Wilmington Beer Week 2012 and a Little Birthday Celebrating

It's hard to believe year two of Wilmington Beer Week came and went so quickly! Last year we were lucky to attend a handful of events, including the opening toast featuring Evolution beers at Piccolina Toscana, the Sam Adams Beer Dinner at Union City Grill, the Dogfish Head tasting with DFH founder Sam Calagione at the Washington Street Ale House (by far, one of our favorite events!), and a brunch hosted by Sam at Columbus Inn. As many events as we went to last year, we really only had time for one this year, as we were off to Dallas for one of my best-est friend's wedding, so we figured we'd make it count!

The start of Wilmington Beer Week was also the start of my birthday celebration, which I have a tendency to turn into a week long celebration each year! We had tickets for Chelsea Tavern's Victorious Tap Take Over, featuring Victory brews and Bill! Before we went to Victory, Eric had a little birthday fun planned for me in Philly! 

We had been talking about going to Stephen Starr's Frankford Hall since the day it opened. I mean, how could we NOT talk about going to this totally-right-up-our-alley sounding kind of place! It's a pretty simple concept - it's styled as a German biergarten with seating both inside and outside. The outdoor area is awesome. In addition to having amazing German or German-inspired brews on tap, the food is so good.  They even have game like  ping pong and jenga to keep you entertained as you enjoy your German goodness! It really was the perfect way to spend a slightly rainy Saturday afternoon in July! 

We got there and grabbed a spot at the bar and proceeded to 'trinken,' or drink in German, Bitburger Pils and Hoffbrau Summer. Yay for my birthday! Considering we failed to grab breakfast earlier that morning, and the beers we were drinking were BIG, we grabbed a few snacks.  

Once we got our first round of beers, we then had to decide what to snack on. It was way too hard to decide between all the German favorites they offer! I encouraged Eric to order the warm Bavarian pretzel with cheese dip as well as the spatzle with bacon and mushrooms, since I really wanted them! We also ordered the potato pancakes which were served with applesauce. Everything was spot on. I don't know that I could say much more without either making myself drool or just really hungry! It was all good. Really good.

The vibe at Frankford Hall is just cool. It's very industrial, yet not. According to one of our bartenders, there is a rumor that the building used to be an old brewery. Now that would be cool, even if it isn't true!

I really can't say enough great things about this place. The service was fantastic. A manager stopped by the bar to see how we were doing. For a Saturday afternoon, the place was pretty busy! I couldn't have asked for a better way to kick off my birthday celebration - even if my birthday was still two days way!

Once we finished up at Frankford Hall, we made our way back down 95 to our beloved Delaware so that we could kick off Wilmington Beer Week at Chelsea Tavern's awesome Victory event! I mean, with this kind of menu, how could we miss it!

Summer Love Ale paired with Mexi pork tenderloin sliders, queso fresco, pickled onions, and chili lime aoili

eadwaters Pale Ale paired with Duck breast satay, house made Summer Love Ale BBQ sauce

unrise Weiss - Unfiltered Bavarian-Style Ale paired with prosciutto wrapped local peach with pecorino dolce

Cask-conditioned Hop Devil IPA paired with citrus and beer brined chicken wings with a coriander peppercorn dipping sauce

Braumeister Pils paired with Scallop ceviche shooter, topped with caviar

Ranch Double IPA paired with bacon wrapped asaparagus, topped with a hollandaise sauce

Helios Ale - Belgain-style saison paired with a lemon tartlete topped with fresh raspberries, blueberries and whipped cream

Chelsea did an amazing job with the pairings. I will say this time and time again, I love seeing how perfectly two things can come together when it comes to beer and food pairings. Sometimes the food might not be my favorite thing in the world, but when paired with the right food, I totally change my tune. And vice versa. We loved that Chelsea went with smaller portions set up buffett style. It worked perfectly for this event and really encouraged a relaxed, chill atmosphere.

In addition to the crazy good range of brews and food pairings, Victory's co-founder and head brewer, Bill Covaleski also shared a little V-12 during the event and did some serious meeting and greeting throughout the night.

Bill is a super nice guy who we've been lucky enough to speak with quite a few times. One of Eric's closest friend lives about 2 minutes from Victory, so the two of them seem to gravitate to meeting there whenever they get together. As the story goes, they've been going to Victory well before the building is what it is now. They went there the last weekend they were open before their first big expansion and they are both excited for the newest expansion that Victory is going through. We saw him earlier in the summer at Dogfish Head's Analog A Go Go and had a great conversation with him then as well. On top of just having an all-out great conversation with Bill, we also managed to somehow get on the topic of our upcoming trip to Dallas later that week, with Bill recommending some seriously awesome places that we did indeed check out. But we'll save those stories for another blog, because where Bill sent us are seriously blog worthy!

My birthday was two short days later and we headed to Caffe Gelato on Main Street in Newark. As someone who is supposed to have little gluten, my go-to Italian birthday dinner has become increasingly difficult these last couple years. Except that Caffe Gelato offers a gluten free pasta that you can substitute in any of their pasta dishes. Awesome.Many of you may be familiar with Caffe Gelato as a local restaurant that has, in the past, and will again in November, hosted several Dogfish Head beer dinners. November's beer dinner is titled, 'The Marriage of Good Beer and Good Music with Sam Calagione.' It will be held on Sunday, November 4th at 6pm. Unfortunately, we've never had the opportunity to attend one of the beer dinners here - the dates always conflict with something else - but have heard they are really great.

Caffe Gelato's tap list is a small, but mighty, typically having a few local on draught we can't complain! For my birthday I was lucky enough to have a Dogfish Head 60 Minute to go along with my gluten free pasta (oh the contradictions of that meal!) and Eric went with 16 Mile Old Court Ale. Service was awesome, food was even better, and I even got to have a little craft beer on my birthday. Happy Birthday to me!

Before we headed to Dallas a few days later, we had one more event to check out. As soon as we heard about the Dogfish Head Happy Hour event that Ulysses American Gastropub was planning, we knew we had to make that our last night out in Delaware before we left for Dallas, especially since Sam Calagione was going to be 'hosting' it.

We saw Sam a few weekends before Wilmington Beer Week at the Delaware Brewers Guild Brews by the Bay. He mentioned that he was wearing a back brace and not doing so hot. Turns out, by the time Wilmington Beer Week rolled around, Sam was on bed rest, and was unable to make it up for any of the area events going on, including the Heavy Hitters. 

So what did the man do to make up for that? He did something amazing - he sent up some seriously awesome vintage Dogfish Head - 2006 Immort Ale. And glasses for it to be served in. We all wished Sam was feeling well enough to make the trip up North, but were easily consoled with this vintage brew.
Let me tell you, I'm an Immort fan. I get excited when it's back around and back on tap. But this 2006 has completely and horribly spoiled me. And I love it! It had such an intense flavor, it was just awesome. Immort is one of the brewery's beers that is unique and is really tied to Sam and his family. The maple syrup, which you can seriously taste in the vintage we were drinking, comes from his family's farm in Western Massachusettes. The additional flavors - peat smoked barley, juniper berries and vanilla all compliment each other perfectly, not one flavor competing to be the forefront of flavor. They just work together.

For the Happy Hour, the guys at Ulysses busted out quite the list:

-Hellhound on My Ale (which will probably always be our favorite DFH brew!)
-Bitches Brew
-Faithful Ale
-Positive Contact
-75 Minute
-Olde School
and of course
-Immort Ale

In addition to the spoiling Immort, we split a bottle of Hellhound with our friends, and went with a Burton Baton and 120 Minute. Talk about a good start to our 6 days in Dallas!