Philly’s brewing scene: On the rise again

With a group of popular mainstays celebrating two decades in business and a host of creative newcomers now fermenting in both the city and suburbs, it’s a bright time for the Philadelphia brewing community.

Philadelphia’s beermaking tradition is a long and rich. Many of the Founding Fathers were homebrewers, and brewpubs abounded in the city in which they navigated the tricky waters of crafting the nation — in 1793, Philly was said to be producing more beer than any other seaport in the New World. The first American lager is thought to have been brewed in a basement in the Northern Liberties section of the city in the 1840s, after Bavarian immigrant John Wagner successfully transported the cold-loving yeast across the Atlantic.

By the 1870s, there were upwards of 65 commercial brewhouses in the city — many of them in the neighborhood now known as Brewerytown — and the surrounding counties were home to hundreds more. Throughout the second half of the 19th century, Philadelphia was essentially the brewing capital of the United States — but then came the temperance movement. In the leadup to Prohibition, the city’s robust brewing industry was decimated. After Repeal, it was not among the first to bounce back.

Fast-forward to the late 1980s. In California and Colorado, the independent brewing movement was gathering steam, starting to reverse decades of industry consolidation and decline. Not so in Philly. In fact, when Schmidt’s Brewery shut down in 1987, there wasn’t a single professional beer-making operation inside the city limits. Continue reading Philly’s brewing scene: On the rise again

GABF Fort Collins Bus Trip: A Photo Tour

It’s 8 AM, and I’m standing in front of what looks like a mix between a celebrity transport and a secret-ops van — matte black with tinted windows and indistinct silver trim — waiting to go drink beer. More accurately, continue drinking beer, since the day before I’d spent on the event floor of the Great American Beer Festival, hopping from tasting table to tasting table with 40,000 other beer fans.


Glancing around, I see one person I know slightly and several I don’t know at all. By evening, I’ll feel like I’d known them all for years.

Ed Yashinksy, the Troegs manager who appears to be somewhat in charge, herds all dozen of us onto the black bus and gives the driver the okay. We’re off, pulling out of Denver on our way to spend the day in the nearby brewery mecca of Fort Collins. It’s 8:30 AM.

“Ready for liquid refreshments?” someone yells, and coffee is swapped for cans of breakfast beer in hands all down the facing benches. Continue reading GABF Fort Collins Bus Trip: A Photo Tour

Coffee vs Tea

Coffee makes you feel strong and mighty, tea makes you feel puny.

Coffee helps you get work done, tea helps you feel better while you’re procrastinating work.

Sure, sometimes maybe you like feeling subservient because you’re respecting cultural traditions like kneeling on tatami mats or reading dusty novels with a blanket over your lap. Continue reading Coffee vs Tea

Go Wiki Yourself

Quick, name the one marketing step you can take that will have the largest possible effect on your company’s online presence, yet is totally, completely free?

I’d have been hard pressed to come up with a good response before last week, when brilliant young CBS Interactive editor Andrew Nusca tipped me off. The answer is: make sure you have a Wikipedia page.

A Wikipedia page not only immediately lists your business in one of the most-searched global databases, it also adds organic (and valid) search engine weight to your own website, when you make sure Wikipedia links back to it.

Nusca and his wife, with some beerNusca and his wife, with beer

Continue reading Go Wiki Yourself

How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee with an AeroPress

“Something no more miraculous than a cup of coffee is enough transcendence for one day.”
My Dinner with André

I’ve written before about the AeroPress as the pinnacle coffee-making method. One of its best features is how amazingly easy it is to use, but it can seem daunting at first. All the specifics—how much water to use, how to grind, how and when to pour and press—are left to personal choice.

As a starting point, I present below a step-by-step guide to my brewing process (which I act out every single morning). Tweak the measurements to your taste to create the best cups of coffee you’ve ever had.

Continue reading How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee with an AeroPress

Romantic Plastic: The AeroPress – Best Coffee Ever

Not only does the AeroPress manage to look both futuristic and friendly at the same time, it makes the best (and easiest) cup of coffee I have ever had. And that’s saying a lot.

I started drinking coffee early on. Growing up in New York City, it was unavoidable. Starting around 9th grade, I would cop Anthora paper cups at the deli around the corner from my Upper West Side apartment. In 10th grade I officially became a regular at the diner down the street from my high school, where I’m sure the waitress loved when we piled in to a booth, six at a time, and ordered only cups of steaming, burnt swill, accompanied perhaps by a side of grilled corn muffin.

It wasn’t until sophomore year in college, when I met my future husband, that I actually tasted really great coffee. My caffeine addiction – by this point I couldn’t make it coffee-less past noon without a splitting headache – led me to spend an large amount of time in the many cafes of  Providence, RI. While Starbucks had already begun its march to nationwide dominance, the green mermaid had yet to reach this New England town. Continue reading Romantic Plastic: The AeroPress – Best Coffee Ever

Jello, Good-Bye

Drinking and environmentally sound items are two of our favorite things.

