The Local Tap – Hogs and Hops 2013

Well this is a first here at tDoB.  I posted a preview of Hogs and Hops on Friday, attended the event on Saturday and here I am today posting the rundown only a few days later.  Usually I’m no where near this on the ball.  Oh, and as a TOTAL aside, this is my 200th post.  Anyway, as I said in my preview, a lot has changed since the inaugural event last year.

First, let me say that although it is a little bit more of a drive for us, the new digs at Harrington were awesome.  Plenty of room for the competitors, the food/beverage trucks and the vendors; plus a huge open field in front of a good sized bandstand.  We got there a little bit before they could start serving/pouring so after we surveyed the area, we decided to take a moment to walk down the BBQ truck line and see what everyone had to offer.

Whole Hog
The whole hog that was part of the VIP food plate from Mr. BAR-B-CUE. I’ll be seeing this guy later.
xxxxxxxxxxx
A great selection of food on the grill at Big Fat Daddy’s BBQ

Soon it was time for the event to start so we checked out the three beer trucks to see who had what on tap.  I started with an Old Dominion Monk Czech and Tracey started with a Fordham Wisteria Wheat.

Fordham Truck

With beer in hand we strolled around the venue and checked out the vendors.  We finally got the chance to meet Cindy Small of the Kent County & Greater Dover, Delaware Convention and Visitors Bureau, who were there promoting their up coming Delaware Wine and Beer Festival.  I’ve done some promoting for Cindy, but this is the first time we’d met.  It was great to relax a bit and get to talk about the up coming festival.  But soon it was time for lunch.  VIP ticket holders were served a BBQ platter from Mr. BAR-B-CUE which consisted of two out of three choices: brisket, whole hog pork or ribs.  I told you I’d see that hog later.

BBQ platter from Mr. BAR-B-CUE, beers by Fordham/Old Dominion
BBQ platter from Mr. BAR-B-CUE, beers by Fordham/Old Dominion

It wasn’t long before the bandstand got rocking, as Tyler Toliver and perennial local favorites Love, Seed, Mamma, Jump supplied the music for the afternoon and early evening.  Entertainment was also provided by the folks from Cowboy Up Saloon, who not only set up a fine tent, but got some of the crowd up for country line dance lessons and demonstrations in between sets.

Volunteers at the end of the event take a break and catch a bit of Tyler Toliver's set
Volunteers towards the end of the event take a break and catch a bit of Tyler Toliver’s set
The ladies from the Cowboy Up Saloon get the crowd involved in some line dancing.
The ladies from the Cowboy Up Saloon get the crowd involved in some line dancing.

“Pit row” as I like to call it was fun as always.  As first all we could do was enjoy the smell of smoke wood in the air, and drool over all the different equipment that the teams brought (we were asked not to bother the teams until turn-ins were done).   I always enjoy checking out the teams’ equipment, because you never know when you might see something you’ve never seen before.

Biker BBQ from Millville NJ uses an adapter to constantly feed apple juice into their smoker.
It’s not unusual to be using water in a Blackwood Smoker, but I’ve never seen anyone use an adapter to constantly feed apple juice from a 5-Gallon water bottle like Biker BBQ from Millville NJ.

And of course, many of them used the opportunity to show off.

TFFBBQ displays their xxxxxx chicken from The Middletown BBQ Cook-Off
TFFBBQ displays their trophy for their first place finish in chicken at this year’s Middletown BBQ Cook-Off

But after last turn-in we walked through again and got to stop and talk to a few of the pitmasters including George and Kim Przybylski from Bang Bang BBQ, last year’s Hogs and Hops second place finisher in points.  I asked them how they liked the bigger event.  “I love bigger events,” George commented.  “I normally don’t do small events, I just gave it a try last year.  And this year’s just the beginning.  This year he [Mark Hoffman, event coordinator] had to keep it small due to the KCBS sanctioning, but next year the sky’s the limit.”

Soon it was the time everyone was waiting for, the awards presentations.  The field topped out at 45 BBQ teams from the surrounding area and as far away as North Carolina.  The event consisted of four meat turn-ins: chicken, pork, ribs and brisket.  The top ten in each category were awarded, along with reserve champion (second place all around points) and grand champion (first place).  The Mid Atlantic BBQ Association was on hand as well to award the highest placed team from Delaware as “Delaware State Champion”.

