It's always something that makes a Friday The Firkinteenth at the Grey Lodge Pub in Philly something special. Usually it's the beers. Sometimes it's the people who show up, friends I haven't seen in a particularly long time. Stuff like that. This time around, I was thinking about our friend Gary Bredbenner, a fixture at almost every previous FTF. He and I had a habit of slipping out of the festivities for some fresh air and a bite to eat, always good times, checking out nearby cheesesteak joints or heading to Tony's a block away for some tomato pie . Yesterday I caught myself thinking, "Lemme check when Gary's getting there..." and, well, I caught myself. A terrible twinge of sadness.
Yesterday I also woke up with laryngitis.
I had been on a seemingly endless series of meetings and interviews last week, and I think I just plain talked myself out. I did the salt water thing, the hot tea thing, but to no avail. Getting the kids ready for school yesterday, they were chuckling at the breakfast table, because "Daddy, you sound like Mickey." Terrific. Glad I could entertain them.
So when I headed down to the Grey Lodge in mid-afternoon for Friday The Firkinteenth, I was actually wondering how I'd order a beer amid all the noise and laughter that an FTF brings. Hand signals? Pointing? Flash cards?
It was packed at 3:30 and boisterously loud when I made my way to a gathering of friends I spotted in a convenient curve of the bar. Good friends Eric and Cary were the first to greet me and they couldn't understand a word I whispered. Beer bloggers Dan Berger and Kevin Romer (the Big Beer Guy) approached next, and weren't anymore successful. Finally good beer buddy Jim Noone grabs me by the arm and says, "whatcha havin?" and out of my mouth came a full Mickey Mouse: "Victory Yakima Twilight," I moused. and the gang all laughed. "WTF?" said Eric. "Laryngitis," said I. More laughter. "You're gonna go nuts not being able to talk!" he responded. Shaddup already. So Mickey and his friends enjoyed a bunch of very good beers this time around at FTF:
The Victory Yakima was teeth-rattling hoppy, but with a nice malt balance and a crisp finish, reminding me of one of my favorite beers on earth, Deschutes Twilight;
Next up, Sly Fox Rte 113 IPA, another hopmonster, with a really bitey tart end. Nice, but the Victory blew it away in comparison;
Arcadia London Porter was next, recommended by Cary, and it was a lovely porter, deep, round, roasty, chocolatey;
Kevin the Big Beer Guy raved about the Nodding Head Anomaly, but it was gone by my arrival, so I went with his other strong rec, the Manayunk Old Ebenezer Barleywine, a magnificent beer, deep and caramel and nutty and very rich. I wish I had a cigar to enjoy with that one;
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe was my next buy, a big citrusy double IPA, all Simcoe hops, and it has a spicy finish that I kinda liked; it would be a great beer with hot wings or some spicy Asian food, like a Thai green curry;
I took a break from all the hoppiness and tried a Sixpoint Vienna Lager, and it was light and refreshing and pleasantly nutty after all those ballsy bitter beers;
But my favorite beer of the day was the Dogfish Head 75 min. IPA, a blend of their 60 min. and 90 min. IPAs. It had perfect balance, sweet and tart, grassy and citrusy, spice and honey. A brilliant beer. Blew away everything I had previously;
My final beer of the day was a Yards ESA, dry-hopped with East Kent Goldings, in the true British fashion of cask ale, and it was a terrific farewell beer, big, round and full, the best beer with which I could toast the portrait of our friend Gary that hangs on the 2nd floor of the Grey Lodge, and toast all my friends as I bid them goodnight, in my best Mickey voice: "See ya real sooooon!"
And lest you think I was leaving the Grey Lodge in a state of absolute blotto, I drank only small 7-ounce cups of the beers I tried, seperated for the most part with equal cups of ice water, over the course of my almost 3 hours at FTF. Clean palate, barely a buzz, no hangover in the morning.
When I left, there were only 7 firkins left to be tapped. The crowd had emptied 18 firkins in just 6 hours. I learned later from Dan Berger that all the firking were kicked by 7:30PM.
Amazing. There won't be another Friday The Firkinteenth until August of 2010. I can't wait.