Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Devil's Den (South Philadelphia) - Beer and Pub Grub

Located at the corner of 11th Street and Ellsworth in South Philadelphia sits Devil's Den. It's an American gastropub serving up delicious food and craft ales. A very cozy atmosphere with a nice food menu, including brunch on the weekends. What about the beer? 16 rotating taps of quality craft offerings and also a beer engine.

On this visit, I ordered their cheeseburger. (Pictured above) A hand-formed patty of quality beef with melted cheddar on a brioche style bun. The burger was very well seasoned, juicy and had great flavor. Cooked to order, a prefect medium. Served with fries, that were excellent, and a delicious spicy remoulade sauce. This is up there with one of the best burger I had in Philadelphia.

This is one of the best craft beer bars in Philadelphia. Great food and beer with a really nice atmosphere and friendly service. Devil's Den has some awesome events as well, from Philly Beer Week to Craft Beer Express or one that features a rare beer. (Think Russian River Pliny the Younger and Bell's Black Note) Highly recommended.


On tap, Maine Beer Company Mean Old Tom:

look: 4
smell: 3.5
taste: 3.5
feel: 3.5
overall: 3.7
Appears an opaque, almost black color body with a creamy mocha colored head.  Decent retention and lacing.

Smell of chocolate, coffee, roasted malts and a slight hint of vanilla. Not the most aromatic stout, but what's there is nice.

Taste is a tad thin. Chocolate and roasted malts with some coffee notes. I'm picking up a touch of vanilla also.

Mouthfeel is a medium with light carbonation. This is a lighter stout that is slight watery and thin.

Devil's Den Website: http://www.devilsdenphilly.com/


Devil's Den on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Claymont Steak Shop (Claymont, DE) - Cheesesteak


Appears a stuffed 12" roll, very thinly sliced meat with fried onions and semi-melted american cheese on the bottom. - 3.5

The roll is pretty mediocre. Upon first glance, I couldn't tell what kind of roll this was. I took a look behind the counter and saw a box of rolls with Serpe Bakery on the side. I never heard of these rolls before. These rolls are too soft and squishy for cheesesteaks in my opinion. - 2

The meat is ribeye, shaved really thin. It's tender but dry, bland and a tad over cooked. There is a lot of meat packed in this sandwich but it's a shame it's underseasoned and doesn't have much flavor. - 2

The cheese is american slices placed on top of the roll, that just ends up semi-melted. I like the cheese melted with the meat, so I get some cheese with each bite. - 2.5

Overall, I was a little disappointed with this sandwich. I was excepting a better cheesesteak after hearing these guys won a few awards. - 2.5

Total Score - 2.7/5

Claymont Steak Shop's Website: http://claymontsteakshop.com/

Claymont Steak Shop on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 6, 2012

Philly Food and Beer's First Annual "Grand Cru" Homebrew Competition - RESULTS!

Firstly, I want to say what a joy it was to have such an extremely successful event with almost twice as many beers as anticipated being entered.  We had a total of 66 entries.  Not too shabby for giving this the green light only one month ago.  The amount of support we've had from local brewers, along with our event sponsors has been outstanding.  Once again, THANKS TO ALL who contributed, or helped out in some way, shape, or form.

The panel of 6 judges(w/ one extra as a tie breaker) compiled all of the best beers that we tasted in teams of two.  The best were pooled in based on the scores that each team had given the beers, along with any others that maybe deserved a shot to be placed after consulting with other judges' thoughts.
On to the results of the best local homebrews that were available in 2011(looking forward to this next year, so start squirling away your best ones now!)...

First Place:           Eric Gajdzis, Schwenksville, PA (No Affiliated Homebrew Club) - Gueze
This Gueze was a blend of aged lambics(1 year old, 2 year old, 3 year old).

  This beer was not only the favorite of our on-hand BJCP judge but it was hands-down, the favorite of the panel. 

Yellow toned gold with a tiny head that quickly faded into a collar. 
Notes of apricot, funk, vanilla, apple, and cracked wheat.
Flavors of tart fruit, apricot, horse blanket, and apple skins.  Lighter body with minimum CO2 levels.
Well done brew.  Our one judge compared it to Drie Fonteinen Gueze.


Second Place:        Marc Breton, Birdsboro, PA (No Affiliated Homebrew Club) - Truck Stop Pale Ale
  A bottle conditioned APA featuring Warrior, Amarillo, and Citra hops.

The aromatics of this beer jumped right out upon getting close to the glass.  Lots of hoppy resins, and a balanced malt bill that was another favorite during deliberations. 
Obvious citrus notes were the standout of this beer.  Wonderful head retention and lacing.  The beer finished nice and clean.







