The Local Tap – Stateline Liquors

It feels odd on the one hand to do a “Local Tap” segment on a liquor store, but on the other hand I felt it was time to give a tip of the hat to a place without which, this blog would simply not be possible.

Stateline liquors (Web : Facebook) has been run by the Murray family for over 30 years.  In that time they’ve built the store into one of the biggest liquor suppliers in the region.  While the store excels in all areas, of course it’s their beer selection that keeps me coming back.  Robert Murray is “the beer guy”, and he does everything he can to make sure his costumers have access to just about anything that is distributed into the state of Maryland. It’s almost impossible not to find something you didn’t know they carried every time you walk into the store.  Recently while talking with a fellow customer, I was shocked to find I was standing right across from a selection of beers from Evil Twin, a brewery that I’ve heard a lot about recently but wasn’t aware that it was available in our area.

But the store goes beyond the traditional paradigm of a liquor store.  The “champagne room” in the back houses a bar with a working set of taps.  Customers are encouraged to sample the beers to find one they’d like to purchase.  The bar also serves as the location for monthly beer tastings as well as a hangout for beer traders who come in and share beers they’ve received with Robert’s staff.  I think DoB co-found Chuck said it best, “Stateline is the only liquor store I know that people bring beer to.”

For a short time, Stateline was also offering growlers for sale from the back bar.  Sadly, it was discovered that this violated a Maryland “repackaging” law and had to be discontinued.  Hopefully one day they’ll get that straightened out, because I have a few growlers that are in need of a refill.

What makes Stateline extremely advantageous for me is that all beer is entered into the system down to the bottle/can unit, which means costumers are free to break any and all six-packs or four-packs of bottles or cans we wish.  I’m sure it’s not lost on my fellow bloggers the convenience of not having to buy a full six-pack  every time you want to review a beer.

But enough words, let’s take a tour….

The side shelves – beers from Europe (excluding common mainstream beer and beers from Belgium) including the Baltic States, Scandinavia and the Eastern Bloc countries continue off camera to the right.  Beers from Australia, New Zealand and Japan can be found on shelves which are off camera to the left.

 

Belgian Row – Beers from Great Britain run about four feet down the left hand shelves, then the rest of the run is all Belgian beers.  The coolers on the right house more mainstream foreign beers like Amstel, Hoegaarden, Guinness, etc

 

Another shot of Belgian row from the other end.

 

American Craft Beer – bombers on both sides with some specialty four-packs thrown in.  The coolers on the right house all American craft six-packs.  Down by the cart on the left are shelves set up for American craft beer in cans, and brewery sampler twelve-packs and cases.  On the other side of the shelves to the right are more beers along with a healthy selection of meads and ciders.

 

The Bar – Champagne on the left, glassware on the right and of course, beer on draft.

 

The Local Tap – Argilla Brewing, Visit #2

The Board at Argilla

Last Friday the Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers group met at the newest, and smallest, brewpub in Delaware – Argilla Brewing (Web : Facebook : Twitter).  Steve Powell opened the brewery in March as part of Pietro’s pizza’s new location on Kirkwood Highway.  This was Tracey and I’s second visit to the brewery, just about a month from our first visit.

It was really good!

First, let’s get a few comments about the food out of the way.  On our first stop here we found the pizza good, although our in-house pizza reviewer (my daughter) thought it was light on toppings.  Not the case this time!  Our “Kennett” pizza ( fresh mushrooms, onions and roasted red peppers) came out hot, crisp and covered with toppings.  The combo was excellent with a nice tasting sauce and plenty of cheese.  The chipolte stout BBQ wings we ordered had a great flavor and mild heat.   But I’m going to be honest, any comment I make on the food is irrelevant.  Why?  Because by 7:30 the place was packed.  I’m mean seriously packed.   Obviously someone out there thinks this place is plating up killer food and apparently I’m the last one in Delaware to find out.  So let’s get to the beer (which after all is what I pay myself to do).

The first thing on the board that grabbed my attention was a Belgian bitter (5.8% ABV).  The beer was well balanced with both the Belgian and bitter influences apparent.  To be honest I didn’t take a lot of notes on it as I was content at the moment to just sit there and enjoy it.

Argilla’s 1.5 barrel brew system

The next beer was Gleason’s Cream Ale (4.5% ABV) which I had on my first visit.  As I said then, I’m usually not a fan of nitro for anything other than stouts, but it really does marry well with a Cream Ale.  The reduced carbonation gives the beer a mouth feel deserved of the description “cream”.  This is a beer you could drink a lot of, which I believe is what the guys at Argilla were shooting for.