The trophies stand ready as Love, Seed, Momma, Jump finishes their last set.
The trophies stand ready as Love, Seed, Momma, Jump finishes their set.
xxx of Bang Bang BBQ and my thumb wait to hear if they've matched last year's performance.
Kim and George Przybylski of Bang Bang BBQ; and my finger wait to hear if they’ve matched last year’s performance.

Here’s a run down of the results:

CHICKEN:

Third – Aporkalypse Now
Second – GoneHoggin.com
First -Smoke-aholics

RIBS:

Third -GoneHoggin.com
Second –3 Eyz BBQ
First –Badlands BBQ

PORK:

Third – Rockin Robyns BBQ
Second – M & E BBQ
First – Big Dee’s BBQ

BRISKET:

Third – 3 Eyz BBQ
Second – Tasty Licks BBQ
First – Lo’ and Slo’ BBQ

MABA, “Delaware State Champions” – M & E BBQ

RESERVE CHAMPION – Lo’ and Slo’ BBQ

GRAND CHAMPION – Aporkalypse Now

Hogs and Hops 2013 Grand Champions - Aporkalpsy Now
Hogs and Hops 2013 Grand Champions – Aporkalypse Now (Smoke em’ all, let the judges sort em’ out)

Congratulations to everyone!

When I asked event coordinator Mark Hoffman about the turn out, he indicated that he was happy with the numbers, “We estimate attendance to be around 3500 at this point but we won’t know final numbers for a week or two.”  Of course being a beer guy, I couldn’t help but ask about what  got poured out the three beer trucks and the on-field beer bar, “It looks like we burned through about 45 barrels [ETA: I believe he meant half-kegs] of beer, about the same as last year. That may be because we had the wine option with Fenwick wine cellars this year.”

For the most part I think Hogs and Hops surpassed itself in just about every way when compared to last  year.  But there was one feature of the event last year that I (and several other people I talked to) sorely missed.  “We could not do a peoples choice this year due to health [department] regulations on contests like ours,” said Mark when I asked him about the missing Peoples Choice Award from last year.  However, Mark recognizes how much people enjoyed that aspect of the event last year and although he knew he couldn’t implement it this year, he had already been formulating a plan to bring it back.  “But we are working on something for next year already where teams would turn in a tray [of] pulled pork and WE would serve 1/2 oz cups and you vote for your favorites,” he told me.  “It was just too late in the planning stage to add that in this year but we are already trying to develop that system for next year.”

And if everything works out, we’ll be there next year.  After all, what dog doesn’t love a BBQ festival?

CUS with Dog

Brew Review – Old Dominion’s Monk Czech

Old Dominion's Monk Czech
Old Dominion’s Monk Czech

I’m sure many of you have experienced this musical common occurrence before.  You’re at a concert or a bar, patiently waiting for the band to hit the stage when a (usually) unassuming man with an all-access pass walks up to the mic and starts…well, god knows what.

Sometimes it’s just a simple droning of single words.  Sometimes it’s a collection of bizarre, jungle like sounds.  Amidst all of this, he continually looks towards the sound board, making thumbs-up-down type gestures until finally he’s excised whatever acoustical demons are living in the venue.

And of course, without fail, the crowd makes fun of him as he does.  After all we’ve all experienced the mike check enough to know that it’s an important part of any performance, but it’s become so cliche that it’s hard not to heckle the man as he does his job.

Old Dominion Brewery, in collaboration with the folks at Dawson Liquors have decided to release their previously keg-only beer Monk Czech, a play on the words “Mic Check”, in 22oz bottles.  The beer, billed as a Belgian-style pilsner,  has its very own website, complete with photos, beer finder and a rap video, and sports a label with a monk holding a microphone.

But after the mic check is over, what type of beer steps out on the stage to perform.  Are we talking Slipknot?  Or James Taylor?  Let’s listen.

THEM:  Monk Czech is brewed with Pilsner Malt, and utilizes Saaz, Tradition, Motueka and Nelson Sauvin Hops.  The beer is then fermented with the Chouffe yeast strain to an ABV of  5.2%.  The hops balance the beer out at 45 IBUs.