Summer is a time for cocktails and lemonade on the lawn or deck, not doing dishes.

Happily, the designers at THE WAY WE SEE THE WORLD have come up with a solution to the paper vs. plastic debate.

Jelloware cups are made of agar, cast in an assortment of flavors and colors.

Yes, agar-agar is that substance you used in bio lab to grow bacteria on petri dishes. But that’s because it’s completely organic, made from algae.

It’s also been a common ingredient in Asian desserts for quite some time, and is a staple of modern cooking techniques.

Jelloware cups come in lemon-basil, ginger-mint, or rosemary-beet, and are completely edible and biodegradable.

When you’re done with your drink, chomp on your chalice, or just tear it to bits and sprinkle it on the lawn: agar actually nurtures the growth of plants.

High heat or high alcohol content may make for a relatively short lifespan, so be sure to drink up!

Concept photos from the 2nd annual Jell-O Mold Competition have recently made the blog rounds, but there’s no purchase link to be found. Anyone know how to get?

UPDATE (1/17/11): Looks like the Jelloware folks have turned to Kickstarter to fund their product! The $10k goal is almost reached; if you’re a fan, head over and kick in a few bucks.

[via @brainpicker and @treehugger]

Form Fail

Good design is a synergistic meeting between form and function, not a compromise where one overshadows the other.

It’s always disappointing when something looks wonderful, but does not perform.

This stainless steel tea infuser from Kitchen Craft, for example, seems like it will be pretty cool.

It sports an attractive, sleek shape, and the way it opens — by pressing down one end so the tea-holding ball slides in half — is fun. But it completely fails at its intended task.

When you release the tip to close the ball after dipping in loose leaves, the halves slide back over one-another, pushing out a good deal of your tea.

When you want to empty the used tea, you discover that even when you push the spring-end as far as it will go, the two hemispheres don’t completely separate. Much of the dredge is stuck in the ball. It takes a few uncomfortable swipes of the finger to clean it out.

Form follows function” has been a popular credo of modern design movements, from architecture to products to programming. The idea and phrasing is usually attributed to Louis Sullivan, who in the late 1800s designed the first modern skyscraper.

But aesthetics are intrinsic to perception, and can play an important role in the success or longevity of an object. And as the New York Times noted recently, the digital age has allowed us to move farther and farther from the need to connect the two. The tiny iPod Shuffle is their premier example.

And sometimes it’s worth conceding a bit of practicality: the Cube Jigger was derided by a few bartenders as unusable for the quick pours needed in a restaurant setting. But for a home user, the cool look makes it a fair trade off.

Have you run into an object that sacrificed functionality for good looks? What was it? Was it worth it?

Buy It, Fill It, Drink It, Roll It

It’s not often that a new product come along that makes total sense, is wonderfully sensitive to the environment, AND is affordable.

The Vapur™ Anti-bottle is a foldable 16oz plastic water bottle. It contains no BPAs — the chemicals in rigid plastic bottles that leech into liquids over time — so it’s completely refillable and reusable.

When full of liquid, the brilliantly-designed bottle stands upright. When empty, just roll it up and stuff it in a pocket, or even flatten it and slip between the pages of a book.

Vapurs are available in an assortment of colors, and come with a carabiner for easy carrying when full. They can be frozen for use as an portable ice-pack, and are dishwasher safe.

Lay your hands on one for the bargain price of $8.95, or a set of four for under $30. You can even buy extra screw or squirt caps separately.

Introduced in late 2009 by a California-based company, the bottles are manufactured entirely in the United States, and ship flat (taking up 90% less trucking space than comparable rigid plastic bottles).

Packaging is printed using wind power with soy-based inks on 100% post-consumer recycled paper. The company also participates in the 1% for the Planet program.

Compare that to the approximately 17 million barrels of oil it takes each year just to manufacture standard water bottles for the US market, and the fact that an estimated 30-40% of water is wasted while filling these bottles for sale.

Sure, you can use an expensive, bulky aluminum canteen instead. But why would you?

Get yours now & spread the word!

[via core77]

Twitter: @vapur


cubejigger2No, not as in someone addicted to Rubik’s Cube.

But for those addicted to appreciative of cocktails: the Cube Jigger.

Inspired by traditional Japanese sake cups, from which the drink is sipped at the corners, Philadelphia designer Josh Owen came up with this elegant bar tool in 2007.

Made from aluminum, the jigger provides an elegant way to mete out the six most common drink measurements, compactly arranged in a single 3″ x 3″ x 3″ cube.

Owen is an educator as well as designer, teaching at both UPenn and Philadelphia University. His design philosophy describes him as “simple, practical and quietly innovative” and states that he “defines function in humanistic terms.”

His other products range from clocks to socks to furniture and more, and have earned placement in museums and garnered many awards. (Love the Stoop Bench, created for DesignPhiladelphia 2009.)

Available online for $30 at Kikkerland or in person for $25 at Portfolio, the museum store at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Cube Jigger might just make it into our home bar collection very soon.

[via mealticketwe knew there was rationale behind our addiction to food blogs]