Monday, March 30, 2009

Bracketology, Part 3: Over and Out

It's all over for yours truly. Michigan State, U Conn, Villanova and North Carolina will continue, but not I. None of my Final Four picks have made it. As Jim Rome says almost every day at show's end, I am out.

The "final" numbers:

Rich Pawlak's MasterBlast

PTS 740

PCT(%) 43.18%

RNK 2630851


And good luck to the 2,630,850 folks ahead of me (including The Pres, 3 percentage points and 169,005 slots ahead of me). It was a blast. I need a beer.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bracketology, Pt. 2

Now we're sinking like a stone. And ironically doing better.

So far, with just the North Carolina-Oklahoma game winner to be determined (NC is ahead at the half, 32-23), all of my Final Four picks have gone down to defeat; no Memphis, no Pittsburgh, and sweet Jesus, no Louisville! And of course I picked THEM to win it all. Living in the Philadelphia area, I'm happy for Villanova, but I only now wish I'd picked them!

In the twist of irony that assures me that many many others have far far worse brackets than mine, my ranking and winning percentage on bracket contest has actually improved dramatically:

Rich Pawlak's MasterBlast

PTS 740

PCT(%) 63.41%

RNK 1694254

PPR 80

Prior to last night's games, I had been in the middle of the pack (with over 5.5 MILLION people playing's's bracket contest, with a winning percentage below 50%. Go figger. President Obama is doing even worse, nearly in 3 millionth place in the pack, with a 35.5% winning percentage. We had virtually the same Final Four picks, save one, and that is the very winner of the remaining game. He picked Carolina for the final slot, and to win it all. I've picked Oklahoma. Fingers crossed. OU is down by 12 as I write this.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Down in flames.

I was quite optimistic after Thursday night's end of play, because at that time, I was PERFECT.

It only took three more days of tournament play to shatter that bubble of confidence. By end of play tonight, I'm below the middle of the pack:

Rich Pawlak's MasterBlast

PTS 460

PCT(%) 43.69%

RNK 2607257

PPR 1240

And yes, that third column, is RANK, and my ranking on ESPN's Bracket Challenge, one of seven brackets I'm playing, has me at 2,607,257, which 439,967 slots behind President Obama. Over 5 MILLION people are playing on the ESPN website. Unbelievable.

Beer and Food Pairings, Part 2

Adding to my initial post here regarding beer and food pairings (where all the fun is, IMHO), some really inspired pairings from a relatively new poster on, Rick Martin, in the Beer Forum there; I'm actually itching to try several of them today:

Unibrau Trois Pistoles and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale and Sushi

Imperial IPAs and Aged Sharp Cheddar

Lindemann's Pomme Lambic and Chicken Liver Pate

Imperial Stout with a salad of Arugula, American Blue Cheese, Figs, and Balsamic reduction

Saison DuPont and New York Style Pizza

Berlinerweisse and Egg on Toast

Any IPA and White Cheddar Cheezits

And a couple of newly discovered ones by yours truly that you've gotta try:

Sierra Nevada Torpedo and spicy Sechuan Hot Pot

Anchor Bock and Amish sourdough pretzels (Benzel's Pennysticks Hard Sourdough pretzels are my new favorite)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


The heralded event!

A Flight of 9.....

Triumph Old City Head Brewer Patrick Jones

Pils-Jay's Way

The next event I was able to attend during that glorious time known as Philly Beer Week was the delicious -to-contemplate pilsner festival held at Triumph Brewpub in Old City, the "Klash of The Kaisers." It featured nine local pilsners, lovingly brought together to honor Jay Mission, Triumph's head brewer, a lager afficionado, a mentor to many brewers across the country and inspiration to many more, who passed away last June. Triumph Old City head brewer Patrick Jones organized the event with Lew Bryson, and even brewed a special pilsner in Mission's honor with Flying Fish brewer Casey Hughes: Pils Jay's Way, a recipe Bryson acquired from a from a former colleague of Mission's and passed on to Jones. When I arrived I got a typically loud, enthusiastic greeting and hug from Lew, a big bear handshake from Casey Hughes, and a warm welcome from Jones' girlfriend sitting nearby. She quickly ordered me a flight of the nine featured beers and off I went a-tasting: Dock Street Bohemian pilsner was reliably crisp and bracing, one of my favorite pilsners; a pilsner from Mt Airy brewpub Earth Bread & Brewery was positively weird, but in a good way, smelling of wildflowers to me (Jones' girlfriend---oh I wish I could remember her name!---said she smelled ham), and tasting fairly vegetal, I learned (from the girlfriend) that it was made with a strain of wild, funky yeast, as was the Pils Jay's Way and Triumph's German pilsner served that night. The EBB pilsner didnt really taste like a pilsner, but it was delicious, funky little beer. Next was a pilsner from McKenzie's Brewhouse in Malvern, nice and tight, tart and refreshing (it was my favorite pils of the night).