Next was the Amber (5.0% ABV), which had the malt profile you’d want in an Amber with just enough bitter on the back end to balance it out.  Argilla toasts some of the grains in their pizza ovens for this beer, giving a nice tie in between the beer and food sides of the the business.  It rocked with the pizza.  Although I really enjoy the Cream Ale, I’d have to say that this is my favorite beer Argilla is producing right now.

Future beer in the waiting.

Finally I had the Citizen Pale Ale which, with notes of grapefruit and spice that make me think of cascade or columbus hops, is about as defining example of an American style pale ale as one could ask for. Another solid beer.

A quick poll around the group came to the same conclusion.  Everyone seemed be enjoying the beers, finding more than one on the board that they liked.  Argilla does have commercial guest taps (again solid beers in the 5-6% range, nothing huge) for those who prefer them.  But as I glanced around the bar it seem that the majority of  people were drinking those produced in house.  Another nice testament to a brewery.

It’s become to easy in the current craft beer market with it’s trend towards 8+% ABV beers with a myriad of flavors running around in your glass to forget that there is a lot of room between the 5%ABV megaswill and a well crafted 6.0% beer for a brewer to focus on, and indeed shine (and I’m as guilty as the next person in that regard).  At the moment, that’s where Argilla seems comfortable playing.  Their beers are clean, on point as far as style and accessible, which is all anyone can ask.  These are beers that will fit in well with a meal out with friends or family, without being to heavy or distracting.

This is the part where I’m supposed to encourage you give them a try, but by the look of the crowd on Friday it appears that you already have.  I will encourage you then to keep supporting Argilla Brewing, they’re representing the craft beer scene in Delaware well.

[NOTE – Steve Powell contacted me after learning we were coming.  Sadly he wasn’t going to be there that night but offered that his manager would be more than happy to take us back and show us their brewing set up.  But since the place was so busy, I decided not to pull anyone away from doing their jobs.  But I thank Steve for the consideration.  Hopefully next time!]

The Local Tap – Cantwell’s Tavern

Cantwell's Tavern

On Saturday the Delaware Craft Beer and Wine group was supposed to meet for a tour of the Old Dominion Brewery in Dover.  Unfortunately, Tracey and I got caught in a traffic jam due to an accident that ended up actually shutting down the road we were on.  Forced to turn around, and knowing we’d missed our tour we decided instead to take advantage of the situation and (finally) stop in at Cantwell’s Tavern in Odessa, Delaware.

Cantwell’s Tavern (Web, Facebook, Twitter) opened in December 2011 promising delicious farm-to-table food which included house made sausages, bacon, bread and sauces; as well as an upscale tap list.  As soon as we heard about it we put it on our list of places to try, but sadly the couple of times we tried to dial it into our schedule something else popped up.  But thanks to a well placed traffic jam (well, I probable shouldn’t say that; we really did want to go on the brewery tour) we were finally sitting in the barroom of this 19th century style tavern.

Cantwell’s resides in the historic Brick Hotel that was established in 1822.  The barroom and dinning room have been given a look that suits this time period (having once lived in Historic New Castle I really love this type of décor), from simply dressed dinning room tables to a bar with old time swing-down ceiling gates.  The barroom is accented in period pieces and populated with simple high-top wooden tables and stools along with a few booths in one corner.

Lunch! Yummy!

We claimed a booth and eagerly scanned the tap selection.  I was surprised to see Sierra Nevada’s Hoptimum on the list and thought I’d get a sneak peak of it before I did a review on the bottle that’s in my fridge.  But sadly the keg had already kicked, but Evolution’s Lot 6 had replaced it so I ordered one.  Tracey didn’t find anything on the draft list that spoke to her, so she turned her attention to the ample bottle list and found one of her favorites, Allagash White.

Beer decided, we turned to the menu.  We immediately realized that this was not going to be easy.  The menu was full of excellent sounding choices keying on terms like “grass feed Angus beef” and “house made bacon and sausage”.  I was pleased to see andouille sausage sprinkled through out the menu and the grilled BBQ wings definitely caught my eye.

In the end though it was the steamed mussels that won out.  You can order them cooked three different ways and it was nice to see that each contain a signature base liquid; one used beer, the second wine, the third cider.  Having never had a cider based mussel dish before, I selected the chipolte cider mussels.  Tracey ordered a side dish of the deviled eggs, and Carolina pulled pork sandwich.

The eggs must have been good because Tracey finished them quickly.  She thought the pulled pork was a little on the sweet side, but loved the flavor.  I thought the sweetness was ok, and thought the pork was well done.  The mussels were on point (to quote Mr Fiere), plump and perfectly cooked.  The broth had a slight smokiness from the chipolte but didn’t mask the subtle flavors of the cider. The real kicker however was the tangy cheese that was sprinkled on the dish. It perfectly paired with the mussels to bring the dish to another level.  And it all went perfect with my second beer choice, Allagash Four.

