Worth the trip
Mention the town of Emmaus to beer freaks, and they immediately think of Shangy's, the mega-distributor with more than 2,000 brands, including hard-to-find imports. That's fine for beer to go, but where do you go for a cold one after a grueling afternoon of shopping?
The Tap & Table Gastropub (4226 Chestnut St., Emmaus) is a good bet.
Located just down the road from the distributor, TnT pours from six draft lines and three hand-pumped casks. The menu ranges from oysters and mussels to steaks and chops.
Next weekend offers the perfect excuse to make the trek up the Northeast Extension: A minisaison fest featuring the spicy Belgian farmhouse style pouring from all taps. The event, which includes live music, runs Aug. 28-30, starting at 3 p.m. each day.
Roll out the barrel
Oppressive heat notwithstanding, fall is right around the corner, and that means it's Oktoberfest season.
Mark your calendars for the second annual Philly Oktoberfest on Sept. 19 at the 23rd Street Armory in Center City. The festival features oompah music, a German biergarten and samples of malty Oktoberfestbier and spicy pumpkin beers.
Tix are $40, with two sessions at 1 and 6 p.m. VIP entry includes food and early entry. Info: www.phillybeerfests.com.
New on the shelf
San Francisco's 21st Amendment arrived in town this summer with a splash from its unusual canned Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer. It's not bad if you like that kind of thing, but I've been grooving this summer instead to its Brew Free! Or Die IPA.
Also sold in cans, it provides both thirst-quenching bitterness (70 international bittering units) and a nice alcohol pop (7 percent alcohol by volume) - a nice way to beat an August heat wave.
Yes, you can drink it straight from the can. But if you pour it into a glass, you'll catch the aroma of its distinctive Amarillo, Ahtanum and Simcoe hops.
Also new in town this summer:
_ Terrapin Beer, from Athens, Ga. Rye Pale Ale, India Style Brown Ale, Sunray Wheat Beer and Golden Ale are featured in its main mix. Its Monster Beer Tour series features a beefier array, including Big Hoppy Monster, an imperial red ale that will be released this month.
_ Great Lakes Brewing, from Cleveland. If the flavor of its flagship Dortmunder Gold is vaguely familiar, it may be due to the influence of its creator, the late Thaine Johnson.
Johnson was the last master brewer at the old Cleveland brewery operated by Schmidt's of Philadelphia, and he was responsible for developing the lager's yeast with its telltale fruity finish. Look also for Great Lakes' Burning River Pale Ale, Eliot Ness Amber Lager and its exceptional Edmund Fitzgerald Porter.
To the extremes
Jaded palates in need of a late-summer kick-start should get their hands on:
_ BrewDog Paradox (England) imperial stout, aged in Isle Of Arran single malt whiskey casks;
_ Founders Maple Mountain Brown (Michigan), aged in maple syrup barrels;
_ Dark Horse Reserve Special Black Ale (Michigan), thick and black as 10 w 40.
_ Cape Ann Brewing Fisherman's Pumpkin Stout (Massachusetts), exactly what it sounds like.
_ Furthermore Knot Stock (Wisconsin), pale ale spiced with cracked pepper.
Sly Fox Brewery & Eatery in Phoenixville is moving out of its longtime haunt in Pikeland Village Square, across the street to the Maple Lawn Shopping Center this fall. Plans call for slightly more eating and brewing space and, importantly, a Goat Race Hall of Fame . . .
Victory Brewing is scrapping one of its longtime brands, V Saison in corked 750ml bottles, apparently because of weak sales. Fear not, though, it's repackaging the ale in a smaller, 22-ounce bottle and changing its name to Helios . . . Victory will also release its Yakima Twilight double IPA as a bottled seasonal later this year . . .
Dogfish Head is joining with Sierra Nevada to produce a pair of new collaborative beers. Life & Limb is a 10 percent abv strong beer made with maple syrup from Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione's farm, and barley grown at Sierra Nevada's brewery. Limb & Life is a small beer (5 percent abv) made with the second-runnings of Life & Limb. They'll be released this fall . . .
Troegs Brewery, which ceased brewing its oatmeal stout a couple of years ago, is getting back into the dark stuff. Look soon for Java Head Stout (7.5 percent abv), made with Kenyan coffee beans in 22-ounce bombers . . . The Harrisburg brewery will also release a new Splinter Series of bourbon barrel-aged ales.
"Joe Sixpack" by Don Russell appears weekly in Big Fat Friday. For more on the beer scene in Philly and beyond, visit www.joesixpack.net. Send e-mail to email@example.com.