had to give it a twist and have Merry Monk’s Ale by Weyerbacher, a Tripel that was deceptively light at 9.3%. Maybe that was the earlier beers talking.
- After dinner we headed to Eulogy Belgian Tavern, where I had Sixpoint’s Sweet Action. It’s a cream stout, but it was unexpectedly too bitter for me. We stayed to watch the 10,000 meter Women’s Olympic qualifier race, though I am still not sure why. It became strangely engrossing.
- Even though they had a great beer list, we were all anxious to check out Monk’s Cafe, and it was definitely the right call. Immediately I saw almost a half page of just Cantillon beers, I was in heaven. We decided we had to get the one that we may never see again- a bottle of the Zwanze 2010, a rare sour that makes an appearance in select bars around the country for one day only. 2010 was the last bottling year as the brewery was unhappy with seeing their beers on Ebay. I’m pretty sure angels sang when I took my first sip. Or, I just love sours, either way.
- After that, where exactly do you go? We decided on the Allagash Old HLT, an American wild ale. The cherries dominated this beer, with a tart note at the very end.
- Since we were headed out the next morning to Dogfish Head in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, we decided it was a must for the rest of the group to visit Farmers’ Cabinet. When we arrived, we scored a prime seat in the middle of their two bars at a big barrel table. There was an awesome jazz band playing, and the doors were open, but the warmth didn’t bother us. After seeing the beer-inspired cocktails on the menu the night before, I had to have the gueuze cocktail, because I didn’t think it could even come close. I was right, but it was for science, of course. The cocktail comprised of cognac, strawberry shrub, blended orange bitters, sugar, and sparkling wine. It was good, and not knowing too much about cocktails (I prefer a gin and tonic, mostly) I would think recreating both sour and funky in a cocktail would be difficult.
It was time to go big or go home, so we ordered a bottle of Beersel Mattina, from Italian brewery Birrificio de Ducato. It is considered a farmhouse/saison style beer, and is a blend of Nuova Mattina and 18 month ld Drie Fonteinen lambic, then it is bottle aged for at least 18 months. I am running out of ways to say how much I love sours. Not just sour beer either, I love chamoy, sour patch kids, and pickles (anything pickled really). All things sour, I can’t explain it.
For the last beer of the night we obviously had to combine my love of sours with our collective love of whiskey and barrel aged beers and get Fraoch 20th Anniversary Ale. It’s a heather ale aged in “ex-sherry casks previously used to mature single malt Speyside whiskey for 20 years”. This was a real treat, as my appreciation for scotch grows, I enjoy these types of beers better. Definitely an appropriate way to end our time in Philly.
Saturday morning we woke up and drove to Rehoboth Beach to visit the Dogfish Head Brewpub. We had a ferry to New Jersey to catch, so our visit was brief, but I was able to try several limited beers (or unavailable in our market). Rehoboth Beach is a small town, with a laid-back atmosphere, I definitely want to visit again and go to the beach. From left to right in the picture below, I had:
Positive Contact: This is brewed with Fuji cider, farro, cayenne, and cilantro. I didn’t pick up on all of the spices, but what I did get, mixed with the cider was good. I like cider to be more tart (go figure), so it wasn’t my style.
Saison des Fraises: A saison brewed with strawberries and rhubarb, giving it a fruity and nice, soft tart flavor. This was my favorite beer of the flight.
Shelter Pale Ale: This is a draft only selection that (obviously) doesn’t make it down to Texas, so it was obligatory to try.
Black & Red: I’ve had some of the other iterations of this- Red & White, Black & Blue, but never this version. It was by far the weirdest tasting beer of the trip, starting out like cough syrup and ends with a big hit of fruity chocolate. There was a bit of medicinal astringency throughout, probably from being dry-minted (as opposed to dry-hopped), that made it pretty unenjoyable for me.
Chicory Stout: This beer isn’t available in Texas (though I think it used to be?), and we’ve always wanted to try it. If you like chicory flavor, it’s a great, solid stout that isn’t over the top.
As far as the rest of the weekend goes, I enjoyed many gin & tonics at Bally’s casino while learning craps. We lucked out and there were two bars that had a decent craft beer list. One of them was underground at Bally’s- Firewater, and the other on the boardwalk- Harry’s Oyster Bar. The group ended up splitting two Lost Abbey Deliverances before heading out to the second day of the festival. Deliverance is A blend of brandy barrel Angel’s Share and bourbon barrel Serpent’s Stout. Of course we ordered two, it was fantastic. I’ve had both of the beers that were blended and loved the opportunity to drink them both again, in barrel-aged form no less. Otherwise, I really didn’t drink much [good] beer.
It was a completely amazing time everywhere we visited. I think I’ve expressed how much fun the beer part of our trip was. Admittedly, I am not as hard-core of a Metallica fan as the rest of the group. The shows were intense, but really fun. Still waiting on my hearing to get back to normal.