Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Philly Beer Geek Semifinals at the Manayunk Brewery

After my triumphant win (okay okay stumbling win) at Time Restaurant in the Philly Beer Geek contest, I was on my way to the Manayunk Brewery for the semifinals on Tuesday May 24th. I was pretty excited since I figured I'd get to meet a lot of cool people, the beer at the brewery is pretty good and I don't get there often enough. As I said yesterday, though, the contest didn't go so well for me but I'll get to that in a bit and the night itself was fun up until the end anyway.

I started off the night with a glass of Brian's Bock, a bock named after the farmer that picks up Manayunk's spent grain.
Malt and breadiness dominate the aroma. Flavors start with some sweetness mixed with caramel and finish with the same sort of malty bread character. Very interesting bock and pretty reminiscent of the style. Remember the fact that I started with this beer so you can laugh at me in a little while.

After that I got a glass of California Dreamin', a double IPA.
Mild grapefruit nose on this one. Pretty much the opposite of the bock. Starts off a little bitter but quickly moves into grapefruit territory on the initial sip. As I drank more, the grapefruit was the major flavor and was quite pleasant. Never too bitter, this was a tasty double IPA.

I also got a chance to meet Weyerbacher's rep Natalie who was super nice. I've seen her tweets and knew she went to the Hulmeville Inn a lot (she was their representative for the contest) so it was great to finally meet her. She also let me know about an email with details about the contest that night that I was supposed to get which was awesome since it allowed me to actually prepare a little for some of the questions they were going to ask me. Lucky me considering the questions.

After that I went upstairs for the start of the contest. Here's me relaxing against the wall next to a couple of the other contestants.
I'm in the back on the right behind the tall dude. The room itself was the upstairs back room if you've ever been to the restaurant. Here's a smallish picture of the room but you get the idea.
You can sort of see me in that picture on the left but only sort of. On the right are the 8 or 9 judges, different beer personas from around Philly. Some brewers (Yards and Flying Fish), a couple writers, last year's winner Steve Hawk, Jose Pistolas owner Joe Gunn (get the name now?), and two guys who were involved with beer somehow or other. Honestly have no idea about the last two. Sorry guys!

The contest started with everyone introducing themselve and then a bunch of trivia rounds. Each round had a different theme with one being general trivia, one was name the beer style when given a place, and another was abbreviations. The judges had a round where they asked some random questions as well. Next each judge asked a contestant an open-ended question from a sheet of questions they were given. Mine was do I think Sam Adams should be considered a craft brewery. I don't remember other people's questions but some were serious and some not so much. It was an interesting bunch of rounds and I feel like I did okay on the trivia. Some of it I missed I should have known but oh well.

After a little more trivia we came to the break during which I drank a glass of Bill's Pils.
Pretty good pilsener. Mildly bitter nose but no citrus or other notes, just some bitterness. Initially some sweetness which is followed by a little bitterness. Well balanced between the two and easily drinkable. Nice way to relax between the rounds.

Once the break was over, we came to my nemesis, the tasting round.
In this part, one of those samples was an ale and one was a lager and we had to decide which was which. After smelling and tasting them, I came to the conclusion that the left sample was the lager and the right was the ale and turned out to be correct. The issue came in that for "extra points" we were asked to name the beers. Turns out, the lager on the left was the Brian's Bock from earlier yet I still didn't manage to name it. (This is where I said you'd laugh at me if you didn't realize.) The one on the right was a Yard's George Washington Tavern Porter which I've never had so at least I have a small excuse for that. No excuse on the first though. Oh well.

Finishing up, the contestants were asked to make up a story of how they got superpowers from a beer and then why they should be Philly Beer Geek. For the former, since I never got the email and needed to think of something twenty minutes before the contest started, I went with the Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale since I was wearing the shirt and figured that would be the easiest without real preparation. I was told it went pretty well once the judges retired to discuss the winners so who needs prep, right? While waiting for the judges to return, I had a glass of the Manayunk brown ale but forgot a picture so lets just say it was malty, a little roasty, and pretty delicious.
The judges (see above in white wigs) came back out, announced the winners, and unfortunately I was not among them. I thought I did well enough on the trivia and the questions but there wasn't ever a final score tally and the choices just seemed up to the judges, so I never really knew what caused me not to be picked for the finals. But whatever, it gives me another night in Philly during Beer Week so that's a bonus. I still got to try quite a few very good Manayunk beers, met some great beer geeks, and I can try again next year and hopefully do better. Good luck to the 6 winners and hope the finals go well although I'm rooting for Natalie to win partially so Jeff at the Hulmeville throws another awesome Beer Geek BBQ like he did for Steve Hawk.

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