Tag Archives: PHILADELPHIA PA

IRON HILL BREWERY – CHESTNUT HILL

 

Suds success - Philly.

CHESTNUT HILL, PENNSYLVANIA

In a quaint cobblestone neighborhood in northwest Philadelphia’s historic Germantown Road, Chestnut Hill’s IRON HILL is its sixth franchise chain. Opened during December 2012, the well designed restaurant-brewery gained quick popularity. A beautifully plush 2-room expanse with high ceilings and a pull-up door offering patio access for the red brick edifice, Iron Hill’s cherry oak furnishings and amiable atmosphere provide luxurious comfort. Behind the waiting area are 12 oak booths for family dining away from the left side bar room (where several more tables reside).

My wife and I grab a seat at the bar for a few pre-noon eye-openers this sunny Memorial Day ’13. Two large TV’s sidling the bar show the Duke-Maryland lacrosse final and the Phillies game. The high ceilings feature overhead fans and mauve corrugated steel. A keg filler centers the pristine oak bar and the Brewing Process list etched into the wall counters the left side-walled Beer Listing.

In the windowed backroom, large brew tanks serve several satisfying seasonals crafted by brewer Paul Rutherford alongside Iron Hill’s flagship beers. My wife grabs Raspberry Wheat, a corn-honeyed fruit ale with raspberry-pureed strawberry-seeded tartness saturating Graham Cracker sweetness. I get to quaff three previously untried libations that prove the sheer diversity of this excellent Northeast franchise.
 
First up, Philly Painting Gold Malt Liquor layered its flaked corn malts with brisk perfume-hopped citric spicing, bettering any malt liquor marketed.
 
Next, crisply hopped Belgian Pale Ale brought white-peppered Belgian yeast musk to floral orange-peach-grapefruit nuances and candi-sugared crystal malting.
 
Mild Hop-Anonymous, a dry-bodied lupulin-powdered ale, received a tropical grapefruit-peeled orange rind, pineapple, apricot and nectar punch.
 

www.ironhillbrewery.com/chestnuthill

 

MONK’S CAFE

 
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA
 
One of Philly’s most prestigious underground hotspots remains Rittenhouse Square’s MONK’S CAFE BEER EMPORIUM. Owner Tom Peters keeps the tenacious local and visiting brewhounds enthralled with a wide selection of Belgian beers as well as American and international craft brews. Monk’s Beer Bible lists over 300 world class bottled selections and the daily Front and Back Bar draught menus have a mind-boggling selection worth exploring.   
 
Near the corner of 16th Street just inside the city’s downtown parameters, Monk’s Cafe provides a cozy intimacy perfectly in tune with the broad scope of not only craft beers but also fine wines. Its narrow interconnected rooms have a maze-like setup.
 
Entering thru a bright red door (covered by a Belgium-flagged yellow and red striped black canope), a few windowed tables offer a quaint lunch setting adjacent to the eight-seat front bar (where a rustic tap station houses five draughts listed on the nearby menu board). Past the three pews and two-seat tables (made of reclaimed oak furnishings from a choir loft) and down the hall, an Abbey St. Sixtus sign welcomes patron’s to the crown jewel, Monk’s sterling back bar.
 
With an eight-seat bar and left-walled tables, the Old World-styled backspace retains a rare elegance deepened by its artful decorum. A mirrored Monk’s Cafe insignia centers the bar, which houses top shelf booze, a segregated Delirium Tremens tap handle and twelve-draught tap station. Two gorgeous tapestries along the wall prove illustrious. One portrays 15th century wine making processing and the other’s a wool and silk woven ‘five senses’ reproduction. 
 
Peters, a proud entrepreneur, moved into Monk’s current space way back in 1997, just as the American public was truly discovering the variegated international beer landscape the market finally accepted full-on. A respected beer guru guiding a Philly landmark, Peters’ spent a few moments conversing on a sunny Memorial Day, 2013.
 
