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Good Beer Festival Review

This weekend was not what I had hoped for in terms of Philadelphia sports. The Phillies lost a series that they should have easily won and the Eagles looked like the Eagles. Luckily, I had a shinning beacon of hope this weekend, the Good Beer Festival.

The fest started around 12:30 and went till 6:30. We got there at about 1:00 and quickly moved through the gates. A ticket to the fest gave you a pint glass to take home (and to use as a sample glass) and all the beer that you could drink. They had a ton of good food and music, on two stages, as well.

The first place that we decided to go was the Dogfish Head stand as they were the closest. They had many fine offerings including 120 Minutes IPA on draft. Impressive. After a few minutes in heaven we swung around to the other side of Dogfish Head where Yards and 16 Mile were located. They were both very generous with their pours giving us a half a glass instead of the suggested 2 oz sample. Both breweries make some lovely beers.

Ommegang and Stone were next. Each had their “normal” beers but Stone did bring an oaked version of their Arrogant Bastard. I really do love both of these breweries for different reasons. Magic Hat and Sierra Nevada were next on the list and I was very underwhelmed by Magic Hat’s offerings. They had #9 and Hex. I gave Hex a try and I was burping the fruity flavor from the beer for the whole rest of the day.

We then hit a slew of breweries including Sixpoint, Southern Tier, and Oskar Blues. Oskar Blues had a nice selection of swag which is still sitting in my car. We hit a few other breweries before lunch. The most notable beer that I think I had as from Evolution Brewing Company with their No. 6 Double IPA. It was damn tasty and pretty near perfect in my book.

At lunch I had a BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich was was delicious. My wife had BBQ Pulled Pork nachos which were also very tasty. For desert we indulged in a funnel cake. My stomach was a happy camper as everything that was put into it was fantastic.

After lunch the crowds began to pick up. Early in the day you could literately walk up and get a sample, but when the crowds came, you had to wait a whole minutes. I know some other beer fests you can wait for 20 minutes or more for a beer, no at the Good Beer Festival. I think the longest line I waited in was 2 minutes.

As Joy pointed out in my previous post, there are two kinds of beer festivals. One where everyone is chill and relaxed or two where you have a bunch of drunks. I don’t think that I saw a single drunk person at the festival. There was a strong police presence and there were enough other things to do besides drink all day. They had plenty of live music, a games area (cornhole anyone?), and even a historical brewing demonstration. I loved the festival and I will be attending next year. (more…)

Europe Trip: Brussels

On my last post about my trip to Europe I covered our trip from Philadelphia to Brussels. Brussels is a very interesting city. Before I dive into my trip, I should mention that I expected Europe to be pretty different from the US in terms of looks and culture. Largely I found that we are remarkably similar, they just have older buildings.

After leaving Gare Centrale (a.ka. Brussels Centrale) we walked around for a bit trying to find our hotel, which was supposed to be right next to the station. Being the male that I am, I began walking in the direction I felt was correct. It was not. So my wife dove into a corner shop to ask where the location of our hotel was and three minutes later we walked into the front door. To my credit, I was on the correct road, just went the wrong way on it. It was also cloudy so I couldn’t use the sun to get my north, south, east, west heading.

It was about 7:00 AM so we couldn’t check in, but the hotel was nice enough to allow us to leave our bags there. Once we unloaded our bags we began to walk around the city, with our ultimate goal of seeing the Grand Place at some point in the day.

Brussels looks much larger on a map than it does in real life so we quickly knocked out the typical sight seeing places within a matter of hours. The Grand Place is pictured below.

There are some beautiful building in the Grand Place and in the areas around it. Located around this area are several narrow roads that are only open to foot traffic. There are not shops for the most part, but hundreds of restaurants. There are multiple Belgian beer bars located in this area as well and I made a mental note of where they were so that we could come back to later, since it was only around 10:00 AM.

My wife and I decided to go see the Atomium, which was built for the World’s Fair in 1958. According to Wikipedia,

The Atomium is a monument in Brussels, originally built for Expo ’58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Designed by André Waterkeyn, it stands 102 meters (335 ft) tall. It has nine steel spheres connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.

You can go inside of this “building” but we opted to just take some pictures and walk through the park located around the structure. The Atomium is pictured below.

It was soon time to eat and if you must know one thing about food in Brussels, it is expensive. A normal plate of food is going to cost you around 12-18 Euros (17-25 USD). Since this was the first stop on our trip, it was also the country where we discovered that water and soda are more expensive than beer. So we had a lot of beer. It isn’t exactly cheap (2-5 Euros) but I would rather have a world class Belgian beer for 5 Euros and bottled water for the same price. My personal favorite of the beer bars we stopped at was Delirium Café, from the Delirium beer fame. They had dozens of beers to pick from and about a dozen or so on draft. Draft beers were available in .25L, .5L, 1L, and 2L glasses, even the Tripels!

All of the beers are served with their correct glassware and draft beers are filled and then have their head leveled off. Bottled beers are uncapped or uncorked in front of you and poured by the waiter. In Brussels most bars will give you free chips to go along with your beer. I sampled far too many beers to remember but you can view them in the images below.

