Heading to the 2nd story for beer

2nd Story Brewing can be found on 117 Chestnut Street.

Philadelphia is a great city to get out and explore. 24 hours isn’t nearly enough time to take it all in. Yards Brewing is close to downtown. However, if you’re stuck for time, for example if you’re skipping out of a conference or simply balancing beer and site-seeing, there’s a brew pub even closer than you think.

After checking out Independence Hall & the Liberty Bell, you'll have earned a beer. The good news is that there's a brew pub 3 blocks away.
After checking out Independence Hall & the Liberty Bell, you’ll have earned a beer. The good news is that there’s a brew pub 3 blocks away.

2nd Story Brewing Company is only three blocks south of Independence Hall on Chestnut St. The origin of its name is simple enough – there’s a 15 BBL system on the 2nd floor. There’s seating in upstairs so drinkers can oversee the brewing side. It’s bright and airy. The ground floor has far more seating but is fairly dark, like so many American bars.

2nd Story Brewing can be found on 117 Chestnut Street.
2nd Story Brewing can be found on 117 Chestnut Street.

Having spent the morning in the National Constitution Center (I’m a politics nerd, not just a beer one), I felt I deserved a beer. I didn’t have long before heading to Washington, DC so I opted for a flight. The beers rotate fairly frequently so of those I describe below, it is more than likely only Five Mile will be on when you visit – it is one of their two standard brews. Expect some of the other beers to return at both the brewer’s and seasons’ discretion. My choice was heavily influenced by the recommendations of the bar staff.

The 15 BBL brewery is on the 2nd floor so it's not just a clever name. Wonder if there's a penthouse brewery out there?
The 15 BBL brewery is actually on the 2nd floor so it’s not just a clever name.

First off was Berliner Weisse (3.6% abv), which poured a wonderfully refreshing-looking light gold. It was almost perfectly clear. There was a touch of fruit and wheat bread on the nose. Tart but creamy also. There were hints of apples and lemon in the flavour profile continuing into a very pleasant dry, lemon finish. When this beer is pouring, you can avail of syrups to blend with it should you wish,

Next up was Thrills & Pils, a 4.5% abv German pilsner hopped with Hallertauer Blanc and Jarrylo. It poured slightly hazy, yellow straw. The aroma was a blend of grass, herbs and mango. It drinks fruity at first before a good dose of bitterness kicks in. There’s an intense herbal finish to this beer.

L-R: Thrills & Pils (4.5% abv); Berliner Weisse (3.6% abv); Evolve – VII (7.7% abv) & Five Mile (3.7% abv)
L-R: Thrills & Pils (4.5% abv); Berliner Weisse (3.6% abv); Evolve – VII (7.7% abv) & Five Mile (3.7% abv)

Evolve – VII is a Double IPA (7.7% abv) hopped with Hallertauer Blanc, Jarrylo and Hull Melon. It’s hazy, light orange in appearance and there’s a bright, floral character to the aroma. At first, it is sweet, floral and pleasant for a DIPA. Then, everything changes. The “D” could equally stand for deceptive. Bitterness descends and lingers warmly into the finish.

As I mentioned above, Five Mile, an English Mild (3.7% abv) is one of their two standard brews. Fritzie’s Lager (4.9% abv), a Vienna red being the other. I suppose being a brew pub, it’s important that your house beers are session-friendly and similar to Yards,  they are traditional styles tapping into to the historic city. Five Mile’s a ruby mild with hints of chocolate and dark mahogany in its appearance. Toffee, chocolate and hints of coffee all feature on the nose. Its flavour is not too far from a hazelnut macchiato. It finishes smooth, creamy and nutty. Think coffee cake in a glass.

Pope Beer - Pater Noster in disguise?
Pope Beer – Pater Noster in disguise?

I couldn’t leave the place without trying a beer that was brewed to commemorate Pope Francis’ visit to the city a few weeks earlier. It was simply called Pope Beer. It was straw-like in colour with plenty of esters and clove on the nose. It was fairly-well carbonated which helped balance the sweet and spicy flavours of this beer. I have my suspicions that this beer might’ve have been their Pater Noster, a 4.9% patersbier, simply rebadged. Either way, it wasn’t bad.

Recreating a Belgian "brown bar" with a splash of colour
Recreating a Belgian “brown bar” with a splash of colour

It should be noted that Belgian beers are celebrated in the City of Brotherly Love. From what I saw in Yards and 2nd Story Brewing, local brewers are happy to produce their own versions. There’s more than a few serious Belgian beer bars in the city. Monk’s Café is far and away the best. It has a serious tap and bottle list. Sadly, a late night visit wasn’t conducive to photography – I’m sure you’ll understand. Anyway, you’ll encounter other Belgian bars too when your wandering around the city.