Though it’d be difficult to sample every untried beer currently on tap or bottled, two fabulous imperials, one an India Pale Ale, the other a sweet-toothed dark ale, capture my attention.
 
Gleaming tropical-fruited Omnipollo Nebuchadnezzar Double IPA brought lovely sugar-caned peach, pear, pineapple, passion fruit and mango tropicalia to grapefruit-peeled juniper hop bittering. 
 
Engaging mocha dessert treat, Evil Twin Naked Lunch In A Heavenly Copenhagen Resto, a full-bodied Imperial Stout, worked dark chocolate-spiced vanilla, anise, coconut, cookie dough and raisin bread illusions into its smoky confines. (Full reviews are in Beer Index).
 
Those hungry souls visiting Monk’s caliginous gastropub should try Red Light Mussels, Monk’s Burger, Rainbow Trout or Duck Salad Sandwich.  
 
Claiming to incorporate the ‘Soul of Belgium in the heart of Philadelphia,’ Monk’s appeal only widens as the craft beer market explodes. 
 

IRISH PUB – CENTER CITY

 
 
PHILADELPHIA, PA.
 
Being a few minutes early for Sunday’s brunch at Farmer’s Market two doors down, my wife and I settled into IRISH PUB this cold and blustery December ’12 morning. With locations in Atlantic City and down the road a half-mile at Rittenhouse Square (Walnut and 20th), this generic-named prohibition-styled Center City saloon opened December ’80 across from the historic Forrest Theatre. Offering ‘Irish soul and American attitude,’ the charmingly rustic watering hole brings affordable drink specials and good pub fare to urban hipsters, local denizens and thirsty out-of-towners.
 
Gorgeous walnut furnishings provide interior comfort and the forest green ceiling (with exposed ducts) features stenciled emblems in the front barroom and embossed copper tin tiles in the Wain’s-coated walnut dining section directly behind. A large wood mural with mirrored midsection, three tap fountains (with 18 total taps) and a lively assortment of booze center the left bar. Multiple TV’s and old posters line the walls as Thin Lizzy’s classic rocker “The Boys Are Back In Town” blasts from the speakers.  
 
I settle into the tapped version of lemon-soured, peach-molded, orange-bruised, Belgian candi-sugared Flying Fish Winter Cru Grand Cru just as Edgar Winter’s emphatic “Free Ride” begins playing. My wife grabs a coffee and starts chatting with a world traveling Philly native while bartender Isaac Rose reminisces about favorite libations.
 
Though we didn’t get to sample the food, Rose recommended the nachos, burgers and buffalo wings. Buried right in the heart of downtown Philly, Irish Pub makes for a fine sportsbar or casual dining experience.
 

FARMERS’ CABINET

 

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

Streets were filled with Mummers regaled in stage getup who’d finished their Broad Street parade route when I got to the FARMERS’ CABINET, a new Walnut Street saloon (opened St. Patrick’s Day, 2011) named in honor of an ancient agriculture handbook. A uniquely gothic gastropub, it serves “the most diverse collection of European craft beer in Philly” alongside a few indigenously “primitive field” beers emulating from an urban farmhouse nanobrewery down in Arlington, Virginia.

The brainchild of Lehigh University graduate Matt Scheller and married couple Matt and Colleen Swartz, Farmers’ Cabinet also boasts a tremendously original cocktail selection and creative farm fresh menu that includes cured meats and bread made in-house. Originally, the three Pennsylvania-based entrepreneurs had varied success with similarly schemed endeavors initiated by Emmaus’ gothic candlelit Euro pub, Tap & Table, and its twin offspring, Bethlehem’s beer-intense Bookstore Speakeasy cocktail lounge and East Falls’ two-storied Old World-styled Fork & Barrel.

“All those places were steppingstones and building blocks to get into Philadelphia with an equally intense cocktail program with great beer and food fused to the former concepts,” Kutztown native Scheller explains. “We were going for a 19th century Victorian saloon feel with the sparks of elegance – yet ruggedly rustic.”

