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05-31-02

Flying Dog Brewery review week

It has been awhile since I have had a variety case. Pennsylvania has weird laws concerning six pack sales and all of that. You have to go to a state store to get liquor and/or wine. Go to a beer distributer if you want to get a case or a keg. And finally go to a bar or a few select grocery stores with “restaurants” inside of them that have a liquor license if you want to get a six pack or a single bottle. I have a feeling that these laws will be changing within the next few years, but living in Texas is a whole different story.

When I first moved here Lubbock was completely dry. A month an a half after living here they legalized alcohol sales in the city limits. Now any place that sells food mostlikely sells beer and wine as well. A side note, Lubbock has a minimal beer culture but a very large wine following. Go figure. I like to attribute Lubbock going dry to wet to myself, because, let’s face it, before I moved here it didn’t happen. After I moved here it did.

Anyway I was browsing in the local upscale super market and came across a variety 12 pack (half a case) of Flying Dog beers. Inside were five different examples of there beer. For $13.99 I grabbed the case right up. Flying Dog started as a brewpub in Colorado but has since shifted to a production brewery in Frederick, Maryland. Weird, and they will be the first ones to claim that as well. Anyway, in celebration of getting to try a whole bunch of new beers for one low price. I am dedicating this week as Flying Dog Brewery week here on Brewery Reviewery. For the next five days I will review each of the five beers that came in the case.

Beer Review #50 Gordon Biersch Märzen

Being that March is almost over, I figured that I should put a review of a Märzen up here. Märzen is German for March beer. See you learn something new everyday. This particular brew is made by Gordon Biersch out of San Jose, California. Right off the bat, if you are a fan of subtle, malty lagers, this on is for you.

The beer pours a nice orange amber color and it is perfectly clear. There is a slightly off-white head to goes along with it. The nose was actually pretty full for a lager, as most lagers tend to be kind of stale on the nose. The things I picked up on the nose was malty, bready, and toasty notes. There was a sweetness about the nose that I really enjoyed. A single note of hop could be found towards the end, but I really had to search to find it.

On the first taste the bready notes from the nose overrun the palate. The rest of the malt washes in as well after a few sips. There is a slight hop finish that tasted like Hallertau, which is one of the classic if not the most classic German hop. There is also a slightly honey-like flavor in the beer, which I really enjoyed. There is a very clean finish that leaves a great aftertaste.

Gordon Biersch Märzen comes with a medium body and nice carbonation. The carbonation seemed a bit lower than a normal beer, which really let the malty flavor shine. It is super drinkable and a great beer for March. I really loved every drop of the six pack that I purchased. If you like malty, clean beers that are more complex than the nose would lead you to believe then this is a beer for you. I also have a love of quality German lagers. Call it my German ancestry or my eastern PA roots, but I really love almost any German style of beer. This is one of my new favorites and I am glad that I found it in the season it was supposed to be drank in. (more…)

Mug Club

As I continue to read more and gather information about brewpubs, the question of a mug club has come up. There are a million other things I am focusing on as well, but beer is always a fun side-part of the brewpub (the food part and the whole restaurant is the big piece of the cake). I have been to dozens of brewpubs in my short time of being of age and craft beer loving. In that time, I have never joined a mug club. What is a mug club exactly? Well it is a “fellowship” that you join from a local brewpub that entitles you to special beers, discounts, and other exciting offers that are not available to non mug club members.

From my personal experience as well as from my research there are a lot of options offered with mug clubs. The first option is a paid yearly memberships which gets you your own personal glass/mug, discounts on food/drink and access to special beers that are only made in limited quantities. The second is a paid membership, but no personal glass, but rather a communal (but larger) glass and the same benefits as the first option. The last one is a totally free mug club that mainly gives you discounts on everything.

The brewpub that I would call “home” is Bube’s Brewery (pronounced Boobies 🙂 ) in Mt. Joy, Pa. I would visit that brewpub every Wednesday so that I could drink a beer or two and also talk with the assistant brewer Rick. It was a blast for anyone interested in beer to talk with the brewer and also discuss beer and how they made their beer and all of the other beer related geekiness that goes along with that. Bube’s also had a Mug Club, which I never joined (I’m going to pull the poor college student excuse). Their Mug Club was $65 and got you a large glass that had your name and member number etched on it. At the end of each year you were able to take your glass home and a new style of custom glass would be put in place.

The glasses are larger than your typical pint but you pay the same price and you were also entitled to a discount on food. Additionally that also had a few special events throughout the year that only Mug Club members could be a part of. One of my friends/mentors joined the club and he has been very happy since joining and with the benefits of being a member. Bube’s also has limited edition beers that are only served in very limited quantities and available to Mug Club members and whatever is left is open to non-members at the regular or elevated price.

In my brewpub I want to have a Mug Club and offer it at a price. First off it is an additional source of income and hopefully guarantees repeat business. I would also want to offer special glasses. I don’t like the “universal mug club” glass where anyone in the Mug Club has a special glass, but it isn’t theirs. If I am willing to charge people to take part in a membership, then they should be able to get a piece of ownership over it. I don’t know about replacing the glasses each year as Bube’s does. I’m sure there are people who love that, but there are significantly increased costs with that along with the worry of making sure everyone get’s their glass when the new ones come out. I would like to keep one set glass, and each member has their own.