Third Place:             Jesse Kuiper, North Wales, PA (No Affiliated Homebrew Club)  - American Lager

    Jesse must know a few things about making lagers because this won over myself, and another judge, who aren't the biggest fans of these styles.  The other judges agreed that this was a top Five beer.  It was a pale gold with a thick, white foamy head that slowly faded away.  Lots of scattered bits of lacing left around the glass.  Aromas of fruit, citrus, grassy hops, with mild touches of malt, caramel, and a touch of nuttiness.  On top of this beer, Jesse made another well done Pilsner which I couldn't believe the other judges didn't get into the top class, despite pleads.    I was happy to see this one place third, overall.




Fourth Place:        Jeremiah Eastep, Lancaster, PA (Lancaster County Brewers) - Bourbon Peach
 5% ABV made with Belgian Pils, Vienna, Crystal 40, Centennial hops, and home-made peach pie filling.  It was aged on bourbon soaked oak cubes.

As ridiculous of an idea as it sounds - it worked!  The aromas were of ripe peaches floating in a bourbon barrel with some spices.  My only regret was that I didn't get more of this treat!






Fifth Place:                 Craig Smith, Philadelphia, PA (No Affiliated Homebrew Club) - Smoked IPA

Appears a semi-transparent, dark gold with a medium white head.  Nice lacing is left around the glass.  Aromas of tons of Amarillo-like, citrus, and floral notes combined with smoke.  Flavors are aggressive and delightful with notes of pine, vanilla, light toffee, and smoke in the finish.  A very impressive beer.  Raw hops in the nose.  The smoke hits late in the flavor and lingers.  Spot on beer!






Honorable Mention Beers(Five):
  • Blake Morris, Nazareth, PA (The Brewing Network) - Lagavulin Barleywine
  • Eric Gajdzis, Schwenksville, PA (No Affiliated Homebrew Club) - Aged Kriek
  • Joe Moran/Matt Kennedy, Hereford, PA (Bruclear Homebrew Club) - Belinoma
  • Tom Foley(w/John Rambo and Dave Sauls), Spring City, PA (Bruclear Homebrew Club) - JD Barleywine
  • Dave Weand, Pottstown, PA (Bruclear Homebrew Club) - Peanut Butter Cup Porter
Beers that just missed out (worth mentioning due to all the arguing we did for an hour!):
  • Tom Foley, Spring City, PA (Bruclear Homebrew Club) - Lavendar Saison
  • Jesse Kuiper, North Wales, PA (No Affiliated Homebrew Club) - Pilsner
  • Matt Ney, Manchester, PA (Lancaster County Homebrewers) - Mead
  • Jim Lombardi, Oreland, PA (No Affiliated Homebrew Club) - Last Chance Porter
  • Josh Weikert, Collegeville, PA (Stoney Creek Homebrewers) - Raisin Bock
  • Joe Moran/Matt Kennedy, Hereford, PA (Bruclear Homebrew Club) - Quad 
  • Jeremiah Eastep, Lancaster, PA (Lancaster County Homebrewers) - Eggnog Stout
  • Matt Ney, Manchester, PA (Lancaster County Homebrewers) - Bourbon Brett Porter
     

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 Best Philadelphia Beer Awards!

This year, we're focusing on "NEW" beers in the market.  We'll be examining both locally produced beer, along with non-local(domestic) selections that are new to the Philly market.  The top five locally produced beers' brewers will receive an award, along with a Philly Food and Beer award medal.

We've also taken a good look at either "New, or Improved Bars" in the area.  One for the City, and One for the Suburbs.  The winners of this category will also take an award, along with a "Best of" award medal.

Top Five New Local Beers of 2011
1.) Weyerbacher Brewing's Rapture - Appears a hazy red toned amber with a small, off white head that slowly faded into a mild collar and floating cap.
Smell is of cherry pie, rhubarb, grapes, and red wine.
Taste is of the aromas with a tart cherry and vanilla flavors.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, tart, yet balanced with a mildly acidic and sweet tart flavor lingering. Well done!





2.) Iron Hill (West Chester) Saison Melange - Appears a transparent light gold with a small white head. Scattered bits of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of tart lemons, vanilla, citrus, light pils malt, and overripened pears. Extremely mild note of diacytel that I'm probably stretching by even mentioning. Not a bad thing though.
Taste is amazing. Lots of Brett character, oak, and funky lemon zest. Better than Jolly Pumpkin!!!!
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, tart, zesty, and refreshing.