Finishing up, I ordered a Taylor’s Grog to end the meal.  Taylor’s is a specialty beer brewed by the guys out at Twin Lakes Brewing.  It’s sort of a marker beer because if you see it on tap, you know you’re in a bar that’s owned by the same group that owns McGlynn’s, The Deerpark, and of course Cantwell’s.

Cantwell’s beer list consists of twelve taps and as I mentioned before an extensive bottle list.  The taps run north to south, with macros like Miller and Yuengling mixed in with local boys DFH (90 Minute IPA, Red and White) and Evolution(Lot #3, Lot #6).  The rest of the taps are rounded out with breweries like Allagash, Stone, Troegs, Goose Island and Yards.  The taps rotate, so check the website frequently.

The Bar at Cantwell's

If the rest of the menu is as solid, then Cantwell’s is indeed doing it right.  As for the beer, no complaints here, a nice mixture of macro and micro that should guarantee that anyone who goes there should be able to find a beer they enjoy.  Cantwell’s runs daily specials, so check out their website.  They had mugs hanging which leads me to believe they have a mug club, but I didn’t ask.  They also appear to be running some interesting events like the Stouts and Stogies dinner coming up.  Three food courses and 1 cigar, each paired with a different stout; Yards Love Stout, Dogfish Head Chicory Stout, Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout and Schlafly Reserve Bourbon Aged Imperial Stout (a recent tweet or facebook post suggests that this is the one that’s being paired with the cigar).

Believe me, it won’t take another traffic jam to get us back to Cantwell’s Tavern!

The Local Tap – Flying Fish Tap Take Over at Two Stones Pub

Last Thursday members of the “Delaware Craft Beer and Wine” facebook group meet at Two Stones Pub for a tap take over from NJ brewers Flying Fish.  The group turn out was good, with some frequent attendees making an appearance as well as some new faces.  The crowd was lively and the place was ready to try some beers from Flying Fish.

The Chalk Board at Two Stones.

Flying Fish from Camden NJ, caught my eye awhile ago by virtue of their “Exit” series.  An ambitious multi-year project, the brewery hopes to brew a beer for each exit of the NJ turnpike.  Each beer being its own distinct style based on something interesting from  the area around the exit.  I really wanted to try all these as they came out, but sadly I’ve been lax in keeping my eyes open for them.  Being an “Exit 1” born and raised NJ boy, I of course had to try their Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout which I remember enjoying.

Cheers!

But tonight was all about their recent release, Exit 8 – their Chestnut Brown Ale.  This was its Delaware premiere.  Our state got two kegs, and guess who got’em? From the brewery:

To celebrate Exit 8, one of our big farming areas, we’ve brewed a beer that
uses a lost local ingredient: chestnuts–and a popular current one: local honey.
This full-bodied hybrid Belgian-style brown ale brings forward a nutty character
from the chestnuts, accented by the flavors of honey, roasted barley and oat
flakes. There’s a nice spiciness from the Mt. Rainier hops while Chinooks add a
touch of pine. Fuggles and Columbus round out the hop profile.

While we sipped it, much discussion ensued.  I thought the beer was ok, but a little off to be a brown (maybe that’s where the term hybrid comes into play).  I got hints of honey and spice in it, as well as something that probably was the chestnuts.   It didn’t blow me away, but there was definitely enough there to warrant a focused revisit when I get my hands on a bottle (I’ll be fair to the brewery and post a better review when I do).  As a matter of fact, I found most of the beers from Flying Fish solid but nothing extraordinary.

I went into the take over believing that Exit 4, their American Triple, is far and away the best beer they make.  And nothing I had that night (Extra Pale, Farmhouse, ESB and Exit 8) changed that opinion.  Exit 4 is simply awesome, with it citrus notes and hint of cloves.  It won a Gold Medal at the 2009 at the GABF, and Flying Fish was smart enough to make it a year round offering.  And luckily, it was on draft that night.  Great stuff.

Another awesome event from the guys at Two Stones.  I can’t wait to see who they’ve got coming in next.

Time for another beer.

The Local Tap – Ulysses American Gastropub

This past Saturday Patrick’s (Beer Delaware) Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers Meet Up group got together at Ulysses American Gastropub (24 rotating taps, Map, Twitter, Facebook) in Wilmington.  It’s fairly new in the beer scene, having been opened by the same group that owns Six Paupers in Hockessin.   For those who are not familiar with the term gastropub, let me break it down for you:  Gastro = high quality farm to table food.  Pub = beer and flat screen TVs.  Sounds like our kind of place.

Ulysses looks really good with a good-sized square bar and a row of tables in the front that are surrounded by high back chairs and love seat/couch type upholstered benches.  The dining room is in the back and is pretty open except for a large screen that splits part of the room.  A good number of TVs dot the walls, making it easy to catch whatever is on regardless of where you’re seated in the front barroom.

