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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Frederick Overnighter

Aside from the possibility of inclement weather (which is highly likely in Central PA around this time of year), we like to embark on quick little overnight or weekend jaunts to nearby beer destinations during wintertime. We've actually experienced some unseasonably warm temperatures the last few years during January and February trips. While it was pretty chilly this last weekend, the cabin fever was starting to get to us. Plus we like to get off to a good start at the beginning of a new year. While Frederick, MD, is well-traversed ground for us, we were actually able to hit two new breweries and a brand new sister location of one of our favorites in the process. We made a last-minute decision to reserve a hotel room, which was dirt cheap, so we pulled the trigger and were off to Frederick for a little overnighter. 

I always like to factor in a quick stop somewhere along the way to our main destination, and Gettysburg's Fourscore Beer Co. seemed like the obvious choice. We'd just been there on the "silver medal" Drinksgiving trip this past November. We'd planned to go to Knoxville, TN, with D&C and cross another state off our brewery list, but, well... COVID. 'Nuff said. 

We got a later-than-usual start, as Brewslut was visiting the salon for her requisite bi-monthly  appointment. Still, we managed to arrive at Fourscore shortly after 1 p.m. The inside tasting room was full, save for a lone table, but was snatched up by two old ladies who cockblocked us by grabbing the table before ordering beer. (Enter your favorite C-word here.) Oh well, the chilly weather would have likely brought on some uncomfortable pangs of osteoporosis from which one of them I'd wager surely suffers. So it was outside and into the tent for us. It was rather windy during our visit, but the side flaps of the tent provided some adequate cover, and a small heater at the far end helped to warm the area as best as it could. 

We weren't very hungry, as it's customary for us to eat a filling breakfast prior to a day of drinking. However, PA law is still such that we must order food when drinking alcoholic beverages. So, we decided to split an order of wings. Turns out I was hungrier that I thought. The wings were tasty, although I don't know why many places insist on serving a quantity of 10 wings instead of a dozen. Call me traditional.

Anyway, on to the beer. Despite this being our third visit to Fourscore, I hadn't written about the brewery yet. Third time's a charm, I suppose. I've been digging Schwarzbiers lately. There's something about the crispness of a lager paired with a rich, dark chocolate-like malt character. After asking about a pair of foeder-aged beers on the menu, I noticed Lager Life: Black Lager on the board, so I switched gears. Brewed with a a hefty portion of British Maris Otter and dark Munich malts, the malt base for this beer also includes flaked and malted oats as well as a variety of specialty malts. Inky black with a tinge of mahogany around the edges, the aroma smacks of freshly brewed coffee, toast and a hint of chocolate. The flavor layers in some caramel and vanilla, lending a sweet but crisp finish. 

Meanwhile, Brewslut worked on a pour of Brekkie Bowl: Mega Berry. An updated version of the original release, this intense fruited sour features flaked oats, wheat and a touch of lactose. It's tartness comes from house Lactobacillus, and it's fruitiness is amplified from dry-hopping with lots of Mosaic and Citra Cryo pellets. Oh yeah... it's also conditioned on coconut, banana puree, toasted almonds, Madagascar bourbon and Tahitian vanilla beans, and PA maple syrup. Then, it's conditioned on strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and twice the amount of açaí fruit of the original. This drank more like a smoothie than a beer... not that that's a bad thing. It was pretty freakin' delicious. Last time we visited, I was pretty bowled over by another of its fruited sours, called Jahmba (Mango/Lime/Coconut). So it seems Fourscore has developed a niche for intense fruit beers. Hey, you don't hear me complaining! 

Pleeps enjoys a Brekkie Bowl. Banana, you say?


Par for the course, we'll typically share a pour of a high gravity beer before shoving off to the next place. Enter Black Friday Joy, a variation of another stout from Fourscore called Noon As Dark As Midnight. This bold stout features a malt base of oat malt, Maris Otter, flaked oats, British chocolate malt and a variety of crystal and roasted malts. But here's where the fun stuff takes place: the beer rests for 15 months inside bourbon barrels from Widow Jane Distillery of Brooklyn, NY, which previously held 10- and 13-year-old versions of its bourbon. As if that wasn't enough, after the aging process the beer is conditioned on a heaping amount of toasted coconut, Tahitian vanilla beans and Antidote beans from Baltimore's Vagrant Coffee. I liked Fourscore's description of this beer: "The aroma is distinctly wet and weathered oak with swirls of roasted peanut, sweet vanilla and rich whiskey. The flavors are the same with a nice medium-full body and all flavors linger on the finish. It's a complete candy bar experience!" This was pretty damn delicious, and its only shortcoming was perhaps its lack of a thick, robust head and slightly more dense mouthfeel. Otherwise, a winner for sure! 

Pleeps poses with Black Friday Joy.


Ever since we started frequenting Frederick and the surrounding area, Attaboy has always been a favorite stop. Come to think of it, I'm not sure if we've ever come through Frederick without swinging by for at least one beer. Well, Brewslut and I were excited to discover that this favorite brewery had recently opened Attaboy Barrel House, which is conveniently situated right around the corner from its original taproom.

Barrel racks at Attaboy Barrel House


This addendum to Attaboy's original brewery is a dedicated space specifically used for barrel-aging and blending with a focus on tart, fruity and funky beers aged in a variety of wine barrels procured from around the world. (Upon casually strolling around the brewery, I noticed that the majority of them were from France and California... two obvious meccas for wine!) 

Wood, Jerry... wood!


Inside, it's quite spacious with enough room to maintain plenty of COVID-inspired distance from other patrons. Besides, one requires lots of space to house all those large, wooden vessels! The decor is clean, bright, open and modern, with a minamilist's approach to interior design: stark white walls, gray and black accents, tables with geometric designs, and a hint of lush, green foliage from some tropical-looking plants for a splash of color. Oh yeah, and barrels... lots and lots of barrels! In addition to a few standard Attaboy beers, the small but well-curated selection offered a plethora of unique styles and flavors to be had.

Pleeps says, "A small time can still be a good time!"


I started out small - literally - with a beer named Small Time, a barrel-aged petite saison weighing in at 4.8% ABV. Simple yet elegant, this flavorful saison was slightly dry with a lint of lemon zest and lots of cereal grains in the finish. Think dry Cheerios or Rice Krispies. Meanwhile, Brewslut was working on a pour of an elegant-looking, lavender-colored beer called Raspberry & Blackberry Farmboy. Described as "jammy and tart, bright and zippy," this beer exemplifies all of those adjectives and more. Blended from five different red wine barrels of multiple ages, this complex beer straddles the line between tart acidity and sweet-and-sour pucker. 

Farmboy... fetch Pleeps a beer!


For our final beer, we decided to share a beer called Fredericka (Pom-Tea). This 9% ABV strong golden ale spent a year in a barrel (of an undetermined variety), emerging with a bright tartness and spunky funk. A light dosing of pomegranate and Pu-erh tea lends subtle hints of black tea leaves and tropical fruit. This was undoubtedly the most unique beer of the bunch, and the contrast between the tea leaves and faint tartness of the pomegranate was pleasing to the palate. All in all, this is a great addition to Attaboy's already stellar line-up of finely crafted beers... because everyone needs a fancy beer every once in a while, right?  

