Beer Buy: Old Forge T-Rail Pale Ale

old-forge-t-rail-pale-ale

Though my favorite pale ale remains Victory Headwaters, Old Forge’s T-Rail – brewed somewhat nearby, in Danville, PA –  is another worthy of consideration. It’s got all the markings of a classic pale: light caramel malts bring a touch of sweetness, while forward (but balanced) hops create a crisp, refreshing finish, perfect on a warm day.

It’s also worth noting the value on display here; a sixer of 16oz cans – that’s right ladies and gentleman, pounders – is only $10.49 at Wegmans. Cans, which were once considered to be the sign of cheap swill, are making a comeback. New lining has been developed to prevent the can itself from imparting flavor, and the better seal and complete protection from light (beer freshness’ foremost enemy) actually make cans the superior vessel to bottles (ProTip: pour either into a glass). As such, more and more craft brewers are distributing in cans (though pounders are less common).

PLCB Pick: Terranoble Carmenere Gran Reserva 2009

terranoble-carmenere-gran-riserva-2009

I love wines with great stories. Does a great story change what is in the glass? No, of course not. But it can change how you perceive what’s in the glass, just how who you are with, where you are, or what you are celebrating can change your perceptions.

The story of Carmenere is a particularly interesting one. One of the “original six” Bordeaux grapes (from Médoc specifically, considered by some to be a Cab clone), it all but died out after the double-whammy of the European Phylloxera plague in 1867 and a susceptibility to coulure, a condition where grapes fail to thrive after a particularly rainy, wet season.

In fact, the grape was widely considered to be extinct until the 1990s, when it was discovered in Chile. It turns out that cuttings of the plant were imported to to Chile in the 1800s, but it was mistaken for Merlot. In 1994, however, a French oenologist found otherwise, showing conclusively that it was indeed Carmenere.

Now, Chile has embraced the grape as its very own, especially considering the fact that other big wines in Chile: Cabernet, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, etc. are not indigenous to the country.Though Carmenere is grown in small quantities in Italy, the US and France, Chile is leading the way with this particular varietal.

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Beer Buy: Great Lakes Doppelrock

great-lakes-the-doppelrock

Trying to crown the best American craft brewer would be a thankless, somewhat pointless task. With so many different styles, and so many individual tastes, it’d be impossible to placate everyone. That said, if the main characteristics were consistency and balance, Great Lakes would have to be near the top of the list. Every beer from the Cleveland-based brewery is well-made, achieves a remarkable balance between malt and hops, and is wonderfully tasty.

Though I have yet to have a bad Great Lakes beer, if pressed to pick a favorite, it would likely be The Doppelrock, a Spring Seasonal / bock offering. Like others from Great Lakes, this brew manages to pack a huge amount of malty love, hoppy goodness and alcohol power into a smooth, stunning beer that never seems off-center. The malt brings loads of chocolate, caramel and nutty sweetness, but there are just enough hops on the finish to even things out. Despite it being close to 8% abv, the heat is barely noticeable. This is everything great about a traditional Spring bock, “amped” up in truly American style (hence the dueling guitars on the label).

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Beer Buy: Dominion Beers

dominion-baltic-porter (via Dominion's Facebook Page)

One of the reasons Philly is always mentioned among the nation’s (world’s?) best beer cities is the plethora of great craft brewers in the area. Interestingly, though there are a few excellent brewers in town, the greater Delaware Valley is home to even more (and arguably better) than inside city limits. From Victory in Downingtown to Weyerbacher in Easton down to Dogfish Head in Delaware, we can compete with any area for quality.

One brewer that doesn’t often make that list, however, is Old Dominion Brewing Company (maker of Dominion beers), located in Dover, DE. Surely, however, if we include Troegs (Harrisburg), Lancaster, and Dogfish Head (Milton, DE) among the cadre of local brewers, we should also include Old Dominion. Or should we?

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Italian Wine in PA Stores

brunello vineyard in montalcino, italy

For residents of Pennsylvania, the PA LCB Chairman’s Selection program is the one and only (legal) lifeline to interesting wines at reasonable prices, so it’s easy to get excited when they bring in some of the more uncommon varietals or styles that we read about online but rarely get the chance to purchase. As an Italian-American who’s obsessed with vino from the homeland, I’ve been especially stoked to try the plethora of non-mainstream Italian varietals that they’ve been offering over the past few months. Of course, as is the curse of the Chairman’s program, there are some highs, and some lows. Here’s what we’ve found so far:

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