Raven & Sierra

Editor’s Note:  I mentioned a while back that guests posts would be appearing from time-to-time regarding beer travel.  Here is the first post from Raven and Sierra.

Raven and Sierra holding the Philadelphia Beer Week “Hammer of Glory”

So, what does Friday the Thirteenth and cask conditioned beer have in common? Well, if you are the vast majority of the world, nothing at all. But, if you happen to be in the great beer city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, plenty. Northeast Philly is home to the Grey Lodge Pub and for the past 15 years and 25 Friday the 13ths later the Grey Lodge has celebrated this “unlucky” day with a beer event of epic proportions–Friday the Firkinteenth!

Here is a little history regarding the event……Scoats, owner of The Grey Lodge, wanted start serving cask-conditioned ales at The Grey Lodge, but thought it needed some sort of push to get it going. He saw somewhere, and with enough time to plan ahead, that 1998 was going to have three Friday the 13ths (this happens about every 11 years). The phrase “Friday the Firkinteenth” came to him in a vision while riding the Market Frankford SEPTA line and the rest is history!

Scoats – the owner of The Grey Lodge

From beer writer Jack Curtin, “”This whole thing makes no sense whatsoever. It’s totally random because the timing is entirely at the mercy of the calendar. It’s held in this tiny neighborhood bar in Northeast Philadelphia, an area which is not exactly your mecca for great beer. Yet virtually every brewer within shouting distance would kill to be a part of it and people come from all over to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and hope they can get a beer from bartenders who are incredibly overworked. Scoats is either a genius or an idiot savant, I can’t decide which. But God bless him.”

For those who are wondering, “what the hell is a firkin”, here is a bit of information.  Firkins and pins are two sizes of casks. A firkin is 40.8 liters (10.8 US gallons). A pin is 20.4 liters (5.4 gallons). A typical U.S. 1/2 barrel is 15.5 gallons.

This past week Sierra and I met up with some beer friends who traveled up from North Carolina to celebrate the 25th Friday the Firkinteenth.  The weather was near perfect and with that we ventured to the pub in time to be nicely postioned for the 12 noon tap time of the first seven firkins. In case you are wondering 22 firkins were acquired for the event with seven firkins pouring at any time (except when they got down to less than 7), tapping a new one as one kicks. The order of the casks were totally random.

The line up was as follows–

Cricket Hill Hopnotic IPA
Dark Horse Crooked Tree
Dock Street Rye IPA, dry-hopped
Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA
Flying Fish Farmhouse
Free Will Citra Pale Ale
Ithaca Nut Brown
Manayunk Dreamin Double IPA
Manayunk Oatmeal Stout
Nodding Head 60 Shilling
Philadelphia Engine 1892 Market Stout
Prism White Lightning
Ruddles Country Ale
Sly Fox Chester County Brown
Sly Fox Oatmeal Stout
Sixpoint Brownstone
Stoudts Scarlet Lady ESB
Troegs Hopback Amber
Victory Headwaters Pale Ale
Weyerbacher Blanche
Yards Brawler
Yards ESA

With plenty of good friends, good beer abounding and an appearance of Philly Beer Week’s very own Hammer of Glory we hung in all day and at least sampled from each one of the 22 firkins tapped. The last firkin, tapped around 7 P.M., was the Philadelphia Brewing Company’s 1892 Stout. This beer was brewed to celebrate Reading Terminal Market’s 120th anniversary. The market, a city icon, is an enclosed public market found at 12th and Arch Streets in downtown Philadelphia. Over one hundred merchants offer fresh produce, meats, fish, groceries, ice cream, flowers, baked goods, crafts, books, clothing, and specialty and ethnic foods.

Standouts from the day include–Dock Street dry hopped Rye PA, Ithaca Nut Brown, Free Will Brewing Citra Pale, Manayunk Dreamin Double IPA, the aforementioned PBC 1892 Stout and Weyerbacher Blanche.

All in all a fantastic time was had by all. Kudos to Scoats for pulling off another flawless event!

If you are looking for a summer beercation idea the city of Philadelphia would be happy to welcome you for a visit. The next Friday the Firkinteenth will take place at The Grey Lodge Pub, 6235 Frankford Avenue, on July 13, 2012.

Editor’s note:  To see additional pics of the event, check out the Friday the Firkinteeth Photo Album on the Atlantic Canada Beer Blog Facebook Page.

A pic of Raven & Sierra at Chapter House in Ithaca, N.Y.