Around the corner at Attaboy proper, things were hoppin' with a healthy crowd and a local Food Truck. Being a party of two, we felt bad grabbing a table for six but nothing else was available. After we settled in at the table, a group of people came in but must have left. Two of them remained, so we asked if they wanted to join us. The table was long enough to maintain a safe distance, so it was OK by us. We had a great conversation with them (a couple: the guy, from nearby West Virginia, and the woman, from Puerto Rico). If there's one thing that COVID-19 has taught me over the last year, it's not to take for granted conversations to be had at a brewery. It's the thing we miss most about not being able to sit at the bar. So this was a welcome diversion from how things have been since last March. 

Beer-wise, I went with something hoppy this time... my first of the day! Creek Life (Citra) sounded new to me and tasty to boot. Hopped with Simcoe, Horizon, and obviously Citra, this super-drinkable IPA offers bright notes of citrus and tropical fruits, especially orange and mango. I seldom come across Horizon hops, and a quick Google search revealed that it's actually an older hop variety created in Oregon in 1970 with a lineage similar to Nugget. This one went down effortlessly, and despite finishing it quickly, we hung out for a bit and enjoyed our conversation. After a short while, we'd all finished up, and it was time to cross Carroll Creek at a small footbridge and head to our next stop.

Idiom Brewing was largely the impetus for this particular little getaway. Brewslut and I were both blown away as a result of our initial visit, and we were eager to return. It had been almost a year to the day since our first visit, and by then Idiom had just celebrated its first anniversary over Black Friday weekend. My favorite beer of that particular trip was Just Desserts, an imperial stout brewed to mimic Rocky Road ice cream. Cue the salivary glands. I knew we'd be here for a little while. Then, when we were standing in line to order our beer, we noticed this can label:

Drinking on a lighted stage...


As if I didn't already like this place enough! While Brewslut was quick to order this beer, I went with Coffee & Cake for my initial beer. Brewed with a mix of 2-row, flaked barley, caramel and chocolate malts, this blonde stout gets the cold-steep treatment courtesy of 7 lb. of fresh roasted Ecuadorian Sarchimore coffee from Frederick's own Dublin Roasters. As if that wasn't enough, the fine folks at Idiom chuck in all the flavor components of the decadent Italian dessert known as Tiramisu: cocoa powder, cake batter and marscapone. This sucker was delicious and complex! 

Meanwhile, Brewslut worked her way through a pour of the aforementioned Limelight (with its label inspired by, if you couldn't tell, my favorite band Rush). Brewed with Motueka and Ariana Hops, this Double NEIPA is rife with tropical fruit and red berry with hints of lemon, lime and a touch of coconut. This one definitely approaches the unreal, and we were sure to grab a 4-pack of cans before heading out. She also enjoyed her pour of What's the Scoop, a blonde ale featuring more than 200 lbs of black cherry puree, a touch of lactose and Madagascar vanilla. Cherry and vanilla is always a winning combination when well-executed, and this one was eloquently so. Delicious!

Pleeps knows what the scoop is!

 

More beers ensued, including my favorite of the bunch: Feast Your Eyes. Inspired by the quintessential holiday salad, Ambrosia - or what my mom calls "Heaven" - this fruit-forward sour ale is indeed a heavenly amalgamation of juicy Mandarin orange, dank pineapple, coconut, Marachino cherries and heaps of marshmallow fluff. I was immediately transported back to our last trip to Madison, WI, for Great Taste of the Midwest, where one of our favorite collective beers was Church Salad from Iowa's Pulpit Rock Brewing. (Yes, it was so good that I remembered the name of the beer, the brewery, and the state from which they hail.) This beer was the spitting image of Church Salad. There was no way a crowler of this wasn't going home with us. Sadly, no cans were available. 

Pleeps enjoys living in the Limelight at Idiom.


For our final selection, we opted for Moment in the Sun, another fruited sour, this one with papaya, pineapple and coconut cream. While it was delicious in its own right, it paled in comparison to its predecessor. I'd say you're doing a good job with your brewery if a beer this good pales in comparison to another beer you brew. With that said, both beers were indeed stellar... the Feast Your Eyes just happened to be stellar to the "n"th power. At Idiom, there was none more stellar. You get the picture. 

As if the convenience of Attaboy and Idiom being within walking distance from one another wasn't enough, Steinhardt had to go and open up right next door to Idiom. In Frederick, who needs Uber? Like Idiom, Steinhardt is located in the Union Knitting Mills Building along Carroll Creek. With that said, aesthetically it has a very similar vibe to Idiom in that the space ensconces you in exposed brick. The small, family-owned brewery opened its doors in Frederick back in August 2020, but owner Jim Steinhardt has been brewing and selling beer from home for five years before opening a taproom (even being named "Best Local Beer" in 2018 by Frederick Magazine). Steinhardt's taproom boasts over 20 beers on tap, covering a wide array of styles with a penchant for Belgians and Flemish-stye sours. While I was scoping this place out prior to our visit, I was intrigued by the fact that they had four sours and five Belgian styles on tap. We settled on four 9oz. pours of the following beers:

  • Kriek - Flemish-style ale brewed with Belgian malts and fermented with traditional Flemish souring agents. Aged in French Oak barrels with sour cherries for a tart, refreshing finish.
  • Framboise - Flemish-style red ale is brewed with Belgian malts and fermented with traditional Flemish souring agents. Like the Kriek, this is aged in barrels but with raspberries instead of cherries.
  • BBA Tupelo Stout - Imperial Stout flavored with vanilla bean and Tupelo Honey, then aged for over three months in bourbon barrels.
  • Coco Loco - An easy-drinking 4.2% ABV stout with notes of chocolate and coconut.
Of the four aforementioned beers, both Brewslut and I were drawn moreso to the Kriek and Framboise rather than the stouts. Both sours were fine examples of the styles. The BBA Tupelo Stout missed the mark a little, though, in that the bourbon character didn't really carry through, perhaps hindered by the sweetness of the honey and vanilla. The Coco Loco was sweet with a dominant coconut flavor and hint of dark chocolate in the finish, making it quite flavorful for a 4.2% stout. Overall, everything was pretty well executed. 

I was hoping to squeeze in one last brewery for the day, and it's a good thing we made it there because my favorite beer of the day was from Jug Bridge Brewery. It's slogan is: "Brewing olde fashioned good righteous beer!" I can get down with that! Named after a local Frederick landmark, the small brewery is situated at the previous Olde Mother Brewing Company location. (I'd included Olde Mother on our itinerary as a "maybe," but it eluded us this time.) We made it just shy of last call, so unfortunately it would be a one-and-done stop for us. But man, what a "one" it was! 

Jug Bridge's logo mimics a popular Frederick landmark.


Brewslut opted for a pour of Dublin Lager, described as "Norwegian Coffee Lager infused with Dublin Roasters Coffee house blend coffee beans." This beer was delicious, and I wished we would have had more time for me to enjoy a pint of this. I seldom miss a coffee beer when one is available, but I did manage to score a few sips of this tasty beer. 

