Philly’s own Yards Brewing Company is introducing their new line of fall seasonals, and much to the applause of many neither one of them is a pumpkin beer. Neither will you find an Oktoberfest-style beer, something that is intensely popular in our German-influenced area. Instead, head brewer Tom Kehoe has decided to build on the popularity of their saison with Pynk, a tart raspberry ale set for release today, September 1.
As beers get heavier for the colder autumn weather, Yards has decided to make a beer that focuses more on the end of summer than the beginning of fall. Pynk is brewed with over 3,000 pounds of fresh raspberries and both sweet and sour cherries per batch, making it a slightly tart and crisp ale that will offer more than enough refreshment through the late-summer weeks. The beer is light and has a bit of extra carbonation, which will afford the drinker a pleasant warm night on the porch.
Along with Pynk will be the release of Cicada, a dry-hopped Belgian IPA, which uses not only classic Belgian yeast and local honey, but a hop strain that is so new it hasn’t yet been named. The beer, also being released today, is a very well-balanced melange of hop bitterness, honey sweetness, and a subtle-but-present malt backbone that will give the drinker a little bit of everything. During a brief food pairing, the bitterness and sweetness made this one of the most perfect beers we’ve ever had pair with spicy food.
Both beers will be available throughout Yards’ normal distribution area in bottle and draft format, but if you’re feeling charitable, be sure to pick up Pynk in its bottle form; $1 from each case sold will be donated to the Tyanna Foundation, who support local organizations throughout the mid-Atlantic to treat and care for breast cancer patients. Yards will also be hosting The Pynk Affair at their tasting room on October 4 in conjunction with Little Baby’s Ice Cream (who will have a Pynk ice cream) and Weezer cover band Freezer to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All proceeds with benefit the Tyanna Foundation.
If, however, you’d simply like to enjoy the beer, get out to wherever Yards is sold and grab some. Pick up Pynk for the warm summer nights we’ll be experiencing for the next few weeks , and then grab a few Cicadas to pair with spicy takeout from Han Dynasty. Buck the trend of only drinking pumpkin beers this month and grab these out-of-the-box fall seasonals; the only way to lose is if you let the season pass you by without them. Click the thumbnail below for more information about both beers.
After hearing about Square 1682 through press releases and such for quite a bit, we decided to check the place out for dinner on Tuesday. What we found was a surprising mix of delicious cocktails, interesting and uncommon food, and a very helpful and accommodating staff. It took us by surprise that what is in essence a hotel bar was actually a great experience that we would repeat without hesitation.
Since their beer list is pretty abysmal, I decided to go with cocktails for this dinner. My wife helped me decide, and we immediately went with a Once Around the Block, which was described as spicy and smoky—two of my favorite things. The cocktail was delicious, living up to the descriptors but not overwhelmingly so. We ended up re-ordering one for dessert, but before them we had a very good Mama’s Squeeze Box, Moscow Mule, and El Diablo. My wife knows more about cocktails than I do, but she assured me they were all well-made. I would actually go back for more.
The food was well-prepared and quite tasty, from the appetizers to the mains to our dessert. While the prices may be off-putting to some, we never had a problem with portion size or any other complaint that would make the dishes seem like they weren’t worth the cost. Portion size is something, as a big eater, I’ve always been very cognizant of and worried about, but I found nothing to complain about with what we ordered.
Square was a nice respite from the usual bar scene—the atmosphere was laid back and calm. There was plenty of room to spread out at the tables or the bar, and the outdoor seating would be perfect for a cool end-of-summer evening in the city. While this is absolutely not the place to go to drink beer, if you’re looking for an above-average night out with great food and top-quality cocktails, you’d be hard pressed to make a bad decision with Square 1682.
ISOB Top 3
Brandywine River Texas Longhorn Burger: My wife tried to dissuade me from getting the burger (I always get the burger) until she saw it come out to a table behind me. She immediately changed her tune to “Get the burger.” The smoked mushrooms added great flavor to a well-cooked medium rare patty topped with onion jam and aged cheddar. The only problem was my biggest pet peeve with a burger—the bun was too big on top and too hard, so trying to bite into it made the burger messier than it should have been.