ME:  Hazy pour, coming in a notch or two above golden in the glass.  There isn’t a very substantial head, but it does end up with a nice, fine layer on the surface that leaves some very nice lacing on the sides of the glass as you drink.  The nose definitely speaks of Belgian beer with all kinds of fruity, spicy, Belgian yeasty aromas moshing around.  The first sip is …………. WHOA!!!!!  Holy…….  OK, the front has a nice touch of malt and citrus, but the back end initially is overly bitter, as dissonant as a band with an out of tune guitar.  Tracey noted the face I was making and when she took a sip she commented, “That’s the taste I hate in hoppy beers,” with a face that screamed “Never hand me a beer that tastes like this again.  EVER!”  I really thought this was going to end up being to unbalanced and totally disappointing, but thankfully after a few more sips my palette got adjusted to it and once it did, the beer became much less striking and much more enjoyable.

In the mouth, Monk Czech is light and clean, with lemon and grapefruit crowd surfing an enthusiastic audience of malt, spurned on by the beat of the Chouffe yeast influence.  The finish (once you get accustomed to it) leaves a little bite on your cheeks which is not at all unpleasant, and a light grapefruit rind sensation in your mouth that serves as a reminder of the experience like that slight ringing in your ear after a live concert.  As one would expect, aiming for a summer beer, it’s definitely not Mayhem or Slipknot (hell it’s not really even Poison) as the flavors aren’t outrageously bold like some other Belgian hybrids there, mainly because the base beer here is a pilsner, not an IPA.

All totaled, Monk Czech is a pretty decent beer.  I’m going to chalk that initial slap in the face to my mouth having had something in it that didn’t play well with the beer (I don’t know what, it wasn’t like I had just brushed my teeth), and I’ll definitely try it again to see if that was the case.  As far as anything else, it’s a pretty interesting conglomeration of a pilsner beer with Belgian influences and a sprinkling of “down under” hops.  Nothing really surprising, and pretty much on point with the target.  Maybe not for everyone (if you don’t like the taste of Belgian-style beers at all, then go see who’s playing across the street), but I’m willing to bet it makes an appearance at more than a few summer parties.  Accessible, straightforward and uncomplicated, with an underlying raw edge.  Let’s call it CCR.

CCR

Yes.  After a whole review of music analogies, I obviously meant the car.  Anyone willing to give a slightly used editor a good home?

Time for another beer.

Brew Review: Old Dominion’s Morning Glory Espresso Stout, and the Air Transport Command Restaurant

Morning Glory 1On occasions something will cross your path that brings up memories of a place or places  you used to frequent.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately of Air Transport Command restaurant (or ATC for short), an establishment that my friends and I frequented very often in the 1980’s.   From the DC-3 bomber that sat silently near the entrance, to the candle lite dinning room tables with headphones that let you listen to a nearby control tower, to bathrooms piped with period music and speeches (going to the bathroom while Winston Churchill told you that “this was their finest hour” – inspirational!), ATC was determined to take you back into time, and indeed, back into history.  But although the restaurant could have easily been passed by some as one of the many fad themed restaurants that are common place now a days, it always seemed to me to be more than that.  Maybe because at that time, I hadn’t run into many theme restaurants.

Your trip in the Wayback Machine started with the bridge, a construct over a drainage ditch that although sturdily constructed, was built in a fashion so that cross boards rattled with considerable noise as you drove across it.  Shortly after your crossing, you were greeted by the old, single soldier guard shack with the black and white border gate.  Luckily the gate was raised, no need to check IDs or papers here.

Once parked, the temporal regression really began.  You walked up a short path, past a sandbag bunker protecting a infantry cannon and passing under the brick archway on which was affixed a sign that read “Prestwick, Scotland”.  A few short steps brought you into a courtyard that could have been easily used as a set in any WW2 movie, with era appropriate music emanating from hidden speakers.  Walking into the heavy, counter weighted wooden door to the clarinet and saxophone harmonies of Glenn Miller, you really had a feeling that you had stepped back in time.

Shirley Slade, WASP trainee on the cover of Life Magazine.
Shirley Slade, WASP trainee on the cover of Life Magazine.