And speaking of tasty beers, the beer I ordered was off the charts! The beer in question, Companion3, was, simply put, amazing! In retrospect, it was my favorite beer of the day. So what, pray tell, is this beer of which I speak so highly? It's a West Coast IPA aged in gin barrels from McClintock Distilling that previously had been used to house port wine. The aged beer was then dry-hopped with spruce tips and Mandarina Bavaria hops. My God, I freakin' loved this beer. The amazing this about it, though, was the subtlety of the flavors and how well-balaced it was. Everything just came together magnificantly. Brewing with an adjunct such as spruce tips can be a tricky thing. Believe me, I've had beers that tasted like sucking sap out of tree bark. This beer was beautifully eloquent in its design. 

Pleeps found a new Companion3.


All in all, it was an awesome (albeit short) visit to Jug Bridge. We sat at a table in close proximity to some younger locals (one of which apparently worked there but was off her shift) and enjoyed talking to them about the Frederick area, music, and, of course, beer! They all spoke highly of Jug Bridge, and after the exemplary beer I experienced there... well, I CAN CONFIRM. We were sure to grab a pair of crowlers of Companion3 to take home and enjoy. Can't wait to get back here and really dig into their beers. 

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

When we returned to the hotel on Saturday night, we still hadn't made the decision of whether or not to take the same route home that we took to get to Frederick. When I mentioned to Brewslut that we could take a slight 20-minute detour and head home on I-81, we'd be able to swing by Cushwa and a new favorite of ours, Homaide Brewing. This great one-two punch of breweries right around the corner from each other is sure to entice us to visit Williamsport, MD, more often. 

Inside Cushwa's new tasting room.


We landed at Cushwa about ten minutes prior to opening time, so we got right in and grabbed a small two-fer table near a window. Cushwa makes some great IPAs, and the beer menu was littered with 'em. However, I've had a few that are a little too "Trillium-y" for me; you know, just not in my hop combo wheelhouse. With that said, I tend to gravitate to their fruit beers and imperial stouts. The problem with the stouts is that most of them are in the 13-15% range. Ooofa! So Brewslut and I will usually share one for "dessert" aka our "after dinner" beer. 

Still located in the Bowman Business Park, Cushwa has been open for business since 2017. However, its recently expanded taproom around the corner from its original location (where Homaide now calls home) has doubled its bar, taproom seating area, and production facility. Even more exciting is the fact that the new space now features some of the best brick oven pizza in the area, courtesy of Rad Pies. It's a match made in heaven!

Pleeps: "I'll take all the dark beers!"


I started by entering some familiar territory with Illusory Correlation, another Schwarzbier, or traditional dark German lager. Similar to the one I'd enjoyed at Fourscore the day before, this one boasts notes of light roast coffee, dark chocolate and crusty bread with a fairly dry but crisp, roasty-sweet finish. I'd had this once before and was fairly certain that I'd enjoyed it. I was right. 

Brewslut went right to the opposite end of the spectrum as me and ordered a pour of Brinner. Remember that thing I just said about imperial stouts? Well, this is one of 'em! A collaboration with the yet-to-open Burnish Beer Co. based in Salisbury, MD, this rich, decadent Imperial Pastry Stout is loaded with waffles and maple syrup, and just a hint of blueberry to evoke a big ol' stack of sweaty flapjacks. Damn, was this tasty, although I might not have gotten through an entire pour by myself due to its intense sweetness and maple character. Actually, who am I kidding? Of course I would have.

Pleeps knows how to chill 'til the next episode.


Speaking of breakfast beers, it was time to chill... to the Next Episode. A coffee cream ale? Yes, please! As I said earlier, it's hard to get me to refrain from ordering a beer brewed with coffee when one is readily available. For this particular beer, Cushwa started with a cream ale base, added lactose, then dosed it with heavy amounts of Lock 44 coffee from River Bottom Roasters of Hagerstown, MD. This one was pretty damn remarkable, with sweet, roasty notes of French vanilla latte. This was probably my favorite of the three beers I sampled this time around. I also snagged a 4-pack of Electrofruit - Ambrosia, which should be similar to the amazing Feast Your Eyes we enjoyed at Idiom. We're obviously looking forward to cracking one of these open in the near future!


Pleepin' around at Cushwa.


Around the corner at Homaide, things were a bit quieter. I was really looking forward to getting back here to dig into Homaide's beers. This new brewery, which now occupies Cushwa's original location in the same industrial park, made our Top 10 list for 2020 based on the strength of pretty much one beer: Fight Milk. So when we arrived this time, I was giddy to see a coffee and coconut variant of said beer on nitro! 

The owners of Homaide had originally sought a location in nearby Hagerstown, MD, for its brewery and taproom. They had participated in multiple craft beer festivals and most recently scored a "Best Beer" award at the 2019 Maryland Craft Beer Fest. Makes sense, because Homaide's beers are amazing!

Homaide took over Cushwa's original brewery.


Looking over the menu when we arrived, I realized there was a lot I wanted to try. First thing's first, though... I had to get some of that Fight Milk (Coffee & Coconut) in my gut! Described as a "session milk stout with cocao beans and coconut," this variant was every bit as good as the original. Serving on nitro really softens up the body and smooths out the foam on top. If I remember correctly, one of the owners had told me during our initial visit that they use a combination of nitro and CO2 for this one. Whatever the equation is, it's working.  

Pleeps enjoys some Fight Milk with coffee & coconut.


There were also a pair of "cobbler" beers on tap that sounded intriguing. Although I was most excited about the peach version, Brewslut opted for the Blueberry Cobbler, a collaboration with Mullys Brewing. The base beer is a light, crisp Berliner Weisse with a sour punch. However, conditioned on blueberry compote sweetens the pot a bit and elicits a faint earthy note. It's finished off with a light accent of cinnamon and vanilla. Well done, indeed. However, I was definitely more into the Peach Cobbler. This beer is part of Homaide's "HE SAID-SHE SAID" Sour Series. It's a light, refreshing kettle sour brewed with tons of peaches and a hint of coconut and cinnamon. Man, this tasted like I was face down in a slice of peach cobbler from a tiny mom and pop diner in Anytown, USA. The combination of peach and cinnamon scored big points with me, and the coconut acccents offered a hint of complexity in the flavor. Man, was this delicious! I was hoping for cans, but no luck this time. 

Pleeps is jammin' on the one!


We ended our session with JAMCARE, a smooth DIPA hopped with Mosaic, Galaxy and a new-to-me hop variety called Moutere. This one was brewed in collaboration with Cushwa, and it was pretty delicious. This hop combo lends a blend of tropical fruit and berries, while Moutere - a relatively new hop variety from New Zealand - adds grapefruit and passionfruit notes with hints of earthy baking spices and pine resins. Nicely done!

Pleeps is always making new friends!


Postscript: We decided to swing by Boneshire for a quick pint and soft pretzel before heading home to host my virtual rock music trivia night. As usual, I went with one of my local faves, Green Machine. Seriously, if you live in Central PA and still haven't been to Bonshire... get there! Green Machine is definitely up there with Pizza Boy's Murren River as a favorite local West Coast IPA. Remember those? Well kids, that's all for now. Thanks for reading. Until next time...