When we arrived the place was crazy packed,  and a few in the group were running late so we found a crack in the crowd through which to order some beers and I went to put in a table reservation since it was apparent that “occupy the bar” wasn’t  going to be happening any time soon.  It’s here that I’d like to say a few words about the staff.  They were great.  When I put in my table request I firmly expect to be laughed at.  I was asking for a table for 6 in a packed dining room that had about 4 parties waiting in line for tables – with only an hour’s notice.  But instead, the host looked at the table plan, politely took my name and said that he’d see what he could do.  When I came back 50 minutes later and informed him that we’d be 7, not 6, he simply said no problem, if I could give him an extra 15-20 minutes.  Gladly. Once seated our waitress was greeted by 7 people who got a little out of sync with the ordering.  But she took it all in stride, doing a great job with the appetizers and food while juggling beer requests.

I heard nothing bad about the food from anyone in the group.  Tracey and I had eaten before hand so she got a house salad with an apple/walnut vinaigrette that she said was very good.  I had spotted on the bottom of the beer menu a suggestion to try something that they call “roulette wings”.  The waitress informed me that they were just as they sounded.  There are 8 wings on the plate, 7 of them have the normal house wing spice on them, and the eighth is wicked hot.  Sold.  And let me tell you, I’m not a sissy when it comes to spicy food but yeah, it was hot.  Four to six guys (or girls) sitting around a table playing roulette with orders of these wings would be a hoot.

As for the reason we came, this place is definitely doing the beer right.  The beer menu is an easy read in that it’s laid out in a table type format.  Each beer’s ABV is listed as well as the serving size and price.  On the night we came they had such beers on draft as Dogfish Head Namaste, 21st Ammendment Lower the Boom, McNeil’s Dark Angel, Troegs Nuggat Nectar, Elysian Idiot Sauvin along with beers from local boys Evolution, 16 Mile and Twin Lakes.  What made me laugh (in a good way, I think it rocks) was that tucked into all that beer goodness was PBR for $3 a 16oz serving.  While they are serving some pretty killer beers, there’s also clearly a beer on the list for everyone.     Ulysses also sports a pretty good bottle list, as well as some specialty beer “cocktails” which, beyond black and tans aren’t usually my thing.  But some of them did sound interesting like the Dirty Orchard a mix of Strongbow Cider, Bulleit Rye, and Ulysses’ house spice mix.

Sadly, Ulysses is directly on the other side of Wilmington from us and we don’t get to that area of Marsh road very often so I don’t think we’ll be stopping in as much as we would like.   If I did live close by however, I’d definitely frequent it with its combination of great food and killer beer selection – once I found a night that it does not get so crowded (what can I say, I’m a sit at the bar type guy).  I could easily see this as a “two craft beers, then an order of roulette wings with a PBR” regular stop.

Also sadly, I don’t have any pictures from that night.  My Blackberry and me were at odds because once again I couldn’t get a GPS location for my Untappd check-ins (god forbid I would want to do that in a bar with a roof over it!) and wasn’t having any better luck the one time I walked outside to try.   So I put it in my pocket and forgot about it.  My cell phone’s retaliation for this dissing was to shut down all network connections the other night during a time when the track ball was not working in the “down” direction.  This left me no way to get down to the button to turn the connections back on.  My retaliation for this rebellion was to trade the ungrateful thing in for a new HTC 4G Rezound.  Problem solved.

Time for another beer…. and to figure out how to get the Untappd App loaded on my phone…

The Local Tap – Argilla Brewing Company

[Edit:  Not long after I posted this I checked up on Argilla’s social media and found that they were hustling to make more beer because their initial demand was so great.  Way to support a local brewery Delaware!  Keep it up!]

[Edit: Thanks for stopping by.  If you want to see my review of our most recent stop at Argilla’s, you can find it here.]

I’ve talked a couple of times on this blog about how some things go well together but one of the best pairings I can think of is pizza and beer.  So when I found out that local pizza maker Pietro’s was opening another location (2667 Kirkwood Highway Newark DE, the site of the old Gray Fox) in my area AND that they were dropping in a 1.5 barrel brewery named Argilla Brewing (Facebook : Twitter), well of course I kept my eye open.  After several miscues Tracey and I (along with my daughter) finally got a chance to stop in and check them out.

The day we showed up at Argilla they had three of their own beers on tap; an IPA, a cream ale and a rye stout.  First, let me say that I found all the beers clean with no off flavors.  It’s important with a place first starting out that their process is tight and clean, and at this point Argilla’s seems to be.  There’s also nothing earth shattering here.  The beers were good, straight forward interpretations of their style, none of which blew me away.  However, I won’t take that as a negative.  They’re just starting out so brewing consistently clean beer is the goal at this point.  They can tweak and play with the product later, once they’re comfortable with their new set up.  And with a 1.5 barrel system, I hope they tweak and play often.

