Beer Radar – April 13, 2001

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Plastic bottles of Miller Lite are everywhere at the Vet, and so is Bud (at least, through the 7th inning). But what if you’re looking for a quality beer with some actual flavor?

Red Bell, once an oasis of craft brew at the ballpark, was selling only its lame-o light and a very Yuenglingesque lager on Opening Day. Meanwhile, the so-called Beers of the World window on the 200 Level Food Court treats us to a less-than-global selection of the usual suspects: Corona, Amstel, Heineken, Molson and Rolling Rock.

Yuengling Black & Tan, sold on tap at a couple lower-level kiosks, is attracting long lines.

In my book, the best bet is Red Hook ESB, at Chickie & Pete’s (along the third base side of the 200 Level concourse). It joins A-B’s faux Irish Killarney’s and Michelob Amber Bock.

C&P owner Pete Ciarrocchi told me during Monday’s rain delay that the Hook is so popular his kegs run out quicker than Phillies starters.

Aramark, the Philadelphia-based cafeteria conglomerate that controls Vet concessions, should take the hint. Good beer sells.

When I bugged Aramark veep Jack O’Brien about stocking on more bottles of local ales, he promised he’d look into it. “If it sells, we’ll carry it,” he said.

Yo, just stick a case of Yards or Victory or Flying Fish or Dogfish Head or Weyerbacher or . . .well, you get the point. Just put it on the bottom shelf of the fridge; I personally guarantee it’ll be gone by the All Star break.

Sooner, if the Phils keep winning.

Shelf space

Worried about the impending strike at Guinness? A new stout from Ireland just hit town. It’s Carlow Brewing’s O’Hara’s Celtic Stout. Mildly hopped with a decent roasted malt bite, the dark ale was a gold medalist in the Brewing Industry International 2000 Awards. It just arrived in town, alongside Carlow’s Curim Gold Celtic Wheat Beer and Molings Traditional Red Ale.

Penn Brewing is cooking up a new house beer for the Khyber (2nd and Chestnut streets, Old City). It’s a German-style wheat beer grippingly called Balzen Weisse. Ouch.

Elsewhere, watch tap handles for Weyerbacher Blanche des Deux Fleuves, a white beer, and Wild Goose Spring Wheat.

And for something completely different, TV star/slacks model/brew boss Sam Calagione is bottling Dogfish Head Midas Touch Golden Elixir. It’s the wine/mead/beer recipe based on a U. of P. scientific analysis of drinking vessels found at the archeological site of King Midas’ 700 B.C. funeral feast.

A thirsty first

After four years of documentation and several rejections, beer historian Rich Wagner has finally convinced the state Historical and Museum Commission to place one of those blue markers on the site of America’s first lager brewery.

It’ll go up near Poplar and American streets in Northern Liberties. That’s where German immigrant John Wagner is believed to have brewed in a tiny eight-barrel kettle, starting in 1840.

(Schaefer calls itself America’s oldest lager brewer, but it dates only to 1848, according to Wagner. )

Before the mid-19th century, Americans drank mostly locally made ales because lager yeasts were unavailable on this side of the Atlantic. It took the introduction of faster clipper lines across the ocean to bring us the proper ingredients. By 1850, Philadelphia was the lager capital of America.

This is the first official marker honoring the city’s important role in the growth of the American beer industry. Cheers to Rich Wagner for a great job of historical research.


“Penn may ban alcohol at all Greek Events” – The Daily Pennsylvanian, April 2. Hearts skipped a beat inside the Quad, till readers realized it was all a sick April Fool’s joke.

Thinkin’ of drinkin’

Forget about taking a breather after all those Book and the Cook beer events. Two powerhouse beer fests are on the calendar this weekend.

Tonight – Friday the Firkinteenth, the real ale cask fest at Grey Lodge (6235 Frankford Ave., Frankford). The event, held only on Friday the 13th, features ales that were refermented (or conditioned) inside the keg, then served by gravity, not gas. The result is a smooth, full taste – that’s why they call it real ale. This month’s fest offers 10 outstanding local brews, including Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Heavyweight Two Druid’s Ale, Manayunk Brewing Left Coast Pale Ale, a 1999 cask of Yards ESA, Victory Workhorse Porter and the 2001 debut of Flying Fish Belgian Farmhouse Summer Ale.

Tomorrow – Split Thy Skull VI, Beer Philadelphia’s annual barleywine festival, at Sugar Mom’s (225 Church St., Old City). Publisher (and DN ad guy) Jim Anderson has been making beer runs up and down the east coast to put together this year’s selection of barleywines, which are strong, malty, hoppy ales. How strong? Let’s just say that, at 8.5 percent alcohol, a Scotish brew called Orkney Skullsplitter qualifies as a light beer at this fest. Among the others on tap: Weyerbacher Quad (12.2 percent alcohol), a 1997 cask of Rogue Imperial Stout, a ’99 Hair of the Dog Fred, Samichlaus (the world’s strongest lager, at 14.2 percent) and the last known cask of Nodding Head Old Willy’s Ghost.

Sorry to sound like such a cheerleader this week, but this is a mind-blowing collection of 20 world-class conditioned casks available in our town over a single weekend. Believe me, other cities drool for this kind of splash.

No cover charges at either; pay by the round. Needless to say, you should find public transportation or a DD for both events.

Next week, things turn weird at New Road Brewhouse (36 W. Third St., Collegeville), when the annual bock festival features a goat race. Winning horned beast gets 75 smackers for its owner, and its name on the brewpub’s Maibock. The bestiality begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 21.


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