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Monday, December 5, 2016

Drinksgiving 2016: Part II - Baaahston, baby!

Day 3 - Thursday 11/24

Thanksgiving Day was spent in Boston at Dan and Kristen's house in our lounge pants eating way too much food for five human beings and drinking some choice gems from Dan's beer cellar (actually, some of his beer is stored in a guest room, while the rest is kept in his DFB, or Dedicated Beer Fridge, in the garage). Here's what we cracked open throughout the day, in no particular order:

  • One Hop This Time: Vic Secret - Night Shift
  • One Hop This Time: Mosaic - Night Shift
  • Citra Cutting Tiles - Trillium
  • Apple Brandy Barrel Noir - Prairie
  • Bourbon Barrel-Aged Mexican Cake - Westbrook
  • Imperial Blu Bu - De Garde
  • Petit Kriek - De Garde
  • Special Rogue - De Garde

Beer aside, Dan really went above and beyond for Thanksgiving dinner, although I must say that I wasn't surprised at all. This is the same guy who made a metric ton of pulled pork and turkey for Ffej of July as well as gallons of homemade BBQ sauce and enough baked beans to make everyone at the party flatulent enough to burn a hole in the ozone layer. For dinner, we enjoyed a feast of smoked turkey, sausage stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, maple mashed sweet potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower, corn, pumpkin pie, and a homemade Mexican cake with Bavarian cream in the middle. I hope I didn't forget anything. After not having Thanksgiving dinner for the previous 8 years, I must say this was a big treat for us! Dan knows his way around the kitchen fo' sho'!

We capped off the day with a viewing of the fantastic Marvel universe movie Deadpool, starring Ryan Reynolds. I must admit that I never jumped on the Marvel bandwagon aside from my all-time favorite superhero, Spiderman (even though I collected various Marvel comics for a few years during my mid-to-late teens), but this movie was pretty damn awesome! It was funny, irreverent, violent, and serious when it needed to be. Dare I say it was the coolest superhero movie ever made? Sure, why not?

Day 4 - Friday 11/25

Since we stayed locked in at Dan and Kristen's place all day for Thanksgiving, Brewslut and I had some serious cabin fever. So, we put together a pretty ambitious itinerary for Black Friday including 7 breweries. The day's tally actually turned out to be 8 due to a quick impromptu visit of one not on our list. I mean, we were walking right by it, so we had to stop in, right?

Our first stop of the day was Dorchester Brewing Company, who'd just opened its doors back in July. Dan hadn't even paid them a visit yet. Typical of any first stop of the day, a sampler flight was in order. Here's the low-down on my tray:

Entitled IPA - straight-up IPA with tropical fruit notes
V1 DIPA - fruit-forward DIPA with tons of Mosaic hops
Mass Ave IPA - IPA hopped with El Dorado
Warp Rider - Red IPA with notes of pine resin

I also sampled some of Brewslut's Secret Decoder Ring (awesome name... if you don't get the reference, you need to drink more Ovaltine), a brown porter aged on cocoa nibs. This was pretty tasty.

However, I was still in the mood for a smoked beer, especially since the one I wanted at Jack's Abby had kicked. So, I opted for a half liter mug of Engine 21, a traditional German Rauchbier made with 33% Beechwood smoked malt. This one was right on the nuggets! Not too smoky and a prime example of this unpopular style. I wish more breweries would make traditional Rauchbiers. For those afraid of smoked beers, you really need to try a classic Rauchbier. They are fantastic! (Steps down from soapbox.)

Enjoying an Engine 21 Rauchbier at Dorchester.

Up next was a stop at the new Night Shift location. I'd had a number of their beers already, and it took me a few to get into them. After a pair of initial disappointing beers, they first wowed me with Whirlpool, a delicious, fruity American Pale Ale. Since then, I'd enjoyed just about everything I tried from them.