The IPA I ordered was cloudy (expected, Argilla isn’t filtering at this point) with a nice hop aroma but could have benefited from a little more bite in the back end and a tab bit more carbonation I thought.  Normally I believe nitrogen should only be used for stouts.  However the cream ale Tracey ordered reminded me that it works very well with that style as well.  The ale definitely had that creamy, smooth mouth feel and tight head that you’d want in a cream ale plus a nice flavor.  Of the three, the rye stout was my favorite.  The brewery describes it as having chocolate and coffee notes, and indeed they’ve hit that perfectly. I don’t like coffee, so I normally don’t want big coffee flavors in my beer but this wasn’t over powering and played well with the chocolate.  Like I said; three decent, clean beers with not a clunker in the bunch.  Good first impression.

My daughter gave the pizza thumbs up.  She ordered a meatball, roasted garlic and spinach pizza and it arrived promptly and hot.  She thought the sauce was good and that the crust had a nice crunch to it.  But she also felt the pizza was a little thin on the toppings.  What can I say, my daughter loves her toppings, lol.

Sadly this was just a quick stop.  I hope to get back in there soon and hang out a little longer and maybe get a look-see at their set up.  If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know.  In the mean time if you’re in the area, give Argilla Brewing Company a try.  Watching a young brewpub grow into its own is one of the fun things about watching the craft beer scene.  Having one growing in your own backyard is really fun.

Time for another beer….and maybe a slice of pizza….

The Dogs of Beer. That’s our in-house pizza reviewer in the back.

 

The Local Tap : Evolution Brewing Tap Take Over @ Two Stones Pub

The Tap Board at Two Stones - Evolution Heavy!!

On January 4th Two Stones Pub continued its tap take over series with Delaware’s relative newcomer, Evolution Brewing.  Evolution sprang up in Delmar, Delaware when Tom and John Knorr brought in Boston brewmaster Geoff DeBisschop and quickly built up a brewing line that produces about 3500 barrels a year according to their website.  On this evening, Tom Knorr showed up to hang out with craft beer lovers and showcase 12 of Evolution’s finest.  And the dogs were there.  Chuck and I arrived around 5, with The Beer Goddess and Tracey joining us shortly after.  After a bit we were joined by Patrick from Beer Delaware and the evening got rolling.

I started with a mug of Lucky 7 porter.  I love porters, and this is a nice one with its chocolate tones.  Next I had a Secret Spot.  From what I gathered this is a tap only winter beer.  Pity, because this malty beer with a light floral hop ending was very good!  I hope one day it will make its way into bottles, because I’d take it to some Christmas parties for sure.  Next up was Menagerie #3, a scotch ale blend where part of the blend is aged in bourbon barrels for 6 months.  You should know by now that I’m not a fan of the whole “bourbon barrel” craze.  Mostly because I feel a lot of brewers are heavy handed with it.  But if any beer style was meant to marry well with a touch of bourbon sweetness and smokiness, I believe that it’s scotch ale – and this was a nice one.  The bourbon flavor was evident amongst the maltiness of the the ale which included some nice vanilla notes.   After that it was time to switch up a bit so I ordered a glass of what Evolution brought on cask – Lot #6, dry hopped with Williamette and Chinook hops.  This can only be described as a mouthful of hops, and it indeed cleaned my palate of the dark beer I’d just had.  Next up was Morning Wood, an oatmeal stout with coffee aged in bourbon barrels.  Yes, there was those damn barrels again and coffee, another flavor I’m not fond of.  But this was pretty tasty.  All the flavors balanced well together and brought out the best of each other.  I’d have this again.  Maybe bourbon beers are growing on me.  Nahhhhhh.

When talking to Tom Knorr it was obvious that he was proud of his product and happy to see Two Stones packed with craft beer lovers enjoying Evolution’s line of beers.  When I asked him about the brewery’s up coming move to Maryland, Tom didn’t seem too phased by the prospect.  “We’re just moving down the road a bit,” he said with a sly smile.  Sounds good Tom, as long as we can still get your beers here in Delaware.

Time for another beer.

The Local Tap : Two Stone Pub’s Dogfish Head Happy Hour

PACKED!

Recently Two Stones Pub held a happy hour for Dogfish Head brewery.  Not only were 12 DFH beers featured on tap, but owner Sam Calagione stopped by for awhile to talk to people in the crowd.  And a crowd there was.  By the time I showed up at 4:30 the place was packed with thirsty customers.  By the time Tracey showed up (Twitter: @malinoisgirl) she had to wait 15 minutes before they would let her in.