Braised Beef Cheeks: The beef cheeks came in two large portions that could almost be referred to as “steaks”—not the usual three small cubes you usually get when ordering cheeks (which helped make the $27 price point well worth it). And man, did those cheeks fall apart. You almost didn’t need a fork; they were so perfectly done they would probably fall apart if you stared at them too hard. It was like eating the most succulent pot roast you’ve ever had.
Pork Trotters: This appetizer comes out as three small patties atop individual beds of braised cabbage, adorned with pickled mustard seeds. They had they deep pork flavor, the gamey goodness you want from a non-traditional cut of pork. They had the consistency of pulled pork that was molded into a disk, breaded, and fried. A great way to start the meal.
**Notes: While this is a beer-centric website and most of the reviews are weighted heavily on beer selection, we felt the cocktails and food were good enough to give Square 1682 a two-star rating. Do not be fooled, though: the beer list is not worth going here for. Our meal was also complimentary, but all views here were not swayed by this fact. If we’d had a shitty experience, we would have said so.
We might as well get this one over with. At this point it feels as redundant as possible to comment on a place like Monk’s, but it also feels like if we don’t we’ve got a gaping hole in our lineup here. Any best bar award at this point should be called the Monk’s award, and anyone who scoffs at this place either doesn’t like beer or doesn’t like Philly—and in either case, you’re in the wrong place anyway.
Monk’s has been a stalwart of the Philly beer scene, helping as much as any bar—if not more so than any bar—to make the scene what it is today. Tom Peters’ ability to bring in any number of beers from Belgium (and many other places) is astounding, and even legendary beer guru Michael Jackson called Monk’s the best Belgian café in America. They’ve had their own blend of gueuze from Cantillon, have debuted countless foreign beers in the states, and repeatedly make “best places to drink” lists. There’s not much we can say that hasn’t already been said.
If you want to go to Monk’s, though, your best bet is to get there in the early afternoon on a weekday, or before noon or 1p.m. on a weekend. Otherwise, there’s a good chance both the front and back bars will be packed. You can go through the Beer Bible to choose a vintage bottle, but usually the taps are full of things you’ll want to try instead. They make it exceedingly hard to have only one beer. They make it even harder to choose.
Aside from the downfall of the crowds and the plethora of beer choices, the food is top-notch. They been rated the best mussels in the country, and their burgers (with minimal toppings) are worth eating over and over again.
ISOB Top Three:
Brussels Burger: Beef patty, bacon, cheddar. That is all. Monk’s isn’t afraid to let the flavor of its meat speak for itself, and what you end up with is a juicy patty, cooked to perfection, without much to get in its way. This is a simple, gimmick-free, and damn-near perfect burger.
Honestly, we’ve never gotten past the burger here because they’re so damn good. People praise the mussels non-stop, and we’ve also heard good things about their seitan cheesesteak. Looks like it might be time for a return visit to dive a little deeper into this menu.
Last week, Devil’s Den started their new summer menu amidst a bevy of other changes and exciting future projects. A group of bloggers and writers were gathered on Wednesday, July 31 to help spread the news and enjoy some tasty bits of the new menu.
As we began with a grilled octopus with “ceviche” garnish or mango and green tomatoes, paired with an Ommegang Witte, Devil’s Den/Old Eagle Tavern owner Erin Wallace introduced Scott Morrison (formerly of McKenzie’s Brewpub and Dock Street), the brewer behind their newest endeavor, Barren Hill Tavern. This new brewpub, which is nearing completion but does not have a set date, replaces the former well-loved General Lafayette. There will be no flagship beer, Scott says, but rather a constantly rotating lineup that will never get old. He already has plans for 13 different beers to be tapped in the first eight weeks of the brewpub.
We then moved on to a carpaccio of Creekstone Farms beef with a diablo oil drizzle, paired with a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and talk of the food situation at both Devil’s Den and Barren Hill. Devil’s Den executive chef Paul Townbridge will work as executive chef for both places, while sous chef Matt Daggett will move up to chef de cuisine and Devil’s Den. This is a cause for excitement, as Daggett recently returned from learning how to make sausage in Germany, and his sausages should be a regular occurrence on the menu.