A bitter finish to summer with an India(napolis) Pale Ale

It’s August. Where has this summer gone? Never mind the weather, it’s hard to believe the new football season is already upon us and the Rugby World Cup will kick off next month. The summer season is when I like to catch up with other sports such as cricket. Having dropped the sports package on the TV, I came across a half-season pass t the baseball, which reminded me of an appropriate beer that I recently tried.

Half Cycle is an IPA out of Indianapolis by Flat 12 Bierwerks. It’s billed as a cross-between a regular ol’ IPA and a double IPA. It’s named after a baseball term when a batter hits a single and a double in the same game. At 6% abv and weighing in at a reported 104.1 IBUs, this beer is in keeping with the baseball theme of being a big hitter. I’d have thought Indiana would be more interested in football, basketball and motor-racing than America’s favourite pastime.

image

The beer pours a yellowish-gold colour. It’s topped by big, frothy head, the kind you get in a coffeehouse when you need a good five minutes to find your coffee through all that foam. The aroma has melon, pineapple and other tropical fruits in abundance. Pithy grapefruit dominates the flavour. However, the body is extremely sticky and the sweetness gives it almost jelly-like characteristics. You may find yourself reaching for a spoon, purely by instinct.

It's like the Porterhouse's "Brewed by Men, not Machines" but it could become a negative for female drinkers
It’s like the Porterhouse’s “Brewed by Men, not Machines” but it could become a negative for female drinkers

There’s plenty of bitterness in the finish, which pairs nicely with this time of the year when you realise that the summer’s almost over (and the baseball too). It’s a decent beer and the tall, narrow cans would come in handy for sneaking them into sports venues over here.They should probably drop “this stuff is made by guys” from their cans at some point in the future, however. It may become too much of a distraction as the brewery grows. I will look to check out more of Flat 12’s beer range at some point in the future.

Pliny the Employer

The presence of so many multinational companies in Ireland has, besides much publicised economic impact, brings  benefits to the quality and range of beers in Ireland. Incoming staff after trying the obligatory pint of Guinness in (insert name of traditional pub experience) soon long for the broad range of beers available at home and find themselves seeking out the many specialist beer bars and off licences. Irish staff spending time at company locations overseas have the opportunity to explore new taste beer sensations. I know several people in the tech sector that this is a key perk of the job! Indeed, some companies arrange craft beer Fridays for their staff. However, a further benefit presented itself over the past month. We all know that multinational companies also are vital sources of job creation and one of the newest MNCs to arrive in Ireland just went and hired @Beermack_ The final round of interviews took place in San Francisco (read the adventures of the Frisco Kid here http://beermack.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/san-francisco-beering/). Alex of course found space in his luggage to bring back some rare beers on this side of the Atlantic, which means for yours truly I got to try one of those fabled beers that features on many a beer “bucket list”.

Pliny the Elder is the creation of Vinnie Cilurzo, the man credited with crafting the first Double IPA during his days at the Blind Pig brewery back in the early 1990s. He didn’t brew his second DIPA which was Pliny the Elder until 2000, shortly after he acquired Russian River Brewing from the owners of Korbel Champagne Cellars in 2002. Vinnie had been brewing there since it opened five years earlier. It was under his ownership that this Sonoma brewery was going to make its mark on the beer world.

Defining itself as a DIPA, it was going to have a higher alcohol strength then the traditional IPA (Pliny is 8% ABV) and of course a higher degree of hopintensity, comprising Simcoe, Centennial, CTZ and Amarillo. Pliny was one of the beers that made Simcoe famous. It was also a beer that showed craft brewers that hop extracts were not the products of Satan. Instead the use of extract results in a smoother bitterness. It’s backed up by a balanced malt backbone that’s not overly sweet. The balanced nature of Pliny sums up the skilled craftsmanship that’s gone into this beer. In short this beer can be summed up as

  • Hop aroma  CHECK
  • Hop flavour CHECK
  • Hop bitterness CHECK

Pliny for me was marked by citrus (a blend of orange and grapefruit), pine and slight peppery flavour. Unapologetically, I don’t have more photos because I was simply enjoying the beer. The beer was sublimely balanced and it is up there as one of the finest beers I’ve had. Now for those that are used to DIPAs and newer stronger or more aromatic hops, this may not be a favourite. However, remember that 13 years have past since this beer was first brewed. Hops such as Citra were only in the development phase at the time. Things are called classics for a reason!

Short of working for a MNC, I’m going to have to make do with paying for my own beer pilgrimage to the West Coast to visit Russian River and others. Thankfully Aer Lingus is reintroducing its direct Dublin to San Francisco flight from Spring 2014. So I would be lying if I havent already been checking out the fares and hopefully looking to take advantage of increased competition on the Atlantic.