Brews for the dark days of winter

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Pull out your long johns, Philly, this week’s cold snap is just the first taste of a long winter ahead. Yeah, I know el Nino says it’s going to be a moderate, but what’s he know?

Deep down in Joe Sixpack’s el gutto, it feels like we’re in for a tough one. And, just in time, the saints of the brew kettle are blessing us with early batches of winter warmers.

These seasonal brews, also known as Christmas beers, are usually dark, full-bodied ales with a touch of spice and a lot of alcohol. They go perfectly with a hot fire and ginger snaps.

One of the best was tapped this week at Sugar Mom’s (225 Church St., Old City) – Old Nick, a barleywine from Young’s of London. This is a tasty ale for novices and others who don’t like the heavy taste of classic barleywines, like Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Ale or Anchor Brewing’s Old Foghorn. At 7.2 percent alcohol, it offers the stiff kick you want on a frigid night, but its smooth, almost banana finish makes it highly drinkable.

Independence Brewing just bottled its strongest beer, William’s Winter Warmer, at 7.2 percent. Boasting a toffee flavor, it’s no doubt the sort of thing that Ben Franklin used to sip when he went bar-hopping on Dock Creek.

Elsewhere on the domestic front, Saranac, from Matt Brewing in Utica, N.Y., is casing a sampler pack that features the traditional Twelve Beers of Christmas. Yes, I remember those heart-warming nights when we children hung our stockings with care, to find them filled the next morning with stouts and porters and pilsners. This sampler includes Winter Wassail and a Maple Porter, which Santa would appreciate along with a plate of pretzels.

Looking for other cold-weather stuff? Here’s a shopping list of winter warmers:

  • * Chimay Blue (Belgium).
  • * Anchor Our Special Ale (San Francisco).
  • * North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout (Fort Bragg, Calif.)
  • * Red Bell Wee Heavy Scottish Ale (Philadelphia).
  • * Flying Fish Belgian Abbey Dubbel (Cherry Hill, N.J.).


The folks at feature two, um, unusual Web pages for cyberdrinkers.

At its vomit site, you can search through dozens of metaphors for barfing, from “air the diced carrots” to “zook.” My favorite: rope pa elgen, which is Norwegian for “call the moose.”

Fans of other bodily functions will find nonstop fun at Real Beer’s burp site. There, you can download a variety of audio belches, including those produced by oatmeal stout or a gulped can of Bud. And, yes, there is the always popular burping rendition of the alphabet.

Totally tasteless.


This one is courtesy of sharp-eyed editor Karin Berry, who says this could be the singles club of the decade.

Home Brew Club. Meets monthly to taste homemade wine, cider and beer. This mostly male group is in need of female brewers.

Speaking for all male homebrewers, let me tell you ladies, we’re definitely in need of female brewers.

Call 609-424-3636 if your interested.


Coupla new mega-tap joints in town for beer hunters. John Patrick’s joins the fray in Old City, at 208 Race St., where Einstein Cafe once served dinner. The place has a relaxed pub feel, and enough TVs that on a recent night I was able to keep my eyes on the Flyers, LSU football, the AL playoffs and Mrs. Sixpack without straining my neck. Owned by the same folks who run the mammoth 72-tap J.P. McGillicuddy’s in Bethlehem, Pa., John Patrick’s boasts 36 faucets. One was enough on my recent visit, though, as a potent pint of Hair of the Dog Adam Bier took a bite out of my cerebral cortex.

In University City, Mad Mex has a nice variety on 18 taps to go along with OK food. But the place is plagued by the most uncomfortable bar I’ve ever bellied upon. Looks like it was designed by a deranged Drexel undergrad.


Thanks to several e-mail buddies for the following:

After work one day, a group of brewery presidents decide to go out for a beer.

The guy from Budweiser says. `I’d like the best beer in the world, give me ‘The King of Beers’, a Budweiser.” The bartender gives him one.

The guy from Coors says, “I’d like the only beer made with Rocky Mountain spring water, give me a Coors.” He gets it.

The guy from Guinness sits down and says, “Give me a Coke.” The bartender is a little taken aback, but gives him what he ordered.

The other brewery presidents look over at him and ask, “Why aren’t you drinking a Guinness?” The Guinness president replies, “Well, if you guys aren’t drinking beer, neither will I.”


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