Beer On My Shirt: Russian River Mad Monday At Monk's Cafe

J. R. Shirt, March 12, 2014

Earlier this week, at Monk's Cafe in Philadelphia, a keg of Pliny the Younger was tapped. I was there and I drank some. With me was a man named T-Bone and another man with hair long enough to fashion into a pony tail -- something, that in hindsight, he should have probably done. They drank some, too.

To get there, we drove an hour in a car. Then we got on a train for another hour. Then we waited outside for a little over two hours on a morning that was warmer than most but could still be best described as chilly. And there was a slight wind. I hate wind. Even the slightest wind upsets me.

In front of us in line was a man from Long Island. In front of him was a man from Indiana. They compared views on Heady Topper, Zombie Dust, and other amazing pale ales. Behind us was a couple from Pennsylvania. One of them had a small child tucked inside a pouch that was strapped to the front of their body. Marsupials make me nervous.

The doors opened at 11:30 am and we were inside with about six to eight ounces of Pliny the Younger in hand before noon. It went down easy and by 12:05 I had a full pint of Pliny the Elder. I tried to savor the Younger, really I did. I tried to take mental tasting notes -- it was very light, almost effortless up front and then quickly grew into a delicious mouthful of near perfect hop flavors. It was thin and slick and silky and smooth all at the same time. I wouldn't say I was blown away but I enjoyed it. It wasn't until I started drinking the Elder that I realized how special the Younger was. After drinking the Younger, the Elder was, dare I say, pedestrian. 

Perhaps "pedestrian" is too harsh a word in this case because it still tasted very good, still far above replacement level. But it was amazing how ordinary the Elder tasted after my palette had been graced with Pliny the Younger. And to be clear, I've had Elder a number of times and have always found it to be anything but ordinary or pedestrian, often in awe of how smooth the flavor and the feel of the hops came across. I consider it one of the best beers I've had. But on this day while drinking the Elder, all I could think about was the Younger -- I was retroactively blown away by its super smooth slickness hop ju ju. 

As the packed house at Monk's flowed between the front bar and the back bar, you could at any given moment find yourself packed in like sardines or with enough space for group photos. During one of several sardine moments near the back bar, when our group of merry drinkers merged with another group of merry drinkers, I started to spread the Gospel of BeerGraphs. I told them of our Leaderboards and loosely explained the BAR metric. We talked about the heat map for Pliny the Younger and about the Inaguaral Fantasy Beer League. They were pumped to be a part of the Younger hot spot over Philadelphia on the heat map and bummed that they missed out on the Fantasy Beer League. I was bummed that I didn't follow through with my lofty ambitions to make a BeerGraphs t-shirt prior to this event.

Our group continued to merge and unmerge with other groups as dictated by the ebb and flow of the crowd until we found ourselves actually at the bar and ready to order some of the Russian River sours. We started with Supplication and Temptation because that's what the back bar had. On this day, probably as a result of the state of my palate after the Younger and an Elder or two, the Supplication was just too sweet for me while the dry tartness of Temptation seemed just absolutely perfect. Someone saw us holding our sours up to the light and recommended we try the PNC Broken Elevator. That person was an angel sent from heaven.

The PNC Broken Elevator is an American Wild Ale collaboration between Allagash, Monk's Cafe, Falling Rock, Toronado, and Brouwer's. It was brewed in 2010 and then aged in every different type of barrel you can imagine and then blended in 2013. The result is very reminiscient of a Flemish sour with some dark malt characteristics that reminded me of flavors that I'd only ever come across in the Bruery's Tart of Darkness, but with  sour grape or cherry notes playing a more prominent role. It was amazing and easily one of the best sours I've had. 

Before we left, we split a Consecration. It fell in a good spot to end the day on -- not too sweet compared the Supplication, not as dry as the Temptation, and with a lighter overall feel on the pallette than the Broken Elevator. And then we got one more round of Pliny the Elder before we headed to the train station. 

As we left, we represented a nice sampling of what people tend to look like as they leave such an event. There was a semi-responsible person who had drank less than everyone else because they had commitments that evening. There was the person having a great time. And then there was the person that had maybe too much fun. By the time we got to the train station we might as well have been people from different countries, speaking different languages, with completely different ideas about what was acceptable in public at 3 pm on a weekday.

Full disclosure: I was the one in the middle.

On the train, I called my wife and told her to order some pizza. Then I called her back and let her know I was still at least two hours from home and to wait a while yet to place the order. 

This morning, I may or may not have Googled "Train Station Puker." I feared for my friend that there may have been video ciculating of his misdeeds on the local news. 

You know it was a rough day when the first text message you get the next morning reads, "You go to work? Imagine if insert pronoun here had gotten a citation yesterday."

To which I responded, "Yes, at work. Things really fell apart quickly didn't they? Didn't see that coming. Thanks for being responsible."

And then later in the day, "Did you download transit apps to my phone?"

And then finally, around noon, from the guy that had the best time, "I had the best time!"

For the record, perhaps when I mentioned my friend a few lines ago in regards to train station misdeeds it is one of those instances where I am actually talking about myself. Or perhaps I am only saying I may have been talking about myself so his girlfriend/wife/mother doesn't read this and realize who I am actually talking about. Perhaps I am actually talking about my friend. Or perhaps myself.

I may or may not have gone to this event alone.

Which means I send myself text messages througout the day.

I'm assuming there were other BeerGraphers there -- what did you think of the event? What did you think of the Younger? What was your favorite beer of the day? And when is the next Fantasy Beer Draft? Can we set up a mock draft lobby? BeerGraphs The Game?

Follow J. R. Shirt on Twitter and Untappd @beeronmyshirt