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Philly is getting some great bike-centered design lately, and the Bike Coalition just posted some images of the South Street bridge. Awesome! Between that, and the Pine/Spruce St experiment, things are looking pretty great for downtown Philly! (Unless of course you are a vehicular cycling nazi).
And did I say bikes and beer in the news? Sorry, I meant bikes and crap. Mr President, really? Really??
Philly Beer Week has come and gone. I must say, though I missed alot, I was fortunate to get to some really great events this year. I already wrote about the long bike ride below, so I won’t repeat that. But here is a quick summary.
Memphis Taproom – Their No-Repeat beer week was outstanding! I stopped in three times, but I always felt like I was missing something great every day that I wasn’t there! The highlight for me was the Allagash Interlude, what a complex beer! But the Fuller on cask was great, Obamagang, La Merle Saison, Port Midnight sessions, the list goes on!
Triumph – I found myself here a bunch of times too. First for a beer and cheese tasting. While not sublime, I enjoyed it quite a bit. The Klash of the Kaisers was awesome too, with a cheap 9 beer flight of some amazing pilsners. I voted Sly Fox’s Saint Charles Bridge as my favorite.
The Brewery Bike Ride – I posted a recap of the ride over at Beer of the Bike. Over 150 people came out for this event!
Zythos – This was by far my favorite event of the week. It was tolerably crowded, had a really nice food spread, and had some amazing beers. I felt like within the first hour I got my ticket’s worth. Sure I would have liked more visible signage for the tables, and some drinking water would have been nice, but overall this event ruled. A full post about the beers I tried might be warranted, but for a taste: Scires, Super Baladin, Hanssens’ kriek, gueze, and cassis, Taras Boulba, De Ranke XX Bitter, ‘t Smisje Calva Reserva and Grand Reserva, Urthel Samaranth, and 12% Importers had some spectacular bottles that I need to track down the names of.
In summary: I can’t wait for next year!
Friday night, Lois and I had the unexpected pleasure of a kid free date night. We decided to eat at the South Phila Taproom. I’ve had a thing for this bar for awhile, but the recent expansion and kitchen turnover had made us particularly anxious to check it out again. Most importantly because Lois’ brother is part of the kitchen staff that moved over from Bridgewater’s in 30th St station (which I was only moderately fond of the one time we ate there).
So after dropping the girls off at Grammy’s, we raced straight to south Philly. We did drive, contrary to my normal and desired method of transportation. Parking was a breeze, and I must say, there was a bounce to our steps as we made our way around the corner to the bar. We were met on the street by our old friend and partner in crime Adam, who works as a bar back there, and quickly made our way to a 2 seater next to the kitchen.
Had I read the review in PW closer, I would have realized that Lois’ brother Zach is the Sous Chef there, and is “kinda a big deal.” He introduced us to the chef who was more than friendly and excited to meet us. It was the night after the Bell’s event there, so there was still ample Bell’s on draft. I had a Lager of the Lake, while Lois had a Two Hearted IPA. I was in the mood for some lighter session beers, and the Bell’s did the trick.
The first thing that was brought out to us, courtesy of Zach, and without even asking, was the Mr Mancuso’s cheese plate. Zach is well aware of my cheese fetish, so this was much appreciated. It was a lovely plate of 4 kinds of cheese, and various accoutrements, including figs, dried apricots, balsamic syrup, and strawberries. The cheeses were “plain old,” as I suggested to the chef, in a regrettable faux pax, however they were spectacular. I have a tendency to treat cheese like extreme beer, and seek out the wildest, funkiest, bluest there is. But the simple sharp provolone Mr Mancuso provided was perhaps one of the best cheeses I’ve ever had. Perfectly balanced between sweet and sharp, I would even go as far to say that the texture was sexual in its chewiness. Lois preferred the Gorgonzola with balsamic and strawberries. This single plate would have made a completely perfect meal on its own. But there was more to come.
Rapid fire, we were brought a bowl of Poutine and a Frito Lay chili bowl. I’m a sucker for cheese fries, so I dug right into the Poutine, a Canadian version of cheese fries with mushroom gravy and cheese curd. Both Zach and the chef scorned this dish, but dang. Dang! The Frito Lay chili dish, Zach informed us, is a southern meal that construction workers eat for lunch: a bag of Fritos filled with chili. I don’t know how much truth there is to the origin, but our vegetarian version was hearty and delicious. Of all the uneaten food (keep reading, there was lots), this is the only thing that Lois insisting on boxing up to take home.
At this point, we are throughly filled. I had a Bells Amber, which I’ve not had on draft before, and Lois jumped right into a Third Coast Old Ale, one of my favorite beers. We nibbled at the mounds of unfinished appetizers as we discussed how we were going to manage the main courses that we probably shouldn’t have ordered. Lois ordered the fish and chips, and I got the scallop sliders. The scallops were delicious, coated with bourbon bar-b-q sauce, and served on buttery biscuits so light that they almost fought against the scallops in a battle of softness. As Lois could barely manage more than a bite of her fish and chips, I was charged with the difficult task of helping her eat them. They were a bit greasy, but forgivably so, as the IPA batter was beyond amazing. The three fried shrimps that accompanied the cod were perhaps the best seafood I’ve eating since I’ve started eating fish. And the cod was so tender, wonderfully balanced by the crisp coating of batter. I continued to enjoy long after my stomach begged me to stop.
As I sipped a newly tapped and cloudy glass of Bells Sparkling Ale, Zach insisted we try his own dessert creation: a strawberry mint trifle. He explained the triple layered parfait like dessert in detail, which we blatantly ignored, worried more about the possibility of actually being able to eat it. (It consisted of strawberry compote, chantilly cream, and pound cake coated with Rumple Minz). It was delicious. And it was sadistic of Zach to serve this, as we were both incapable of having more than a couple spoonfuls of it.
In the end, I believe that this meal was one of my favorite meals ever. I’m proud and excited to see more of what Zach comes up with working there, and looking forward to tasting more of it.
Acting on a secret tip found on BeerAdvocate.com (and sent out to the bar’s entire mailing list), Lois and I finally made the time to check out the newly opened Memphis Taproom. They had just tapped a keg of Deranger, an Imperial Red ale from the Laurelwood Public House in Portland, OR.
The bar itself is lovely, classy and set up well, if perhaps a bit small (intimate, rather). I’d been following their progress for the past several months, and I was glad to hear of their opening. I had been meaning to check it out, but hadn’t been able to make the time to get over there. It really lives up to the hype, in my mind. A little neighborhood beer bar, just far enough away for a bike ride (about a mile from me), a good menu (that we didn’t get to dive into), and great prices! Pints of the Deranger were only $4! I think that all drafts are $4 actually. I’ll definitely be back there.
I didn’t know about Deranger before yesterday; its hard to keep up with all the obscure and delicious beers out there. Talk on the internet suggested that this beer was worth seeking out for its scarcity and deliciousness. I found it to be true. I’m not nuts about hop bombs, but this beer was wonderfully balanced, as hoppy as it was. The front and after taste are mega bitter, but in the middle there was a delicious creamy malt body. And a whipped cream head that kept frosting my mustache. In the end, I decided on having a second one, rather than try something else.
The neighborhood is a funny one. We lived there several years ago, and I’m well acquainted with some of the interesting nuances. Such as the dude chanting, loudly, “this is going to become yuppy central!” as we rode by. I hope he wasn’t referring to the bar, though I suspect there will be some conflict between the “locals” and the “patrons.” Beer is supposed to be a social lubricant, I certainly hope that the neighborhood sees this bar as an asset, not a gateway to yuppification.