Heavy curtains drape the burlap-sapped wood planks of Farmers’ Cabinet, where the left side European Beer Hall-influenced communal table welcomes interaction and its opposing cocktail room recalls Prohibition Era speakeasies. A vast array of European beers handpicked by Scheller on international travels age in a temperature controlled cellar storage area. Snooty beer geeks and curious ale hounds will be knocked out by the large amount of hard-to-find one-off brews originating from Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, England and all points between.

“The goal is to provide topnotch obscure beers from small European breweries,” Scheller says. “The biggest concern is spoilage. The health of the beer is important. There’s concern for delicate moderate-bodied beers. Bigger, more robust beers, such as stouts, could sit for awhile and it’s not a major concern. If I think a beer’s been sitting too long, I’ll try it myself. However, most beer’s made to be consumed fresh. There’s a whole different pay scale for several rare bottles, like with fine wines, but they seem to go pretty fast.”

During August ’11, Farmers’ Cabinet hooked up with meritorious brewer, Terry Hawbaker, whose phenomenal craft beers at Williamsport’s Bullfrog cannot be understated. Now working out of a 5-barrel urban farmhouse nanobrewery in Alexandria, Virginia, the talented brewmeister’s trend-setting adjunct saisons have become all the rage in Philly.

“Terry’s currently working on developing a beautiful house yeast to cultivate a really cool sour ale base for blending with other beers. We’ve also gotten invited to Copenhagen’s Beer Celebration in May. Top American brewers will include Port, Hoppin’ Frog, Jolly Pumpkin, and Hill Farmstead alongside many heavy-hitting Europeans,” Scheller revels.

Upon my mid-afternoon sojourn, four worthy saison house beers were available to peruse while sipping a delicious bowl of creamy squash soup. Suitable Ragtime, Delta Blues and Cabaret music played in the distance of this Classical pub as I dug into soft-tongued Autumnal Saison. Utilizing seasonal pumpkin to lacquer lemon-soured citric hops in an unobtrusive manner, the contrarily spice-less libation went well with the delectable gourd broth.

Lively perfumed citrus hops enlivened the earthen barnyard rusticity of smoothly soothing session beer, Field Hop Grisette, where herbaceous white peppering surrounds lemony fig-dried melon wisps. Essentially a lighter saison with impulsive Extra Special Bitter properties, its not far removed from Farmers’ Cabinet’s regular grisette, a lightly tart Berliner Wiess hybrid.

Moving on to the two dark ales, soft-flowing Imperial Holiday Porter dumps 50 pounds of pumpkin and sweet potatoes upon hop-oiled coffee acridity and musty chocolate chalking, gaining cherry-dried pumpkin puree illusions over time.

Labeled a hybrid Belgian dark ale, D-Rye Field Stout brought marble-breaded chocolate rye, coarse cola nuttiness, funky earthen musk and pine-burnt wood char to tart dried fruiting. Scheller acknowledges the first batch was not nearly as wood seared and the second batch “got a lot dryer.”

To further experiment with house beers, Hawbaker’s Virginia brewing facility recently installed eight separate 10-gallon vessels in order to test different hops, flowers and woods in certain saisons.

Those who are looking for an abundance of rare European beers or well-crafted specialty house beers will embrace this dimly lit antediluvian public house.