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Year in Beer 2020: Top 10 new-to-us Breweries

OK kids... here it is! While the year proved problematic for beer traveling, we still managed to get around a bit. (Brewslut even hand-made a few masks for Pleeps!) Here's our picks for our ten favorite new-to-us breweries we visited in 2020. While there's no specific equation used in determining our final list, we did take all of the following into consideration: beer quality, atmosphere, service, and general awesomeness as well as our initial and lasting impressions. With that said, we present to you the Pour Travelers’ Top 10 New Breweries Visited in 2020 (in alphabetical order).

1. Axemann Brewery - Bellefonte, PA

First visited in August 2020 - Read the original blog

Axemann Brewery began under the name of Blue Stripe Brewing as a homebrew operation situated in a milk house, a small building on a dairy farm where milk is collected, cooled, and stored. After perfecting a few different styles and gaining a reputation at local and regional beer festivals, Blue Stripe entered the big leagues, adopting the name Axemann and setting up shop at the Titan Energy Park just on the outskirts of Bellefonte. Having just opened its doors in July 2020, the site boasts a 20,000-sq. ft. production brewery and taproom including a walk-up "snack bar" and rotating local food trucks. I was pleased to learn that the folks at Axemann modeled their facility after Tröegs. They produce easy-drinking, approachable beers for everyone, and they brew them well.

Notable beers: Titan Stout; Hazy Daisy IPA

2. Burley Oak Brewing Company - Berlin, MD

First visited in February 2020 - Read the original blog

Burley Oak had been on my list of breweries long prior to our first visit in February 2020. Well, my yearning to visit Burley Oak finally got the best of me, and it turned out to be the impetus of this trip to Delaware to visit our friend Taylor. It was definitely worth the wait! We spent quite a lot of time here, and I got to work through a bunch of beers, especially its tasty IPAs and fruited sours. We're already in the process of planning a return trip in early 2021. If you like fruited sours, their J.R.E.A.M. series is off the hook. 

Notable beers: Lost IPA; anything from the J.R.E.A.M. series

3. Dewey Beer Company - Dewey Beach, DE 

First visited in February 2020 - Read the original blog

We first visited Dewey Beer Co. during the same trip as Burley Oak. DBC opened for business in May 2015, setting up shop in an old eatery called Bubba's Grill just off Coastal Highway. In addition to a full restaurant offering a diverse, scratch-made menu, the brewery side of the operation churns out some amazing forward-thinking beers on a custom 7-barrel system. Perhaps Dewey's most popular beers stem from its "Secret Machine" series of fruited sours. Everything we experienced here was top-notch, from the beers and food to the service and ambiance. There was no question that this brewery wouldn't make the list... even back in February! 

 Notable beers: anything from the Secret Machine series

4. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Milton, DE 

First visited in February 2020 - Read the original blog

I know... I know. You're probably thinking, "WTF? These two go to breweries all the time and they've never even been to DFH?!" Well, truth be told, we'd visited the "Brewing & Eats" location in Rehoboth Beach many times over the years, but never happened to cross paths with the production facility until this past year. It didn't hurt that our friend Taylor, who we were staying with, is a brewer there. We got the mack daddy, uber private, VIP tour experience, which definitely helped propel DFH into our Top 10 list for sure. Then there's the beer. Say what you will about DFH, but Sam & Co. are true trailblazers. You have to give them props for what they do. Speaking of which, Slightly Mighty has become a fridge beer for us in 2020, and it definitely takes the cake as far as low-cal beers on the market today. Plus we got to hang out in the treehouse! This place is like the Disneyland of craft breweries. 

 Notable beers: Covered in Nuggs; The Bellini Bambini; Knuckles, Bats And Homemade Tats

5. Homaide Brewing Company - Williamsport, MD

First visited in November 2020 - Sorry, no blog exists for Drinksgiving 2020... yet!

Drinksgiving 2020 didn't turn out as planned, unfortunately. We made arrangements to visit Knoxville, TN, with D&C, which would check another state off our brewery box. Sadly, with travel restrictions due to COVID we settled on a cabin jaunt just outside of Maryland in southern PA. Homaide is a brand spankin' new brewery situated in the original Cushwa Brewing location. Basically, they moved in, took over, and started chruning out awesome beers right from the get-go! We got to chat with the head brewer and one of the owners when we visited, and they are just awesome, chill peeps... who happen to know what they're doing with a brew kettle and mash tun. We look forward to returning so we can really dig in to the beer selection.

Notable beers: Fight Milk

6. Idiom Brewing Company - Frederick, MD

First visited in January 2020 - Read the original blog

Frederick has really blown up and matured into a fantastic beer destination over the last five years. When we first visited Idiom, they'd only just opened over Black Friday weekend 2019. Needless to say, they came out of the gate swinging! I loved everything about this place. It just felt so comfortable and inviting. Our server was friendly. The atmosphere was perfect. The beer? Freaking delicious! We get down to the Frederick area fairly often, so I'm sure Idiom will be a must-stop for us when we're passing through. We were positive these guys would end up on our Top 10 list after our first beer. 

Notable beers: Just Desserts

7. Ithaca Beer Company - Ithaca, NY

First visited in July 2020 - Read the original blog

Like DFH, here's another one that probably has you scratching your head. Well, back in my formative years, Flower Power was one of my first IPA loves. Needless to say, it was amazing to finally get to the mothership and drink this stellar IPA right from the source. During our visit, we got to meet and hang out with Mari, who founded the brewery in 1998 with her husband Dan. She was extremely kind and took very good care of us. Aside from the private tour of the facility, my favorite thing about our visit to Ithaca was spending some time enjoying its sprawling beer garden. Thankfully, it was a picture-perfect summer day, so we really got soak up the atmosphere... and beer! NOTE to readers: Don't take the old-school breweries for granted. Places like Ithaca crank out some amazing beers. 

Notable beers: Flower Power 

8. Liquid Shoes Brewing - Corning, NY

First visited in July 2020 - Read the original blog

We discovered Liquid Shoes kind of by accident. One of our long-time favorites in the region, The North, was closed for a week, so we had a vacancy in our itinerary. A quick scan of Brewery Maps revealed this new brewery in nearby Corning, NY. Founded by the Shoemaker brothers (hence the name), Liquid Shoes opened for business in July 2018. With eight beers on tap, they focus on IPAs and fruited sours, but everything here is well executed. Their mascot is also a gnome, and you can even buy a custom, hand-made Liquid Shoes gnome. We brought one home with us and named him Great Grandpa Thoughtweaver (don't ask). We liked this place so much that we just visited again a few days after Christmas. 

Notable beers: Umoja; O'Cyrus

9. Love City Brewing - Philadelphia, PA

First visited in February 2020 - Read the original blog

It was a long time coming, but this is the brewery that I felt Philadelphia has always needed since we first started visiting the City of Brotherly Love for beer many moons ago. In the early days of our infatuation with craft beer (mid-2000's), there were some amazing, world-class beer bars but only a handful of small breweries. Upon entering Love City this past February, I felt someone finally captured the vibe of Philadelphia and transformed it into a brewery. While none of the beers blew me away, this place simply embodies Philly moreso than any other we've visited thus far. The atmospheres hearkens back to a time before Prohibition when every neighborhood had its own brewery. I definitely felt a sense of Philly pride while enjoying our beer at the bar here. Plus their food truck is the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo. Bonus points! 

