Category Archives: Beer

Especially You HedonismBot! 6: Brise-BonBons

hedonism_bot.jpgThere are, I’ve discovered, roughly two paths through the dizzying world of craft beer.  The first is to find a style that you like, and seek out other beers in the same style.  The second is to find a brewer you like, and to drink all his things, and then move on to other brewers.  For the most part, I’ve been the second variety of drinker.  As a result, I’m often looking for breweries that are new to me to try.  One brewery that I’ve heard ever so much about is the Belgian brewery Fantome.  Fantome, of course, is French for “ghost”, and the bottles, appropriately, have depictions of spirits on them. 

The brewery is mostly known for making saisons–farmhouse ales–which are generally brewed during the winter, but consumed late in the summer.  The beers are characterized by floral, citrus, and peppery flavors–or, at least, so I’ve read, as my exposure to the style has been minimal, at best. 

Fantome’s Brise-BonBons has changed my perception of the style entirely. 

Mrs Thursday and I met Mama Thursday and Thursday Family Friend, Mo (as in Maureen, not as in “Larry, Curly, and”), at Monk’s Cafe, which is an absolutely stellar Belgian-style gastropub in Center City Philadelphia.  We sat down, took our time to consider what we wanted, and then ordered a round of brews with just enough food to fend off any sort of driving impediments later. 

Mama Thursday got a Belgian Trappist tripel, Rochefort 8, which is Mrs Thursday’s favorite, desert island, number 1 a-okay beer.  Mo enjoyed the tastes of Belgium, as well, with Duvel.  Mrs Thursday stayed domestic, getting Breakfast Stout, from the Founder’s Brewery in Michigan.  And I tried Fantome for the first time, ordering a 750ml bottle of their Brise-BonBons

Monk’s, for all its wonderful qualities, is not a well-lit place, so I cannot speak much to the look of the beer, except to say that it was darker than I expected.  Additionally, the beer came in a green bottle, which is odd for a Belgian beer–or, really, for a high quality beer from any country.  The fact is that light ruins beer, and the thought is that brown protects beer from light much better than green does.  As a result, almost all small breweries, which rely on having products of consistently high quality, use brown bottles to best protect their beer.  Green is surprising. 

The beer smells sweet and bitter at once.  Like apples.  Not the red Mackintoshes that Mama Thursday used to stick in our lunchbags.  Like the green ones.  Granny Smith?  I think so.  Lovely smell.  Definitely a bit of apples, with plenty of pepper sprinkled over them. 

The beer is sweet on the tongue–that apple taste comes back, ever so slightly, with the malt.  As the beer floats back in the mouth, a bitter hoppy taste takes over, with strength.  As the beer goes down the hatch, there’s a distinct, strong, pleasant, and lingering pepper flavor–a flavor that gets stronger as the beer warms up in the glass. 

The beer was, truly, fantastic, and I feel compelled to try both more beers by Fantome, and more saisons in general.  Not to mention to try BriseBon-Bons again, and again, and again. 


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Especially You, HedonismBot! 5: Winter Beer Supply

hedonism_bot.jpgWe haven’t talked about beer for a while, but fear not! Mr Thursday has been drinking with wide-eyed (and open-mouthed) enthusiasm, and will begin reporting on delicious brews with more regularity very soon. For the past several months, (since roughly the beginning of June), Mrs Thursday and I have been stocking up on beer. For winter. Like squirrels. Like squirrels with drinking problems.

The thought of storing beer is something we learned about with a beer called Aldaris Porteris. It’s a Latvian beer that has an odd sort of tang when it’s fresh. However, if you let the beer sit for just a couple of months, the beer smooths out considerably, and you’re left with a thick and delicious beer. I became intrigued by beer storage, by cellaring. So we did some research about it–about what stores well, about what to expect in storage, about how best to store beer, and then we started packing beer away. Sometimes we’d buy beers we had drank before, just to stick them in storage. Some cases we’d buy, and drink most of, only leaving a couple of bottles in storage. Sometimes, half the case would go for immediate consumption, and the other half into the WBS.

The collection sits in boxes under a desk. About once a week, I come home with another case, and spend several minutes talking Mrs Thursday into why this was a good idea. Gradually, this conversation has become more difficult for me. But we agreed not to touch the WBS until Thanksgiving, and if I can’t subtract from the beer, I might as well add to it.