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Upon my second stopover at caberet-styled speakeasy, THE FARMERS MARKET, my wife and I stick forks into syrupy Farmers French Toast (with cinnamon, vanilla, honeydew and cantaloupe) for brunch on this blustery December ’12 winter’s day. Sitting amongst the community tables behind the main left side beer bar, we get entertained by aged-in-the-wool bluesman Shaky Lymon, who goes thru four generations of tunes from Robert Johnson, Elmore James, Buddy Holly and Jackson Browne (a snickeringly deranged cover of “Cocaine”).
The pamphlet-like Winter 2012 menu features fascinating cellar-aged beers by renowned gypsy brewers as well as worthy tapped selections from Belhaven, Bells, Founders, Haandbryggeriet,  Porterhouse, Pretty Things, Sly Fox and Weihenstephaner.
Attentive barman Dave Winward quickly hooks me up with a fascinating collaboration between Europe’s St. Feuillien and America’s Green Flash called Biere De L’Amitie, a Belgian strong pale ale bringing herbal citric-peeled sour fruiting to rye-smoked black chocolate malting. On tap, its lemony orange-peeled bittering sidles tart kumquat, papaya, crabapple and pineapple illusions above pine-nutty fern leafing.
Next up, Het Sas Christmas Leroy lacked seasonal specifity, but not character. On tap, the hybridized Scotch Ale brought vague Christmas spicing to a Belgian dark ale styling, padding its wayward brown-sugared cookie dough center with pallid grape, cherry and cola nut illusions. But a better selecrtion was just ’round the corner.
At this point, brunch is done and I choose one of the finer international bottled selections. Renaissance Elemental Porter, a dark, rich and mellow dry-bodied New Zealander chock full of black chocolate-smoked malts, roasted coffee bean bittering, sour-milked cocoa powdering and peppery-hopped Baker’s chocolate tartness really hit the spot as a dryish dessert.
Ancient cocktail recipes from London’s Ritz Hotel and Harry’s Bar in Paris (circa 1920′s) and NYC’s Holland House Hotel via 1880′s will get boozers going. And the fine wine selection’s aimed towards true connoisseurs.

www.thefarmerscabinet.com

 

TRIUMPH BREWING – PHILADELPHIA

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

To start off New Years Day, 2012, visited Philadelphia’s TRIUMPH BREWING ‘round noon. Located at the Olde City district just up the street from Penn’s Landing near the banks of the Delaware River in a former paper mill, this pleasantly rustic restaurant-bar had a looser atmosphere than Triumph’s New Hope and Princeton franchises.

Opened April 2007, the red-bricked neighborhood bar (with beige window frames and door) features a 15-seat right side bar, private white-walled booth, small rear stage and left side dining area with neo-mod ‘60s wood furnishings. Upstairs, the wood-floored space has a banquet room, glass-encased business room, 8-seat metal bar and silver brew tanks.

 Both TV’s at the bar had the Eagles-Redskins football readied as I consumed a few previously untried libations. Winter Bock, a higher octane version of Old City Lager, scattered sourdough yeast atop herbal-tinged lemon rot, clover-honeyed orange tartness and boozy Courvoisier illusions, receiving an ancillary Extra Special Bitter-like fig-date astringency after a few sips.

Dry-bodied Holiday Ale- Cask brought wafting peat to soft fig-cherry acridity and hop-oiled roasted chocolate. Briskly carbolic Unfiltered Helles layered mildly astringent corn-soaked yellow fruiting over soft grained breading.

Seasoned beer drinkers may lean towards Rauchbier, a perfume-wafted, beechwood-smoked German-styled dry body topped with a sharply hop-spiced pepperoni pizza crusting that’s perfect complementing barbecued meat dishes. Others may reach for the less astringent Irish Red, with its stoned-fruited orange tang overlaying wheat-husked cereal graining and recessive caramel nuttiness.

www.triumphbrewing.com

 

DOCK STREET BREWERY

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

Inside a historic West Philly firehouse one mile south of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School lies DOCK STREET BREWERY, opened in 2007 and initially visited January 2nd, 2012. Formerly located at Logan Circle with a bottling plant nearby, Dock Street has been transformed into a vibrant brewpub taking up the entire first floor of a marble-pillared three-story red brick building (with a second floor bicycle shop and third floor acupuncturist).

Two black awnings welcome customers to the cement-floored pub, where glass-encased brew kettles, exposed ducts, several black tables and a 10-seat bar fill out the yellow tile-walled facility. An open wood-burning fire pit cooks 20 pizza varieties and the menu also features char-grilled burgers, sandwiches, wraps and calzones.

