A blog that explores the seemingly endless beer options available, and occasionally brings up your Mom.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Buy a Pint and Drink it too

     Hey guys, guess what?
I have recently returned from a vacation. That's right, a boozin' crusin' end of the month celebration of beer in three different cities. What did I learn from this escapade from brewery to ale house to brewpub? Simply -- that I have so much yet to learn and explore! Every time I travel I find new things to love about the world, and beer. Like how wonderful it is to eat fresh basil on a flat bread pizza while drinking a Pale Ale in the middle of Park Slope, and how the nicest place to have a pint in Philadelphia isn't with a couple a Monks, but rather down a narrow street, through a door and up a staircase (Thanks for the details, Megh!). When it comes to traveling and nailing down the perfect location to throw one back, depend on the locales. Google is strictly for semi-accurate directions, not planning. Find a friend, a stranger, or if you have something in-between that, ask them. I just think it's important to discuss and find a place thats fitting to you, not some hyped up location. But that's my personal opinion, others like shouting over people in a crowded room (not my thing). As my favorite beer locations grow, so will yours, as I will share a bit of my traveling experience with you now, and more so in the future. So if you're cruising the North East, this is where you have you go:

     Nodding Head Brewing Co. (Philadelphia PA.) When I went into Philadelphia I went with an open slate, no plans of where to go (just beer related, please). I have always heard about the Monk's Cafe, which is a world renowned Belgian Beer Bar, yet for some reason I had no pull to go there. I wanted something off the beaten path (/sticky floor).  A while back I read about this "little brewery in the heart of Philadelphia" called NoddingHead Brewery. I have never heard of any of their beers, let alone their existence really, so I figured every sip I had would be something new to me, so this was the place to check out. I asked my Phili pal Meghan (of whom I met for a pint at The Time, another GREAT location, few hookers, lots of beer), if she has ever heard of the Nodding Head. Not only has she heard of it, but it was literally on the other side of the street, one block down. So off I was to brewery number 4 (the first 3 are another story!) on the trip, and a location I knew nothing about. As I was walking I realized that I must have passed the place, so I turned around, walked. Wait no, maybe I didn't pass it, oh wait, here is a sign, "Nodding Head Brewery". Under the sign is a door. Through that door is nothing but a steep staircase, darkly lit. I look at my beau Colin for assurance and say "Hmmm, best place yet?" We agreed and trotted right up. And the best place? It sure was. Up those stairs is one of the most beautiful bars I have ever seen. Dim lighting, woodwork everywhere, old fashion Philadelphia memorabilia lining hand made shelves, over a dozen velvet booths with no tables, purely for laying around and talking. And two small high-top tables for two in the front bay windows, that's my seat.  
     What to try: Right off the bat, it's imperative to know that these people make their own Berliner-Weisse, deemed "Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse" (!!!!). This low alcohol sour wheat ale is not a typical beer to see on a brew pub draft list for a couple of reasons, one being that it is not the easiest beer in the world to brew. The "sour" is derived from infecting the beer with bacteria. Traditionally, a secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle by burying or storing the bottle in a warm place. But since this brew is on draft they must have taken a different step. What Nodding Head likely did was add Lactobacillus. Lactobacillus is a bacteria, a member of the lactic acid family of bacteria which give sour ales their tart flavor. Often a Berliner-Weisse will be served with a sweet flavored syrup, like raspberry, to balance out the sourness. Nodding Head had the option of blending the Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse with Woodruff syrup (a licorice like flavor). A must go location at night!
      Double Windsor (Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY) -  If you are ever in the-big-city, walking along the water in Prospect Park, proceed past the condom collections and head west to Prospect Ave West and stop at the Double Windsor. A wonderful craft beer bar that caters to the beer snobs with a hunger for comfort food. Pair one of their hard to find beers with their famous Cheeseburger, Pulled Pork or one of their Vegetarian options. Don't ask for a menu, it's a black board (don't make the waitress a pointer, you know?.) The restaurant looks like an open aired tavern, with wooden tables and benches for dining, and long high tops for people watching along the wide open windows. This place frequently invites breweries from across the country for sampling events and have a regular Triva Night to test the knowledge of their beer lovers. Out of all the places I could go to in Brooklyn, I find myself coming back to this place time and again.
      What to try -
When I was there, I had the pleasure of enjoying the Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (11.2% ABV!). I have been waiting to have this baby on tap for some while now. I am doing my best to get into Bourbon Aged ales, and this was a big help! A thick black color with an alluring aroma of chocolatey bourbon with a hint of coffee roast. The taste lives up to the aroma 100%, a slow sipper for sure. While they may not have the KBS on tap when you enter this saloon, you will be happy to see the vast selection of craft beers that are constantly rotating. To see what is on tap right now, check it out here -> http://www.beermenus.com/the-double-windsor.

     The Foodery (Philadelphia, PA.) - This location is the inspiration to the blog title "Buy a Pint and Drink it too". The Foodery is a small craft beer store who specializes in selling single bottles of beer , with a selection of over 800 different American and Imported brews. Want a six pack? Well grab an empty pack and make one. If you can picture the depressing Wegmans "Make your own Craft Pack" section, well this is a place that was doing that long before Wegmans realized people like beer. What is unique about this place, something we could never do in my home state of New York, is that once you purchase a single bottle from the store you can sit right down and drink it! Want another? Walk right up to the freezer, pick out a fresh cold one and sit right back down. Outside of their wonderful beer selection they have a unique deli with items my picky hands have never touched before (but wanted to). Most importantly, the staff is knowledgeable about their products (thank god) and if they don't have what you are looking for they will call around the city and help you find it. They have two locations in Philadelphia and have brewery samplings daily (daily!). A great place to stop in before hitting the road back north, because there is few places like this. 
     What to try - I figured while you are at the Foodery you should try a food and beer pairing. A popular deli pick is the Maple Honey Turkey and Cream Cheese Sandwich. The sandwich comes with cucumbers, tomatoes and honey mustard on rye bread. To compliment the flavors of the turkey I would suggest a Bock beer, specifically a Heller Bock (light in color, slight hop flavor, full bodied, usually about 6-8% ABV). It a good choice because it will not over power any of the flavors from your meal, yet it will help cut any spicy flavors, helping you taste everything else that's going on in your sammie. A couple of Bock suggestions would be the Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary, Capital Maibock or the Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus Bier Helles. And once again, good staff, they will point you in the right direction if those brews are not present.

If that's not enough reason to hit up two popular cities, I'm not sure what is! Go and drink it my friends. 


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