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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Grey Lodge Public House

Right in the middle of a city block on Frankfort Ave in Northeast Philly, the Grey Lodge Public House sits among normal storefronts and everyday commerce with a modest facade and a wonderful secret behind the door: a diverse selection of glorious craft beers on tap, most of which are quite local. The taps change frequently, so my first visit to the Lodge will NOT be my last.

Before delving into the selection of beers, the food needs some attention. I had the Ribeye Cheesesteak, a quality sandwich. I "shared" some of my friends' mixed-up fries, part regular and part sweet potato...awesome! Some mysterious cheesesteak appeared in our midst some time later; it seemed to be a garlic-porkroll concoction. Genius. I also had some assorted snack foods later on, but that was because I happened to be standing in the spot where some strangers had abandoned their victuals. Not one to waste fried cheese, I pounced. While I can't recall the snacks at this time, I vaguely remember thinking, "Wow! These fried things are dynamite!"

Ok, the beer. I sampled just about everything: Penn Dark Lager, Sierra ESB, Flying Fish Hopfish, Legacy Nor'Easter, Yards Love Stout, River Horse Double Wit, Brooklyn Extra Brune, Arcadia Hopmouth Double IPA, Sly Fox Seamus Irish Red, and cask-conditioned Victory Hop Devil. I think that's it. Dear God, isn't that enough?

Presidential honors go to the Arcadia Hop Mouth. Just wow. A bitter, hoppy beer as one would expect from a Double IPA, but the body and creamy smoothness tame the flavor enough to earn this beer a perfect 4.0 Flags. Where the style tends to give up some accessibility points, Hop Mouth is a giant among the typically overpowering Double IPAs. This draft beer has everything that the cask-conditioned Hop Devil seems to be searching for.

Let's discuss the Hop Devil for a moment. Bottle or draft, Victory Hop Devil is one of my favorites--a 4.0 Flag beer if ever there was one. However, the cask-conditioned version is, in a word, underwhelming. I've had Yards ESA in all formats and the cask conditioning and hand-pumping tame the flavors and add a creaminess without losing crispness. Unfortunately, Hop Devil loses its kick when poured from a cask. I had Hop Devil at Standard Tap and wasn't very impressed, but figured I'd try again. Nope. Not my favorite.

Look for more detailed reviews of the individual beers coming soon.

Over all, I was delighted by the Grey Lodge. Cool atmosphere, cool crowd, cool music. They take pride in the beers but aren't pretentious about it. The staff was patient with the FermentNational Guard as we ordered mixed-up rounds, trying to take it all in. And by the way, the men's room was the coolest bar bathroom I think I've ever seen: Tile mosaic walls sport beer-related quotes from some of history's greatest minds. This does wonders to fuel drunk conversation while business is being handled. Didn't make it to the ladies' room.

One final word: I understand that the bottled beer selection is also exceptional, but I can find many of those bottles at specialty stores for less money. It's the unique draft beers that will keep me going back again and again.

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