Wednesday, April 29, 2009

PA Pilsners Rule in the Times!

Just finished reading Eric Asimov's Beers of the Times article in today's NY Times, and for this article he and his hand-selected panel (no Lew Bryson this time? He LOVES the pilsner!) sampled 18 pilsners. And Pennsylvania brands really dominated: Victory Prima Pils garnered their top rating, following closely by Penn Kaiser, Troegs Sunshine, and few slots down, Sly Fox Pikeland Pils and Stoudt's Pils. Congrats to all!

I generally enjoy Asimov's Wines of The Times articles in the Thursday Dining section of the Times, but for this article, the reader has to endure 6 paragraphs of bitching about the beers offered at the new Citi Field (Mets) and the new Yankee Stadium. And like any comparison between those teams and the Phillies, the stadiums also fall WAY short in what they serve suds-wise. $9 for a PBR?!?!?!


Friday, April 24, 2009

A Craft Brewing Credo on Film

I'm pretty sure almost every beer blog and craft beer -related website will be featuring this, but for those of you who don't frequent most of them, or ANY of them, this well-made video features craft brewers from across the country talking about their craft, sort of, to kick off the 2009 Craft Brewers Conference in Boston this week. And if this video doesn't get you craving a good, local craft brew, well, then, replay the video.


Thursday, April 23, 2009


A few weeks back, Eric Asimov, wine columnist for the NY Times, penned a fascinating article that struck a familiar chord. He discussed a growing trend among California vintners that steers away from the "round, ripe, extravagant" pinot noirs and toward lighter, more finessed pinots. Many of the vintners Asimov interviewed sensed a frustration with any style of wine that might not always be food friendly, or casually drinkable. A movement (Asimov calls it a rebellion!) away from total devotion to big wines and toward more readily, easily quaffable ones? He never uses the term "session wine", but he might as well have. he liked the word "finesse".

Sound familiar? To many fellow beer geeks it does, and Lew Bryson has been leading the discussion for a while now on his The Session Beer Project blog. It's nice to see the wine world playing catch up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Sorry for the ridiculous delay in commentary; I've been more than a little occupied with another business project and just haven't found the time to compose my thoughts on that spectacular week-and-a-half in March, for which I was able to attend a few events. I'm hoping this will be the very last post on Philly Beer Week from anyone for a while (unless of course, beer writer Jack Curtin forms another thought on it, which is always possible). Though I wasn't able to attend any of the truly inspired events at some of the newer South Philly beer bars, I did luck out on some special times: Upsate PA Beers at the Grey Lodge with Lew Bryson; the Klash of the Kaisers pilsner beer event at Triumph Old City; Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em smoked beer and barbeque event at Yards Brewery and the 19th Friday the Firkinteenth at the Grey Lodge. Vicariously I goto to experience many more of the over 600 events in and around Philly, through blogs and tweets from Bryson, Curtin, beer buddy Gary Bredbenner and hilarious blogger/twitter babe Suzanne "beerlass" Woods. I can't remember feeling that much food and drink excitement in the city since the heydey of The Book and The Cook in the 90's.

