Posts within the 'beer & wine' Category


Beer Buy: Old Forge T-Rail Pale Ale

Friday, August 31st, 2012

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

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

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

Monday, March 26th, 2012

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

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

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

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

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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Beer Buy: Weyerbacher Winter Ale

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

weyerbacher-winter-ale

Winter warmers, which is what us beer geeks call these winter ales, tend to be richer in flavor, higher in alcohol and generally bigger than beers we drink any other season. Weyerbacher, an Easton, PA brewer who has made a name for themselves with big, Belgian-style ales, has, somewhat surprisingly, gone in a different direction here. (I expected at least 8% abv in a Weyerbacher winter warmer, but this is only 5.6%) Instead of the big, over the top beer, they’ve come up with a roasty, malty, wonderfully smooth brew that can be enjoyed one at a time or in a session. The truth is that this is a somewhat simple beer. It’s not going to change your life. It is, however, darn delicious, which is why it is my “must buy” winter ale every season.

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Beer Buy: Anchor “Our Special Ale” Christmas Ale (2011)

Monday, December 5th, 2011

anchor-christmas-ale

“This smells like Christmas!” exclaimed a friend of mine who was trying this beer for the first time. Anchor Christmas Ale, from the Anchor Brewery in San Francisco (most famous for their Steam beer), is always the first beer I look for when the Christmas ales hit the shelves. Though the formula changes from year to year (and always remains a secret), it is consistently delicious and a great representation of what Christmas beers are about.

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PLCB Pick: Cantina del Bueno Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

cantina del bueno vino nobile

In 2010, we were lucky enough to take a dream vacation to a villa in Tuscany – a week of eating, drinking and exploring the small towns and beautiful countryside of Italy’s most famous* vacation destination. It was as great as it sounds, and of course grows in stature in my memory every day since.

Unsurprisingly, we drank a lot of wine during the trip, almost all of it Tuscan. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was the particular wine we consumed the most often, for several reasons:

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New PLCB Store Coming to Paoli

Monday, October 10th, 2011
plcb paoli

Landor Associates image of new PLCB store in South Philly

As part of his campaign, new PA governor Tom Corbett promised to privatize liquor sales in Pennsylvania, but we’ve seen little action on this issue so far. It appears, however that this is about to change.  Last week, the movement gained a key ally when Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) announced his support for the bill (House Bill 11) originally proposed by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, which proposes to close 625 state liquor stores and sell 1200 licenses to the highest bidder. In addition, according to the PA Independent, Corbett has just recently received a report from a Philly-based business research firm detailing the potential revenue gains from selling off the state stores (this report has yet to be made public). Lastly, the Pennsylvania think tank Commonwealth Foundation has recently launched http://freemydrink.com/ to bring more exposure to the issue.

The debate is far from over, of course. Over the summer, Senate President Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson, spoke out against the bill, showing support instead for removing “handcuffs” to allow PLCB to operate more like a private business. Other state senators, including John Blake, D-Lackawanna, also remain skeptical.

So, from that standpoint, I must say that I’m quite looking forward to checking out the swank (for PLCB standards, at least) new Paoli digs, which are planned for the ACME shopping center, in the space where Blockbuster used to be. The store, which will dwarf the current cubicle that hides behind BK, will feature more than 3000 additional products. It will also have a 8-seat bar for tastings, a plethora of Chairman’s Selections (including high-end choices), a temperature-controlled room, and even a wine chiller that’ll cool any shelved bottle of wine in less than 15 minutes. And – gasp – it’ll be open on Sundays!

When will this store open? Well, that’s just the thing. Apparently it was planned for July, but is held up in Harrisburg. Shocking.

9 Things I Learned at The Wine School of Philadelphia

Friday, September 9th, 2011

wine-school-philadelphia

I recently had the opportunity to take “The Wine Foundation” course at The Wine School of Philadelphia, which is described by the school as “the only certificate program of its kind in the United States.” The course description goes on to say that “students will learn the techniques and knowledge to become extraordinary wine tasters. Graduates are able to identity major wine varietals in a blind tasting: a skill many seasoned sommeliers cannot accomplish.”

Though I was an experienced wine taster before taking the class, and thought I knew quite a bit about wine, it turns out I still had a lot to learn. This program opened my eyes to a deeper level of appreciation and understanding of the wines that I drink, and it truly did establish a foundation for lifelong learning. Though it is difficult to explain or detail what we learned in the class without sharing a few glasses of wine, here are 9 tidbits that I can share:

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