Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Craft Beer Express

On Saturday Jo and I did the Craft Beer Express (CBX) for the first time.  They have done this two times before, once in March and once in June during Philly Beer Week.  Basically, you pay $10 for a ticket and this allows you to get on any of the eight buses that are traveling around the city.  You can get on and off at any of the 11 different bars where the bus stops.  Each bar had a different theme going, some with a full list of a specific brewery while others just following a theme.  The Institute, at 12th and Green, did all Stouts and Porters for example.  In the end the ten dollars is the transportation fee to get around Philadelphia for the day and it turned out to be well worth it.

While CBX officially started at 11am, The Institute opened at 10am (4 hours earlier than they usually do) for breakfast and I guess maybe so they could be prepared for 11am.

They had tweeted a week or so ago that they were going to give a bottle of Brewworks beer to the first 10 people that showed up at the bar.  Since I'm crazy, I honestly thought a number of people would show up at 10am for the bottle and since I was driving through the area, I decided to stop in to check it out.  Turns out, surprisingly enough, I was the only one that showed up exactly at 10am but I got my free bottle so win for me I guess.  Woo?  I will say that everyone at The Institute was really nice and didn't seem to mind me being there and partially in the way.  They usually open at 2pm so 10am was really early to have everything good to go.  I was actually glad I went there at the beginning of the day because Jo and I didn't get back there until about 7pm and it was our last bar of the night.  Let's just say I wasn't sober and leave it at that.

Since I was there I got a glass of Southern Tier's Creme Brulee stout, an Imperial Milk Stout.  That's sort of a breakfast drink right?

I've had it from the bottle once before and I could only get through half of it because of the sweetness.  On draft, in a smaller glass however, I found it much more reasonable.  It smelled sweet with a bit of alcohol on the nose.  First taste I got some milk flavor, a little chocolate from the malts and a pretty sweet aftertaste.  Further in, the sweetness started to build, but it never crossed over into overwhelming.  This is definitely a beer I would order again but never buy a bottle if I was drinking it by myself.

One thirty rolled around and Jo and I were ready to start CBX for real.  As we live north of the Art Museum, our first stop was Bishop's Collar.  They were doing a full lineup of Southern Tier so I started with a glass of Choklat, their Imperial Stout.
Some chocolate in the nose along with a bit of alcohol.  Similar alcohol smell to the creme brulee from earlier.  Nice chocolate flavor with some warming bitterness.  Not a hoppy bitterness, but kind of like the bitterness from black coffee if you know what I mean.  Big chocolate after taste as well.  This is a really good beer and was a great way to start off the day.

The bus pulled up soon after so we were on our way to Jose Pistolas!
Their theme was barleywines and I knew one of them was a 4 year old from Pennichuck which I was super excited to try.  Adam (he orders their beer and is the bartender when I go for lunch most of the time) had told me about it when they were going to have their 3 year anniversary but they didn't manage to open it that night so I've been waiting for it ever since.  Turns out they had the Pennichuk, a barleywine from Emilisse (a dutch brewery) and a keg from Nogne O which they hadn't tapped yet.  They also still had a couple of beers from Adam's birthday the day before so Jo and I got a sampler of three beers.
From right to left, we got: Emelisse Barleywine, Pennichuck Barleywine, and Pretty Things November 15th, 1901 KK (an old Ale).  The Emelisse, and yes this is going to sound dumb, basically smelled like beer.  It's just that most beers I drink have other aromas but this one just didn't.  I got some caramel and some fruit in the first sip.  Thick, but not syrupy, mouth feel and very smooth.  Of the three, Jo really liked this one.  The Pennichuck barleywine is from 2006 and was already a year old when Jose Pistolas opened.  At this point, the brewery isn't even open so the glass I had on Saturday will most likely be the one and only glass I have of it.  I got some bourbon in the nose, but it was really mild.  Super fruit juicy flavors.  This was, by far, the smoothest and least alcoholic tasting barleywine I've ever had and it was at least 12%.  This was my stand out of the three and honestly one of the best I had all night.  The Pretty Things was left over from Adam's birthday and he got it because it's a remake of a beer first brewed in November 1901 (well that and it was supposed to be good of course).  I thought I smelled barley in the nose and it tasted like a Dark IPA to me.  Basically, pretty hoppy with some roasted flavors in it.  I liked it, but it just couldn't compete with the two barleywines.

So, after downing a couple of 10%+ barleywines, we made our way on to the next stop, the Sidecar Bar and Grille.  Their theme was Jazz and Bell's Jazz series.  There were three in the Bell's Jazz series: Le Batteur, Le Contrabassiste, and Le Pianiste.  I got a glass of the Le Contrabassiste as the description seemed the most interesting of the three.
My notes are starting to get kind of crappy now but oh well.  They get much worse by the time I got to Johnny Brenda's.  The Two Bass from Bell's was good but seriously my notes say "very mild beer smell" so there's no way I can do it justice.  I got distracted by these two people there and I just didn't write anything.  Ah well.  Check it out if you can find and let me know what you think.