The supply, at present, sits at 221 234 bottles (and will continue to grow until Thanksgiving). Originally, the goal was to buy enough beer to last two people for three months, if each person is drinking one bottle per night. There’s an understanding, of course, that we won’t drink that much that quickly. Some of these bottles are your standard 12oz, while some are liter-sized, and some are 750ml–wine bottle sized. These beers will last us well beyond three months, even if we don’t purchase any more of them, and some of these will last several years, as we’ll just wait with them for the “perfect” time to pop their tops. Needless to say, I’m giddy. Not to mention, we’re going to try very hard to document most of the beers here. We have sixty-four different beers at present. Some of them are unavailable in Philadelphia. Others are unavailable in the US. We have beers from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, Colorado, Michigan, Delaware, Indiana, Oregon, and New York in the US. Internationally, we have beers from Canada, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Kenya, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Scotland and Sweden.

It takes more than a village to build my beer collection.

So, for those of you who are curious about new and different and weird beers, we’re still useful for that. And just wait until Thanksgiving–we’re going to become REALLY useful for that.

After the break, the Winter Beer Supply.

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Dutch Beer, Part 3: Take Home


Going into the trip, I knew very little about actual Dutch beer.  Other than Heineken and Grolsch, I was unfamiliar with actual Nederlander breweries.  The one Dutch beer I was familiar enough with was La Trappe, the only Trappist beer brewed outside of Belgium, which is brewed (I believe) in Koningshoeven, in the southern part of Holland.  I did know, however, that Holland is ever so close to Belgium, where they have more breweries than people, it seems like.  While there are a lot of Belgian beers available in the US, I anticipated being able to acquire some beers unavailable (or extraordinarily expensive) at home.  Most prized on this list were the Trappist beers of the Westvleteren monastary, visible above.

A quick tutorial on Trappist beers (if you know about the Trappists, feel free to skip this italicized section).  Trappists beers are beers brewed by monks.  Not just any monks, mind you–there are hundreds of monastaries all over the world which contain breweries.  The Trappists are Benedictine monks of a special order.  There are 171 Trappist monastaries, worldwide, and only seven of which produce beer.  LaTrappe is the only Dutch Trappist brewery.  The six Belgian breweries are Chimay, Achel, Rochefort, Orval, Westmalle, and Westvleteren. 

All of these beers are available in the United States, though they are expensive.  All of the monastaries export their beers and allow distributors worldwide to sell the beer.  Westvleteren, uniquely, only brews, and sells, enough beer to support their monastary.  As a result, the beer is hard to get, as if it’s bought anywhere but at the monastary, the beer is being sold without the permission of the monks.  That said, you can get a six-pack of the stuff on eBay for about $60, plus an extra $45 for shipping and handling.  Yikes.

I knew of two beer distributors in Amsterdam, both with excellent reputations.  The first is De Bierkoning, or The Beer King.  I found it in a lousy little Amsterdam tourist guide, which reported over 800 beers, sold in bottles.  The internet tells me that Bierkoning sold Westvleteren, so I knew I’d be able to come home with something.  The second distributor is The Cracked Kettle, though I cannot recall the Dutch for the name.  The Cracked Kettle, by reputation, had a lesser selection than the Beer King, but the staff was friendlier and more helpful.

Our experience?  Pretty much the same.  We ventured to the Cracked Kettle during one of our first afternoons in Amsterdam, and met the Scot who runs the place.  Very friendly, and enthusiastic about beer.  We talked about what was available to us in the US, and what wasn’t, as well as what he had, that we couldn’t get.  We told him that we just wanted to scope the place out, so we had an idea what we could get here, so we could come back before we left to get all the bottles we wanted.  When we came back, a few days later, the Scotsman was gone, and in his place was a similarly enthusiastic beer guide.  This time, a Dutchman.  Both gave us honest answers to our questions, with equally honest assesments of any beer we happened to be looking at.  We never got the sense we were “being sold”, but we found more interesting beers to buy while we were there. 

The Beer King, meanwhile, had a larger selection, true to their word.  However, in all the time we spent in there, we were not spoken to by anyone, except the clerk who rang us up.  Of course, the clerk did a fine job of puffing up our egos (“Wow, you guys know your beer.”), but still, the experience wasn’t nearly as pleasant as The Cracked Kettle. 