Owned by Sicilian-bred Rosemarie Certo and head-brewed by Scott Morrison (formerly of Mc Kenzie’s and New Haven Brewery), Dock Street maintains a casual café atmosphere.

The Flyers and Rangers faced off for an outdoor hockey game on the right side TV as I dabbled with six previously untried libations this cold mid-afternoon. Easygoing lemon-soured Kolsch pitted wheat-husked astringency and wood-dried undertones against tingly honey-sugared hop spices. OMG Pale Ale placed Cascade-hopped wood dryness atop floral red and orange fruiting.

But those were merely reliable moderate-bodied preliminaries for champagne yeast-soured Bubbly Wit, a Belgian-styled double witbier with lemony banana-clove frontage, vanilla-honeyed midst, mild coffee roast, toffee hint and white-peppered chamomile-lemongrass-basil conflux.

Best selling Rye IPA was an approachable dry-bodied moderation gaining resinous earthiness above light rye breading, lemon-seeded grapefruit zest and molasses-honeyed black tea mildness. Also retaining a viscous honeyed sweetness, Old Ale (traditional English altbier) plied brown-sugared caramel malting to a mild coffee roast and crisp tobacco-peat nuances.

For dessert, I enjoyed sessionable London-styled Man Of Trouble Porter, an espresso-milked relaxant pleating oats-toasted black chocolate with black-breaded pumpernickel and ashen hop-charred mineral grains. Too bad the highly regarded Prince Myshkin’s Russian Imperial Stout was temporarily out.

Upon revisiting Dock Street Brewery nearly a year hence during post-Christmas December ’12, I imbibed five previously untried libations alongside Alsatian-styled Flammenkuche Pizza (packed with creme fraiche, caramelized onions, applewood smoked bacon and gruyere cheese) and the busy Vegetarian Pizza (artichoke hearts, spinach and creme fraiche).
 
This time around, the place was packed at 8 PM so my wife and I were seated at the left side cafe table away from the TV (where a college bowl game is shown). We consumed the stylistically robust Royal Bohemian Pilsner, a Czech-like pils with efficient maize-husked astringency and dry alfalfa graining reinforcing its lemony floral-perfumed hop bittering.
 
Then, sociable entrepreneur, Certo, started making the rounds and saying hi to many local customers. She stops by and tells us she’s very proud of Nino’s Prickly Pear, an interestingly peculiar Sicilian-bred moderate-bodied Biere De Garde combining subtle prickly pear overtones with equally refined fig-dried plum, kiwi, mango, raspberry, watermelon and papaya illusions skirting alcohol burnt bittering.
 
Another Euro-styled tropical-fruited delight, Black IPA, brought chocolate-spiced Belgian yeast and malt-roasted black rye to fig-sugared pineapple, kiwi and mango undertones, finishing with lingered licorice licks.
 
Tonight’s dark ale choice, approachable medium-bodied Little Prince Stout, packed oats-charred black coffee bittering and dark cocoa powdering onto dry stone-fruited citric nuances.
 
As dinner concluded, the courteous Certo gave me a bottle of elegantly sessionable, floral-citric, herbal-hopped La Biere Des Amis Saison to take home (reviewed in the Beer Index). Before hitting the road, I settled into the ‘deceptively strong’ and devastatingly beautiful Barleywine, a velvety smooth 10% strong ale with an oaken vanilla soothe highlighting cherry-bruised banana, canteloupe and honeydew sweetness while gaining vibrant sherry, brandy and cognac tonality.

 

www.dockstreetbeer.com

 

NODDING HEAD BREWERY

NODDING HEADPHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

Located in downtown Philly on tucked-in Sansom Street, NODDING HEAD BREWERY lies atop an oyster restaurant on the second floor and was initially visited December ’04. Glass-encased bobble-head dolls decorate the quaint upstairs pub while its beautiful wood-carved bar and plate glass protected brew tanks are to the left upon entering. A separate dining space behind the bar offers privacy away from the three upholstered banquettes, five wooden pews and café tables to the right of the bar.