Once inside, ATC did little to break the ambiance it had started to create.  The foyer walls were covered in sandbags, the waitresses usually had on period uniforms, and the walls were covered with old photos of pilots and their planes, many of them women who used to fly the service routes in WW2.  Oh sure, there were modern bar stations, a DJ booth, a 20 foot by 20 foot dance floor.  But the adjoining seating area wasn’t filled with stale tables, chairs, and booths.  No, the area contained couches and high back chairs that made your group feel that  you were indeed sitting in a officer’s club.

If the evening was nice, you’d probably want to go out onto the patio, a structure built in the fashion of a bombed out villa, complete with gas fire pits.  If you and your friends closed your eyes, you could almost imagine the sound of planes taking off or landing.   But the great thing about ATC was, you didn’t have to imagine.  Built on the South West corner of the New Castle Airport, ATC’s porch gave you an excellent view of one of the airport’s runways that was only a couple hundred feet away.

If you were lucky, you’d show up on an evening when corporate or private planes and jets were flying in and out of the airport (the airport has only accept commercial flights a few short times, one time being the now defunct Hooter’s Airways, but Frontier Airlines is schedule to resume commercial flights into the airport on July 1st), or when the Air National Guard pilots were doing touch and goes on the runway in C-130s or very rarely, when a local sporting event would bring in the likes of the Firestone, Metlife and Blockbuster blimps, only to have them all have to fly in and tether at the airport to ride out an approaching storm.

Sadly, ATC didn’t last.  It closed, opened again briefly, and then closed again.  Finally the DC-3 that marked the entrance was removed and the restaurant was razed.  Perhaps that’s why I miss it so much sometimes, like Chumbly’s in New York or Downtown Brewing in Wilmington,  because it’s no longer there.

I looked back in some old pictures I have, but could not find any of ATC, although I know I photographed there on several occasions.  The internet was also sparse, but I was able to find this very nice collection of photos of ATC after it had closed over at a very nice blog called Roadside Wonders.

So what has me thinking of ATC lately?  Old Dominion’s Bomber series.  This  trio of beers would have been something ATC would have been proud to serve.  A play off the term “bomber bottles”, the beer were originally sold in only 22oz bottles, and consisted of  GiGi’s (a Farmhouse ale), Double D (imperial India pale ale) and Morning Glory (espresso stout).  Since their introduction, they’ve been so well received that Old Dominion has released two of them in 12oz six-packs, and the third (GiGi’s) is being packaged in 12oz bottles to be put into a 12 bottle collection of the three called the “Pinup Pack”.

What ties these beers in my mind to ATC are the labels.  Old Dominion has creatively played off the term “bomber bottle”, and not only crafted a fine series of beers, but each one is adorned with artwork fashioned in the style of old World War 2 pinup girls that any fly boy would have been proud to have hanging next to their barrack’s cot or painted on the nose of their bomber.

Morning Glory

The beer I’m going to look at this time is the Morning Glory.  It’s definitely the most intense and most interesting of the three.  Would it do ATC proud?  Let’s taste.

THEM:  The grain bill for Morning Glory consists of Chocolate, Crystal, Pale, Smoked, Wheat, and Roasted Malts; all of which is fermented until the beer reaches 9.0% ABV.  Bravo and Glacier hops are used to balance out the beer at 35 IBUs. To get the “espresso” in this espresso stout, Old Dominion went local and tapped the folks at Espresso-n-Ice, in Dover to help them roast the 65lbs or coffee beans per batch that Morning Glory sits on for 13 days.

ME:  I think fans of “coffee stouts” will like this.  I’m not even going into the head/color/carbonation – it’s a stout.  ‘Nuff said.  The nose is  light and not overly complex, which is acceptable for a stout, with just enough coffee mingled in there to let you know what to expect if you didn’t see the label.

As for the flavor, Morning Glory is surprisingly clean on the front end, there’s some malt, vanilla and chocolate tones  to start you off,  but soon the coffee comes through.  With the word “espresso” on the label I was expecting something pretty strong, but it’s not to overpowering which for me, a self-confessed coffee non-lover, is actually welcomed.  I’m working hard to pull out any “smoke” from the smoked malt they used, but I just can’t seem to do it.  Maybe the beer is to cold (damn fridge) or maybe my palette is just off today.  The finish isn’t overly bitter or harsh, in fact I found it quiet pleasant with just a touch of lingering roast.  If I was a fan of iced coffee, this is how I”d like it to taste.

