Category Archives: Especially You Hedonism Bot!

Especially You, HedonismBot!: Westvleteren Blonde

hedonism_bot.jpgAnd we’ve opened the Winter Beer Supply.  Thank God.

We debut the WBS on a sideways note, as we’re drinking the least acclaimed and respected beer from, perhaps, the most acclaimed and respected brewery in the world.   The Abbey of Saint Sixtus, which produces Westvleteren beer, produces three different brews–a dubbel, a quadrupel, and a blonde.  The blue and gold capped dubbel and quadrupel are sought the world over, and a six-pack of the beers will easily reach over $65 on eBay, and that’s before shipping.

The Missus and I have all three types Westvleteren beers, but we decided to open the WBS with the green capped blonde and save the best for later.

The blonde pours a hazy golden-wheat color, with a fuzzy head about one or two fingers tall, which bubbles away rapidly leaving a lacing of white foam around the edges of the glass.  The third glass in that picture is the blondie.

The scent is like wet grass and flowers and wheat and hay.

The beer is creamy, smooth, and grainy up front, and finishes with a quick ring of bitter hops.  Very crisp from start to finish, and dry on the palate.

There is no alcoholic presence at all.  And the flavor is dry and quick and pleasant from start to finish.  Very sessionable, and very good to drink, but, given the scarcity and the cost, it’s probably not worth more than a taste.

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Especially You HedonismBot!: Storm King Stout

hedonism_bot.jpgAmong the many fabulous breweries in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, perhaps the most well regarded is Victory, in Downingtown, which is a little less than an hour from Center City.  The brewery is most well known for its HopDevil Ale, a nicely bitter IPA, with good malty body and a floral scent.  They also have excellent pilsener, Prima Pils, a big, grassy double IPA called HopWallop, and an outstanding, sweet weizenbock named Moonglow.  Oh, and they make one of the best imperial stouts I’ve ever had: Storm King

Storm King is the kind of unique, complex beer that can evoke strange, irrepressible desires in enthusiastic beer drinkers.  Or maybe just Mrs Thursday. 

Now, your average Russian Imperial Stout is a big, black beastie, with huge malty body, and generally tastes of chocolate and coffee, but without the bitterness of either.  There’s a bit of alcoholic warmth, probably, but, when the beer is done right, the boozy heat is hidden under the layers of malt sweetness. 

Storm King isn’t quite like that.  It pours a deep black, completely opaque, with a meager tan head, even when the beer is poured aggressively.  The beer smells sweet and bitter at once, with raisins and black currants and molasses and roasted coffee. 

Its taste is complete in the mouth.  It seems to sticky coat everything–all sides of the tongue, the insides of cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and all the way down the throat.  Everything gets its own impressions.  The dark fruit sweetness hits first, followed by a lightly bitter, lightly sweet coffee flavor, and then an everlasting, bitter, hoppy aftertaste from the back of the mouth on down. 

An utterly outstanding beer.  A lot of flavors going on, but each one so pleasant that the beer is remarkably easy to drink for something so big and bold.

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Especially You, HedonismBot! – Scratch #5

hedonism_bot.jpgTroegs is an utterly fantastic brewery in Harrisburg, PA, which is about 90 minutes or so from Philadelphia, with a reasonable amount of speeding and light traffic.  I’ve never actually been there, but I can find the brewery on a map, and, like, I’ve had the beers before, so I’m pretty confident in everything I’ve said so far. 

Troegs makes a number of excellent and popular beers.  Their Christmas beer, Naked Elf, is a spicy, big ale, and worth a try next to a fireplace.  Ya know, instead of hot chocolate.  Their Troegenator Doppelbock won an award at the Great American Beer Festival this year, and is probably on par, in quality, with Ayinger’s celebrated Celebrator Doppelbock.  Their Nugget Nectar is something of a legendary superhopped amber ale, especially since a local bar had the stuff on a hand pump, and it was pouring with unrivaled creamy smoothness.  As a bonus, almost all their beers can be had at reasonable prices, so this is a brewery to treasured, their beers to be hoarded and consumed greedily by grateful masses. 