Showing off fine stylistic diversity on tap, lighter fare included tart lemon peel-sharpened, perfume-hopped, dry-spiced pale ale BPA, tart lemon-candied 700 Level Ale, and raw-honeyed tea-like sedation 60 Shilling Scottish Amber. Earthen coffee-roasted, cola-nutty, English-styled Grog leaned to the mild side as well.

Emphatic fig-sugared, orange-bruised, dark-spiced Sledwrecker and Belgian-styled brown ale Tart (with its tannic grape acidity and unripe prune souring) were foremost thickest.

On July ’07 revisit, hearty spare rib platter, cold cut-centered olive salad-mixed Muffaletta, and fine appetizers went well with light bodied fare such as musky, ultra-dry, wheat-husked, citric-laden, lemongrass-rosemary-ginger-peppered peculiarity Monkey Knife Fight Blonde Lager and leathery raspberry-peach-tart, green apple-soured, lemon-bitten, Woodruff syrupy Berliner Weisse.

Way better was superb Summit Double IPA, which plugged advertised tangerine essence into spruce-malted apple-pear-peach tang and tropical kiwi-papaya twist (offset by bitter bark-like hops).

During one-hour September ’07 saunter, quaffed elegant Belgian yeast-candied, banana-clove-sweetened, lemony grapefruit-recessed, peppery-hopped, buckwheat-backed O-Tay Golden Ale and intensely wood-lacquered, pine-needled, grapefruit-embittered, juniper-rosemary-thyme-tinged Prudence Pale Ale (boasting caramel apple upsurge).

Still one of my favorite Philadelphia hotspots, the wife and I stopped by once more on January 2nd, 2012. Surprisingly, I’d learn on this trip that Samuel Adams had an extract brewhouse at this same location for a decade beforehand.

As we go past the large glass-encased bobble-head doll collection greeting visitors walking up the cramped staircase, we settle at a cafe table next to the bar. This time, I’d get a few moments with Nodding Head’s master craftsman.  

Brewer Gordon Grubb took the reins after assisting original meister, Brandon Greenwood (currently of Mike’s Hard Lemonade), settling in as head brewer after ’02. Growing up in the local Philly suburbs, the 44-year-old craftsman restored antiques before getting a home brew kit and joining the American Brewers Guild.

Grubb’s expanded into sour ales and ‘big beers,’ but his approachable year-round fare always retains a perfectly seamless hop-malt balance. One of his best and favorite beers, the wintry-spiced Sledwrecker, glides sugared fig into bruised orange tartness. In a few weeks, a sixtel of Eisbock will be readied, but it’ll finish within hours. Peculiarly, he concocted a so-called sour barleywine, but the Mummer’s Day Parade on New Years Day wiped it out twenty-four hours hence.

“We had this funky barrel and made a Flemish sour called Phruit Phunk,” Grubb says. “We got an emptied wine barrel, filled it up with the ‘phunk’ and it got red wine and oak flavors that made it ‘phunkier.’ Then we put more phunk in there with blackberries instead of the usual cherry or raspberry – to be a contrarian bastard.”

Growing up on Molson in the ‘80s, Grubb discovered Pennsylvania brewery, Stoudt’s, thereafter. It was a godsend. Stoudt’s Gold Lager and Stoudt’s Fest became instant favorites, inspiring him to seek out independent craft beer. Besides running Nodding Head’s brew room, he’s done fascinating collaborations with respected artisans such as Stoudt’s, California’s Port (Son Of Swami IPA), Jersey’s Flying Fish (Exit 6 Wallonian Rye) and Belgium’s Urthel (Angelicus Belgian IPA).

“Clash City Rockers” jumps out of the speakers as I re-try one of Nodding Head’s most spirited libation, BPA (Bill Payer Ale), a bark-dried, Cascade-hopped, lemon-juiced pale ale stylistically bitterer due to its juniper berry snip.

