Tuesday, November 22, 2011


It is here, accompanied by some serious hype from its most famous producer, Georges Debeouf. The 2011 Beajolais Nouveau has landed everywhere (officially on November 17 this year), with some splashy debut events in New York, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles, but almost nary a mention in the Philadelphia area, with the exception of the city's Midtown Village neighborhood marshalling its retailers and bars to offer the wine along its main 13th Street corridor. There has been barely a whisper about it here in central NJ. That saddens me a bit. I can remember when Nouveau's arrival was a lighthearted day of celebration.

This year Debeouf has proclaimed the wine to be "bursting with berries", so it's time to find out and taste this year's vintage.

HUGE blackberry and strawberry in the nose. It practically leaps out of the glass! Mouth feel is thin, but full of strawberries, blackberries and raspberries at the very first taste, with plenty of earth at the end, some dryness, too, and a noticeable absence of the usual green/vine notes of previous years. This is still a good light quaff, with just enough dryness to pair beautifully with buttery mashed potatoes, gravy topped turkey, herby stuffing, even that green bean casserole. I actually think that this year's wine will enhance the Thanksgiving meal and amplify the traditional flavors. Debeouf is accurate: it is indeed "bursting with berries," especially when your first inhale its aromas in the glass, but it definitely has enough backbone to carry through the entire Turkey Day feast, from snacks and munchies before dinner (think mild cheese and crackers, salumi, almonds, pumpkin or butternut squash soup, bruschetta, stuffed breads, focaccia, radishes) to every savory bite of the meal.

Even though I didn't get to sample a glass until now, the wait was worth it, and this year's Beaujolais Nouveau portends a great year for 2011 vintage Beaujolais wines. And a very tasty Thanksgiving Day wine pairing. Buy enough Nouveau for the weekend; it ought to taste just as good with a weekend of leftovers, sandwiches and turkey salad!



Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I've made no secret of the fact that I'm a huge Lew Bryson fan. For those of you who DON'T know who Bryson is, he is one of the finest writers with whom I've had the privilege to work, a beverage journalist who specializes in beer and spirits, but really, just a terrific writer. Lew was always my special guest/John Madden for all of the Golden Age of Beer in Philadelphia Tours I conducted during the halcyon days of Philadelphia's The Book and The Cook food festival

Well, it looks like Lew has what it takes for TV, too.

Bryson and producer Rudy Vegliante are shopping a pilot for American Beer Blogger, which Vegliante describes thusly:

AMERICAN BEER BLOGGER is a half hour television series dedicated to all
facets of the ever growing craft beer market. From home brewing, to micro
beer; viewers will experience the very best of the craft beer culture. In each
episode, Lew will visit a different brewer, each of which has their own sets of
quirks and ways of doing things. Lew will talk to these brewers, get to know
them, will show us first hand the various methods and techniques used in
creating a craft beer. From the tiniest bottler to the largest manufacturer, Lew
will get his hands dirty. Topics such as bottling, food pairing, manufacturing,
distribution, history, technique (and so much more) will all be touched upon

as Lew spends a day with these brewers. Some doing well in the business, others not so well. Thankfully, the DIY nature of this business can lead to some pretty unforseeable results as Lew lends a hand and helps out in any way he can. Lew will show us all the kinds of micro-breweries currently out there. From the smallest, hippest label to large manufacturers.

AMERICAN BEER BLOGGER sets out to entertain the viewer as well as educate on this rapidly growing industry. Through humor and a charming, hands-on host, our show will not only be entertaining for the microbeer enthusiast, but also enjoyable for the average viewer as well.

Top Gear with beer... Top Beer if you will.

They've partnered with Kickstarter, an Amazon.com company that helps small businesses raise capital, to raise money to produce the show. I'm a backer, and you should be, too. One look at the trailer for this show, and you'll be hooked. Great production values, as they say in the trade. And Bryson is a natural. Here's what he told me about the filming in a recent e-mail:

We met up at Stoudt's [Brewery in Adamstown, PA ]at about 8 AM on a morning in late May with NOTHING planned or scripted. We knew we were going to tape...something about the brewery. Everything was done seat of the pants, and most of it was done in one take. I hadn't ever done much interviewing on camera before, but it felt pretty natural. Ed Stoudt has a ton of camera time, and has been doing the tours at the brewery for years; he was completely at ease. The stuff in the bar and on the sidewalk (when I'm in the other shirt) was done at Devil's Den during my Philly Beer Week event there, and if anything, that was even less scripted. I walked down the street, greeted some people I knew at an outside table, and on the spur of the moment, stole a sip of their beer. Felt right, did it. That's probably what the whole thing's going to be. Real reality.

So here's a project we can all get a thirst for. I think we may have found our next TV star.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


When I first arrived at the University of Pennsylvania in 1975 as a freshman, I was struck by the sheer beauty of the campus, the sheer numbers of students converging on the campus and milling about, and the endless displays of Penn clothing and logo-stamped merchandise for sale all around campus. But my first swag purchase was a light grey t-shirt emblazoned with huge block letters that read: "NOT PENN STATE". It never struck me that there could be such confusion between the school I was about to attend in Philadelphia and the larger state college located in the center of the state. But I though the t-shirt was pretty funny.

But I was soon to learn that many fellow students were quite sensitive to the confusion. "Half my family thinks I'm going to Penn State," said one of my roommates, who hailed from Staten Island, "I don't think they know the difference."

It only took me a few weeks to experience that confusion. On one of my first visits home for a weekend, I had one of my dad's friends ask me if I had bumped into Joe Paterno on campus yet. "Nope, not yet, " I smirked. My dad didn't think it was so funny. "He's going to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia," he quickly retorted. "Didn't know they had a Philadelphia campus," said his friend. I thought my father was going to slug him.

"Don't worry," I said, "we know the difference."

Later that weekend, one of my uncles (I won't say which one) asked me a similar question and asked me if I could get tickets to the next Penn State football game. This time, my father looked at me with a smile and shook his head. "No, that's almost impossible for me," I answered.

Eventually all of my family understood what university I was attending, and didn't ask me about Joe Paterno or the Nittany Lions or anything like that anymore. Several cousins did in fact eventually attend the school in State College, and are proud alumni.

After a week like this one, I am certainly glad that I'm an alumni of the place with the t-shirts---still for sale to this day---that say "Not Penn State."