An Evening with Westy

Part 2 of tonight’s post is going to be a description of an event I attended last night at The Blue Dog Tavern

A couple weeks ago, I received an e-mail invitation to attend an event that was particularly exciting for anyone who has more than a passing interest in beer. The invitation was called “An Evening with Westy”. Attached to the e-mail was a photo of the owner, Chris Staub, holding a case of Trappist Westvleteren 12, also known as “Westy 12”.

Care of the United States Military, some of Chris’ family who are stationed overseas in Europe were able to forward the case of beer that is unavailable for purchase here in the United States. It also happens to be widely regarded as one of the best beers in the world, as cited by numerous sources. The invitation simply said, “Westy 12 and other beer, snacks and finger food”. I responded that I would attend and went the next week or so very curious as to what the night would be like.

I headed over with my good friend Ethan (PhillyBeerSnob) and we arrived a bit early, because there are always a few minutes to spend in the bottle shop. We got to talking with other folks who were there for the event, some of whom I recognized from the bar on various nights.

When 7pm arrived, there were around 25 people and a selection of staff in the back dining room.  Chris, the owner, comes into the room carrying the full case of Westy and sits it on the table. He explained how he received it and gave a heartfelt thanks to the staff and patrons gathered in the room. He continued by giving everyone their own bottle to do with as they like- drink or take home. The manager, Rob, told everyone to enjoy themselves, sample whatever we would like from a very large selection of hard to find beers, have some food and socialize.

Now, I don’t consider myself a VIP in any respect, but Monday night was one of the best events I’ve been to in years. I most certainly felt like my business was appreciated, and that I had gotten involved with an excellent group of people. I had been noticing how much I’ve enjoyed talking with everyone at the Blue Dog lately. Last night I realized that was because they are my “Beer Friends”, and that’s a good thing.

While the beer and the socializing took center stage last night, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the food. The cold appetizers included numerous artisanal cheeses and meats which were delicious. The hot items included mussels, seafood bites and a little item that resembled a deep fried pierogie. I’m not sure what it was, but they were awesome and I had quite a few. By the way, none of the items were on the normal menu, excellent detail!

Obviously, the Westy was the high point of the evening. Since we’ve been brewing at home and we knew we’d be getting together eventually, Ethan and I decided to take one bottle home, and split the other one there. Given the excitement of the night, the normal reviewing template went right out the window. (there’s still another bottle for an official review later).

The first thing I noticed was how crazy aggressive the head was. The beer was so carbonated I got about 2 inches of beer and 3 inches of head… had me a bit worried. After I sipped it, I realized there was nothing to worry about. Being a Belgian Quad (short for Quadruple), the Westy is a pretty big beer at 10.2% ABV. The first thing I noticed was how balanced it was. The yeasty flavors were balanced by the malty flavors, the sweetness was balanced by the bitterness and the carbonation was great. The predominant flavors were dried candied fruits like raisins and plums with a good amount of candied sugar backed by a bit of bitterness. It really is an awesome beer. I was excited to have tasted it, but really disappointed that we can’t get it in the U.S. Such a shame!

As far as the other beers that were available, there must have been 2 to 3 dozen different things. I started to write stuff down, but continued to get taken away to talk about something new or say “Hi” to someone else. So, I’ll just list the ones I was able to sample with a few quick notes.

In order of tasting:
Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout- Wow! One of the best of the night. Definitely one of the best stouts I’ve ever had. Thick and creamy with tons of coffee actually tempered the bourbon to a fine balance.

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout- Great stout. Lots of bourbon!

Mikkeller Black Hole Barrel Aged Series- 4 different beers. Aged in Wine barrels, Rum barrels, Bourbon barrels and Whiskey barrels. Rum was great, bourbon was very nice, whiskey was very peaty and different, and the wine was more subtle.

Allagash 10th Anniversary- Belgian Strong Pale Ale. Really good. Have had consistently good products from Allagash.