Then it was off to cask-conditioned 60 Shilling, an ESB-like retreat with subtle tea-like peat sneak, wispy citric flutter and oats-flaked backdrop. It’s clearly well suited for the cask, bringing out more flavors and bettering the regular draught version.

But the clear winner was absolutely fantastic George’s Fault, an easily appealing big blonde Belgian with candi-sugared honey spicing lavishing its lemony grapefruit-pineapple tang, juicy honeydew-melon sweetness, nifty banana taffy piquancy and mint-y herbal mist.

During terse half-hour stopover on the way to Philadelphia Airport in February 2012, enjoyed Belgian Chocolate Stout, a brown chocolate-spiced full body with peat-smoked burnt caramel sweetness lingering across sharp-hopped cappuccino, espresso and latte notes dotting ancillary black cherry, raisin and banana fruiting. 

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Stopped in for a half-hour splurge before heading home during New Years Eve, 2012, to get two wonderfully disparate holiday ales. On the sweeter side, Frosty Balls Winter Warmer placed lively gingerbread-snapped cinnamon-allspice-clove tingling next to orange-peeled dark cherry, fig and plum illusions (above white-peppered dewy earthiness).

On the politely embittered side, Tannenbaum layered piney Christmas tree-like Chinook hops and festive spruce-sapped dried fruiting atop orange-peeled grapefruit zest as well as tertiary black cherry, black currant, pine nut and fern undertones (making this Holiday Pale Ale richer and more complex than the equally admirable Frosty Balls).     

Lucky for me, long-time head brewer Gordon Grubb dropped by the bar for a few minutes to promote a few new brews he’s got coming down the pike. Motueka, a tropical-fruited citric-limed refresher with New Zealand hops is due in January, as is a new Tripel, followed by a Saison and Biere De Garde.
 
Grubb then enthusiastically described a coffee-flavored hybrid that went over well months back.
 
“I was thinking of doing something that wasn’t dark colored but had coffee flavor,” he says. “One day I realized I had a recipe in my head. So I dry-hopped a blonde ale with coffee. People didn’t know what it was until the coffee hit them. It became Nodding Head Enigma.”
 
He then adds how much he enjoyed Flying Fish Exit 8 Chestnut Brown Ale during recent days.
 
“I don’t know how they pulled it off. I was skeptical of the chestnut influence but it worked.”
 
While sipping my Tannenbaum, Grubb recalls, “I did this beer called Hoptimus Prime. The name got stolen (by nearby Legacy Brewery). But our version was absolutely ludicrous considering how big it was. We barely made a profit selling it by the glass. I was thinking of doing a new version with no hops using spices, orange peel or pepper. The White IPA hybrid is along those lines.”
 
Grubb would love to keg his wares for local outside consumption, but the high demand at Nodding Head makes that a limited part-time venture.

 www.noddinghead.com

MANAYUNK BREWING

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

The City of Brotherly Love birthed the American Revolution and proudly maintains its rustic charm with cobblestone streets, colonial row houses, Gothic museums, and historic marble monuments. While staying at Embassy Suites in historic Logan’s Square post-Xmas ’00, ’01, and ’04, caught annual Mummer’s Day Parade thrice and attended one exhilarating Eagles football playoff game, visiting worthy Dock Street brewery for dinner upon first trip.

Found several Lancaster, Stoudt’s, Troeg’s, and Weyerbacher’s not initially available in New York-Jersey area during stayovers. After discovering fabulously well stocked godsend Foodery Limited (corner of Pine Street and 10th), I bought nearly 100 then-undiscovered international brews in ’01 and January ’03 (all reviewed in Beer Index).