The brewery was founded by two brothers, Chris and John Trogner (according to the website, Trogner, combined with kroeg, the Flemish word for pub, yielded Troeg).  Before starting the brewery, the brothers, obviously, had a significant interest in craft beer drinking, and as such, they would try different beers, making notes upon them, and then try to emulate the styles they liked as homebrewers.  Those early, homebrew recipes are what led to the Troegs Brewing Company.  This year, the 10th birthday for Troegs, the brothers decided to release a series of one-off beers, called the Scratch Beer Series.  Each beer would be made from one of their early homebrewing recipes.  The 5th Scratch beer was released last weekend at their 10th Anniversary Celebration.  The first four Scratch beers (1 – Steam beer, 2 – porter, 3 – tripel, 4 – barleywine), were so well received and the anniversary party so anticipated, that it was expected that Scratch #5 would sell out before the day was over. 

I could not go to the party, as I had plans in the afternoon, but was planning to get up early, drive to Harrisburg, pick up a case of the stuff from their bottleshop, and then drive back home to Philly–3 hours of driving for one case of beer.  However, things beyond my control waylaid my plans, and it was assumed that Scratch #5 was lost forever.  

And then, thankfully, a local bottle shop sent out their weekly email to let me know that they had, in stock, Scratch 5, and shortly thereafter I appeared to buy four of them. 

So, is there any point in telling you about this beer?  It was, in all likelihood, a one-off.  It’s a beer made a brewery that only distributes in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Virginia.  So, only you readers in one of five states even have a chance of finding it, and even then, your chance is small.  So, no, there’s probably no point.  But in the hope that they do this again next year, I’ll tell you: Scratch #5 is a fantastic beer.

I sat drinking it last night, flipping back and forth between Houseand the Democratic Presidential Debate, which was happening in Philadelphia, at Drexel University.  Mrs Thursday was on a nearby chair, battling flu, and going through tissues at a prodigious rate.  Brother Goose was lying on the couch, his cheek swollen from having wisdom teeth removed, and his face swollen from an allergic reaction to medicine given to him by the dentist.  Everyone was miserable, except for me.  Scratch 5 is an oatmeal stout.  I don’t know the alcohol content, but I can tell you, you can’t taste it.  The beer is black and opaque, and it smells sickly sweet, like an oatmeal raisin cookie.  The beer feels heavy in the glass.  Much heavier than expected.  The taste isn’t nearly so sweet as the smell, but some natural oatmeal sweetness comes through, anyway.  The beer is thick like heavy cream, with just a touch of bitterness at the end, which doesn’t linger.  It’s an utterly fantastic beer.  I hope they make it again.

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Especially You, HedonismBot! 7: Oktoberfest (Stoudt’s)

hedonism_bot.jpgOktoberfest, the famous German holiday, does not, of course, take place in October.  Originally, the holiday was a celebration of the wedding of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese in mid-October, but since German reunification, the holiday has begun in September, and ended in October.  Good enough.

The four tradition Munich breweries are the only beers sold at Oktoberfest–Paulaner, Augustiner, Hacker-Schorr, and Spaten-Franziskaner.  In the tents, a blonde wheat-beer is served to patrons.  In America, however, beer drinkers looking for a little taste of the fine Bavarian autumn grab a case of Marzen–the Oktoberfest style–and pour the beer into a glass only to discover their beer is a dark amber color.  Why the difference?

Well, once upon a time, when German breweries started shipping their Oktoberfest to the US, they were forced to change the recipe a bit.  Refrigerated compartments didn’t really exist, and this delicate brew couldn’t stand the long voyage and the dramatic temperature shifts that can occur in the galleys of a ship.  This Special Export Marzen, however, became popular wherever it sailed, and as the American craft brew movement started growing in the 1980s and 1990s, breweries inspired by German craftsmen, and attempted to create their own. 

Stoudt’s isn’t, necessarily, a German inspired brewery, which is odd, because the brewery resides in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County, which possesses an overwhelmingly German population.  The brewery, I think, is distinctly American, though it’s influences range from Germany, to Belgium, to England and Scotland, and all the way across the country to the West Coast hop bombers.  They’ve made their impression on styles of beer all over the world, and with fantastic success. 

That said, I’m not overwhelmed by their Oktoberfest.  The beer pours an excellent dark amber color, with a pillowing white head of foam, and smells of sweetness and citrus hops.  The latter flavor was unexpected, certainly.  The beer feels a bit thin in the mouth, and the citrus tang that follows every sip isn’t for me. 

It’s not a bad beer, by any means, but I’m not a fan of it, and I much preferred both of the Marzens I had from Victory (their Festbier and their Wiesen) this fall. 

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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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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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