As to our haul, here are two pictures of the beers we brought from Amsterdam.  Between the two pictures, you can see just about every bottle, and fear not, we’ll give you a little bit of a run down. 

Picture Number One:


Picture Number Two:


The contents are as follows:

4 Westvletern 12 – The bottle without a label, but with a Gold Cap is the Westvletern 12.  It’s a quadrupel, so it’s probably sweet, and it’s certainly high in alcohol content.  We’ll let it sit for a few months, and then give it a try.  Try to let as much of the sugar disappear as possible. 

4 Westvleteren 8 – The bottle is just like the Westvleteren 12, but with a Blue Cap.  The Beer is a dubbel, which is similar to the quadrupel, albeit lower in alcohol and not as sweet.  A more immediately drinkable beer.

4 Westvleteren Blonde – Same kind of bottles again, label-free, and these are the bottles with the Green Caps.  They’re not a blonde ale the way Leffe Blonde is, but rather, just a pale ale.  A session beer, almost, at 5.8% alcohol. 

The bottles with the diamond shaped labels are the IJ Brewery beers: Natte, Zatte, Columbus, Y-wit, Plzn, and Struis.  There are 7 total IJ bottles. 

Almost in the middle of Picture Number Two, and barely visible in Number One, are two bottles of Nieuw Ligt Grand Cru.  It is, apparently, a barley wine.  The bottle informs that the beer will be perfect in 2010 for drinking, though the beer is, apparently, delicious at the stroke of 2008. 

Between the Nieuw Light and the Westvleteren are two bottles of Silly Saison.  This beer comes from the French speaking part of Belgium, and is pronounced like the letter “C” and not the word that means humourous or goofy. 

The white labeled beer thrust between a couple of IJ Bottles is Oesterstout, pronounced Oyster-stout.  The beer is filtered through oyster-shells, but according the the friend Dutchman who recommended it, there are no oysters to be tasted.  I’m confident the beer will be tasty, as the same brewer makes Zeezuiper, a very tasty tripel. 

The final beer, which is easily visible in Picture Number One, and almost out of Picture Number Two, is Narke Kaggen! Stormaktspater Porter.  This beer is brewed by just a couple of people in a small town (small city?) in Sweden.  It’s a very, very rare beer which a very high reputation, and I was not expecting to find it in Amsterdam.  That said, I’m absolutely delighted to have it two bottles of it (two of the last 3 bottles in all of Amsterdam), eagerly awaiting my consumption. 


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Dutch Beer, Part 2: Bars


As is the case in most touristy places, the bars of Amsterdam running along fairly common themes:

  • Overpriced, generic “Irish” pub.  Serves Guiness, and maybe Harps.  Employs no actual Irish people.  Generally has TV with some kind of sports on it.
  • Even more common generic “Dutch” bars.  I put Dutch in quotation marks because these bars are genuine Dutch the way the Great American Pub epitomizes Americana.  These bars serve either Heineken or Grolsch, and are usually overcrowded with tourists who want to be drunk AND high.
  • Neighborhood bars.  Might get some tourists on the weekend, but they’re not a hotspot–no big lights and all that.  Usually with a small selection of drinks and snacks, and the staff frequently knows the customers by name.
  • Good bars.  Usually harder to find, to avoid the average tourist.  Good atmosphere, good beer selection, possible some decent snack food.

Mrs Thursday and I ventured into these Irish pubs on two occasions.  Once, while trying to kill 45 minutes before dinner, we ventured into a “Temple bar”, which I’m told is a chain of Irish pubs.  Anyway, the music was terrible, generic pop shit, the beers were overpriced (5 Euro for a Guinness?  Seriously?), and the bathroom was dark, and had what I’m guessing was piss on the floor.  The second was O’Reilly Pub near Dam Square (a highly touristy area), which we came to strictly to watch the Liverpool-Derby game on Saturday afternoon.  The service there was terrible, but the beer and food were tolerable, and we had a good view of the multiple screens.  Furthermore, at the moment of kickoff, the music in the bar is shutoff, and the game is piped in through the loudspeakers.  Wonderful stuff.