Post-Christmas ’04, visited three meritorious Philly brewpubs. Arguably the best, MANAYUNK BREWING, with its wide variety and flavor depth, is located in a red brick warehouse five miles from midtown (next to a furniture store) along the Schuylkill River. Upon accessing side alley door beyond green-lit Manayunk sign, its wood bar sidles the entrance to a large dining space decorated in the backroom by a large colorful Louis Armstrong mural. Large back deck along river included tiki and patio bar and upstairs banquet facility provided formality. Glass-encased brew tanks behind bar were supplying eight choice beverages upon my visitation.

Lighter fare included dry-grassed Hallertau-Saaz-hopped lemon-bruised pilsner-light Bohemian Blonde, dry Cascade-hopped orange-peeled lemon-embittered Krooks Mill American Pale Ale, and smoke-spiced grain-toasted Oktoberfest bier Manayunk Lager.

Tart berry-seeded quince-soured Schuylkill Punch Raspberry Ale, lemon-wedged orange-peeled coriander-eucalyptus-toned Wit Or Witout Belgian Wit, and complex pine-bitter pumpkin-spruced nutmeg-juniper-tinged Festivus Holiday Ale furnished sweet fruity centers.

Red-fruited candi-sugared cognac-tinged Grand Cru Ale and Scottish peat-smoked spice-hopped Band-Aid-nosed Philadelphia Porter proved robust.

On July ’07 Manayunk revisit, met brewer Chris Firey and assistant Brad Basile while swigging several new finds. Sugar plum-railed fig-date-trimmed Manayunk Vienna Lager and banana-bruised fig-skewed hop-dried Bavarian Beauty Dunkelweiss set the stage.

Better and fruitier were bittersweet blueberry-hoisted hop-prickled soft-watered Blueberry Wheat Lager, tart raspberry-pureed lemon-bruised sour-candied hop-tamped Schuylkill Punch Lager, dry-wooded Simcoe-hopped apple-pear-spiced currant-backed Krook’s Mill Pale Ale, and lemon-wedged floral-hopped banana-skinned clove-frayed Whistle Whetting Wheat.

Best bet: resoundingly tangy apple-orange-peach-pear-glazed, kiwi-mango-grazed, piney-spruced, resin-hopped Totally Tubular…Dude Double IPA.

Upon ensuing New York High Times visit, Basile brought in Manayunk Pablano Porter, a complex Northern English-styled brown ale with mild oak-smoked chili-peppered chipotle spicing drifting into bitter coffee-beaned black chocolate midst accentuated by walnut-hazelnut accents.

During September ’07 trek, tried meringue-like grapefruit rind-embittered grassy-hopped pepper-spiced juniper-jolted alcohol-burned Brilliant Barstool British Pale Ale.

Since then, Jeff Mc Cracken took over brewing operations, adding several new recipes to the mix. But he left within a few years.

On New Years Day 2012, stopped by Manayunk once more with wife in tow, watching the Giants defeat the Cowboys to win their division on the four TV’s scattered across the bar. As I sat at one of the granite-top café tables near the bar, I consumed two new beers crafted by newest brewmeister Doug Marchakitus.

My wife’s hearty Fiorentina Pizza (packed to the hilt with ricotta, mozzarella, spinach and roasted eggplants) went well alongside tart Pez-like Schuylkill Punch Raspberry Lager, an established fruit ale Manayunk’s been crafting since Chris Firey brewed here years hence.

But I found two better choices, especially for wily hop-heads. As Duran Duran’s ‘80s new wave hit, “Hungry Like The Wolf,” played in the background and the Giants scored a touchdown, I consumed soft-toned Dreamin’ Double IPA, a creamy crystal-malted treat bringing lemon-peeled orange rind bittering to juniper-hopped apricot, apple and pear fruiting.

Just as good but twice as interesting was smooth St. Alpha Belgian Style IPA, a new hybrid Belgo-American elixir that really won me over. Its candi-sugared, cotton-candied banana insistence greeted piney citric bittering and briny Belgian yeast peppering, leaving traces of apricot, orange and tangerine in the midst.

www.manayunkbrewery.com