Dieu Du Ciel- Route Des Epices. Rye beer brewed with peppercorns. I liked it. Very unique, I’m glad I tasted it. Would like to try it again.

Founder KBS Kentucky Breakfast Stout- didn’t taste it last night, but have had it before. Spectacular.

Bullfrog Edgar IPA- nice and bitter. Refreshing after having so many stouts.

Revelation Cat Craft Brewing- Oak aged series- French Oak, American Oak and Acasia wood. Very interesting series. Hard to describe because the bottles got mixed up from the wrapper which had the type of wood on it.

As the evening progressed, I talked with Chris and asked what made him decide to do something like this with the Westy case. His response: “What else would I do with it.” You know, now that you mention it… I think that’s exactly what I would do with it too. (But I would keep a bottle for a few years).

Two and a half hours later I headed out for home in surprisingly good shape. I ate pasta earlier in the day, and I knew to have very small samples with lots of water.

So, to Chris, Rob, everyone at The Blue Dog Tavern and all the new Beer Friends I met last night: Thank you for a great evening and I look forward to seeing all of you soon!

Greg – PhillyBeerAmbassador

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 9:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Review: The Blue Dog Tavern, Chalfont, PA

Today’s post is going to be different than most posts that will appear on this site. Today I’m going to review a local restaurant and also talk about a local beer event from Monday night June 28, 2010. It’s convenient because the event was held at the restaurant that will be discussed.

The Blue Dog Family Tavern, . Chalfont, PA.(215) 997-9988

For anyone familiar with the area, The Blue Dog is located on Route 202 North about 2 miles above Montgomeryville, at the intersection of Rout 202 and County Line Road. This is the location where I acquire 75% of all the beers that will end up being reviewed. Sometimes I purchase something as take-out from the store in the front of the restaurant, sometimes it’s sitting down and having a new beer at the bar. They have 2 dining rooms in addition to a sizeable bar area with pool, darts and music. They also have Trivia during the week, check the website for scheduling.

Since these posts are all related to beer, it makes sense to discuss how The Blue Dog fares with respect to the bar. There are currently 24 drafts on tap ranging from standards like Budweiser and Coors, all the way through various Stouts, IPAs, Saisons and others. The draft list changes frequently and updates may be viewed on Facebook at Blue Dog Tavern. Each time I sit down at the bar, I always notice a good variety with the tap selection. The list may sometimes be a bit heavy on beers that happen to be in season, as I would expect, but there is usually something there for everyone.

In addition to the draft list, they have a full complement of spirits for those who might not be in the mood for beer (shame on you).

Having eaten at the restaurant on numerous occasions, I was pleased to see good variety on the menu, but not so much that they lose their focus. I happen to favor traditional bar food normally and their wings, both regular and boneless, are particularly good, as are the nachos. I’ve also had the crab cakes, French Onion soup, and numerous sandwiches, all of which were very tasty. A quick review of the menu on their website will show anyone thinking of visiting what is available to eat. The prices are in line with where I would expect, and the wings are under eight bucks. Whether you’re going for lunch, dinner or just want some great bar food, the menu is very satisfying.

In addition to the tap list, the other high point of The Blue Dog is their bottle shop to the right of the entrance. They usually stock around 100 bottles shelved and another 50 types in refrigerators. I’m usually able to find a beer that’s a regular standard, one that I’ve never tried, or even a bottle that’s uncommon or rare. Prices in the bottle shop are very good, and are lower than other local bottle shops I’ve visited.

The staff is friendly and surprisingly knowledgeable about the beer that they serve. An employee once told me that the staff is encouraged to taste some of the beers on tap and in the bottle shop so they can better describe them to patrons. It’s a darn good way to sell beer, if you ask me.

Obviously, I’m a big fan of The Blue Dog Family Tavern. I think the food is good, the beer is great and I’ve gotten to know a good portion of the staff by name. Anyone looking to expand their knowledge of beer, purchase a few bottles to drink, or simply have a fun night out would do well to check out the Blue Dog. One of my favorites.