As I waited for 5:00 to come around (the time when they would start serving the DFH beers), I grabbed an Arrogant Bastard and checked out the beer list.  Most of the beers I’ve had before but I was glad to see that they had brought their recently released Faithfull, another beer in their music series that celebrates the 20 year anniversary of the band Pearl Jam and their release of the album “10”.  At first I found the beer to simply be OK.  But by the time I could see the bottom of my mug, it had grown on me.  I was tempted to order another to see if my appreciation for it would continue to grow, but there was a chalkboard full of DFH beers to chose from and and I’m not a “same beer twice” kind of guy normally.

Tracey and I enjoying some DFH beers!

I continued on my musical journey with a mug of  Hell Hound on my Ale.  A  beer brewed in honor of famous blues man Robert Johnson.  As usual I found the beer excellent and tonight was no exception.  I really think the beers in the music series rank as my favorite DFH offerings.

I mug of  the aptly named Black and Blue was next.  The blackberry/blueberry combo marked a stark contrast to the previous beers.

Next up was the Burton Baton, a blend of English Old ale and Imperial IPA which is then aged in oak barrels.  I tend not to be a big fan of oaked beers but since the beer only spends a month in the wood the notes picked up from it are not overwhelming.  This is quickly becoming on of my favorite DFH beers.

And of course no evening of DFH would be complete without a sample of the 75 minute IPA on cask.  I’m a cask beer fanatic, and when people ask me “is cask beer really that good” I point them in this direction.

Two Stones vs Dogfish Head

Another event that highlighted the evening was the Two Stones/DFH randall verse randall competition.  If you’re not familiar with a randall,  you can get the background from this previous blog entry.  DFH set up Palo Santo through vanilla beans and chocolate vodka strawberries.  Two Stones answered with Midas Touch through fresh sage, ginger and cranberries.  This was to be our last beers of the night so Tracey got one and I got a glass of the other and we set out to see who won.  Unfortunately, all we could detect were slight traces of the infusions in each beer.  The amount of beer being pulled through the randalls either took all the flavors out, or the beer was being pulled so quickly that it did not have time enough to sit in the first chamber to get properly infused.  However, there was enough in both the beers to determine that we liked the Two Stone randall the best, which is saying a lot because I’m not a big Midas Touch fan.  Take that DFH!

Patrick Huff (@BeerDelaware) right, enjoying the evening with a fellow beer lover.

Another great thing about the night was the chance to meet some fellow local craft beer lovers.  I got a chance to talk with Patrick Huff  (Twitter: @BeerDelaware) who is starting what I’m sure will be an excellent blog on the beer scene in the state of Delaware.  This guy knows his stuff and you can find his blog  here.  I also got a chance to meet Jay from Beer Thursday (Twitter: @BeerThursday) the leader behind a local group of guys who are regularly organizing some amazing beer tastings.   You can see what these insane guys are doing here.  By the looks of things, I’d say Delaware craft beer is well represented in the blog universe.

A few other twitter folks were in attendance as well, but the bar was so crowded we just didn’t connect.  But by the end of the night Tracey and I agreed that it was an awesome evening.  We’re looking forward to the next Two Stones event.    Hope you are too.

Time for another beer.

Coming up: Two Stone Pub’s “Black Friday” and (hopefully) The Dogs of Beer reunite for a pub crawl through NYC.

A Stroll Through My Mind – The Kennett Square Brewfest 2011

I confess I haven’t been to a beer festival in a long time.  I do go to Max’s Belgian Beer Fest every year, but a local beer fest populated by mostly local brewers?  It’s been awhile.  So when my buddy Kenny suggested we hit the Kennett Square Brewfest, I agreed.  One, because it fits the bill as a “local beer fest” but also because the proceeds benefit Historic Kennett Square, a non-profit charity.  And like I’ve said, drinking good beer and helping a good cause – sign me up!  We decided to get tickets to the connoisseur’s tasting – a smaller tasting where brewers often break out some less common beers they brew, and then have lunch at one of the local restaurants.

A long time ago when we’d go to Stoudt’s microbrewfest I always wrote up a little “trip report” and sent it out to all my beer friends.  One thing I learned back then, doing a detailed and comprehensive write up of a beer fest takes more patience and focus than I have.  Oh I start out with grand intentions, but after awhile I’d rather be drinking beer and talking to the people around me then scribbling tasting notes in a notebook. Heck, I don’t even remember every beer I’m poured.  Which isn’t a slight against any brewers, there’s just always some much going on that sometimes I miss a brew or two (or three).  That being the case however, no matter how overwhelmed I’ve gotten, at the end of the tasting I could still identify those one or two breweries or beers that I’d want to seek out again, and that’s all I cared about.

But for the most part, the events always end up looking like one big parade through my memory.   So with that, here is my stream of consciousness “review” of the Kennett Square Brewfest:

.    .    .

