The first stop on our vacation was Philadelphia. I have been to Philly only once before. I ate a great cheesesteak at Pat’s, a great breakfast at Carmen’s, and a truly dismal mug of beer at the City Tavern, supposedly brewed according to Martha Washington’s own recipe. I’m glad she didn’t go professional with it. We trudged through freezing rain to the art museum, only to discover the Dali exhibit had been sold out for days–our sole purpose for coming to Philly.
This time was much better. We made just two stops. First at the Reading Terminal for a fantastic Amish breakfast (followed by pretzels and ice cream to die for) and then to Monk’s Cafe for all the beer we could chug before our train left. They proclaim themselves the Belgian Beer Emporium and Restaurant, so you know they take their beer seriously. Their drafts change regularly and almost all their food is cooked with beer as well.
I started with Kasteel Rouge, a fruity beer on tap that was a lot like a lambic. It had a nice cherry flavor, but I could really only finish half of it. I never like sweet drinks as much as I think I’m going to. However, it would be great for those who do, or who aren’t normally beer drinkers. Monk’s describes it as “brown ale blended with a cherry infused distillation. Rich, ruby color. Medium body. A fair amount of almond in the nose and taste (from the cherry pits).”
Joe had Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour, a beer they have brewed in Belgium just for them. It was wonderfully drinkable, something I wouldn’t expect with the word “sour” in the title. Or maybe it was just refreshing after my super-sweet beer.
Next, Joe had to get the Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse. It was good, but forgettable–your standard, drinkable wheat beer, though more complex than most. I think (though I’m not sure) that it’s only available on tap, not in bottles, so we were pretty excited for the chance to try it.
I knew I only had time for one more beer, so I went for the Rodenbach Grand Cru. Now, here is where I learned that one must plan out the beers one wants to drink. Because I didn’t like it much at all. However, as I said, I was all fruited out from my first drink, and this had a much stronger cherry flavor than I had expected. So I can’t tell if I really didn’t like it, or if it was just the combination of the two. Someone on the east coast–go try it and let me know.
The last beer Joe ordered turned out to be one to add to my list of all-time favorites: a bottle of Rochefort 6 from a Belgian trappist brewery. It has a hint of spices, like cinnamon, with carmel flavors. It’s a tiny bit sweet, but not overly so, more like a brown ale. Apparently it’s hard to get, but I’m going to try to track some down here on the west coast.
I should mention the food–I had half a pheasant roasted with Dogfish Head’s Raison d’Etre, my favorite beer of theirs (stay tuned for a Dogfish Head video later this week), and Joe had a pulled pork sandwich slow cooked in Val Dieu brown ale.
One final note: you can buy the “Monk’s Beer Bible” for $3. It’s a list of everything they have in bottles, listed by type and country, along with some tasting notes. If you’ve ever seen something like this for sale at a restaurant or bar and wondered, Who on earth would buy this?, know that Joe did and that yes, he read it cover to cover on the flight home.