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 9:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Beer Review #1- Russian River Brewing: Registration Ale

Russian River Brewing Company.  Santa Rosa, CA.

Registration Ale.
American India Pale Ale. 7.5% ABV. 

On tap at Via Marconi’s Pizza Pub in Lansdale, PA. Served very cold in a thick, heavy chalice. $5.75.

There is a bit of back story that goes with this beer. A few months ago in March 2010, Russian River was shipping one of their world renowned beers named “Pliny the Younger”. Allegedly, since the beer only arrives in Pennsylvania once a year in such small quantities, Russian River rarely goes to the trouble to register the beer with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB). Well, this year, the PLCB decided to actually raid bars in Philadelphia and confiscate kegs and bottles from various breweries that weren’t registered at each drinking establishment. So, Russian River decided to create this brew to poke fun at the PLCB: hence, the name- Registration.  At least, that’s how the story goes…

Anyway, my glass of Registration arrived and I was able to begin the process. For those of you who may not be familiar with reviewing a beer, I’ll pass on a few basics that I’ve learned over the past few months.

The first thing most reviewers do is to observe the beer and describe how it looks. Registration has a crystal clear golden color almost headed toward orange. There is minimal visible carbonation and very little head.

The next step is to smell the beer and try to grasp some of the aromas that it resembles. When I inhaled, the only aroma I sensed was that of hops, hops and more hops. Very fruity varieties with a minimal bitterness in the aroma.

After sniffing the beer, which must have looked silly in the bar, I took a sip and was a bit surprised by the amount of pine flavors. The primary flavors were the fruity hops that were suggested in the aroma, but there was a strong presence of pine with a bit of fresh cut grass in the flavors. Despite the apparent lack of bitterness in the aroma, the finish was bitter as any good IPA would provide. This is a very good IPA.

Following the first taste, I usually take a few more sips to describe the mouth feel of the brew. Here is an IPA that has a bit more body than I would normally expect. Thicker than water, but not quite as thick as their Double IPA “Pliny the Elder”. Carbonation was less than expected, but still present.

Finally, a reviewer would normally make a few notes on how “drinkable” the beer is. I would have to say that Registration is high on the list of drinkable beers. It would be particularly refreshing on a 90 degree day like today. Enjoyable and easy to drink, I could definitely have a few if I had a designated driver. The alcohol comes in at 7.5% ABV, and while delicious, I’m a bit of a lightweight when it comes to the bigger beers.

Overall, I think Registration is another excellent beer to come from Russian River Brewing. I was very happy to have an opportunity to taste it because there were very few shipments of it to Pennsylvania. I might find an excuse to have another sometime this week before the keg kicks. Good job, guys!

Final Rating- A-

Published in: on June 26, 2010 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Opening Statement

Welcome, Everyone, to PhillyBeerAmbassador.

My name is Greg and I am your Ambassador to all things “Beer”.

Let me start by giving you a short history of my personal beer experiences.

I’ve always enjoyed having a few beers, but have gotten more involved in the “Craft Beer” hobby over the past year. I started out joining a simple beer club where all the work selecting different beers was done for me. Following that, I began doing all my own research on purchasing beer for tasting, which led to writing reviews for all the new brews that were tasted.

After gaining some knowledge, in May ‘10, I decided that it would be fun to grow Hop plants in the yard. They are doing well and I’ll post information about them periodically. Logically, that led to home brewing. The first test was an Imperial Ale and it turned out well. Currently, there is a second batch brewing, this time a Belgian White with orange and coriander.

Here on PhillyBeerAmbassador, my primary purpose will be to review various craft beers. There will be a wide variety of reviews ranging from local craft brews, rare-hard to find beers, as well as a few beers from larger companies.

Beyond that… I’m sure there will be discussion of other beer topics- including brewing beer and growing hops at home.

So, enjoy the content and thanks for visiting. Hope to see you soon.


Published in: on June 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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