Following that, we took the bus to the Pub on Passyunk East (aka the P.O.P.E.)  Before we get to that though I have to give a shout out to the guys we met on the way there.  The bus ended up being me, Jo, and four random dudes and it turned out to be the best leg of the journey.  Between one of the guys trying to sing the Alf theme song to the guessing game of where the POPE actually was situated, and some slight mocking of Troy after passing Troy's Tile and Ceramic on Washington (we were drunk, it seemed funny!)  Of course Troy is the only name we can remember at this point because of that so I guess he wins.  I do know one of them lives like a block away from us though.  I also know I'm jealous since he got to go to the Great American Beer Fest this year and it sounded awesome.

Once we made it to the POPE, those guys actually found a table and Jo and I joined them.  The POPE was doing Dogfish Head beers and to continue the theme of beers that I shouldn't be drinking when going to seven bars in 6 hours, I got the Olde School, their barleywine.
Really quite good and actually tasted similar to the Pennichuck from earlier.  Lots of fruity notes along with a strong alcohol bite. I enjoyed this quite a bit.  We got some Quesadillas at the POPE and while cardboard would have tasted good at this point I do think they were tasty.  Jo and I hung out with the guys for a while here and had a great time.  This was the highlight of the day and I had a great time.  (Guys, if you read any of this, drop me an email or something.)  On our way out, I got a glass of World Wide Stout which had been filtered through cherries that had been soaked in rum.  I thought it was like a super high alcoholic version of Bell's Cherry Stout but one of the guys thought it tasted like a Manischewitz Stout.  The other highlight of my time at the POPE was finally meeting Suzanne Wood aka Beerlass.  She was with Joe from Jose Pistolas and he was nice enough to introduce me.  I talked with her for a few minutes and she couldn't have been nicer the whole time.  Jo and I both had an awesome time at the POPE but it was time to move on to Kraftwork.

After a fifteen minute bus ride (or something like that, I actually don't remember) we arrived at Kraftwork.  They were doing imports from B. United as their theme so they had a lot of foreign drafts.  My decision making was slowing down at this point so I just went with a Dubbel for me and a Doppelbock for Jo.
Also note it's starting to get dark so the pictures are going to get progressively darker.  I remember this having a slight caramel flavor but that's about it.  Jo's doppelbock was also quite good.  If only I could remember what it was.

We moved from Kraftwork to Johnny Brenda's after that.  Johnny Brenda's was doing wet hop beers which didn't super interest me, but Jo wanted to check out the bar so on we went.  I got a Port High Tide and Jo got something else (I'm so helpful.)
Notice I have a full pint of High Tide.  The bartender did offer me a smaller size but it was only a dollar less.  How could I possibly not get the larger size?  Jo didn't understand, but in my addled mind it totally made sense.  Seriously.  The Port High Tide was actually good.  I found it to be hoppy but balanced by a decent sweetness.  Who really knows though.  Port does make lots of good beers so I'm probably not lying.

Finally, we made our way to the Institute (well, I made my way back to it, but that was 9 hours before so it totally doesn't count.)  Somehow I actually have some notes but they, well, they don't really make sense.  I got Great Divide Smoke Baltic Porter and Jo got Terrapin The Dark Side, a Belgian Stout.
Couldn't tell you which beer is which but you can barely see the two beers anyway so maybe I win.  The Great Divide was pretty great as long as you like smokey flavors.  Turns out Jo liked it too so it couldn't have been overly smokey.  The Terrapin was a good Belgian Stout or at least it must have been since I wrote it twice.  The Institute itself was still a lot of fun even in my haze.  We got poutine (fries drenched in gravy and cheese) and they were delicious plus the staff was still really nice even though I must have been terribly annoying.

While we were originally going to head to the Kite & Key, there was no way I was getting more beer in me at that point.  I still probably would have gone since I'm dumb but Jo isn't so we headed home.  CBX was a huge amount of fun and I'd say we'd do it again.  I may go a little slower next time or just avoid having a beers over 10%.  Who knows but I'm sure that would help.  Regardless we met a bunch of funny people, I got to finally meet Beerlass, I got to drink quite a few awesome beers, and we got to visit a number of bars we've never been to.  Definitely a successful day.


  1. Sounds like fun!

    ..and completely off topic, but: any thoughts on any of the following three? Trying to decide if it's worth going out tonight...
    -- Blanche de Chambly -- Unibroue
    -- St George Tuppers Hop Pocket -- Tuppers' Hop Pocket Brewing Co
    -- Great Divide Hibernation Ale -- Great Divide Brewing Co

  2. Yeah we had a great time. I didn't say, but I'd easily be at the Institute all the time we lived closer.

    Blanche De Chambly - It's good but it's still just a Wit. If you like Wits a lot then it's worth it.
    Tuppers - Never had it. Listed as a Pale Ale on BeerAdvocate so it'll be slightly hoppy with nothing terribly else to it.
    Hibernation - The best of the bunch. I liked it a lot when I got some bottles last April.

    Still, nothing super exciting about the three. They aren't bad and you'd enjoy them probably but I wouldn't go out just for them.

  3. Hibernation was delicious. Tuppers was good. Chambly was...sold out (or at least the keg was kicked when I inquired).

  4. Wow, sounds like a great day! Sunday must have been rough, but I'm sure it was worth it. Party buses are always a good idea. Super fun!