Nodding Head's offering was a real disappointment, and tasted off in a bathroomy kinda way; I dopped it after one sip. In mid-flight Triumph owner Adam Reshnitz joined our little group of imbibers, and brewer Patrick Jones joined for a while, enjoying a Pils Jay's Way from across the bar. Reshnitz, once himself Triumph's head brewer, asked to taste the Nodding Head brew, sniffed it for a few seconds, took a quick sip and handed it back. Maybe something happened in transit. Manayunk Brewery's Kellerbier was next, and it was very tasty, nuttier than any of the previous beers, with a smooth silky finish. After that I got to sample the Pils Jay's Way and at first, didn't care for it; it tasted a bit like the pilsner from EBB, but a few more sips and I grew to like it very much--my 2nd favorite brew of the night. Sly Fox's Charles Bridge pilsner was next and it was quite hoppy and tart, a good version, but not as good as their flagship Pikeland Pils. Triumph's German Pils was next, and again it had that weird yeast in it, and tasted strange to me, a bit off and vegetal, but subsequent sips had it growing on me too. Victory Brewing's Braumeister Pils finished out the flight and it was quite good, one of the two pilsners that had that bready quality I really like, rich and crusty!
And an added benefit of the night: just as I was about to leave, I finally bumped into Suzanne Woods, the locally famous Beer Lass, whose blog "I'll Have Another Stout" is one hilarious read, and one of my favorite blogs to follow. Someday we'll maybe even get to have a beer together. Well, I guess last Thursday we kinda did, for Jay.

I only met Jay Mission once, at last year's Real Ale Fest at Triumph Old City, but even then he seemed bigger than life, and a lot of fun. I'm glad I could make it for a little while to this lovely tribute to his work, his friends and his favorite kinds of beer.

Monday, March 9, 2009


There is little hope that I'll be able to make it to more than a few events during Philly Beer Week, but this was one I was not going to miss: Upstate PA Beers with Lew Bryson at the Grey Lodge in NE Philly. And as always, the food and beer did not disappoint; the food specials made for the night were spectacular: an earthy, herb-flecked, half-pound bison burger, rich and moist and cooked perfectly medium, and a sensational basket of Atomic Punk Sweet N Sour glazed wings, bursting with sweet tingles of citrus and bitter hops. These wings could easily convert even a die-hard hot wing fan, and I hope Grey Lodge owner Scoats makes them a part of his regular menu. They were that good, crispy, greaseless and expertly glazed.

Which brings me to the beer I have been looking forward to for almost a year; One Guy Brewing's Atomic Punk IPA, hands down one of the best beers I've had in the last 5 years. Big, ballsy, with an herby, citrusy nose, an explosion of hops in the mouth upon first sip, and a clean, almost silky finish. Guy Hagner, owner/brewer at One Guy is already one hell of a brewer, and Atomic Punk is a magnificent beer, worth the drive to Berwick, PA just to drink it. But not everyone can get to Berwick. Those of us gathered around a big table upstairs at the Grey Lodge (Bryson, Scoats, his friend Marty, good beer buddy and uber-beer geek Gary Bredbenner and his angel-of-mercy designated driver, Traci) were in unanimous agreement: Atomic Punk would rock Philly. Are you reading this, Guy? The other beers served laste evening were also quite good, but the AP blew them all away.

Stegmaier's Oak Aged Spiced Winter Warmer from Wilkes-Barre, was a boozy dessert in a glass, like a bourbon bread pudding with chocolate and attitude; Bavarian Barbarian from Williamsport contributed their Square Feet Wheat Dunkelweizen to this event, and it was a sweet and sour, kind heavy version of the style, but it was a killer match for those wings; Bullfrog's Beesting, a honeyed saison style ale from Williamsport, was nice, though neither Gary nor I could detect much honey in the glass; Elk Creek's Belgian Strong was not to my liking, due more to inexperience with that syle than anything else, but it was a tad too alcoholic for me to enjoy; and Yuengling's brand new Bock was a delight, tasting to me like a roasty version of their fllagship Lager, which, to my palate, is a good thing.

But here and now, let me start my campaign for Atomic Punk in Philly: (repeat after me) BRING ATOMIC PUNK TO PHILLY , GUY! WE WANT ATOMIC PUNK!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009


It's damn near unfathomable to me that Jim Gardner could have gotten it so very wrong. But he did. Whether a victim of horrendously poor research, or an assignment editor's notes, Gardner introduced a short video-only piece on the start of Philly Beer Week by calling it "Beer Week" and noting that the week long festival had "nearly 300 events". Then he proceeded to describe the opening ceremonies as taking place at the Naval Yard, all while the video showed the Comcast Center's atrium, and then soundbites from John Troegner, Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell, and the thankfully articulate Mayor Nutter. Nice to see a keg of Yards being tapped as the opening beer, too.

But, Jim, ya gotta get the story right!