27 January, 2009

Zahav: Restaurant Week Report

Philadelphia's Restaurant Week is on. The semi-annual promotion means you can eat at some of the city's best eateries at the set price of $35 for 3 or more courses.

Tonight, HM and I ate at Zahav, an Israeli restaurant in Old City owned and run by Michael Solomonov, an alum of Vetri and Marigold Kitchen. We agreed that it was the best Restaurant Week meal we've ever had, thanks to the kitchen's excellent cooking, the attentive service, and what we think was a case of mistaken identity.

We started off with drinks: HM with an "Adon Rimon" (Absolut Citron, pomegranate and rose) and I with a Ballast Point IPA (San Diego).

First course: Hummus with oven-hot laffa bread, and a sampler of 8 different cold salads. The tabbouleh, beets with tahini and the carrot with mint were particular highlights.

Second course: Mezze - small plates meant to be shared by the table. Crispy haloumi cheese with dates and nuts; bourekas (pastries) stuffed with mushrooms, feta and chard; fried kibbe (diced raw lamb) with bulgur wheat and pine nuts in a yogurt sauce; and stuffed baby peppers with rice, walnuts and feta. Our waiter also brought, "compliments of the kitchen," an order of burmuelos: crispy leek and mint fritters. This was an absurd amount of food -- I really think one mezze would have been enough for each of us (or maybe we ate too much laffa).

The Ballast Point IPA's bitterness and hoppiness was the perfect compliment to the "three C's" (coriander, cumin and cardamom) that spiced much of the food. One of the busboys saw me checking out the Ballast bottle (no draft beers at Zahav) and struck up a conversation about beer. He was a fan of the IPA, but also recommended the lone Israeli beer on the list, Goldstar. In his words: "It's like Yuengling, but it doesn't totally suck." Classic.

Third course: skewers. Monsieur Merguez (lamb sausage and cous cous) for me and the Galil (baby eggplant, pomegranate) for HM. By this point, we were so full from laffa and mezze that we only ate about half of the skewers and had the rest packaged up.

I should've taken the busboy's advice on Goldstar, but instead I ordered a River Horse Double White -- a good beer, but too soft for the aggressively spiced merguez. The crisp lager would have been a better choice.

After the skewers came our second treat "compliments of the chef" -- glasses of arak served with water and ice on the side. Arak, explained our waiter, is an anise-flavored liquor similar to ouzo or Sambuca. Like ouzo and absinthe, it pours clear but turns cloudy when mixed with water. I've never had ouzo, but I liked arak much better than Sambuca -- it's less sweet and syrupy. Enjoying our arak, we marveled at how Zahav was going all-out for its Restaurant Week patrons: Extra mezze! Free drinks! It was about to get surreal during dessert.

Fourth course: dessert. Lemon-poppy cake and chocolate-pistachio konafi. While we were eating, the chef/owner, Michael Solomonov, came to our table to introduce himself and asked how we were enjoying everything ("excellent!" said we). When he asked "if we were going to any of José's places this week," we knew something was up... assuming he meant José Garces, he must have thought we were high rollers on a first-name basis with one of Philly's hottest chefs. Not us! At first we thought he was making the rounds to all the tables, but he just went back to the kitchen.

I wonder who they thought we were?!?! I mean, we'd never eaten there before, we didn't drop any names, we're not in the business, we don't know José Garces, and we certainly don't eat out that much. We are not important people. It was a strange (and hilarious) end to a great, great meal. All that amazing food for $70 (not including tax, tip, and drinks). I feel like we got away with something.

26 January, 2009

Phillyskyline on Yards

Brad Maule over at Phillyskyline has a nice post about the rebirth of Yards Brewery on the Delaware River. It had been rumored that Yards would have a brewpub on site at their new location on Delaware Ave, but plans seem to have changed a bit:

"...a much anticipated brewpub at the new Yards facility won't quite be a full-time brewpub, as Kehoe doesn't want to cut into the nearby bars in Northern Liberties and Fishtown who sell his beer. "But really, we don't want to be here until 2 in the morning," Mashington (pictured at left) says with a laugh.