One of his sausages, a currywurst paired with Wurzburger Pilsner, made up our third course and came in as the best dish of the evening. While this wasn’t an exceptionally hard feat—the first course’s ceviche garnish wasn’t really ceviche and the second course feature cooked meat that wasn’t really carpaccio—the sausage offers something to look forward to in the coming months as Daggett gets freer rein in the kitchen.
Our dessert was a peach caramel galette with white chocolate crème paired with a Brewer’s Art Ozzy, probably the most exotic beer of the night (so as not to take focus away from the food). During this final course, Wallace announced that she and a few other ladies (beer writer Carolyn Smagalski, blogger Tara Nurin, and sommelier/writer Marnie Old) would be working with Free Will Brewing to make Saison du Rose—a saison with a woman’s touch that will come out in October and benefit breast cancer research at the University of Pennsylvania. The saison, which translates to Seasons of Pink, will be a Belgian saison brewed with hibiscus, pink grapefruit, ginger, and pink peppercorns. It will be sold around the region, so look for it in the fall.
As we finished up, it seemed the promise of this new beer and a new brewpub heavily outweighed the prospective summer menu at Devil’s Den. While we would definitely go back to try more of Matt Daggett’s sausages, we’re most looking forward to Barren Hill finally opening, as well as that pink saison’s release party at Devil’s Den in a few months. More good things are happening in our area, and as usual they involve beer.
It should come as no surprise that we enjoy craft beer to the fullest and love to go to places with amazing beer lists. Sometimes, though, we want to head to a bar close to home with a more neighborhood feel. That bar, more often than not, is Interstate Drafthouse.
Don’t get me wrong; they still have a solid beer list, just nothing that will ever blow you away or draw crowds from neighboring cities. Their list always offers a good selection of local beer, as well as some West Coast highlights that would probably be hard to find outside of a great beer town like Philly. The real attractions here, though, are the great (and surprisingly large) outdoor space in back, and the food.
Philly has really specialized in the gastropub scene, but the fare at Interstate is never a little more down-to-Earth, and never trying to be something it’s not: it’s bar food. It’s really good, tasty bar food, but that’s all it is. You won’t find a bone marrow foie gras burger here, but the burger you will get is delicious (see below), as is just about every other dish we’ve had here. And while it may be an odd thing to say about a neighborhood bar, do not leave without trying the blackened green beans. These things turned me from a green bean hater to a lover in the course of one bowl-full, and we will not go to Interstate without ordering them, even if we’re not hungry (which never happens anyway).
The staff is always friendly, the owners are good people, and unless you go on a Friday or Saturday night, there’s almost always room to sit—especially in the months when their outdoor space is open. The taplist won’t impress a lot of beer geeks, and the Mexican-influenced menu won’t earn them any Michelin stars, but we wouldn’t sit on this place.
ISOB Top Three:
Interstate Cheddar Burger: Every time we’ve had this burger, it’s been well-cooked and perfectly made. It’s spicy, fatty, and juicy—everything you could want from a burger. It also helps that the bun doesn’t get in the way of eating the burger, either by becoming too soggy or being too big or hard to bite through. The cherry peppers add an awesome kick.
Blackened Green Beans: The best thing on the menu, and a must-order each time we go. The blackened seasoning adds flavor without being too overwhelming or salty, and the beans themselves are a nice mix of limp yet still somewhat crunchy. The house-made ranch dressing on the side makes for a perfect dipping sauce.
Fishtown Iced Tea: We don’t usually promote drinks that aren’t beer, but this version of a Long Island Iced Tea—served in Fishtown’s favorite Arctic Splash container—is delicious, refreshing, and highly alcoholic. With late-night happy hours offering these at $5 a pop, even the most alcohol-resistant will become a cheap date. Take it easy with these.
Image borrowed from Living On The Vedge blog.
What is it about July that really drives people to declare their independence? The month begins with Canada Day, followed closely by our own Independence Day. A few weeks later, and you have Bastille Day. While these all offer great beer drinking opportunities, none of them come close to the next one on the radar: Belgian Independence Day, which will take place on Sunday, July 21.
As with any good independence day, though, the festivities will begin early. For Philadelphia, whose beer scene is indelibly linked to Belgium, the celebrations will begin on Wednesday, July 17, and will be led by legendary Belgian brewery Duvel Moortgat. Duvel will be featuring many of their beers throughout the week (including Duvel, Duvel Triple Hop, Maredsous Blonde, Maredsous Triple, De Koninck, De Koninck Winter, and Ommegang Belgian Independence Day Double White) at participating bars.