Generic Dutch bars… I’m not sure if we ended up in any of these.  Maybe to use the bathroom?  Maybe, briefly, to kill time for something?  None of them were memorable, if we did go to one. 

Neighborhood bars.  Our hotel bar was such a place (the Hemple Temple Bar).  It was tiny–the bar itself had enough room for about a half-dozen people.  Friendly staff, generally.  They had a decent array of your basic liquors, as well as Heineken, Hoegaarden, and Leffe beers.  A bar down the street from us, Oosterling, which had an ENORMOUS selection of liquors, and mostly Brand beers, was a similar place. 

As for good bars, we found three–two of them at the recommendation of the same Scotsmen from the Cracked Kettle who sent us searching for the IJ Brewery.  The first we visited, Cafe Gollem, is located just across the alley from The Cracked Kettle. 

Cafe Gollem is small.  The bar holds about a dozen people.  The cafe has a sort of split-level arrangement, so there are a few cramped tables for more drinkers about 4 steps up.  The place has a dark, smoky atmosphere, and it’s really not ideal if you prefer some privacy and fresh air.  The beer selection is vast, as chalkboards on three walls fail to capture the entirely of their stock.  When we were there, we had a female bartender who was kind enough and very knowledgeable.  The bar also has a cat (black, for you superstitious types), who was friendly enough to come and sit in my lap as Mrs Thursday and I enjoyed our tripels. 

The second fantastic bar we found is The Wildeman.  To be fair, we didn’t spend a lot of time there–people were tired and grumpy, and I, for one, didn’t give the place a fair shake.  The beer selection is similar to Cafe Gollem’s in legendary size, and the interior appears to be more spacious.  There’s a room for non-smokers, as well, though when were there, there was no one sitting in it.  We spent our time in the few outdoor seats, sipping our Trappist beers (Rochefort for me, La Trappe for the Mrs), and watching the hoardes of people passing through the (apparently highly trafficked) alley.  If we were in better spirits, I imagine we would have had a wonderful time. 

The third and final bar, my favorite, is the Arendsnest.  Unlike the Wildeman and Gollem, which have large selections of world beers with an obvious emphasis and the Belgian brews, Arendsnest has a large selection of almost exclusive Dutch brews.  Mrs Thursday and I went there our last night in Amsterdam, and found the place comfy and cozy and quiet, with a friendly bartender, and a wonderful beer selection.  At least, the recommendations we got from the bartender were excellent (we both tried the Czaar Peter, an outstanding imperial porter, and also Zeezuiper, a delightful tripel).  The place has soft, bright light, and a high ceiling, so it doesn’t get too smoky in there.  With Belgians being so widely hailed, it was fun to explore some of the beer of the Netherlands a little more thoroughly.  Highly, highly recommended. 

The next installment will address Amsterdam’s two best (and perhaps only) specialty beer distributors, as well as what beers Mrs Thursday and I have brought home to add to our “cellar”. 


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Dutch Beer, Part 1: The IJ Brewery


What you see above is the Gooyer Windmill.  Underneath it sits the IJ Brewery.  It’s almost picturesque, isn’t it?  A wonderful little brewpub sitting underneath a nearly 200 year old windmill, in Holland?  Well, beyond the excellent beer (which we’ll get to in a moment), I’d just like to take some time to explain the trouble Mrs Thursday and I went to trying to find this place. 

Here is a map of Amsterdam

Now, if you on the little arrow to make the big sidebar disappear, you should have a decent sized map of Amsterdam and the surrounding area.  You see where it says “Amsterdam” all nice and big?  Just above that you should see a little box that reads “s103”.  That’s Central Station, where our journey begins.  We were given some very vague, and uncertain instructions from the fascinating Scot who runs The Cracked Kettle on how to reach the brewery.  We were told a tram to take, and he pointed on a map where it was.  We assumed that we’d be able to see the giant wooden windmill from the tram, and we’d just get off at the next stop upon seeing we the windmill.  We know the windmill was west of the city, but we weren’t sure where. 

