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/// ATLANTIC ALE TRAIL
 
FEBRUARY/MARCH 2008
 
Atlantic Ale Trail
Philly Beer Week

The major beer-oriented event of 2008 will be, of course, the Celebrator Beer News' 20th anniversary bash in Oakland on February 17. Here in Philadelphia, however, I just can’t convince people of that. For some reason, locals are focused instead on the first Philly Beer Week in March. Some folks are just so damned parochial, you know?

Philly Beer Week emerges out of the cancellation last spring of The Book and The Cook, the city’s long-running 10-day food and drink celebration. The week’s major beer components, built around the annual Michael Jackson visit to the city, went on just as successfully on their own, and a small band of movers and shakers soon began planning a new beer-centric bash for March 7–16, 2008.

Many details are still sketchy, but Beer Week’s major elements are in place, with reconfigured previous Jackson events the focal points. The University of Pennsylvania Museum’s traditional Friday night Jackson dinner will morph into a Michael Jackson Tribute fundraiser for the National Parkinson Foundation (MC'd by some guy named Tom Dalldorf) with a dinner buffet featuring beers either directly influenced by Jackson or brewed in tribute to him. The popular three-session tasting event the next day will be conducted by a panel of beer notables sampling and discussing some of the special beers from the night before. The annual Jackson Dinner at Monk’s Café on Sunday will feature “six of the favorite pairings from the past 10 years of dinners with Michael,” and Monk's will donate 10 percent of the proceeds to the National Parkinson Foundation.

Another familiar spring beer gathering, The Brewer’s Plate, an excellent cuisine and brew event now in its fourth year, will be featured on Sunday, March 9. A real ale festival has been promised but not scheduled, and various other activities, including a Meet the Brewer night throughout the city and region on Tuesday, March 11, are in the works. As more details become available, I will be posting every event on the calendar at beeryard.com.

Victory to Revamp Brewpub…

Change will be the order of the day at Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown for the first half of 2008 as cofounders Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski oversee a total revamping of the large and popular brewpub attached to the brewery, including a major kitchen upgrade.

“The Scratch Series is just too much fun — for the brewers, for the customers, for all of us.”

Gone will be the fabled “long bar” that currently greets visitors at the entrance and the funky “we took over this big old factory space and plopped a bar and kitchen down inside it” ambiance. A new, smaller bar will be located in an expanded area at the rear of the current dining area, opposite the new kitchen (and smoker). The new bar will feature a 20-tap tower, four hand-pumps for cask-conditioned ales, and a specially designed growler fill system. A mini–beer hall will be located in a room perpendicular to the far end of bar, with long communal tables and moveable pool tables.

Booths will line most of the walls (with the old bar area serving as a quieter dining refuge) and, together with the tables in the main room, will provide seating to accommodate 300 patrons — twice the current capacity. With a relocated entrance as the final touch, the redesigned pub will be literally a different place altogether. One thing that will not change, though, will be the family atmosphere. “I love seeing kids in here,” said Covaleski at a late December interview as we watched families enjoying lunch. “Learning that good food and good beer are a normal part of life is an important part of growing up.”

…After Finally Releasing Baltic Thunder

Given the stress of the months of construction and resultant confusion, the Victory guys were able to at last breathe the proverbial sigh of relief in early January with the long-awaited release of Baltic Thunder. This is Victory’s reinterpretation of the cult favorite Perkuno’s Hammer, a Baltic porter from the former Heavyweight Brewing Company in New Jersey.

Originally scheduled for release last spring, Baltic Thunder was plagued by a series of delays, including a legal skirmish over whether the original Perkuno’s name could be used, along with a three-millimeter variation in the top of the original 750 bottles, which made them incompatible with the brewery’s crowning equipment. The beer was finally released, on draught and in 22-ounce bottles, at The Drafting Room in Exton on January 5, along with an array of other rare Heavyweight beers and a sixtel (a one-sixth-barrel keg) of Perkuno’s Hammer.

Present for the coming-out party were Heavyweight founders Tom Baker and Peggy Zwerver, and equal attention was paid to celebrating their late December announcement of signing a lease for their promised new brewpub (the reason they closed the brewery), Earth, Bread & Brewery, in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill/Mt. Airy section. They plan to open as early as this April and will be located right up the block from one of the city’s overlooked treasures, McMenamin’s Tavern (a family-owned pub not related to the Northwest chain), making that stretch of Germantown Avenue even more of a destination spot.

Brewing from Scratch

Breweries across the nation found various ways to celebrate all the 10th anniversaries we saw in the past few years, but one of the most creative approaches had to be what Tröegs Brewing Company of Harrisburg did last year. While preparing for a relocation of the brewery offices, John and Chris Trogner uncovered several old scratchpads containing “detailed logs on pilot batches brewed on the back patio of our Colorado apartment several years before the brewery opened, along with numerous recipes that were never brewed.” This discovery inspired them to create the Scratch Beer Series, five one-time batches based on those scratch recipes, the last of those to be their 10th anniversary beer.

The program, an immense hit, produced a California common, a hoppy porter, a triple and a barley wine over the summer months. But by the time it culminated in October with the anniversary beer, an imperial oatmeal stout, the idea that the Scratch Series was to be a one-time thing had gone by the wayside. “It’s just too much fun — for the brewers, for the customers, for all of us,” said John Trogner. “So we’ll keep brewing several Scratch beers every year when we can fit them into our schedule.” An export lager rounded out the 2007 series at an even six, and the first 2008 entry will be a weizenbock.

 

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