The earliest you can expect to take advantage of the extended lineup would be Wednesday night, when Eulogy and Teresa’s Next Door will both be featuring much of the lineup from 7-9p. The beers will also be available on draft, in bottle, and within special flights commemorating the holiday at Old Eagle Tavern (Thursday, 7-9p), TJ’s Restaurant and Drinkery (Thursday, 7-10p), Belgian Café (Thursday, 8-10p), Logan Inn (Friday, 5-7p) and Iron Abbey (Friday, 7-9p). On Friday, from 4-6p, you can have a sampling of the beers at Bell’s Beverage lead by Joe Sixpack and featuring cheese pairings from DiBruno Bros.
Also getting in on the free samples will be select Wegman’s locations on Saturday, July 20 (King of Prussia, Warrington, Malvern, Downingtown, and Collegeville). All Foodery locations will also offer free tastings. And if you’re into other freebies, keep in mind that each location listed above will be handing out complimentary Duvel Moortgat prizes to the first dozen or so drinkers to order a beer.
The week will culminate with a Belgian Independence Day brunch at Devil’s Den from 11:30a-3p, where many of the beers listed above will be featured. The brunch will also be celebrating the end of the Tour de France, and will feature Ommegang beers and raffle tickets for Ommegang’s annual Belgium Comes to Cooperstown beer fest.
We don’t want to say you owe it to them to go out and drink, but Belgium and her brewers have played quite a large part in Philadelphia’s emergence as a top-tier beer city. It wouldn’t hurt to get out and show your support—especially when doing so involves great beer.
One of the highlights of the National Homebrewers’ Conference every year is known as Club Night, which happened on Friday, the second night of the event. From 8p-11:30p, homebrew clubs were able to put on their own beer fest, setting up booths in various themes and serving beer after beer as provided by members of their clubs.
Club Night provided attendees with two main differences from your regular run-of-the-mill beer fest, the first of which being the theme of each club’s booth. A few clubs were unfortunately unprepared for the spectacle, but most came in costume to serve their beer. Club themes ranged from a group of nuclear scientists to an army bunker, and from a full-blown Old West saloon to Rocky, complete with gray sweat-suited pourers and bikinied ring girls.
The other noticeable difference is that, for your standard beer fest, any given brewery will bring two or three beers. For Club Night, however, each club shows off multiple beers from their brewers; in many cases, 15 or 20 at a time. The selection of beer was overwhelming, and there was no chance of even coming close to sampling it all. And all styles were represented in multiple forms, from a cask-conditioned gueuze to a 23% smoked imperial porter. Rauchbiers, pumpkin beers, IPAs, pale ales, saisons, and a multitude of sours dotted the taplists of the clubs, all trying to put their own spin on a style to attract people to their booth.
Club night was the perfect opportunity to be able to taste homebrew from around the country, as well as a nice selection of local brewers from Philadelphia and the suburbs. Whereas the pro brewer’s night on Thursday offered many beers we had already tried and tasted, Club Night guaranteed a selection of beers you’d never had before, and would most likely never have again. Unless you were friends with a homebrewer or close enough to go to a club event back home, these were all brand new beers.
The fact that they were all new beers also gave fellow homebrewers a chance to taste something they too hadn’t had before, and the camaraderie within the celebration of homebrewed beers was great to see. Brewers tasting each other’s offerings, commenting on the various pros and cons, and sharing hints, tips and tricks were the norm of the night, as there was nothing on the line and only the enjoyment of beer to worry about.
Club Night was the definite highlight of the National Homebrewers’ Conference, giving attendees a chance to sample a seeming unlimited amount of beer, talk and learn about the process, and hang out with thousands of like-minded people. Everyone, being amongst friends, was able to let loose and be themselves, which was clearly seen in the set-ups and costumes of each club and its members. Whether attendees bought a full-priced conference ticket package or just showed up for the social aspects, Club Night made it worth the price of admissions without a second thought. Kudos to the hundreds upon hundreds of homebrewers who made it possible.