Notable beers: Obscura; Totally Wired

10. Ommegang - Cooperstown, NY

First visited in July 2020 - Read the original blog

This is yet another one you might be surprised to see on the list, but man, what a track record! Hennepin. Three Philosophers. Rare VOS. Some of the first Belgian-style beers I'd ever had during my formative years were these very staples from Brewery Ommegang. Many beer friends have regaled us with tales of road trips to the annual Belgian Comes to Cooperstown festival, which is held on the brewery's sprawling rural grounds. It was a long time coming, and I was estatic to finally visit this epic brewery. We got to enjoy a pleasant day outside in the beer garden. Aside from its world class Belgian beers, they also make some pretty solid IPAs and lagers as well. Sadly, we didn't get to venture inside (except to the restroom) so we'll definitely need to return once all this COVID-19 nonsense disappears.  

Notable beers: Idyll Days Pils; Neon Lights IPA

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Once again, this year's list proved to be a difficult undertaking. Here are a few "honorable mentions" that came oh-so-close to making the final ten.

Big Oyster Brewery - Lewes, DE

First visited in February 2020 - Read the original blog

Notable beers: Then; Mango Dreamsicle

Bonesaw Brewing Company - Glassboro, NJ

First visited in February 2020 - Read the original blog

Notable beers: Peach, Love & Happiness

Dew Point Brewing Company - Yorklyn, DE

First visited in January 2020 - Read the original blog

Notable beers: Rubick's 3

Pineknotter Brewing Company - Northumberland, PA

First visited in July 2020 - Read the original blog

Notable beers: Knotty Juice

Wilmington Brew Works - Wilmington, DE

First visited in January 2020 - Read the original blog

Notable beers: Par Avion - Pineapple Cream

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So, how did we fare in 2020 amidst all of the shut-downs, virus scares, and travel bans? Not too shabby, I'd say. All in all, we hit 76 new-to-us breweries in 2020 compared to 79 in 2019. I'd say that's a pretty impressive number given the state of the country during this past year. Of course, a few of these include breweries I visited during a handful of "dudes' weekends" with the guys, as well as one or two satellite locations of breweries we'd visited previously (i.e. St. Boniface's Tied House in Lititz, PA). We were off to an amazing start in 2020, hitting an unprecedented 46 new breweries in January and February alone! If COVID hadn't hit, I'm confident we would have cruised past our impressive number of 110 new brewery visits in 2018. To put things into perspective, we named our 2021 calendar "Pleeps vs. The 'Rona." That about sums it up for us. Oh well, there's always next year.

Here's hoping that 2021 allows for safe beer travels for us all. See you in 2021! 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Cabining

Living in Pennsylvania, we're blessed (or depending on your perspective, cursed) with experiencing varied weather as a result of the changing seasons. Out of the four of them, autumn is - without a doubt - my favorite. Perhaps it's because I always feel the cozy blanket of nostalgia wrapping around me during this particular time of year. Memories of school starting back up after summer break, marching band practice, hanging out with friends, and meeting Brewslut all come to mind. Then there's the natural beauty of fall. We're blessed to have some stunning foliage during this time of year, when plain green leaves turn to bright hues of orange, yellow and crimson. Add in cool, crisp air (I'm a jeans and hoodie kind of guy) and the smell of decomposing leaves, and you've got pretty much a perfect season. 

So what does this all have to do with fall?

Perhaps I was just reminiscing. But around this time of year, we typically enjoy a weekend retreat to one of Deuane and Carolyn's many rustic cabins. They don't OWN them; they're part of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC). We've gone on many weekend beer excursions over the years, and it's always as fun as it is relaxing. I love to come back to a warm fire after a long day of "beer hunting" - a term I'll use so as not to come across as an alcoholic. This weekend, we were off to Little Cove, one of the many quaint cabins that is available to members of the PATC. It's situated on 160 wooded acres just west of Mercersburg, PA, in Franklin County.

On a Friday afternoon (after some pesky GPS issues), I met up with Brewslut in Mechanicsburg and we set off to nearby Chambersburg to meet up with the group at GearHouse. In addition to D&C, our friend and DFH brewer, Taylor, would also be joining us. (You may remember him from our trip to the Delaware beaches earlier this year as referenced in "Cape Crusaders" parts 1, 2 and 3.)

It's always great to visit GearHouse. Not only does David make some fantastic beers, the place is just flat-out cool. It's one of the perks of staying at cabins with D&C... most of them are in the same general direction and we usually have to drive past Chambersburg to get to them. So while our visits aren't often, we do seem to get there at least once or twice a year. 

When I'm gearing up for the weekend, I typically crave hops for my first beer. I didn't have to look further than Ninja Boots, a beefed up version of Hoppy Socks session IPA. Brewed with a hefty grain bill of oats, barley and crystal malts, this flavorful DIPA features no bittering hops in the boil. However, the recipe calls for almost 5 lbs. per barrel of Mosaic, Idaho 7 and Vic Secret added to the whirlpool as well as dry-hopping. This one straddles the line between hazy and West Coast, with an aromatic nose and moderate bitterness. This is definitely one of my favorite IPAs I've had from GearHouse thus far. 

While we were there, I also tried Big Ring, a barleywine/strong ale hybrid clocking in at 10.8% ABV. To be honest, I can't remember if this was barrel-aged or not, but it definitely had some boozy heft to it... in a good way!  I also sampled These Sheep are Making Me Thirsty, a traditional German Maibock. Usually, it's pretzels that make me thirsty, but I suppose sheep might make goats thirsty. I honestly don't know why, but anything makes goats hungry so I supposed the same could be said about their thirst factor. Anyway, I'll shut up now. Brewed with German noble hops and a very specific German lager yeast strain, this malty lager boasts notes of toasted bread and a crisp, slightly sweet finish.

Pleeps is kickin' in to second gear!

On Saturday, we actually got to add two new breweries to our ever-expanding list. The first, Rough Edges, recently opened in Waynesboro, PA, just two miles above the Mason-Dixon line (although I would have sworn we were officially in the south based on the majority of the folks I saw meandering around the downtown area for a street fair). Deuane had visited recently and had given this new place thumbs up, so I knew it would be legit. 

Located right on Main Street, Rough Edges is situated in the former Waynesboro News Agency building. Boasting eight rotating beers on tap, Rough Edges operates on a 5-bbl brewhouse and features an adjoining tap room with seating for about 80 patrons. In addition to its house beers, the brewery features a small food menu consisting of light snacks and pizzas. The owners, husband-and-wife team Wes and Casey Phebus, are Waynesboro natives, and like most brewery owners, they started out by getting their hands dirty with homebrewing as a hobby. Fast forward to the spring of 2020, and the pair opened Rough Edges right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perfect timing, huh?