Which brings me to my point. Philly Beer Week looks like a stunning success. I haven't yet read any numbers yet, from either the city or the brilliant organizers of the event, but I can only guess that they will be impressive. The parallels between Philly Beer Week and The Book and The Cook are obvious: The Book and the Cook also typically ran 10 days, with a large centerpiece event that would attract thousands. Its events were mostly held within the city limits, but soon expanded to the suburbs. The hype was usually pretty impressive in the months preceeding the week of events (and I was a part of that hype machine, doing PR for two different hotels and several restaurants, hosting and escorting a bunch of different celebrity chefs, as well as conducting an annual pair of beer tours), and the events themselves were exciting culinary adventures. I bet Tom Peters, owner of Monk's Cafe and a PBW organizer, might have the best perspective of both festivals, having participated in TBATC over the years. His experiences with TBATC no doubt helped him avoid the many challeneges that have afflicted TBATC over the years.
Here's why I think Philly Beer Week worked so well:
1. Compelling, centralized PR for the event. Jennie Hatton and Profile PR did a bang-up job, hyping even the smallest events and each and every one of the breweries, brewers, beer personalities and venues. And they used the internet, bloggers, et al far better than TBATC has ever learned to do.
2. Brewers without ego. I've handled my share of celebrity chefs for TBATC events over the years, and with nary an exception, brewers are not stuck on themselves as many famous chefs are. You didn't hear a single gossipy word about any behind-the-scenes scenes at any of the PBW events.
3. The product doesn't get bastardized. At TBATC events, it is typically the job of the host chef and his restaurant to make the dishes created by the celebrity chef/cookbook author. And you and I know that already takes the food one level away from its origin. Rarely does the guest celeb chef get behind the line and cook at the restaurant that hosts him. They are typically there to peddle and sign their latest cookbook. At PBW, the beer is the product and the real star, and nobody gets to mess with it.
4. Organizers who loved what they were doing. Tom Peters from Monk's Cafe, Don Russell from the Philadelphia Daily News and Bruce Nichols from the Museum Catering Company; did you ever see three happier guys at beer events than these three? If there was stress in putting PBW together, they never let it show. Pure joy on their public faces, and that's a huge confidence booster.
5. Longevity of interest. After TBATC, there would be an annual summary/post-mortem article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, a column from Rick Nichols sometimes, some boldface names in Michael Klein's and Dan Gross' daily gossip columns (or Stu Bykofsky's before that) and that was that. Weeks after Philly Beer Week, people were still talking about Philly Beer Week.
And here's hoping for an even better (if that's possible) Philly Beer Week next year. OK, now we can talk about something else.
How about wine?

Friday, April 17, 2009


A tedious work project has kept me away from the blogosphere for a few weeks, but I am trying to catch up. There are just so many items I want to run by you. But last night I stumbled on a cool sauce, something I really just whipped up at the last minute, but I think is definitely worth sharing.

I roasted a boneless pork loin for dinner last night. It was about 3.5 lbs. and I had marinated it overnight in a little olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and dried Italian blend herbs. I roasted it in a 425 degree oven for just under 90 minutes, which allowed me to also roast a pan of potatoes, onions and parsley tossed in olive oil at the same time. After I removed the roast from the oven, and let it stand, loosely covered in foil, I pondered whether to make a sauce for the meat. There was a lots of attractive browning on the pan, and so I drained the fat from the pan and wondered what I could use to deglaze the pan.

Now I have a glut of my favorite beer, Sierra Nevada Celebration; in fact, I have some quantities of the last 3 years of the stuff in my DBR. So I grabbed an '07 SNCA, fired up the roasting pan on my stove top, poured the beer into a pint glass and took a sip. Just fantastic, hops forward, tinge of sweetness, more hop bite, dry, slightly nutty finish (what? I never pass up an opportunity to taste an SNCA!). As the browning in the pan started to sizzle, I poured the orange-colored Celebration in and began to scrape the pan. When all of the brown bits were incorporated into the simmering beer, I let it boil until reduced by about half. The "sauce" was now a nice shade of chestnut brown. I swirled 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard into the sauce, reduced the heat to medium high, added a little bit of water, about 4 oz. or so, and stirred to blend the mustard in. A couple cranks of pepper mill, a dash of salt, and I poured the sauce into a small saucepan and let it sit, covered, on very low heat, while I stir-fried some sugar snap peas and red pepper strips for a veggie side dish (Ben and Sophie especially love these two veggies).

Ladled the sauce over slices of the pork on my plate and wow! It really brightened the herby crust on the pork nicely. Ben immediately wanted to try it, and he liked it. Sophie, who loves an occasional sip of hoppy beer (she's daddy's girl alright), liked the sauce but didn't care for the pork! Well, you can't win 'em all.

