Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers (#DCBaWL) West Coast vs East Coast BBQ

The Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers group met for our first BBQ picnic get together.  The theme was “West Coast vs East Coast” and we had an excellent turn out of beer and indeed, beer lovers.   Patrick, Kristen, Dana, Ann, Brian, Rob, the other Rob, Randy, Ida, and of course Tracey and I; met at Patrick and Kristen’s house ready to sample what the two coasts had to offer.

Dana’s growler of Victory Ranch. We were staring at this like NASCAR drivers at a green flag. Its opening marked the beginning of the event. Thanks Dana!

Outside of the WvsE theme, no restrictions were given to the type of beer we could bring, so the day turned into a “20 man over the top battle royal” type event, each beer fighting to be the last one standing amongst the collection of libations brought.

I arrived with a pseudo cooler of surprises, 8 beers, 4 each from the respective coasts.  The event turned into a great day of food, fun and spirited talk about beer and the craft industry in general.  We also touched on past beer events we had attended, both inside and outside the DCBaWL as well as what lay ahead on the beer/wine calendar.

A list of (what I can remember) beers that participated were:

EAST COAST:  Victory Brewing’s Ranch IPA, Allagash’s Hugh Malone, Sixpoint’s Sweet Action, Smuttynose’s Really Old Brown Dog, DFH’s Festina Peche and Palo Santo, DuClaw’s Mysterium, Southern Tier’s Unearthly, RJ Rocker’s Fish Paralyzer and Son of a Peach, Lagunitas’ Hop Stoopid, Shmaltz Coney Island Sword Swallower

WEST COAST:  Oskar Blues’ G’Night, Moylan’s Hopsickle, Rogue’s Voodoo Doughnut, Stone’s Oaked Arrogant Bastard, Napa Smith’s Organic IPA, Anchor’s Liberty Ale, 21st Amendment’s Old Chub (?)

(L-R) Rob, Patrick and Tracey enjoying the day, and the beer.

And a slew of others I’ve forgotten and didn’t check-in to my Untappd account (you need to keep up with that, Ed!), so if anyone can remember any more we had, leave them in the comment section and I’ll add them to the list!

Brian throw in what we thought was a ringer with Goose Island’s 312 Wheat until it was pointed out that it is now brewed by Baldwinsville, N.Y after being bought by Anheuser-Busch. Sneaky.

Brian contemplating his next beer.

So who won?  Well, in truth, the people who showed up were the real winners.  We had great food and great beer which made for a wonderful afternoon/evening.  Beyond that I will say that Rogue’s Voodoo Doughnut seemed to garner the most interest, delivering both the maple and bacon as advertised.  There also seemed to be a general agreement that Sixpoint’s Sweet Action was lacking.  Nod to the West?

I’d like to thank all the members and friends who showed up to participate and for all the great beers everyone brought.  I’d also like to thank everyone for the food, which was simply delicious all the way around.  And big shout out to Kristen and Patrick Huff for hosting the event.  Sadly, it was agreed that this would probably be our only “picnic” type get together this summer as our schedule is getting pretty full with other events (not that that’s a bad thing!) and members have pretty tight summer calendars.

If you couldn’t make this event, check out our Facebook page here for an up coming event and sign up!  If you’re reading this and you’re not a member of the DCBaWL and you love good beer and wine, than click on the link and join.  It’s a great group of like mind people.

Thanks again to everyone for making this event rock!

Looks like we’re having a good time.
Cheers, everyone! Until next time.

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…