I was pleasantly surprised with the beers we sampled during our visit. I started off with Questionable Ethics: Homeschooling, a PB&J oatmeal stout. This one had a pretty heavy roasted nut character with a hint of grape-like sweetness to balance. Despite the fact that peanut butter is one of the greatest inventions ever, I must admit that I'm not a huge fan of peanut butter in my beer. With that said, this one didn't offend me. Next on the list was Dutch-Oven Pumpkin Pie Haircutted Freak, a kettle sour conditioned on a variety of fall spices to evoke "pumpkin" notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and a hint of clove. This sounded odd on paper but turned out to be my favorite of the bunch. It really was quite delicious and forward-thinking. Kudos on that! Last but not least was Main Street Cred, an easy-drinking lager, which I found to be malty, sweet and crisp. It also happened to be Rough Edges' charity beer of the month, so $1 of my pint benefitted the Main Street Waynesboro organization. 

Wes and Casey are extremely friendly people, and it was like talking to old friends with them. I decided to share some Tröegs love and grab a few goodies from the trunk. On the way back to the car, I decided to pop into this tiny store that had a few tables of records for sale out on the sidewalk. I wasn't expecting much, but I hoped they'd have a few rows of vinyl to dig through. To my surprise, I ended up finding the last Alice Cooper album I needed to complete my full run of his discography through the original "vinyl era" of the late 80's. I was more than stoked! Editor's note: I was expecting the album, DaDa, to be pretty bad, but I freakin' loved it! 

While Rough Edges was situated right downtown on the proverbial "main street," Upper Stem is a farm brewery located in rural Washington County, MD, northeast of Hagerstown. Owned by a friendly retired couple, the site features a small nano-brewery and adjacent farm, where they produce grain, hops, herbs, and fruit that they use in its small-batch beers. Upper Stem also has a spacious, cozy beer garden area with plenty of picnic tables scattered about for additional seating on pleasant days. The weather was cooperating, so we decided to hang out in the beer garden. 

I'm usually wary of beers brewed with hops grown on-site at a brewery, but something in me said to try this pale ale called Rel 2.oh! Hops aren't the easiest thing to grow, and most crops generally take three years or more to fully mature. Hops are a finicky flower, and they need a specific climate and soil type to really thrive... things that make them such a bitch to grow outside of, well, Yakima and some areas in New York state... the original hop hotbed of the United States. 

But back the beer. Described as a "hazy yellow table beer," this one boasts coriander and fresh Cascade hops grown on the brewery's tiny hop field. It was a no-frills pale ale with clean, crisp notes of tangerine and grapefruit backed by a sweet maltiness and hints of toasted grains. It drank effortlessly with no textbook vegetal notes that are common when hop bines haven't fully matured. I was pleasantly surprised with this beer!  

Up next, we decided to do a side-by-side tasting of a Coffee Imperial Porter and its bourbon barrel-aged counterpart, BA Coffee Porter. The standard offering weighs in at 8.6% ABV and features local coffee from the Hagerstown-based Pura Vida Coffee. Sadly, I wasn't able to get the scoop on what kind of barrels were used (aside from them being bourbon barrels) for the BA version, but the bourbon character was fairly subtle, imparting hints of vanilla and charred oak; nothing too complex, but tasty nonetheless. Both of these were solid and enjoyable. 

Our final stop before heading back to the cabin steered us into more familiar territory: Williamsport, MD's Cushwa Brewing. This was probably our fifth visit to Cushwa and first to its recently expanded Tasting Room. The new tasting room is probably triple the size of the previous location, which happens to be right around the corner on the other end of the Bowman Business Park. To refresh your memory, the name Cushwa refers to the Cushwa Basin on the C&O Canal. The canal features an almost 185-mile towpath that's now popular with locals and tourists alike who enjoy its varied recreational activities. So I suppose you could add "drinking some kick-ass beer" to that list of activities. They now also have an adjoining eatery, Rad Pies, which makes just that: insanely good and outside-the-box pizzas. 

There's always a lot to be had on tap at Cushwa. The first thing that jumped out at me was a beer called Insider Trading, a 14.5% ABV pastry stout. Go big or go home, right? Conditioned on River Bottom Roasters cold brew coffee, vanilla, and maple syrup, this rich, full-bodied imperial stout is sweet, roasty... and boozy! The body is plump and mouthfeel is slick and warm. This sucker just envelopes the entire palate with that familiar after-dinner liqueur character one craves after a classed-up dinner on a special occasion. 

From one extreme to the other, I opted next for Cush Claw Peach, a hard seltzer with peach. I think this may be the first time I'd ever ordered a seltzer at a brewery. However... peach! Readers of this blog certainly are more than aware with my infatuation with this fleshy, succulent stone fruit. While the peach flavor nudged itself to the forefront, I just find seltzers to be too dry and carbonated. I'm not really into them. I think I'll stick to beer from here on out. Still, like our parents used to tell us... it's ok to try new things from time to time.

Up next was Velvet Robe, another stout. This bold oatmeal stout is brewed using flaked oats to lend a creamy body and soft mouthfeel. Dark-roasted coffee and Belgian chocolate notes abound with this one, and in the end it finishes semi-dry and roasty with a pleasant complementary sweetness. 

My final beer was a doozie! Enter ElectroSchmooj – Strawberry Amaretto Cake. Just the name "ElectroSchmooj" is evocative enough to provide a hint of what's in store for you with this beer. Brewed in collaboration with Imprint, this heavily fruited, lactose kettle sour was inspired by the classic decadent dessert. However, Cushwa always throws in a twist, this time by adding massive amounts of strawberries and mixing in amaretto flavoring as well as a few dashes of vanilla to create this dessert in a glass. We've had a few other ElectroSchmooj offerings in the past, and this one did not disappoint. Some folks might not even call it beer, but whatever it is... it sure is delicious!

Pleeps get in on some Insider Trading.


And with that, it was time to head back to the cabin for a nightcap. With two guys who work at breweries and one who's a self-professed "beer hoarder," we had more than enough to keep us libated for the rest of the evening. Around the campfire, we enjoyed (among others) the newly-canned OG version of Impending Descent from Tröegs... FINALLY! I'd been waiting patiently for us to release the original version of this beer for about 5 years, and it tasted exactly as I'd remembered it! Back inside, the beer of the night was Cushwa's Coconut Cream Puddin', an imperial "island" stout brewed with copious amounts of coconut. This beer was so incredibly delicious, it's up there with the best of the best coconut beers I've ever had. We were all blown away and named it our favorite beer of the night. Another contender was Ever Grain's Sorbetto #16, a sour ale brewed with plum, apricot and blackberry. Ever Grain has been making a lot of Sorbetto variants lately, and they've been knocking them out of the park. 

Well folks, sorry it's taken me so long to get this one up for you all. It's always nice to get away to one of the cabins for a weekend of leisurely brewery hopping with friends. Stay tuned for my annual Year of Beer review as Brewslut and I pick our Top 10 new-to-us breweries visited in 2020. Until next time...

Friday, August 28, 2020

I say Burger King, you say Bellefonte

We had such a fun time during our last visit to Penn's Creek Campground that we made plans to head up again over the weekend of August 14. This time, we invited our friends Darin and Jeni to join us on Saturday for a day-long sweep of Bellefonte in Centre County. 