3.) McKenzie Brewing's La Soeur Mechant - Appears a hazy gold with an amber hue when held to the light. A small white head of fluff slowly fades into a floating cap. Beautiful lacing and collar.
Smell is of concord grapes, muscat, and maybe some wild cherries with hints of floral notes. Perhaps a hint of a tart-like grain in the background like a wheat.
Taste is of the aromas with a punch of white wine. Absolutely delicious stuff here.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, chewy at first, with an acidic coating along the tongue leading to a very dry finish.
This one reminds me a tad of an aged Orval. Bravo, McK guys!


4.) Iron Hill(Phoenixville) Val D'Or - Appears a hazy light gold with a a fluffy white head that slowly fades into a gentle cap. Scattered streaks of lacing are left arond the glass. Steady streams of co2 quickly rise to the top.
Smell is of grassy, earthy, mushroom, funky brett, wet hay, a glass of old sugar, and refreshing bitter citrus.
Taste mimics the aromas with a tart, dry floral flavor that is superb. Yes...saison-esque with funky tartness and country farmhouse essence that I haven't encountered in too many domestic beers. Tim & Matt, very well done!
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, effervescent, tart, and dry.
Damn fine beer that I hope makes several returns. Shadows of Orval flow from this beverage and I can't wait to get another taste.

5.) Earth Bread + Brewery's Trois Enfants - Appears a deep, dark brown with a turbid, russet hue when held to the light. A small, off white cap slowly fades into a mild cap that floats. Scattered bits of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is malty with a touch of roast, and dried coffee. Belgian esters jump out of the glass, requiring a second glance. Some notes of ripe fruit and orange rind entice the olfactory sensories.
Taste is of the aromas with the yeast being the star of the beer with the malt bill playing a close second fiddle. The rye agrees with the blend, drying out the flavors in the classic style of a saison.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, with mild carbonation, a hint of tartness, and a zesty, dry finish.
Well done collaborative beer by three wonderful brewers!

Best of the rest - HONORABLE MENTION
Spring House Brewing's Big Gruesome - Appears a dense, dark brown nearing black with a fluffy brown head that slowly fades into a gentle cap and collar. Spotty bits of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of LOTS of peanut butter up front with a complementary cocoa and a touch coffee and cream.
Taste is of the mentioned with a blast of bitter cocoa and hops.
Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied, slick, and dry in the finish.




Tröegs Brewing's Perpetual IPA - Appears a transparent orange with a mild white cap that slowly fades into a gentle head and collar. Scattered spotty bits of lacing is left around the interior.
Smell is of orange, citrus, and spicy pepper.
Taste is of the aromas with a punch of pine needles, and balanced citrus.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, balanced with a gentle abrasive spiciness along the tongue.





Best New, or Improved Bar of 2011
Philadelphia: The Farmers' Cabinet - This eclectic establishment boasts the finest selection of imported draft lines in the city.  In the advent of the "key keg" invasion, The Farmers' Cabinet has managed to get nearly every good import that has been offered in the Philadelphia market.  Not only have they established themselves as the capo of imports; they've expanded draft lines to include limited craft beer selections offered domestically.

Philly Suburbs: Railroad Street Bar & Grill in Linfield, PA - Owner, Mike McCloskey has turned this establishment into a true-tested beer bar that the locals adore and the beer seekers frequent.  Add in the affordable pub grub menu and this place is the kind of establishent that you don't want to leave once you get comfortable.  Recently improved draft lines exceeding 30 + quality beers make RR a must stop.


Top Ten New, Non-Local Beers in the Philly Market of 2011
1.) Firestone Walker 15 Anniversary Ale- 18% Helldorado(11.7% ABV)Blonde Barley Wine.
17% Sticky Monkey (12.5% ABV) English Barley Wine.
17% Bravo (13.5% ABV) Imperial Brown Ale.
13% Double Double Barrel Ale (11.5% ABV) Double Strength English Pale Ale.
11% Good Foot (14.3 ABV) American Barley Wine.
10% Velvet Merkin (8.6% ABV) Traditional Oatmeal Stout.
9% Parabola (13% ABV) Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout.
5% Double Jack (9.5% ABV) Double India Pale Ale.
4.6/5
look: 4.5 ,smell: 5, taste: 4.5, feel: 4.5, overall: 4.5

Appears a dense mahogany with a beige head that slowly fades into a mild cap and collar. Scattered spots of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of oak, rum, bourbon, cocoa, vanilla, caramel, molasses, and brown sugar.
Taste is of the aromas with a huge chunk of nougat and vanilla with caramel and cocoa.
Mouthfeel is full bodied, chewy, balanced, with some heat in the background.

