Monday, January 28, 2013

Tired Hands Brewing Company

Now that I've been to Tired Hands Brewing Company (THBC) a few times already, I can honestly say that it has become my favorite place to grab a beer.  Always offering a diverse tap list, everything I've had there has been fantastic.  There have been lots of solid breweries and beer bars popping up lately but this place definitely takes the prize.  THBC is the most exciting thing happening in the Philly-area beer scene! 

THBC is a brew cafe located in Ardmore, PA that opened its doors last June.  Owned by Jean Broillet IV, former brewer at Weyerbacher and Iron Hill, THBC specializes in saisons but also brews just about every other style one could imagine.  In addition to the beer, fresh bread and pickles are made in-house.  Local meats, cheeses and a couple of different sandwiches are also offered on the menu, which is small but greatly compliments the beer.  So there it is - charcuterie/ cheese plates, pickles, sandwiches...and beer!  If this doesn't sound like a place you want to spend all of your time, please stop reading and re-evaluate your life.

The first beers I ever had at THBC were Mysterious Mood (barrel-fermented clementine saison), Hop-A-Tact (loud & aggressive IPA), and Undertow (black blueberry saison).  I found them to be incredibly delicious and brewed with a meticulous attention to detail.  These complex aromas and flavors don't occur by accident.

My most recent visit, last Saturday night, was highlighted by Ego Disillusionment, Nigel, StrangeOwl, and MotherAnimal.  Four totally different beers, all superb representations of their style!  I couldn't decide which was my favorite as they all reflected an array of qualities that I was totally drawn towards.  I will note that Nigel was one of the best Black IPAs I've ever had.  Here are the descriptions as listed on the menu...

EGO Disillusionment: Kiwi Berliner Weisse. 3.5% Brewed with wheat and fermented atop 70lbs of Italian Kiwi fruit.

Nigel: Our India Black Ale. 6.5% Brewed with just enough de-bittered black malt and intensely hopped with two of our favorite hops: Amarillo and Simcoe

StrangeOwl: A Red IPA. 7.2%. Brewed with Rye, Munich, Vienna, and Caramel malts. Well hopped with Amarillo and Simcoe.

MotherAnimal: Barleywine. 11.5% Brewed with Vienna malt, a plethora of caramel malts, and a touch of chocolate malt. Conditioned on locally roasted coffee and Madagascar vanilla beans.

(pictured above - Ego Disillusionment)

I savored every last sip as I knew I wouldn't be able to get my hands on these brews again any time soon.  THBC has eight beers on tap and they are constantly changing their lineup.  Aside from what appear the be the house beers, HopHands (pale ale) and FarmHands (four-grain saison), the rotation of what's being poured is always getting updated.  When something is gone, it's gone for a while!  For example, I missed out on WeedEater IPA a few months back and can only hope that it will return on tap at some point in the near future.  Fingers crossed!

All of the beer at THBC is produced in small batches (only 12 kegs at a time) and brewed with equal parts of skill, creativity, and excellence.  At a time when the phrase "craft beer" is thrown around way too loosely, THBC provides a literal definition of this term for me.  Cheers!

Some other reasons why Tired Hands is such an awesome place:

- Bread and butter!  Yes, an amazing drinking companion.

- Crazy, cool t-shirt designs.

- Friendly, informative staff behind the bar.

- Small pours!  Such an ideal option when you want to try everything and still be able to function afterwards.

- DeepSleep))) (great nod to two bands I love!)))        

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Duck-Rabbit Baltic Porter

The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, based of out NC, is the self-proclaimed "Dark Beer Specialist".  This brew is a perfect example of why that title defends itself as nothing short of the absolute truth.  I have tried almost every offering from Duck-Rabbit and, year after year, their Baltic Porter is definitely my favorite.   

This thick-bodied, heavy brew opens with an almost syrupy red wine or sweet Port nose.  Upon tasting, black licorice hits first followed by sweet dark fruit (prune/ raisin), caramel, and chocolate.  The roasted malt gives to a pleasantly lingering charred/ mildly smoked undertone.  As the glass warmed up, the bittersweet chocolate notes became much more prevalent and provided a great finish to this already delicious beer.

Duck-Rabbit's Baltic Porter is a seasonal brew that pairs almost perfectly with the freezing, winter temperatures.  It's dangerously smooth and, at 9% abv, this brew will surely keep you toasty.  Stay warm and enjoy!