Now, you may be asking yourself, "What's with the name of this blog post? Why Burger King?" Well, this story goes back a ways; back to my high school years between 1989 and 1992. During band and jazz band bus trips, me and a few of my friends created something called "chanting," whereby we'd take off our purple sweaters (aka our uniforms), wrap them around our heads, clap our hands in unison to a specific rhythm, and basically freestyle stupid phrases in a call-and-response manner until we either got sick of doing it or yelled at by an adult. This tradition carried on - so I'm told - until at least 1995. Apparently, the freshmen class from my senior year carried the torch after I'd graduated. The "Burger King/Bellefonte" chant was the original, and we'd always start off a chanting session with "I say Burger King, you say Bellefonte." The impetus of said chant likely occurred when we were on our way to Burger King after a jazz band competition, and we were all talking about this rad bass player in Bellefonte High School's ensemble. We had a keyboard bass, which is pretty lame, and it was always inaudible. A group of us even called ourselves "The Bellefonte Bandits" and wreaked havoc on every school we visited. At any rate, that's the story. So every time I think of Bellefonte, I think of my time in high school band.  

OK, now that that's out of the way, let's talk beer!

I had only discovered Axemann Brewery about a week before we'd made plans to head up to the campground again. The original plan was to head up to State College and do the usual route as well as check back in with Robin Hood Brewing, since Roger from Shy Bear told us good things were coming via its new brewer who happened to be his friend. But more on Robin Hood in a bit.  

Outside Axemann's tasting room.


Axemann Brewery began under the name of Blue Stripe Brewing as a homebrew operation situated in a milk house, a small building on a dairy farm where milk is collected, cooled, and stored. After perfecting a few different styles and gaining a reputation at local and regional beer festivals, Blue Stripe entered the big leagues, adopting the name Axemann. So it was out of the milk house and into the former Cerro Metal Factory in Titan Energy Park just on the outskirts of Bellefonte. Having just opened its doors in July of this year, the site boasts a 20,000-sq. ft. production brewery and taproom including a walk-up "snack bar" and rotating local food trucks. So what about the name Axemann? Well, the Titan Energy Park is located on - you guessed it - Axemann Road. 

I must admit that I didn't really delve into the history of the brewery prior to our visit. I was kind of sold by the goat on the cans for Hazy Daisy, its NE-style IPA. I wasn't aware of its location in the industrial park, and it was looking like a potential GPS blunder. But we stayed the course and eventually came to an Axemann sign beckoning us into the tasting room. Upon entering, we were greeted by the tasting room manager (who recognized my Tröegs mask and even knew one of my co-workers) and were given the full spiel on the brewery, its beers and ordering process. We set up shop at a high-top table in the middle of the sprawling tasting room. Typically, we'd sit at the bar, but with the 'Rona still meddling about, it wasn't an option. I was adequately impressed with the space and the greeting we'd received. But would the beer stand up on its own? 

Inside Axemann's spacious tasting room.


Since Axemann was new to us, Brewslut and I each opted for a sampler flight including five of the available eight beers. Here's the run-down:
  • Auger - medium-bodied lager with a semi-sweet flavor that finishes with a slight roast. Germanic-style hops and malts come together for a smooth, drinkable beer.
  • Pilatus - A traditional German-style Pilsner brewed with German malts and Tettnanger hops. Soft but complex with a slightly nutty, toasty finish. 
  • Mean Duck - Amber-colored pale ale with a nice dose of piney hops balanced by caramel and buscuity malt notes.
  • Hazy Daisy - Juicy, hazy IPA with notes of citrus, ripe tropical fruit, and stone fruit.
  • Black Razz - Tart wheat ale brewed with blackberries and raspberries. Served on CO2 as well as nitro.
Pleeps is the Axemann... yeah he's the Axemann!


The heaviest beer was Hazy Daisy, weighing in at only 6.4% ABV. The others were in the 4.5% to 5% range. I was pleasantly surprised by all of the beers in my flight, especially the lagers. Both were light , well-balanced and easy-drinking, but with the signature flavors you'd expect to find in each style. Mean Duck had a mild piney hop presence backed malt notes of caramel and busciut. Hazy Daisy, its signature beer and the one I was really excited about - not because it's a hazy IPA but because the label features a goat named Daisy - was a well-executed NE-style IPA with hints of mango, orange and grapefruit as well as hints of raw bread dough and rolled oats. The Black Razz was decent in its own right, but ultimately a miss for me compared to the other four beers. 

The Blonde Bistro serve up pizzas, pastas and more.


All of us were enjoying our visit quite a bit, so I opted for a full pour of Titan Stout. Jeni gave me a sip of her pour, and it passed the test. I was pleased to discover a slight smokey malt character with this one. Dark and roasty with hints of coffee and chocolate, this medium-bodied stout displays a thick, creamy head thanks to dispensing via nitrogen. I was glad I ordered a full pour of this one.  

Pleeps was diggin' the Titan Stout.


All in all, this was a fantastic first impression. The beers were well-executed, enjoyable and diverse, the tasting room exceeded my expectations, and the service was very good. Each of us even received a free cheese slider so we didn't have to purchase food if we weren't really hungry. We did order a large portion of fresh-cut fries to share, which came with this really tasty and spicy-sweet aioli for dipping. Everyone really dug the sauce, which was unique in both flavor and texture. It's nice to know that we'll have a few more options when visiting Happy Valley. I look forward to returning to Axemann soon! 


Pleeps sporting his new cammo mask.


While I was researching the few breweries in Bellefonte, I came across Big Spring Spirits. With only three breweries in town, it seemed like a logical choice to add it to the itinerary. Turns out it was a sound decision. I thought I'd heard of this distillery but just couldn't pull it out from the nether regions of my memory. However, Brewslut came to the rescue and reminded me that Big Spring produces the same Cream Bourbon (named Tallyrand) that our friends Aunt Carol and Uncle Rick shared with us once when we spent the night at Club Mease. Then it clicked. "Yeah, this place is gonna be awesome," I thought. Turns out I was right!



Big Spring incorporated in 2011 shortly after former PA Governor Corbett gave micro distilleries the green light to produce up to 100,000 gallons of spirits sell directly to the public. The new distillery set up shop at the Pennsylvania Match Factory, which operated from 1900 to 1947 producing - you guessed it - wooden matches. The charming 31,000-square foot brick building provies the perfect atmosphere for Big Spring. But not only does the location offer aesthetics; turns out settling on Bellefonte as its home was a blessing, as Big Spring was awarded the "best tasting water in the state" by the Pennsylvania Rural Water Association; a good resource to have when producing spirits, as you can imagine. During the final phase of spirits production prior to bottling, the extremely potent distillate is “proofed down” with 60% water. To quote the folks at Big Spring, "That’s a lot of water and if your water’s no good, your product’s no good." Truth!

Enjoying my peach tea Collins.


All of us ended up absolutely loving this place; everything from the ambiance to the quality of the drinks to the staff was all top notch. We hung out here for a decent amount of time, which is a testament to caliber of Big Spring. We also had our first serving of premium mixed nuts here (more on premium nuts later in the program, kids). We ended up taking home a bottle of the aforementioned Tallyrand to enjoy at home. All in all, it was a fantastic visit for sure, but it was off to our next stop of the day.