Europe Trip: Day 1

The first day of our trip to Europe was really a big travel day. My wife and I live in the Philadelphia area, but after looking at ticket prices, we could save about $200 a ticket by flying out of JFK. So obviously we picked that option. Our day began bright and early at 5:00 where we caught a ride with my Dad down to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. From there we took the Bolt Bus ($11 a ticket) on a 2 hour journey to New York City. The bus leaves you off a block away from Penn Station.

From Penn Station be boarded a train (LIRR) to the Jamaica station and caught another train to JFK by way of the aptly named AirTrain. In total it took right around a half hour to get from Penn Station to the airport. Once at the airport we checked our bag and did the whole security thing. No “invasive” body scan for us! Then we waited for a few hours. On a side note, I am conically on-time or early with everything. Our flight didn’t leave until 2:30 (2:00 boarding) but I like being there early and this was a flight that we couldn’t afford to miss.

Some people hate airports, I love them. Watching the planes and trucks and people all move about in an organized symphony is a sight to see. It was finally boarding time and we settled into our exit row seats. Score. We flew on Iceland Air which is a nice airline, but they don’t serve a meal during the flight. On the plus side, every seat had a touch screen TV with a good selection of programming. I opted to watching There’s Something About Mary and quickly dozed off.

I woke up in enough time to get a free drink (soda) and also purchased a sandwich. According to the touch screen TV with built-in GPS, our flight was to go over Greenland. If you didn’t know, Iceland and Greenland are both horribly named. They are complete opposites of each other. Iceland is green, Greenland is ice. I was told that the original settlers, the Vikings, named Iceland they way they did in order to keep other people away. Good story but who knows if it is true. My wife snapped the image below as we made our way over Greenland (remember, its really ice!).

Soon after our flight landed at Reykjavík Airport. I still have no idea of how to pronounce the name of the airport, but that is a common theme of our trip to Europe. Since the EU has difference security measures, we had to go through another security check point. They did stamp our Passports which is always fun.

During this time of the year in Iceland it never gets dark. Our flight to Brussels took off at 12:30 AM and there was no sight of darkness. After a three hour flight (and after gaining 6 hours total during our trip) we landed in Brussels. If you have never been to the Brussels Airport, be prepared to walk. They have their terminals setup like islands in the middle of the tarmacs, but do not have the fun train services to shuttle you to the main exit. Hours after walking, or what felt like hours of walking, we waited for our bag. Surprisingly our bag was one of the first ones out of the chute so we grabbed it and headed for the train station.

After purchasing our tickets we went down two levels and found several tracks inside arrival area waiting with trains to take us into Brussels proper. Come back soon to read about Brussels and the important things, like Belgian beer and beer bars.

Europe Trip: Initial Thoughts

If you were following my Facebook page you would of known that I made it back safely and that I had a great time on my trip. I’m still decompressing a bit and trying to get used to my old friend, the Eastern Time Zone so I will keep this a bit brief and go into more detail in some coming posts. My wife and I did 5 countries in 10 real days (12 day total trip but 2 of them were lost to air travel). I was tiring, but very worth it, and we didn’t kill each other which is always a good sign.

Our trip began at JFK in New York City were an hour before our take-off the CNN television that I had been watching informed me that two planes narrowly missed each other. Oddly enough, I learned that a man boarded a flight in JFK without a valid boarding pass just a few days before our return. I love airport security.

Anyway, a brief overview of Europe as a whole; a lot like America with better public transportation and worse service at restaurants. We didn’t have a car on this trip, the majority of our travel was done by rail. We purchased a Eurorail pass before we left and everything about it was very simple. The trains are on time, clean, and very efficient.

On the service side of things everyone was very nice for the most part, but they do not look after you the same way as they do here in the USA. At the beginning of our trip we often found ourselves sitting and waiting for the bill for a half hour or so. In Europe it is key to waive down your server when you need something. In the countries that we went to, tip was almost always included automatically, so the servers didn’t have to work the same way as they do here. It’s a small difference really, but for someone who likes prompt service, I found myself often frustrated.

To go along with the whole food end of thing, there is no free water, water is often one of the more expensive things to order as a drink. Water always comes from a glass bottle and sits just below room temperature. On a positive note, beer was generally very inexpensive and always less than water. It feels weird sitting at home right now, looking over my dinner, and not having a beer with it. I supposed I could, but I much prefer my Turkey Hill ice tea right now.

The language barrier was not very difficult to over come. Mostly everyone in the major cities speaks English and all of the mass transportation has signs in English along with the native language. I have a lot to share about my trip, but I’m going to take a few days to get back to normal before I share. I captured a great number of images, both beer and touristy, in my travels and I will be sharing them as well. I know that Leffe (pictured above) isn’t something super special or rare, but it is a damn good beer and I enjoyed a fair bit of it on my trip. More updates to come, for now, I need to force myself to stay awake as it feels somewhere between 6:00 PM and 12:00 AM for me right now.