(Glassware purchased at Bruisin' Ales in Asheville, NC...thanks Sylvia!)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company - Leon Russian Imperial Smores Stout

Every week the crew at Prohibition Taproom presents a "Mystery Keg".  Followers of the bar are given hints about the secret brew via Facebook and Twitter until it is finally tapped.  This past Wednesday, the surprise beer was Neshaminy Creek Brewing Comapny's Leon Russian Imperial Smores Stout.  I was already headed down to Union Transfer for the Sunn O))) show, so I figured I had to stop in and try it.  Great decision!

As stated on the brewery's website, "Leon is a big beer.  So big, it has twice as much malt as any other beer we brew, and also requires us to do a double mash just to reach such a high wort gravity.  Each 15 barrel brew has 45 pounds of freshly handmade marshmallow fluff made by our in house chef and Production Manager, Steve Capelli, as well as 16 and a half pounds of bittersweet bakers chocolate, and 30 pounds of crumbled graham crackers.  The first batch looks to be coming in at 11.6% ABV." 

The explosion of this dark chocolate bomb was set off from the first sip.  A mouthful of thick, roasted cacao flavor was met with a creamy marshmallow aftertaste - balancing out the bitter and sweet aspects. The graham undertones were more prevalent as the beer warmed up but were mostly overpowered by the bigger flavors.  While the chocolate dominated (not in a bad way at all), the scent and flavor of the handmade marshmallow fluff managed to prevail sporadically throughout the glass.  At times the taste in my mouth was as if I just ate a fancy artisanal chocolate bar...Delicious! 

I was initially weary that the ingredients would combine for an overly saccharine offering but this was not the case at all.  The bittersweet chocolate and copious amounts of malt provided a great backbone to support this extremely flavorful and solid brew.  It's shocking that this beer clocks in at 11.6% for how smooth it comes across.  The high alcohol content was perfectly masked and there was absolutely no burn or harshness.            

The Neshaminy Creek website also points out  that, "We will be brewing another 15 barrels that will be aged in bourbon barrels as well as hand bottling a small amount that we’ll be bottle conditioning for a brewery only release this fall."  I can't wait to try the barrel-aged version of this beer which I can only imagine will be exceptional! 

This was my first beer from Neshaminy Creek and it is definitely one of the best local chocolate stouts on the market.  I look forward to trying more of their brews and hope to see them around here more often.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Amazing beer, delicious food and beautiful mountain landscapes...Asheville is one of my absolute favorite places!  The people are incredibly friendly and there is just such an overall great vibe in the air!  My wife is from Charlotte so we try to get up to Asheville (around a 2 hour drive) at least once or twice a year during our family visits down south. 

I've been to Asheville quite a few times before but never hit this many breweries in a single day.  We usually pick out one or two places, but during this trip we managed to visit five breweries - Green Man, Wedge, Asheville Pizza & Brewing, Highland, and Pisgah.  Oh yes, what a wonderful day!!

After eating a rack of the best ribs ever at my favorite BBQ spot, 12 Bones Smokehouse, we drove over to Green Man.  They are one of NC's oldest breweries (est. 1997) and specialize in traditional English styled ales.  I started off with a hand-pumped ESB and then had an IPA.  Both were extremely solid beers that are almost too easy to drink.  I've had the IPA before at Jack of the Wood, a Celtic style pub that was the original home of Green Man Brewing, and it was as good as I remebered.  Yep, I could drink this all day long!    

Next, my wife's friend who lives right outside of Asheville suggested we go to Wedge Brewing Company in the River Arts District.  Wedge had a cool and spacious patio area where we hung out enjoying some of their beers.  Not sure why I started with a glass of Golem (9% Belgian strong golden ale) in 90 degree heat but it really hit the spot.  The high temps combined with the tastiness of this ale made me drink it way too fast.  I had to keep reminding myself this was a marathon, not a sprint.  Slow and steady sipping wins the race...or at least allows you to keep standing.  It seems that the IPA, Iron Rail, is the most popular beer at Wedge and it was served at a completely separate window with a constant flow of glasses being filled.  I found it to be good but definitely not great.  Nonetheless, a solid and enjoyable brew to quench my thirst while steadily dripping sweat under the relentless NC sun.  I read on the Wedge website that their current brewmaster started his first head brewing position at the Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, PA.  Pretty cool semi-local connection.