Last time we visited Shy Bear, we chatted with head brewer Roger for a while, and he informed us that one of his friends had taken over at Robin Hood Brewing. He gave me a sample of a beer that was still undergoing fermentation - a delicious sour peach IPA - and immediately I thought, "I need this beer!" Even in its early stages, it was awesome. So when we made plans to hop around Bellefonte for the day, I included Robin Hood on our itinerary. We visited Robin Hood only once in the past; an illfated encounter many years ago at its remote location at Home D Pizzeria in Stage College. Long story short, the bartender dissed Otto's openly and the beers were all-around lackluster to just plain bad. So I was happy to hear that they recently employed a legitimate brewer, especially one that came with a glowing recommendation from someone we respected. So needless to say, not only was I anxious to see how Robin Hood had improved since that initial visit, but I also couldn't wait to try the aforementioned beer, Peacheys & Cream. 

"I protest... I am NOT a merry man!" - Worf


When we were seated, I perused the beer menu and was ecstatic to see the beer listed. Yes! When our server took our order, she informed me that the beer had kicked earlier that day. Suddenly, I experienced flashbacks of "Dain sucks at life" (that's an inside joke a few readers will appreciate). I was a sad panda for a few minutes, because I was reeeeeeeeealy excited to drink this beer. Oh well... such is life. 

So - much to the gratification of Pleeps - I went with my silver medal choice, Strawberry Banana Cream Machine. This milkshake IPA boasts lots of oats, lactose, and heavy dry-hooping with Citra and Mosaic. The beer is then conditioned on 100 pounds of strawberry and banana puree and Madagascar vanilla beans. This beer was leaps and bounds better than anything we experienced on that first visit. Banana is a difficult fruit to brew with, because the fermentation process is more involved and time-consuming. This is why you rarely see beers made with real banana. Banana flavor in beer is typically derived from the yeast, which produces fruity esters similar to a banana flavor (as in German-style hefeweizens). Oftentimes, beers utilizing "actual" banana taste artificial due to using extracts rather than real fruit. Whatever the case was with this beer, it was freakin' delicious! So it would appear that the new brewer knows what he's doing. Overall, everyone in our group enjoyed their beers, so we were in  uninanimous agreement. 

Pleeps posing with Jeni's spread at Robin Hood.


We also decided to eat here since the food was cheap and they had a full menu. Enter more carbalicious startch to my gut - this time in the form of grilled cheese and tomato soup. This hit the spot and was only like $7 to boot... plus the soup was actually chunky and flavorful, not like boring-ass Campbell's sugar-laden tomato "soup."

In researching the area, I stumbled across a brewery that was completely off my radar. By the looks of things, I wasn't holding my breath for an amazing experience, but you know the drill: swing by, have a beer, and if it sucks... move along. I went against my better judgement and added Old Farmhouse Eatery & Brewery to our itinerary since it was located just a hop, skip and jump away from the other breweries we'd planned on visiting. With a name like "Old Farmhouse," I was expecting a quaint, old dwelling on a few acres of picturesque farmland. Upon pulling into the parking lot, the brewery appeared to be... well, somebody's house. It definitely didn't strike me as a "farmhouse" in any way. Regardless, we suited up (aka put on our masks) and headed inside. The majority of the customers were enjoying food and drinks in the patio area. Since there were lots of children littered about, we asked to sit inside. We plunked down at a long table for six in the main bar area, which also included a pool table and (very loud) jukebox. I decided to play some tunes since I had a surplus of TouchTunes credits due to everything being closed as a result of the 'Rona. Unfortunately, it turns out my credits had expired, which is utter bullshit because I paid for them. So TouchTunes can eat a huge, overflowing bowl of dicks. Needless to say, I shan't be using its services anymore (unless I find myself in another quarrel with two bitches bumping my songs for over an hour). 

But I digress. Upon perusing the menu, we decided to order some pretzel logs to share for our "meal." This was turning into a carb-heavy day. I probably ate a week's worth of carbs just in this one day. Oh well... a man's gotta eat. Now onto the beer...

Darin and I decided to try our luck with a Pineapple IPA, which was a pleasant surprise. Brewslut, unfortunately, had a complete 180-degree experience than we. I noticed a beer called Creme Brulee on the menu. Was it a porter? A brown ale? Something else? At any rate, she decided to give it a shot. She wasn't having it. First off, it looked like a glass of brown, murky water produced by a backed-up toilet. It was probably one of the least attractive beers I'd ever seen in my life. Brewslut reluctantly took a whiff, and she described the aroma that wafted its way across her olfactory as "earthworms after it rains." To be frank, she was spot-on. Thankfully, it actually tasted pretty good. She couldn't get past the smell, unfortunately, and choked down half of it until I offered to switch beers. I actually wish we would have snapped a picture of it just to share with you all. 

Overall, this place just didn't strike me as a "brewery," which is perhaps why they include "eatery" in the name. Jeni ordered some coffee, which took like 30 minutes to brew, so she asked for a to-go cup because none of us wanted to stick around for a second beer. Finally, the brought it out in a take-out soup container. Despite all of this, I didn't "hate" this place. Darin and I enjoyed our Pineapple IPAs quite a bit. We agreed that it didn't have a fake flavor or too minimal a pineapple presence. You can actually taste ripe, juicy pineapple, although I'm not sure if it was a result of a hop combo or simply adding pineapple juice to the beer. Either way, it was enjoyable. With that said, I think I need to go back and start a "part II" of The Anomalous Olfactory Anecdotes of Brewslut, which is still one of my personal favorite Pour Travelers blog posts of all time.

We decided to swing by nearby State College for a quick stop at Otto's. When we arrived, there appeared to be a lengthy wait list to get in. Even when things were "normal" back in the day, Otto's always seemed to be packed. Whether school was in session or not, this place has a huge fan base. Across the parking lot, however, things looked pretty quiet at Barrel 21, a distillery owned by Otto's. Come to think of it, Brewslut and I had never gone in despite many visits to Happy Valley over the years. I'd already had my requisite cocktail of the day; when it gets down to the nitty gritty, I enjoy a refreshing cocktail like anyone, but at the core I'm a beer guy through and through. I mean, I am writting a beer blog, so I suppose that's assumed. 

Pleeps is down with the Green Weenie!


With that said, I was excited to see a selection of Otto's beers on tap, including one I hadn't had before. The name of the beer intrigued me: Green Weenie. I inquired about it, and our server gave me the low-down: it's an unfiltered, hop forward IPA with generous additions of Citra and Nugget hops. In layman's terms, it's a freakin' delicious IPA, perhaps the best hoppy beer I've ever had from Otto's. Straddling the line between east and west coast, this one was slightly hazy with a big citrusy aroma but with a fair amount of bitterness on the palate. This was a one-and-done stop for us all, although we did share a big ol' bowl of premium spiced nuts. Nothing but the best for us when we travel! Next time, I'm going to try and dig into the spirits... but it will have to wait for another visit. 

Pleeps is a premium nut!


Postscript: On Sunday, we enjoyed a new beer at Selin's Grove called Napoleon, a light, crisp session IPA that drank like American Pale Ale lite. Then we got in a few rounds of Minki Ball at Club Mease before heading home and running my weekly virtual music trivia later that evening. 

Well, that's all for now. Thanks for reading about our latest adventure. Join us again somewhere down the road as we continue to traverse craft beer's ever-expanding playing field. Until next time...