Haven’t been here since they’ve moved to the new location down by the high school.  Way better!  Awesome layout!

My friend Steve (AKA BUBBA!) is checking in the brewers as they arrive.  That man should not be given that much responsibility! LOL

Yes people, you do need your ID.  It’s a beer tasting so they may be serving alcohol in there.

The people across the street from the entrance have a little section roped off in their front yard where they are standing and drinking beer.  It looks like the poor guy who lives across from the Santa Claus house who puts up one string of lights across his gutter.

Hmm, some people just showed up with pretzels on a string around their neck.  That’s really a good idea or kind of silly.  Can’t decide which.

And in we go!  Most people are heading towards the first available tents.  Rookie mistake.  Always go to the back where there’ll be fewer people at first.

My first "check-in". Before I just admitted to myself that Untappd would be easier.

First beer (love the sound of that) “Wine Flower of Belgium” from Boulder brewing.  Nice floral Belgium.  Excellent start to a good day.

To check-in my beers on Untappd or not to check-in?  I decide not.  I take a picture of the Boulder tap handle instead.

Next beer, “Brekle’s Brown” from Anchor Brewing.  It’s named in honor of the person who owned the brewery that would later be called Anchor. Interesting interplay between the brown ale and the citra hops.  Might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I liked it.

I decide to say screw it and use Untappd.  Why not use the perfect tool for the job?

My check-in of “Brekle’s Brown” earns me the BEER PARTY badge on Untappd.  Guess I’m not alone.

Between about every third brewer’s tent they have a Rubbermaid cooler of water.  Nice upgrade from back in the day when they used to put pitchers on the tables and when they were empty, they were empty.

Yorkholo brewing has poured me something that I won’t remember later as I didn’t check it in and someone was blocking the sign on the cooler when I took the picture.  Like I said, it’s amazing how much effort this takes.

Stoudt’s is pouring their “Brewer’s Reserve Double Chocolate Porter”.  It’s everything I love in a porter.

The pretzel boys are back.  Still can’t decide.

Dockstreet.  I remember back when they put their labels on the bottles upside down to honor some historical protest.  They’re pouring a brew called “Prisoner of Hell”.  Pretty good, but I liked the name better than the beer.

KSBF volunteer Steve Platz enjoying the fest with Ken Finney

My buddy Steve comes over to talk to us.  He’s an annual volunteer.  It’s because of people like him that we can enjoy this brew fest.  He always says I should volunteer, but I’d rather drink beer then lug ice.

Brewery Ommegang has brought their “Aphrodite”.  I though Tracey was going to love this considering some of the other tart, fruit beers she loves but it didn’t displace any of her favorites.  Not to worry Kasteel Rogue, you’re still number one in her heart.

Rinse glass with water, toss. Fill glass with water, drink. It’s a good routine after each beer.

Kenny points out someone tossing out a beer by calling them a “criminal”.  Normally I would agree but with this many beers around why choke one down you don’t like?  It’s only 2oz.

Time to hit the head (must be drinking to much water), luckily the porto-potties are right next to the Stoudt’s tent.  When I’m done I grab another chocolate porter to sip on while I catch up to my group.

Stop at the Allagash tent hoping to get a glass full of their “Four”.  They’re pouring the “Curieux” instead.  Not usually a fan of barrel aged beers, but these guys do this one nicely.

You spend $70 for a ticket to a beer fest and then light up a big stogie?  I mean, I love a good cigar as much as the next person but really?

The guys at the Yards tent pour me something.  I remember when you’d see their beers around and then one day they just disappeared in Delaware.  I’m glad to see them re-appearing on the shelves again.

I get a sample of something from I believe Forest and Main.  I’m not sure because while I’m getting it I strike up a conversation with the guy next to me.  We spend a few minutes sipping on our beer and discussing home brewing.  This is why I enjoy beer fests.

Time for Tracey to get something to eat so we stand in front of the Ommegang tent and talk for a while.  I take this opportunity to get another chocolate porter uh, I mean hit the head again.

We go over and have a little conversation with the people from Twin Lakes.  Good to see someone from Delaware is representing (yeah, I’m looking at you Evolution and 16mile!)

It’s about time to close the tasting down so I go over and get another chocolate porter (not even disguising it with a trip to head this time).

Glad to see so many women enjoying the beer fests now.  When I started going to them you could count the women on two hands and most looked like they were drug there by their boyfriends.

Word gets out that we can stay for the regular tasting (I’d forgotten about this!) but we have to leave the brewers alone in the half hour in between – brewers?  What brewers?

Kenny has to leave because he promised he’d meet family at a local restaurant for lunch.  We were supposed to go as well.  Hmmm, go to a bar or stay around and drink more free beer.  Yeah, you know the answer.