Morning Glory is pretty much as advertised, a straight forward coffee stout.  It’s not as big and bold as some of the others out there, but it’s pretty darn drinkable the way it is.  And as much as this kind of beer isn’t normally my cup of, well….coffee I guess, I still enjoyed it.  It’s definitely a beer that has a place, and I guess depending on how much you like the taste of coffee will dictate how much of a place it has in your beer fridge.  I think ATC would have approved.

Time for another beer.

Brew Review: Old Dominion’s Cherry Lager, The Time Has Come The Walrus Said

Cherry Lager

“I know SOMETHING interesting is sure to happen whenever I eat or drink anything; so I’ll just see what this bottle does.” – Alice,  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Old Dominion Brewery has been on a tear lately.  They’ve been steadily introducing a new line of beers, their 22oz “bomber girls” series, which comprised of a Farmhouse, a double IPA and an Expresso Stout (with their pin-up inspired labels);  and these were so well received that two of them (Double D IPA, Morning Glory Expresso Stout) have made their way into regular 12oz offerings, and I hear Gigi Farmhouse may receive a similar repackaging.  So when I heard that they were also going with the previously keg-only Cherry Blossom Lager as their Spring seasonal in 12oz bottles, I was hoping this was going to be another solid, flavorful beer in line with these other recent beers that have come out of the brewery.   On the other hand it is a Cherry Lager, so how much boldness did I had a right to expect was uncertain.  Did I get what I want?  Let’s taste.

THEM:  When I initially started working on this review, there was much info on this beer.  It wasn’t even listed on their website.  But that’s changed I see.  The grain bill is specified, but the description does indicate that Perle and Tradition hops are used, and that the beer clocks in at 5.2% ABV.  What puts the “cherry” in Cherry Lager is a 48 hour conditioning on 300lbs of Michigan cherries.  The website describes it as “delightfully effervescent, blushing, and tart and resembles a cherry champagne”.

ME: Ok, first let me say I love the packaging.  The artwork and presentation are a nod to Lewis Carroll, complete with the quote “We can’t help it.  We’re all mad here.  All the best people are”, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and the tempting directions “DRINK ME” as found on the bottle in the first chapter of the novel.  Second, if the first thing I say about a beer is about its packaging then that’s often not a good sign.  Kind of the way Paula Abdul would start one of her American Idol critiques with, “First let me say how good you look tonight”.  You just knew the “but” was coming.

“You used to be much more…”muchier.” You’ve lost your muchness.” – The Mad Hatter, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

I’ll just say it – I was hoping for more from this.  More what?  Well let’s start with more in the aroma.  The nose on this is so light to me, that I poured a second one into a different glass just hoping to pull something more out of it.  Didn’t help.  The faint aroma of malt reminds me of wort boiling on the stove, and what cherries I get aren’t exactly jumping out of the glass.  The flavor?  Again, light malt, light cherry, nothing overly complex.  The hops aren’t overly apparent, if in fact you can pull them out at all.  Tracey took a sip and said, “apple juice”.  Not exactly right, but I could kind of see where she was coming from.  The ending has an oh-so touch of tartness to it, but all in all it’s a pretty tame finish.  Not bad, but I was hoping for more.  And it didn’t even have to be “muchier”, just a couple of notches would have been nice.

“Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.” – Tweedledee, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

But in fairness (and the slight bit of logic I allow to creep into this blog) this review should be about what the beer is, not what I want it to be.  And this isn’t a bad beer.  It’s competently made and with its subtle but still apparent malt backbone, it definitely isn’t a lager in the “American Adjunct” style.  The cherries are balanced right where I think they should be with the level of malt/hops, if  you raised them up higher you’d run the risk of it turning into one of those overly cloying fruit beers.   Cherry champagne?  I suppose, but I like Brut champagne so that analogy doesn’t really work for me even though the beer does have a nice bit of carbonation to it.

“However, this bottle was not marked “poison,” so Alice ventured to taste it, and, finding it very nice (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffy, and hot buttered toast), she very soon finished it off.” – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

I’m sure a lot of Old Dominion fans will like this beer.  It may do well now that the thermometer is starting to climb into the 70’s here in Delaware and more people begin looking for the light, easy drinking beers of spring.  But it just wasn’t my bottle of choice.

Time for another beer.