One of the things that has surprised me since I’ve started this blog is the people from outside our region who have contacted me or referenced this blog.  I’ve exchanged a series of emails with one particular couple from Pennsylvania and the more I read the more I realized they really know their stuff as it relates to beer and general travel.  When I found out one of them blogged previously I had to ask them if they’d be willing to do some guest beer travel related posts for my blog (as few or as many – I’m hoping they latter – as they’d like).  To establish some Atlantic Canadian “street cred” for the couple, they are HUGE Great Big Sea fans which by most definitions make them honorary citizens anyway.  Introducing Raven & Sierra:

Atlantic Canada Beer Blogger (ACBB): How long have you been mixing your love of great beer and travel?

Raven & Sierra (R & S):  It started for me in 1993 with a 3 month long 25,000 mile trip to the western USA and Canada. The trip was primarily for nature, hiking, sightseeing, camping, etc. I had already discovered European imports in 1991 (when I turned 21). My first love was Chimay Red…from there the ball started rolling. On the previously mentioned trip I hit, now old stalwarts, Anchor Brewing, San Francisco (even got to meet and chat with Fritz Maytag!), Widmer in Portland, OR, Pike Brewing in Seattle, WA and Wynkoop in Denver, CO. After this eye opening and palate awakening experience I came home with a sense of purpose to find beer like what I had on the trip in my home area. Lucky for me Stoudt’s Brewing, which was founded in 1987, located 45 minutes from my house was doing this very thing! I quickly became a fan of Stoudt’s Brewing and searched  out for similar places. Good thing, the time period of mid 90’s  was the first wave of craft beer expansion and around me places were popping up almost monthly! Dogfish Head, Bullfrog Brewery, Selin’s Grove Brewing and Troeg’s Brewing all fueled my initial years of craft beer passion.

ACBB:  What are some of the beer related trips you’ve taken and what are your favorite spots?

R & S: Wow–you just about name it in the USA and Canada and we have been there. I have drank a craft beer from every state and province that produces craft beer. In addition we have drank a craft beer IN every state and province save Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi and The Yukon.  There are not any craft breweries in N.W.T. (use to be one in Yellowknife but not currently that I know of) or Nunavut.

The only trip we have made afar primarily for beer was a week long trip to England where we did NOTHING but drink cask ales and cider! Plans are in the works for a trip to Belgium and Germany in the not to distant future.

As far as favored places….oh boy, in the USA, I would have to say San Diego, CA and Portland, OR are two cities that are VERY hard to beat. As far as a region I am very fond of Vermont. In Canada our favorite location has been, without question, Montreal, QC.

ACBB:  How familiar are you with the Atlantic Canadian beer scene and what are your impressions of the beer here?

R & S:  We are very familiar with the craft beer scene in Atlantic Canada having taken some half dozen trips to the region over the last 10 years. We have been to just about every craft brewery or related outlet (like Marky’s Laundromat Espresso Bar) that there is. Some of the newer ones have escaped us but we hope to hit the locations missing from our list this coming summer.

My impression of the craft scene in Atlantic Canada is the region seems to be behind the times but is trying hard to catch up and break through. I know availibility of outside product is a challenge due to Provincial laws and control of the inventory. It also seems the notion of pushing boundries regarding styles and flavours is also lagging
behind, at least compared to what is going on here in the USA. I see places like Garrison, Rogue’s Roost and Acadie-Broue trying to change that notion. My impression is the staunch ideals of old school English style brewing is strong in Atlantic Canada….and you need places to SHAKE things up!

ACBB:  What are your next planned trips and what breweries are you planning on visiting / beers you are planning on trying?

R & S:  Over that past 6 months we have been to Portland, OR, Montreal, QC, Northern California (to include the opening day tap of Pliny the Younger at Russian River Brewing Company)  and Vermont. Near future trips look to take us to Pittsburgh, PA for East End Brewing Company’s final installment of Gratitude, their amazing barleywine and to The Gaspe Peninsula, The Magdalen Islands, P.E.I and New Brunswick over a 3 week long expedition in June.

ACBB:  What resources to do you use to plan your beer related travel?

R & S:  Other than simply saying “the internet” my primary resources for travel information are BeerAdvocate.com, Beermapping.com, MyBeerBuzz.com and BeerPulse.com. Also, word of mouth from fellow beer geeks that I am in contact with has been very helpful too.

Future posts from the couple will be identified with the Raven & Sierra handle at the top of any of their post.  If you’re interested in reaching the couple directly you can email them at:  deuane.hoffman@gmail.com