Rain stops, now they pour

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Joe Sixpack’s been holed up for the past coupla weeks, waiting for the next ark. Though I believe I do see a bit of sun shining through the bottom of my tilted mug.

So damn the monsoon – it’s time to pull off your poncho and raise a pint. There’s plenty of beer action around the corner.

Start with the Great American Beer Festival, which hits the road today and tomorrow in Baltimore. Here’s a chance for aficionados who can’t make the trip to the festival’s home town, Denver, to sample some great beers that rarely make it to the East.

More than 350 beers from 120 breweries will be on hand – which makes it imperative that you have a plan. My advice: Start with the lighter ales while your palate can still taste subtle flavors.

The public sessions begin at 5:30 tonight, and again tomorrow at noon and 5:30 p.m. Here are Joe Sixpack’s Must-Taste Festival Brews:

  1. Alaskan Brewing (Juneau, Alaska) Smoked Porter.
  2. New Glarus (Wisconsin) Belgian Red Wisconsin Cherry Ale
  3. Westwood (Los Angeles) Smoked Scotch or The Quad.

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Dawson Street Pub (Dawson and Cresson streets, Manayunk) marks a quasi-seminal event in local beer history with a party from 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesday celebrating the third anniversary of the tapping of the first keg of Yards Extra Special Ale. Pub owner Dave Wilby, who still gets misty about his first sip of the ale, was the first to serve Yards with an English-style beer engine. (The taps will also feature Saison and a rare cask-conditioned/nitrogenated Brawler.) Meanwhile, Yards head brewer Brandon Greenwood has left the brewery. Describing his departure as “friendly,” Greenwood expects to remain in Philadelphia. Founders Tom Kehoe and John Bovit will continue to churn it out.

Beer radar

* If you haven’t made the trek up to the Red Bell brewery at 31st and Jefferson streets, tomorrow’s a good time to venture into the ‘hood. Red Bell, on the site of the old Poth Brewery, will host Musicfest ’98, with lots o’ beer and local bands (Tommy Conwell and Bonehead, among others). Admission to the event, which runs from 1 to 7 p.m., is 12 bucks. Info: 888-REDBELL. And look for the brewery to open a new brewpub at Philadelphia International Airport in early June.

* Thinkin’ of drinkin’ something different this week? Two bottles that recently tickled my taste buds were Sierra Nevada Pale Bock and Lancaster Malt Brewing Amish Four Grain Ale. Both are full of yummy malt, but aren’t overly heavy on the tongue or tummy.

* In a return to its roots, Miller High Life has begun marketing itself as the beer for “regular guys.” Leave it to a multinational megabrewery that once called itself the champagne of beers to insinuate itself upon the world of Joe Sixpack. They didn’t ask me, but the brewery did poll 250 Philadelphia guys about their favorite places to drink beer. The Irish Pub, which I presume is the kind of bar that attracts people who fill out surveys, finished first.

* Independence Brewing, looking to fill its excess kettle capacity, has taken over production of Gravity Brewing’s line of ales. Gravity, originally bottled at the now-defunct American U-Brew in Northern Liberties, had been brewed by Yards for the past couple of months.

* The nice guys at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant (147 E. Main St., Newark, Del.) have brewed up Fire Engine Red Ale, and for the second year are donating 10 percent of the proceeds to the local fire department.

Quotable

“Work is the curse of the drinking class.” – Oscar Wilde.

“When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.” – Henny Youngman.

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