But they will be selling beer there -- by the pint, by the sixpack, by the case -- and soon. "Philly Beer Week is coming, and we'd like to have the place presentable by then," Kehoe says."

This is fantastic news! Philly Beer Week starts in March, so that means in a little over a month's time one can tour the brewery and stay to sip a Brawler.

25 January, 2009

Southampton Publick House Altbier

I picked up a case of Southampton's altbier at the local distributor yesterday.  Last year, my friend and fellow homebrewer Lou treated me to a class at Tria Fermentation School on farmhouse ales, taught by Phil Markowski, head brewer at Southampton Publick House.  It was a great class, especially since Phil literally wrote the book on farmhouse ales.  (Thanks Lou!)  Southampton beers are often on tap at beer bars in Philadelphia -- usually the delicious Double White.  Having enjoyed Phil's takes on saison, bier de garde and Belgian wit,  I was eager to try his altbier.  

Altbier is a German ale, traditionally brewed with dark malts and noble hops, associated with the city of Düsseldorf.  Its name means "old (style) beer," as it is one of the most ancient styles in Germany, brewed largely unchanged for hundreds (if not thousands) of years in the lower Rhine region.  In the days before refrigeration, the mild climate there did not allow for the formation of enough ice to produce lagers.  Now, on to the tasting.

True to style, the Southampton alt poured a deep amber, with copper and orange highlights.  More carbonation than I expected, with creamy foam that left very little lacing on the glass.  (Not much head retention after the first sip, either.)  The aroma was full of malt with hints of baked bread and caramel, offset by slightly citrusy hops.  The beer followed through with deep malt and caramel flavors, medium body and a nicely balanced hop finish.  

The label didn't reveal the alcohol content, but it tastes like a session beer - I'd guess around 5%.  Southampton needs to update their website, as this beer was nowhere to be found.  The label did indicate that the bottle was produced in Wilkes-Barre, PA -- perhaps by Lion Brewery?  

All in all, a solid altbier that I would buy again, and would love to try on draft.

22 January, 2009

Obamagang Follow Up

Tim & I made it to Tria (Washington West) yesterday to sample Ommegang's Inauguration Ale.
Here's what Tim had to say:
"I found it very well balanced, and as not a huge fan of cherries, was
pleasantly surprised that there was just the barest hint of cherry,
and sourness, to balance the richness of the chocolate and roasted
malt flavors."
Here are my thoughts:
Very dark in color but surprisingly light in body. It was pretty easy going for an imperial porter/stout. Very smooth and, as Tim mentioned, just a bit of that sour cherry bite at the end.

I heard that some bars are hoarding kegs of this stuff (possibly to haul out for Philly Beer Week!) and I don't blame them.

19 January, 2009

Ommegang Inauguration Ale

Brewery Ommegang is bringing out a limited-edition, draft-only beer to celebrate tomorrow's inaugural festivities.  

From Ommegang's press release:
Inauguration Ale (a.k.a. Obamagang)
January - February
6.2% ABV - Draft only

The TTB won't let us call the beer Obamagang on the keg label. So it will be known legally as Inauguration Ale 2009, but the tap handles will be more...um...direct. The style lies between a porter and stout, with a bit of Kriek and a touch of chocolate blended in. It will be on draft only, beginning with the inauguration - in limited areas including DC, NYC, Syracuse, Philly, Chicago and Boston. We will donate a percentage of sales to charities in the respective cities where the beer is sold, and we've asked our distributors to match our donations and pick the local charities. (Also please note that the beer is not an endorsement of Obama.) 
I was going to ask you, dear reader, to help us find bars pouring Obamagang Ommegang Inauguration Ale in Philadelphia tomorrow.  But the Brew Lounge already did!  I need to learn to use the Google better.  

Not on the Brew Lounge list is Tria Café, who will be pouring Ommegang Inauguration Ale starting at 4pm tomorrow. 