There is then the added concern of storing all of the glasses and the best way to go about it. I have only seen two versions of storing glasses; shelves and hanging them. I am a fan of hanging the glasses and plan on putting that into my brewpub. It allows a lot of glasses to be stored without taking up any additional space. They also look pretty neat when you come into a brewpub for the first time and see tons of numbered or named glasses/mugs hanging from over the bar.

The last question comes down to the cost. As I said, Bube’s Mug Club members pay $65 a year to enjoy the privilege of being a member. I have seen prices all the way from $10 and upwards of $100. I guess the main part of the pricing comes into the type of customers you are getting and how many members you have. The more members, the more they drink, the less they are playing per ounce, so I would assume the more you need to charge. To be honest pricing for a Mug Club and how to track everything isn’t within the scope of things that I am looking at right now. I think the most important parts are the following facts; paid membership, custom/personal glass, same type of glass for everyone year after year, and the discounts/special offerings members get. Let me know if you have heard of anything different or what you are looking for in a brewpub.

Beer Review #47 60 Minute IPA

Yet another beer review, yet another beer from Dogfish Head. This is probably one of my favorite beers period. It is called a 60 Minute IPA because the hops are added for a full 60 minutes and that is how long the boil is. I really wouldn’t consider this an IPA if I didn’t know they called it one, in my mind it falls under more of a Pale Ale than anything.

DFH 60 Minute IPA pours a nice golden/copper color and is perfectly clear. It also has a nice fluffy off-white head as well. The nose on this beer is wonderful. There is some malt and bready flavors but the main thing that you get is floral hops. Lots of them, and they are super bright, which is nice. I don’t know if I got a fresh bottle but the hops/beer just smelled fresh. I’ve clearly had this beer more than once and all of them have had a similar nose.

On the first taste the thing I really noticed is how balanced the beer is. The hops and malt just meld wonderfully. The malt is the taste that you get upfront but it is quickly followed by a smooth hop finish. In addition to being smooth it is also very crisp. There is also a pleasant hop left on the tongue. 60 Minute IPA is medium bodied an has great carbonation.

This is just a drinkable beer; a solid beer all the way around. There isn’t much more than I can say about it. It is on the light end of an IPA and maybe on the aggressive end of a Pale Ale, but as I said earlier, I really think this is mislabeled and should be presented as a pale ale. If you are a fan of either types of these styles of beers, you will enjoy this offering. I know that I can’t wait to clear out some space in the fridge to get another sixer of it. (more…)

What kind of brewpub?

While I have been going over tons of details with starting a brewpub there has been one area where I am finding it difficult to get a clear idea now. The general idea of a brewpub is pretty easy, but narrowing down the focus is where I can’t decide on what I want to do. I’ve been to dozens of brewpubs and good beer bars and they all have something different to offer. There are brewpubs that focus on first rate food and come with first rate pricing but there are also those who want to be the neighborhood hangout.

Being from the Philadelphia area, I was exposed to great examples of both of these. I have previously mentioned Iron Hill Brewery. They are now a chain, and a super successful one that that, but they focus more on the upscale side of things. The food is expensive, the beer is expensive, and the decorum match it. They even have napkins with their logo on it, and they are those really nice napkins that you only need one of when you have ribs. The really focus on first class service and their waiters know their stuff. I have only eaten there a handful of times but the food is excellent. I have been to the bar part more than a handful of times and they also have a great variety of beers to drink.

Another brewpub that I am familiar with is Rock Bottom Brewery in King of Prussia, PA. It is also another chain, but totally different from Iron Hill Brewery. It has more of a “everyday” restaurant feel. By that I mean that the dining experience is more on the level with an Applebee’s or a Chilli’s and the prices are also competitive. They have also proven to be successful as there are multiple locations across the country. They have a nice selection of food and, from my experience, a nice, but more limited selection of beer as well.

The final brewpub that I want to talk about is Bube’s Brewery (pronounced Boobies, yup) in Mt. Joy, PA. It is by far the smallest restaurant out of the three, but it makes up for it by being a brewery, a restaurant, a dinner show theater, and a hotel all in one. Sounds neat doesn’t it? They also have a nice, but more limited selection of food, and they also offer a great selection of four homebrewed drafts along with another eight or so craft drafts. Unlike the other two brewpubs and most brewpubs that that matter, they do not ever have the same thing on draft. Every time you go in they have a different beer. But that is a discussion for a later time. The mood in Bube’s is extremely relaxed. The bartenders are knowledgeable and the waiters are usually helpful as well. There are no TV’s in the bar and you have the opportunity to enjoy your company.

So I guess the question still comes down to, what do I want people to experience when they visit my brewpub? I want there to be a great selection of food and beer, but also not at prices that would keep some people away. I want it to be more of a neighborhood hangout where the locals can come on a Tuesday just as easily as they would come on a Friday night. The staff should we warm and knowledgeable about beer and be able to answer most any question. I want the decor to be warm as well. I think every restaurant wants to be a place where people can spend a lot of time, and therefore money. But I really want this to be a place that you can sit down, have a beer and read a book with no one bothering you in the process.

I don’t know how clear of direction that is, but it is starting to piece together. I obviously need to do a lot more work on getting the finer details worked out, but the my focus is getting narrowed down and that can only mean progress. Let me know what types of places you enjoy or what a brewpub mean to you so that I can get a cleaner idea of what I am going after.