So the next day we get on tram number twenty-something, headed west, and I’m looking left, Mrs Thursday is looking right, and we’re both giddy with anticipation to try the new beers.  Several stops go by, and no windmill.  It’s only about half past noon (don’t judge us, we’re on vacation), so we’re not worried.  We pass over a bridge or two and through a tunnel.  Still nothing.  We’re in a large industrial park kind of area, with lots of concrete and general greyness (unlike most of Amsterdam, which is brick and colorful).  Eventually, we come to the end of the line, just the two of us on the tram, and the conductor cheerfully kicks of off the tram.  Still, we’re feeling pretty good, and we figure we’ll just walk back the way we came, and ask someone where the windmill is.  It can’t be far. 

Look at that map again.  On the far right side of your screen, you should see the words “Haveneiland-West”.  Zoom in on that a bit.  Adjust your map so you can see all of it.  That’s an island called Ijburg.  Or maybe IJburg.  Regardless, our final stop dropped us at the far end of this island.  From there we walked and walked and walked, back the way we came.  About halfway up the island, we stopped in a bookstore and asked a kindly, middle-aged bookkeeper about where the IJ Brewery or the Gooyer Windmill were.  She said, “A windmill?  On Ijburg?  There are no windmills on Ijburg!”.  We were saddened, realizing that we had missed our stop long, long ago.

So we continued walking, reaching what the map calls Steigereiland.  There we find a gas station, and we buy water and ask for directions.  The teller there, thankfully, knows the brewery, and gives us instructions.  Through the tunnel, and hang a left.  Naturally, we go through the tunnel, somehow miss our left, overshoot the next one by a longshot, back track a whole bunch, and we find our windmill. So, to recap, we went from our hotel to Central Station, to the end of IJburg, all by tram.  We then walked from the end of IJburg to Kattenburgstraat, and all the way around to the brewery.  After 3.5 hours of walking, we came upon the windmill, as seen 600 words above here.

View Larger Map

Naturally, just outside the brewery, we find another tram that goes DIRECTLY to our hotel.  Damn. 

Anyway, onto the beer, and the pub. 

The pub has a few long tables outside, though there weren’t any chairs available for these.  Inside, the bar is fairly long, and manned by a very cheerful middle-aged Dutchman, and a younger Dutch lady.  There are no stools or seating of any kind between the open doorway and the bar, which is lovely, as it makes it easier to get to the bar and get a drink.  On the far end of the bar there are a few stools, and a number of small tables for patrons to drink and smoke and enjoy themselves.  I am genuinely a big fan of their basic, but practical setup. 

As with most European bars, IJ serves the bare minimum, food-wise.  They offer a plate of cheese (Gouda, obviously) and meat (dry salami), and give some delicious spice to go with it.  Mrs Thursday and I bought the spice before we left Amsterdam, but neither of us can find it in our bags (tears and sadness).  It’s a tasty snack, and it goes well with the beers.

While there, we had three beers each: the Y-wit, the Columbus, and the Natte.  I believe there should be some dots about the “a” in Natte, but I don’t know how to do that, and I’m not looking it up.  Let’s address them one at a time, in brief:


The Y-wit came highly recommended to us by the Scot at the Cracked Kettle, who knows his beer much better than he knows his public transit systems.  It’s a wheat beer, but what makes it immediately, and obviously distinct is it’s high alcohol content, for the style (7%).  The beer has the natural wheat haze, though it’s a good deal less cloudy than most of its wheat-brethren.  The beer smells very sweet, with a lot of orange scent–almost the way oranges can smell when they’re freshly squeezed, pulp and all. 

The beer tastes, well, really good.  The sweetness and tang we know and love about wheat beers is right there, of course, but the high alcohol content brings out a sort of spicy, warming, peppery flavor that is usually faint, or non-existent in such beers.  Very unusual beer, and all by itself, it was worth the visit. 


The Columbus is a, well, I can’t remember what kind of beer the Columbus is supposed to be.  It’s another hazy beer, with a lot of orange in the color, almost like a pumpkin.  The beer has a wonderful, white, thick foam, that laces the glass as it settles.  Just looking at it, and knowing the alcohol content (9%), I’d guess it’s a tripel, but it doesn’t quite have the same taste.  Of course, Y-wit doesn’t taste like your everyday wheat beer, so this could be a tripel, or it could just be the ambiguous “Belgian Pale Ale”, which is a blanket term for basically any lighter colored beer with a high alcohol content. 