2.) Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel Aged Plead the 5th - 4.6/5
look: 4.5
smell: 5
taste: 4.5
feel: 4.5
overall: 4.5
Appears a dense, dark midnight toned onyx. A small tan head slowly fades into a gentle cap and collar. Spotty bits of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of campfire s'mores with black grapes and sugary syrup.
Taste is of the aromas with a sugary sweetness up front followed by an oaky, vanilla, caramel blast.
Mouthfeel is sticky, full bodied, sugary, intensely insane, and smooth in the finish.
Jeez! This is one sick beer!

3.) Firestone Walker Parabola - 4.6/5
look: 4.5
smell: 5
taste: 4.5
feel: 4.5
overall: 4.5
Appears a turbid opaque onyx with russet toned edges. A small, foamy tan head slowly fades. Scattered streaks of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of dark bakers chocolate, vanilla beans, sugary rum, bourbon, and intense caramel. Sheesh! I could smell this all afternoon.
Taste is of the aromas with a fine sipping version of caramel, vanilla, and cocoa. Obvious bourbon influence on a well done imperial stout. Hells yeahs!
Mouthfeel is a tad boozy, as expected, full bodied, chewy, with a resonating sugar cookie and chocolate chip finish.

4.) Firestone Walker Abacus(§ucaba) -


5.) Port Brewing 5th Anniversary - 4.35/5
look: 4.5
smell: 4.5
taste: 4.5
feel: 4
overall: 4
Appears a glowing, orange tone gold with a fluffy white head that slowly fades into a gentle cap and collar. Spotty bits of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of solid citrus, pine sap, caramel, and herbs. Pumelo blasts through in a refreshing wave.
Taste is of sugared grapefruit, candied oranges, floral notes, and herbs.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, chewy, semi dry, citrus lingering and super balanced. 10%...really? Could've fooled me.

6.) Half Acre Daisy Cutter - 4.33/5
look: 4
smell: 4.5
taste: 4.5
feel: 4
overall: 4
Appears a hazy light gold with a small white head that sticks around for a while before fading into a fluffy cap. Scattered bits of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of intense herb, citrus, orange peel, pine sap, and fresh fruit. Excellent, excellent stuff!
Taste is of the aromas with a solid balance of sugary malt and complex malt highlighted by citrusy, and full of resinous sap.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied yet amazingly sticky with hops pouring all over the palate. I can't believe they got this kind of hoppy goodness out of a 5.2% beer!
Well done!

7.) The Bruery Cuir(blend) - 4.2/5

look: 4
smell: 4.5
taste: 4
feel: 4
overall: 4.5
Appears a chestnut toned amber with a small beige head that quickly fades into a thin collar. Spotty bits of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of black grapes, vanilla, toffee, caramel, and bitter citrus.
Taste is sweet of beet sugar, prune juice, raisins, and brown sugar.
Mouthfeel is full bodied, viscous, hot, and slick in the finish.


8.) Maine Beer Co. Zoe  - 4.2/5

look: 4
smell: 4.5
taste: 4
feel: 4
overall: 4.5
Appears a light amber toned orange with a luscious white head that never fades away. Scattered bits of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of danky weeds with a floral blast along with citrus and perfume.
Taste is of a balanced sugary blend of perfume and floral hops. Pretty damn tasty stuff.
Mouthfeel is medium bodied, full of flavors with an herbal tea lasting finish. Well done beer!

9.) Stone Brewing 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA -





10.) Williamsburg Bourbon Barrel Porter - 4.1/5
look: 4
smell: 4.5
taste: 4
feel: 4
overall: 4
Appears a dark brown nearing black with a small tan head that never wants to fade away. Scattered bits of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of dark chocolate, brown sugar, toffee, vanilla, and light traces of bourbon.
Taste is of the aromas with vanilla, caramel, and bitter chocolate coming to mind amongst the flavors.
Mouthfeel is full bodied, smooth, a tad bitey from the wood aging, and semi-dry on the finish.

Honorable Mention: Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale - 4.03/5

look: 4.5
smell: 4
taste: 4
feel: 4
overall: 4
Appears a transparent gold with a fluffy white head and thick collar. Scattered bits of lacing are left around the glass.
Smell is of grapefruit, pine sap, herbs, and a touch of green onions.
Taste is of the aromas with a flavorful bitter. Nice hoppy flavors as the front beat with citrus and herbs.
Mouthfeel is thick, hearty, sweet, and bitter yet balanced.