Ale Street News October/November 2007

Regional News: Philadelphia

Rich Wagner

Can collector and local craft-beer-aphile-about-town John Ahrens was surprised Friday, August 10, when he dropped by Independence Brewpub and found a half dozen or so uniformed employees sitting outside, one of whom said, “I think they’re closing the brewery.” Reportedly, Tim Roberts was told to stop “mid-brew” so they could close the place up! At issue was nearly a million dollars in overdue rent, and some sources say that the equipment will be sold off, and some say it will reopen as a brewpub, so at this point the outcome remains to be seen.

Just following that seismic tremor, it was announced that in some strange sort of fermentive mitosis, one brewery would become two! Tom Kehoe’s Yards Brewing Co. is splitting off from partners Bill and Nancy Barton. Tom says, “Yards is expanding! We traded in some shareholders and eliminated some debt. I’ve already purchased a new brewing system and Yards will continue to brew all the same products.” The equipment and future site of Yards Brewing Co. is, as yet, an undisclosed location.

Bill and Nancy Barton together with longtime business partner Jim McBride, will retain the real estate and equipment and are forming the Philadelphia Brewing Co. ( Nancy says they are excited about the prospects and are busy planning for an early 2008 startup. The Bartons have long been advocates of locally-produced products and announced that Philadelphia Brewing was teaming up with Greensgrow Farm, a local cheese maker, by providing them with a “Cheese Cave” in the brewery cellar. The farm will be growing herbs for use in some of Philadelphia Brewing’s planned “Herban Garten” Seasonals.

Then, in seemingly another blink of an eye, I was at the opening of Dock Street’s new brewpub, seated at the bar enjoying pizza and Rye IPA. I had already settled on the name “Rye-P-A” before even tasting it and really enjoyed the rye and the Simcoe and Amarillo hops flavors. Scott “The Dude” Morrison was responsible for the startup brews: Rye IPA (6.2%), Gold Stock Ale (4.5%) and White Ale (4.8%) which were all superb! Owner Rosemarie Certo even treated the assembled “illiterati” (as George Hummel refers to himself and fellow beer writers Jack Curtin and Don “Joe Sixpack” Russell, as well as those not present) to a very malty Imperial Oatmeal Stout that defied description! Those assembled where glad to see Jeff Ware, who showed up looking more like Bob Dylan than I remembered, saying he was there to make pizzas! It should be noted that unlike at the original Dock Street opening in October 1990, now customers can order the Dock Street Amber and Illuminator bottled contract products and Pennsylvania wines.

Taking over from Scott, brewer Julius Hummer is a 1985 Masters in Brewing Science graduate from the British School of Malting and Brewing. He told me his dad is one of the founders of Boulder Brewing Co. I told him about being at Boulder’s original “Goat Farm” brewery in Longmont, CO, while attending the first GABF in 1982. I remembered the wooden cases and how they had been “branded” Boulder Brewing Co. Julius said that as a high school student he had the job of branding the cases!

Most recently from Otter Creek in Vermont, Julius has been around the world setting up and working in breweries and brewpubs. He says he is particularly fond of cask ales, and his personal beer favorite is Fuller’s ESB, adding that he’d like to make a beer with fruit or maple syrup, possibly a porter style with cherries. Rosemarie wants him to roll out some American styles, starting with a Bass-inspired “Left Coast Red.”

Manayunk Brewing Co.’s Kayak Tours are expected to be running through October, and they’ve got a great Octoberfest beer lined up which brewer Chris Firey says, “is similar to our Vienna Lager but with more body—I hop it up a little and it finishes around 6%.” This year’s Harvest Ale will be made with 130 lbs. of fresh Warrior Hops, which are being “over-nighted from the picking fields.” It’s a pain to make—he’ll be using the lauter tun as a hop back—but the results are worth it. He says it’s the best beer they make all year: “It tastes like hops smell! We’re going to make as much as possible, probably around 20 barrels, which will involve some high gravity brewing.”

The Ladies of IPA never cease to amaze me with the beer bars they find! Recent meetings included National Mechanics at 22 S. 3rd St., followed by the newly opened Jose Pistoals at 263 S. 15th St., which replaces Copa Too and boasts a dozen taps and over 100 bottled beers. Most recently: a crawl from St. Stephens at 17th & Green to the recently opened Belgian Cafe at 2047 Green St.

Tria, the Wine, Beer and Cheese Café, opened its second location at 12th & Spruce this summer. Check out the schedule for their Fermentation School .

Tom Buonanno, Brand Coordinator for Muller Distributers, says to watch for: Stegmaier Oktoberfest (in bottles), Erie Brewing’s Fallenbock, and Flying Fish Octoberfish. Also on the horizon are a bourbon-aged Scotch-style ale (next in Stoudt’s Brewmaster’s Reserve series) and Schneider Brooklyner Hopfen Weiss, a collaborative effort between two breweries (next in Brooklyn’s Brewmaster’s Reserve series). Wolavers Oatmeal Stout is now available in draught year-round, as is Otter Creek’s bottled White Sail Belgian White style.