Ok, the pretzel guys are just teasing me now.  I want one!

And they open the gates!!! Everyone goes to the front tents, we head to the back.

I get a brown ale at the Boxcar Brewery tent.  It’s a nice brown maybe a little thin but I really like it.

Mission brewing pours me an IPA.  It’s crisp and hoppy which is just what I needed at the moment to waken by tongue back up.

The Shocktop VW Beetle

The Shock Top folks are here with their “bug”ulator.   A VW beetle with a working tap system in the back.  The faucet comes out the back just over the license plate.   You know, I’ve never looked at a VW as a tailgating vehicle before, but now….

Eel Brewing pours me an organic amber.  It’s a nice clean beer.  Very good.  I’m glad; I’ve run into places that seem to put the “organic” label over “quality” when they make their beers.

The guys at Williamsburg Brewing fill my glass with something.  It was beer I’m sure.

Hmmm, a picture of the girls in the German outfits or the guys with hop leaves around their heads.  Must be the beer because these decisions usually aren’t this difficult.

Tracey enjoying a Voodoo Love Child

Voodoo!  Wynona’s big brown ale is very good.  Tracey is digging the Love Child.  She’s a hippy at heart.

At this time we’re getting that “it’s time to go vibe”.  We’ve had the run of the place for a while and lines at many of the tents are starting to get a little long.  Time to go sit and have some food.

The KSBF was amazing and I’m happy to say they’ve really got this thing down to a science.  Congrats and thanks to all the volunteers and breweries that come every year and make this into the great event it’s turned into.  We’ll be back next year!

Ed this is Randall, Randall this is Ed. You two should get along…

Last night I had the pleasure of hanging out with some friends (along with the co-founder of tDoB, Chuck!) at Two Stones Pub in Newark, Delaware for what has become a Wednesday night tradition.  The place was packed (nice business for a Wed) and the beer choices were excellent as usual.  But that’s not what brought us in – it was Randall.

Now Randall isn’t the cook, the beer buyer or the pretty bartender with the sweet smile (but if she was that would be funny), no randall is a little contraption dreamt up by the boys at Dogfish Head.   This little device allows you to infuse any beer from your tap system with anything you want.  And I do mean anything. If you can get it into the first chamber it’s fair game!  From what I have read and  heard the unit started from humble enough beginnings as a way to put an extra hop kick into a beer as it was being poured into the glass.  But beer drinkers being the creative bunch that they are, it wasn’t long before other things began to sneak their way into it.

The system itself seems simple enough (although since you’re dealing with liquid under pressure I’m sure it’s not), the first chamber holds what ever you wish to infuse into your beer while the second chamber gives the infused beer time to settle to reduce foaming when poured.  A cylinder around the second chamber allows ice to be added to keep the beer in it chilled until it is dispensed.  And there’s a filter between to the two chambers – no floaties please!

Randall "the enamel animal" set up at Two Stones Pub

I watched the bartender from my envious vantage point of  “right in front of it” pour several glasses throughout the night and I can tell you that those baristas who make your coffee in the morning had nothing on this guy.  He was working the system like a champ and the rewards were excellent.

Last night was Dogfish Head’s Theobroma (a beer brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and nibs, honey, chilies and annatto) over strawberries, shaved chocolate and vanilla beans creating what Two Stones called “a napoleon” after the popular ice cream trio.  The shaved chocolate really popped the already chocolate tones in the Theobroma and the vanilla seemed to pull everything together.  The strawberries were subtle but there, possibly over powered a bit by the already big brew.  One of the interesting things about the randall is, depending on what you put into it and how well or how quickly it infuses into the beer – the beer can change throughout the night.  The beer you get at 9pm might be completely different from the one you had at 7. Or if your timing is right, order the beer before it is installed and then save it (tough, I know) to compare with the beer coming out of the randall.

Past randall nights at Two Stones have seen:

  • 21st Amendment Hop Crisis over Hawaiian Pinapple and Tahitian Vanilla Beans
  • Victory Brewing Old Horizontal over brandied figs and dates.
  • Dogfish Head Festina Peche over local peaches and (yes, no kidding) Sour Patch Kids.
  • Victory Brewing Golden Monkey over bananas and walnuts.

As you can see you’re only limited by the beer you have on tap, and your own imagination.  So next time you’re  on a pub run, keep an eye out for my buddy randall hanging out around the bar.  And if he’s there forget all that nonsense the commercials used to try and tell you about “not fruiting your beer” and give him a try.  Maybe if you’re lucky after a few beers he’ll tell you how he got his nickname “the enamel animal”.  Oh, and tell him I’ll see him next Wednesday will you? Thanks.

Have you had a beer through a randall before?  And if so, what’s your favorite beer/randall combination?