Our next destination was Asheville Pizza & Brewing which was just a couple minutes away from Wedge.  Another great thing about Asheville is that everything is relatively close in proximity.  We grabbed a seat at the bar and ordered a pint of the wet-hopped Fire Escape.  "The brew is a blend of Asheville Brewing's Escape Artist Ale, with 127 pounds of smoked jalapeno peppers added."  I really like hot pepper beers but this one seemed a bit too much.  It started out as very enjoyable but then lost me toward the middle of the glass.  It's not that it was too hot but the flavor of the jalapeno peppers was just too dominating.  Nice effort for an experimental beer but a smaller pour or half pint would've been a good amount to sample. I followed it up with a glass of Ninja Porter.  The prominent roasted chocolate flavor was an inviting contrast to the peppery heat of the previous brew.  While Fire Escape wasn't my favorite, I'll gladly support any brewery that offers a weekly experiment to their customers.  I wish more breweries would do something like this to keep their tap list fresh and unpredictable.  On a side note, I did purchase what is one of the coolest brewery t-shirts I've ever seen....

The next stop on our list was Highland Brewing Company.  I've loved their beers for a long time and was happy to see that they now offered Saturday hours for the taproom...Woohoo!  My favorite brew of the day was possibly, Thunderstruck Coffee Porter.  The Highland website describes, "This robust porter has a full body with some hints of chocolate from the Chocolate Malt and Midnight Wheat. The mild hop aroma showcases the roasted flavors and subtle fruit and spice notes of the artisan fair-trade, organic coffee, roasted in the neighboring town of Black Mountain at Dynamite Roasting Company."  This great porter totally captured the roasted essence of the coffee, bringing the rich taste to the forefront in a non-overpowering manner.  On the other end of the spectrum, our next choice was the most refeshing beer of the day - Razor Wit, a Belgian witbier brewed with bitter orange peels, grains of paradise and ginger.  Just a great summer beer!  Right before we left I ordered a glass of Kashmir IPA. I've had it a bunch of times in the past but wanted to try it fresh from the source.  Ahhhh!    

A trip to Ashville is incomplete without driving up to the town of Black Mountain and checking out Pisgah brewery.  Not only my favorite brewery in NC, but one of my favorite breweries ever!  Pisgah is a certified organic brewery and you can taste the freshness of the ingredients combined with crisp, mountain spring water in every sip.  From their palest ales to their darkest stouts, everything here is spectacular!  Two beers I hadn't tried before were the Wet Hop and Blueberry Wheat - both were really good!  After a long day of drinking I tried to keep things pretty light but I couldn't resist a glass of Solstice, a 9% tripel.  I rounded things out with some Summer Ale and an IPA or two....who's counting?  I certainly wasn't by that point of the night.      

Asheville is a paradise for beer lovers, food lovers, music lovers, hikers, campers, and just about anyone and everyone you'll ever meet.  I had a fantastic day enjoying a wide variety of brews and can't wait until our next trip to this western NC mecca of awesomeness!  Cheers!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sour Saturday @ City Tap House

Sour beer paired with Philly summer weather is a perfect combination!  City Tap House's idea to have Sour Saturday at the end of July was a terrific idea!  I love Saturday afternoon beer events because you never know where the rest of the day will take you. From my first glass until the end of the free outdoor Sun Ra Arkestra concert at 40th & Walnut, there were more than plenty of good times in between.

When I arrived at City Tap House, I grabbed my complimentary Sour Saturday tasting glass and took a seat at the middle of the bar.  The beer menu was divided into 4 sections: Tart Sours, Funk Sours, Fruit Sours, and Aged/ Blended Sours.  I drank from all categories (I think I tried almost everything offered) but the overall selections I enjoyed most came from the Aged/ Blended listings.  It's hard not to love multiple tastings of Russian River Consecration and Rodenbach Grand Cru.  Although, my favorite beer of the day was possibly Cabinet Artisanal Marry Me in Goslar - brewed with coriander, Himalayan pink salt and Brettanomyces.  The refreshing salty tartness was just absolutely delicious!  Adding salt to a sour beer was a genius idea that really tied the flavors together, carefully bringing out some of the subtle undertones.  I would expect more breweries to explore and experiment with this technique in the near future.    

Here's a list of what I tried (almost in exact order):

-Bockor Cuvée Des Jacobins
-Nora Sour
-Freigeist Abraxxxas
-Cabinet Artisanal Marry Me in Goslar (x 2)
-Stillwater Premium
-Flying Dog Sour Cherry BerlinerWeisse
-McKenzie's La Fling
-Anderson Valley Featherleggy Bulrusher
-Russian River Consecration (x3)
-Vicaris Tripel Gueuze
-Echt Kriekenbier
-Mort Subite Kriek
-Free Will Napoleon Sour Saison
-Russian River/Sierra Nevada Brux
-Liefman's Goudenband
-Rodenbach Grand Cru
-Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour

City Tap House hosted an amazing event with Sour Saturday and I really hope it becomes an annual day to pucker up in West Philly!  Cheers!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

BYO Bottle Share @ 943

This was an amazing event based upon a great premise - Everyone who attended was required to bring at least one bottle from their collection to share with everyone else.  Such a simple concept that unfolded towards perfection!  From cans of Heady Topper to a growler from Hill Farmstead to a magnum of 2000 Chimay Grand Reserve, all of the bases were covered on this special Sunday afternoon.  Aside from the beer, 943 (an Italian/ Agentinian restaurant) provided a delicious selection of food for us to snack on during this incredibly memorable session. 