Try this "sauce" the next time you roast some pork or even, I think, a nice eye round or rib roast. Now if you don't have an obsessive collection of SNCA in your fridge, you can easily substitute another hoppy ale such as Victory Hop Devil, Troegs Nugget Nectar, or any good IPA, I would think. Just let me know if you do. Here's to simple sauce!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Harry the K, 1936-2009

I didn't really get into following major league baseball until the summer of 1971, following eighth grade, and that's when I started to watch and listen to the Phillies. Growing up in Scranton, PA, with a dad who was a die-hard Yankees fan, there was always a Yankee game on the TV or on the car radio, not a Phillies game. But my friends followed the Phillies and I followed suit, and Harry Kalas, Richie Ashburn and Andy Musser became the main soundtrack of my summers. I barely remember By Saam in the broadcast booth, and I never heard a Bill Campbell-called Phillies game. But I do remember Harry, Whitey and Andy on the radio and the occassional game on local TV (this was pre-cable, and the local ABC affiliate would televise Phillies games on Saturdays and Sundays mostly).

It was Harry Kalas' voice that stuck out for me on those sticky-hot summer nights, sitting in our backyards or on our front porch steps, or drifting off to sleep listening to the Phillies on a west coast road trip, WCAU's signal booming out of Philadelphia clear and strong to the small transistor radio under my pillow. I didn't know that 1971 was Kalas' first year with club; he sounded as sharp and established as the Mel Allen and Frank Gleiber that sounded all those Yankee games my dad followed. Back then Kalas had yet to make his home run call his signature. When we played whiffle ball in the street, it was Harry's strike out call that we mimicked: "STRUCKimmmouut with a fastball." He had a way with that call, and his extra enthusiasm for Steve Carlton-pitched games back then hooked me on Phillies games forever.

For me, baseball returned in the Spring when I heard Harry Kalas' voice on the radio again, calling a game from Clearwater. Phillies games will never ever sound the same again.

I was fortunate to meet up with Harry Kalas on several occasions. He emceed the annual Philadelphia Sportswriters Banquet when it was held at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Philadelphia, and I was the PR Director there. With a boatload of baseball, basketball, football and hockey players in attendance, it was startling to see how many autographs Kalas was asked to sign. And I watched him calmly and graciously sign every one, chatting and posing for pictures, shaking the hands of nervous Little Leaguers and veteran sportwriters with equal amounts of excitement and respect. And as folks thanked him for their photo op or autograph, he would thank them with a kind phrase, a variation of "with out you, I don't have anyone to talk to." I have never forgotten the simple humility of that phrase. And to this day, I have never seen anyone that famous act so humbly in front of adoring fans.

I had run into Harry the K a few more times, once at the original Frenchy's in Clearwater while on vacation there, and a few times at The Bellevue, when he was en route to emceeing a banquet at the Park Hyatt hotel, or to dinner at The Palm. And every time he had that glint of recognition, the outstretched handshake and a kind question about what I was doing and how life was treating me. A class act in every way.

I think it's true that he did lose something off his fastball after the passing of his broadcast partner, friend and foil Richie Ashburn, as many observers have noted. But nothing ever changed in That Voice, equal parts of smoke and silk and steady calm, reliably ready to explode with "---there it IS!" or " that BABY---outa heeere!", and, still my favorite, "STRUCKimouut with a fastball!".

Beer writer Jack Curtin posted a brief and achingly poignant thought on Twitter yesterday, just minutes after Harry's passing (read it here), that for many of us who grew up listening to Harry and Whitey all those summer nights, brings a painful closure to an important part of our lives. I couldn't have said it better if I wanted to.

A Phillies game will never ever sound the same to me. And for that I am profoundly sad. I will miss That Voice.

"STRUCKimouut with a fastball."