Anyway, the Columbus has a distinctly sour smell.  I used to be very putoff by sour scented beers, but over the course of this summer, I’ve come to appreciate a little tart in the nose.  The beer tastes almost fruity when it hits your lips, but tastes very dry by the time you swallow it.  Lots of flavors mixing it up in there, but well balanced, and very mellow.  On one sip, you may taste honey, on the next, perhaps some malt, or some pepper.  The alcohol is almost entirely undetectable.


This beer is a dubble, and unlike the last two beers, everything about it seems to indicate the style.  It’s a dark brown color, with a little bit of a muddy red tint.  The alcohol content is, again, fairly high, this time 6.5%.  The beer smells sweet, like chocolate and maybe something else.  Cherries? 

The beer’s sweetness definitely remains in the taste, this time the cherry-sweetness coming to the forefront, and the chocolate fading a bit.   Not nearly as exciting as the other two beers, but very tasty all the same. 

To Sum Up

A wonderful little brewery in Amsterdam, and worth looking for, for certain.  We were happy to bring home a few bottles of the beer, though if the internet doesn’t like, the beer loses a lot as it goes into the bottles–alas.  Certainly, the draft offerings at the pub are fantastic, and, without trying their bottles, I’d definitely recommend trying out the Y-wit and the Columbus, if you ever get the chance. 

Next, we cover the bars.


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Dutch Beer, Intro

This is the first of the posts that were meant for yesterday. 

Mrs Thursday and I found ourselves in Amsterdam for a week not because either of us had a lifelong desire to visit the place, but rather out of convenience.  The Missus had spent the two months previous living in rural western Kenya, and all flights from Nairobi’s international airport to the east coast of the US must pass through Europe.  The most common stops were London and Amsterdam. 

Now, long flights are taxing, but two long flights, with only a brief respite of a layover in a busy airport is simply miserable.  So the decision was made.  Mrs Thursday would book her flight from Europe to America to come a week after her flight from Nairobi to Europe, and meanwhile, I would meet her wherever she was. 

Amsterdam was the chosen layover/vacation point simply because it was cheaper than Germany, and because I had already been to London. 

Using a (crappy) book and the internet to find things to do, I learned there’s really only one thing notable about Amsterdam: legalized drugs.  Now, neither Mrs Thursday nor I are much for toking.  We both sort’ve assumed that, with marijuana being legal and mostly accepted, we’d probably smoke a bit, but there’s no way we could occupy a week with smoking up and heading for the Van Gogh Museum over and over again. 

So, I turned to beloved beer.  The only Dutch beer I was familiar with, before the trip, was Heineken.  Contrary to what both self-help writer Paul, and Mrs Thursday’s mother have to say about the subject, Heineken is equally (or at least comparably) disgusting in and out of Holland.  Furthermore, for anyone actually interested in beer, the “Heineken Experience” is a waste of time and money. 

So, I looked for some listed beer retailers and good bars, figuring I could find some good Belgian beers, if all the Dutch drank was Heineken.  I found, in fact, 2 retailers, 3 bars, and one little brewpub.  Sometime soon, I’ll produce a few notes on the two retailers (The Cracked Kettle and The Beer King), each one of the bars (The Gollem, The Wildeman, and The Arendsnest), and on Amsterdam’s marvelous little brewpub (The IJ Brewery), as well as what spoils the Mrs and I were able to bring back home to enjoy this winter. 



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Especially You, Hedonsim Bot! 4: World Wide Stout

hedonism_bot.jpgPhiladelphia is truly one of the finest places in the world for the enthusiastic beer drinker.  Most of the European imports are available within in the city, and there are a ton more imports and American microbrews available somewhere within the city–whether at Standard Tap for local fare, at Monk’s or Eulogy for your Belgian fixation, or out to the suburbs for Teresa’s Next Door and their several hundred beer list. 

Not to be overlooked, however, is Philly’s proxmity to some of the country’s best breweries.  Within a two hour drive of home, the Brew Enthusiast can find Yuengling, Yards, Weyerbacher, Brooklyn, Flying Fish, River Horse, Victory, Troeg’s, Stoudt’s, Legacy and more.  And that doesn’t being to cover the dozens of brewpub like Nodding Head making delicious beer for the walk-in crowd.  One of the finest breweries in the area, though, comes from Delaware, a state that isn’t good for much else: Dogfish Head, and for today, the spotlight shines on their fantastic World Wide Stout

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