If you know of any other bars to add to the list, let us know in the comments.  

Update: The Femme Fermental reports that Teresa's Next Door in Wayne and TJ's in Paoli have it too.

18 January, 2009

The Art of the Well Poured Pint

It is our belief that Philadelphia is the best beer city on the eastern coast of these United States. It seems that every other week a new beer bar opens in a different neighborhood. But just because we're the best doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. We've been to quite a few ale houses, taprooms, saloons, birrerie and brewpubs in this fair city. We've encountered our fair share of headless pints, overfilled to the point of spilling. It's always a shame to witness the waste of all that tasty foam. On the other hand we've also seen an impatient draftsman completely ruin an Irish stout (the resultant pint consisted of more head than pint and the unlucky patron was forced to give the bartender a crash course in pouring a nitro beer). But we broggers are not here to denigrate. We are for to celebrate the best this city has to offer. To those who cannot pull a pint, who do not let their Guiness settle to perfection: allow us to put you on the road to recovery. Go to these establishments to learn how the professionals do it. We hereby present an incomplete, entirely informal and utterly biased guide to "The Best Pints in Philadelphia."

The Bards - a religious Guinness experience.
Grace Tavern - Reese (aka the best bartender in the city) will have you "covered like a blanket," which is a good thing.
Memphis Taproom/Local 44 - They pull the handpump to great effect.
Standard Tap - Consistently excellent. Check out their firkin wednesdays.
The 700 Club - Knowledgeable staff and delicious beer served properly in the appropriate glassware. Also, there's futbol on the telly.

We will be adding others to the list as they come to mind. In the meantime, we put it to you: where do you go for the perfect pint?

17 January, 2009

I just flew in from Portland, and boy is my beard tired.

Along with being one of the “greenest” cities in the U.S., Portland, Oregon is also our nation’s brewpub capital. You can’t throw a keg without hitting a fine drinking establishment. While it may be winter and the middle of the rainy season out in the great northwest, it was still about 30° degrees warmer than it is here on the east. I sampled some fine beers and since I’ve returned to this frigid weather I’d like to focus on the wintrier of the fermented libations that touched my lips (and sometimes my moustache). They are listed below in the order in which they were consumed.
1) McMenamins Terminator Stout – I was slightly surprised to find this stout served so cold, but that didn’t really detract from its taste. It is a very smooth, dark stout that holds its own. Perfect when escaping the rain.
2) Laurelwood Moose and Squirrel Imperial Russian Stout – At 8% ABV, this Imperial Stout really packs a punch. It has a real coffee aroma, but is not overpowering to the palate.
3) BridgePort Ebenezer Ale – This was one of three BridgePort ales available from the firkin, and it paired perfectly with a cottage pie. It is very smooth and has a good balance of malt and hops. Might be my favorite of the four.
4) Rogue Old Crustacean Barleywine (pictured)– Rogue describes this as “the cognac of beers,” and I couldn’t agree more. It’s malty, slightly acidic, and drinkable. At 11% ABV, one or two will do you just fine.

I will leave ye with a quote (the last line of which was found in Rogue’s beer binder) on drinking from Edgar Allan Poe:

“Filled with mingled cream and amber I will drain that glass again. Such hilarious visions clamber Through the chambers of my brain -- Quaintest thoughts -- queerest fancies Come to life and fade away; Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today.”

Brew Sessions: British Pub Ale

We've been working at this for six hours. So what the hell have we been doing? Mal started us off with a couple of glorious breakfast sangwiches from Shank's & Evelyn's: eggs, cheese, potatoes and Italian sausage on the loveliest roll these hands have ever held. Our hunger sated, we set to the task at hand: brewing ten gallons of British pub ale.

Did we say ten gallons? It ended up closer to eight. This was our first all-grain brew in almost four years, a situation necessitated by our living arrangements. We've been warming up with extract brews, but it's comparing boxed cake mix to your mom's from-scratch orange sponge cake: there's nothing like the real thing. Anyway, it'll take us a few sessions to get back into the swing of things. In the meantime, we'll be anticipating our first beer of the new year: British pub ale. Here are some pictures from the day, courtesy of Brother Mal.