Bombers and 750 ml bottles covered almost every inch of the table.  After the first few bottles were cracked into, people milled around to check out what was opened and what remained to be tasted.  Between the Dark Lord, Hunaphu's, and vertical of Rodenbach Vintage (07-09), there were too many highlights to list.  Obviously I liked some of the offerings more than others, but almost everything I drank was great.

Here's what I tried -

Alchemist Celia
Alchemist Heady Topper
Lost Abbey Veritas 009
The Bruery Melange 3
Alaskan Smoked Porter 2011
Cantillon Lou Pepe Geuze 2008
Hill Farmstead Everett
Hill Farmstead E
Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude 4 (growler)
Three Floyds Dark Lord 2011
Lawson's Finest Knockout Blonde Ale
Midnight Sun Arctic Devil
Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad
St. Bernardus Abt 12 60th Anniversary
Firestone Walker Abacus
Firestone Walker Parabola
Lagunitas Gnarly Wine 2009
Dogfish Head Noble Rot
Weyerbacher Whiskey Barrel Aged
Olde Hickory The Event Horizon 2011
New Glarus Enigma
Alesmith Speedway Stout
Rodenbach Vintage 2007
Rodenbach Vintage 2008
Rodenbach Vintage 2009
Chimay Grand Reserve 2000
Cigar City Jose Marti
Ithaca Alphalpha
Upland Gilgamesh
The Bruery Otiose
Russian River Row 2 Hill 56
Brooklyn Brewery Blue Apron Ale
Cigar City Hunaphu's Imperial Stout
Pretty Things X Ale Nov. 22, 1838
Marshall Wharf Bourbon Barrel Aged McFindlay Scotch Ale 2010
Captain Lawrence Smoke From the Oak (rum barrel aged)

This might seem like a crazy amount to drink but we were all giving ourselves really small pours.  Mainly, I didn't want to get too tipsy and I wanted to make sure that eveyone got to try each bottle.  I had an awesome time sampling new beers and thoroughly enjoyed ones that I've had before.  This event was a great spot to meet people and catch up with old friends while trying an excellent assortment of special and rare brews.  Thanks to everyone who attended for bringing out some of their best.  Can't wait to do it again SOON! 

Here's a big thank you to Jared, Mat, and the crew at 943 for organizing this event and making it happen.  Cheers!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Odell Brewing Co. (Fort Collins, CO)

Over the past couple of years, Odell has become my favorite brewery in Colorado.  I first tried their beer (IPA, Saboteur, Woodcut #4) in 2010 when Capone's hosted Odell's first East Coast event...I've been hooked ever since! 

As soon as we arrived at the brewery, we grabbed an outdoor table and ordered some flights.  I went with the Co-Pilot Tray which contained the following beers:

- Harmonium (golden/ blonde ale)
- Double Pilsner
- Leprechaun Flute (pale ale, "hop-backed session beer")
- Locale Belgian Saison
- Myrcenary Double IPA (my highlight of the flight)
- Hiverano American Wild Ale

After enjoying the tasty flight I ordered a large glass of Wooden Owl, which was probably my favorite beer of the day.  Wooden Owl is an oak-aged double pilsner.  The brewery's website explains, "2nd use toasted oak barrels once filled with an IPA pilot beer.  The IPA was then emptied and Double Pilsner went in right after capturing a little bit of the fruity flavors the IPA left behind. This beer has a unique and refreshing flavor with nice vanilla oak hints."  I usually like my pilsners to be as simple and pure as possible but this beer blew me away!  The barrel aging worked wonders on this delicious brew.  Capturing lots of oak and hop character, Wooden Owl managed to be complexly balanced, smooth and extremely drinkable. 

I couldn't complete a visit to the Odell Brewery without having a pint of their standard IPA at its freshest.  I've had this excellent IPA a bunch of times in bottle, but this was my first time on tap.  A mouthful of juicy hops bursting with waves of sweet, refreshing citrus continued with every sip and gulp until the sudsy bottom of the glass.  Such a perfect way to finish up our day at this awesome brewery!!  Hope to see you again soon, Odell.