The mash temperature: just right

It's a-boilin', all right. The neighbors must love us.

The rather elaborate chilling apparatus

Let the yeast run free!

The beer is now nestled all snug in its beds...

15 January, 2009

14 January, 2009

Self starter

This Saturday your Broggers will be brewing a 10-gallon batch of British pub ale.  Tonight I made a yeast starter in preparation -- a brew session in miniature.  Mix dry malt extract with water, boil, cool, add yeast.  By Saturday the yeast will have multiplied many times over, and we'll have plenty for our 10 gallons.

cooking with beer vol. 1: "its a family affair...chili"

"Its a family affair...chili"
Ground beef, onion, red bell pepper, jalapeno peppers, cumin & coriander, shiracha chili sauce, kidney beans, home brewed wee heavy, a jar of Grandmom's homemade tomato sauce, a large piece of smoked pig skin.

The last three ingredients are the key to this chili and from whence the name derives. Allow me to explain:
The pig skin comes courtesy of Brother Tim, who has taken to smoking his own bacon (as well as curing pancetta). The tomato sauce is from Amanda's Grandmom (whose last name is Pizza, so I think she knows a thing or two about a thing or two about tomato sauce). Finally, the wee heavy was home brewed by your humble broggers (perhaps our best brew thus far). The smokiness of the wee heavy and the pork skin imparts such a richness and depth of flavor. Grandmom's tomatoes proved to be rather versatile, providing a great base for this dish. I'd like to thank everyone involved. As they say: "It takes a village to raise a chili."

12 January, 2009


The other night I decided to grab a pint at The Standard Tap, as is my wont. On such nights its a struggle not to ogle the floor to ceiling refrigerators at The Foodery nearby. I succumbed to my urges and purchased an Italian beer from Birrificio Grado Plato located in Chieri, IT (which is close to Torino). Chocarrubica is described as a "dark ale brewed with carob & cacao beans". I was unfamiliar with the taste of carob so I guess I was expecting the flavor of chocolate to be more noticeable. Instead it was sweet, then sour and finally gave way to a hint of chocolate-y smoothness. A peculiar beer that will definitely appeal to fans of the sour style. It retails for $30.25 for 1 pt 9.4 fl. oz. and has an ABV of 7%.

11 January, 2009

Wake me up when the wings get here

That would be Local 44's sticky wings: meaty miniature chicken limbs sticky with a sweet, spicy glaze.  No dipping sauces offered and thankfully not necessary.   A real hot-wings lover would probably be disappointed, and even my Irish tastebuds could've handled some more spice, but after a long afternoon of football and beer, the wings hit the spot.  Your humble Broggers worked our way through a solid third of the draft list: the beer highlights of the day for me were the Sly Fox Pale Ale on cask, and Elysian's Immortal IPA.  This cold weather is getting me back into getting back into big beers.  

bluebird of happiness

Perhaps that should be E-A-G-L-E-S of happiness. Spent a lovely Sunday afternoon in Spruce Hill at the newly opened Local 44. Sampled the food as well as a few of their 20-odd draft selections. Thoroughly enjoyed the Coniston Bluebird Bitter. Its a light bodied, slightly hoppy session beer from Britain. I noticed some citrusy/fruity aftertastes that were altogether enjoyable.
Also, I heard the Philadelphia Soul won a big game today...

10 January, 2009

Oh, hi, I didn't see you come in

Welcome to our Brog. What is a Brog, you ask? It's a portmanteau of "brew" and "blog." (Actually, if you want to get technical, it's a double portmanteau. Think about it.)

We are brewers and lovers of beer. We'll be filling our Brog to the brim with thrilling tales of mashing, sparging and racking. We'll also write about beers we love and the publicans who serve them.

So, now that you know what our Brog is all about, we hope you enjoy it, and please get in touch via the comments or electronic mail.