Upon entering, we were greeted by an expansive space with communal seating, a bar area, high ceilings and an additional room in the back for more seating options. I perused the beer selection, and they had about 10 or so offerings currently available. I started with a pour of Morph, Night Shift's constantly evolving IPA series, which changes from batch to batch. This particular batch was #38, dated 11/17/16. Upon further investigation, I learned this version incorporated Bravo, Vic Secret, Simcoe and Citra hops to create a juicy IPA "bursting with citrus and tropical fruit flavors." They didn't have to twist my arm to drink this. It was quite tasty! Brewslut opted for the Aloha Weisse, a Berliner Weisse brewed with pineapple, which I also sampled. This was pretty damn delicious, and she concurred. Since Dan was a member of the Barrel Society, he was able to procure a pour of Sheridan, a Flanders-style sour ale aged in various oak wine barrels. This sucker was warm, fruity and tannic with some moderate mouth pucker. I ended with a pour of Awake, a delicious coffee porter aged with coffee from Counter Culture. I'm always in the mood for a coffee beer (or coffee, for that matter), and I seldom miss an opportunity to sample one when I'm travelling. Good stuff, this was!

Pleeps says, "Aloha from Night Shift!"

Our next stop was another new place with which I'd not yet familiarized myself: Bone Up. This place was quite small but boasted some modest charm through the use of unique lighting and a Metallica pinball machine. It was looking like a quick one-and-done stop, so I settled on Wasted Life, their flagship IPA. As I was doing a bit of post-trip research, I checked the Bone Up web site and noticed that, in addition to food pairing notes, they also added a specific cheese pairing and, oddly, enough, music pairing for each beer. I thought this was kind of funny. Unfortunately, this particular beer is recommended to go well with "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls, which makes me wonder if this beer has a predominantly gay male fanbase. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Forget bellying up to the bar... I want to BONE UP!

After our visit at Bone Up, we convened back at Dan and Kristen's to eat some leftovers from the previous day's feast, and cracked open a Dusk Trill Dawn, an Imperial Stout with cold brewed coffee made in collaboration with Trillium and Evil Twin. That was some mighty fine drinking, let me tell you! Unfortunately, we once again ate too much and later in the evening experienced a few unfortunate "puke burps" as a result. That's the price you pay for loading up on carbs before you drink all night.

After dinner, we continued our Boston brewery crawl by Uber-ing back into town. Our next stop was a newish place called Winter Hill. Brewslut and I opted for the same beer - Hesher, an American Wheat IPA dry-hopped with Citra and Zythos. This one missed the mark a little, and I detected a hint of diacytl in there, but it wasn't off-putting. She wasn't digging it at all, unfortunately. The place seemed cool enough, although it was sparsely populated while we were there. Dan and Charles were caught up in some compelling conversation and Brewslut was feeling the effects of too many carbs, so this was a one-and-done stop for us. This was fine with me, as we had many more places to cross off the list.

Pleeps sometimes likes the murky ones.

Our next stop, Aeronaut, was a brisk 25 minute walk from Winter Hill, which found me wishing I'd worn my heavier coat instead of just a hoody. It wasn't uncomfortably cold, just a tad bit chilly with a hint of cool breeze. Upon entering the premises, this place felt right up my alley. Like my previous comments about Ecliptic in Portland, OR, I'm a sucker for "outer space bullshit," to quote Ricky from Trailer Park Boys. My first selection was First Steps on a Sour Planet, a Berliner Weisse on cask! This was a rare treat, as I seldom see this style on a beer engine. I was very pleased with this decision, and it was one of my favorites of the day, so great first impression, Aeronaut! As we made our way back into the adjacent room, I noticed about a dozen classic arcade games in the corner. I'm definitely a sucker for 80's arcade games, and even better was the fact that these were all FREE PLAY machines (meaning no quarters or tokens needed). BOOYEAH! Plus the arcade games served two important purposes on this particular evening. Not only did they provide about half an hour's worth of free entertainment, they also served as a distraction from "some douche playing an acoustic guitar" who was just around the corner near the front of the room. (Editor's note: Sick Cards Against Humanity reference, Ffej!) He wasn't a hired musician; he just felt like bringing his guitar in to show off to all the ladies (or perhaps dudes... he was sporting a questionable sweater).

One small step for Pleeps, one giant step for monkies!

My next selection was Hop Hop & Away, a Citra and Mosaic-hopped American Pale Ale. At 4.6% ABV, this was an easy drinker! I wish I would have picked up some cans of this one before we left, but I was still reeling from the free arcade games. Oh well. We ended up toting back a pretty sizable haul of goodies to share with our Team D(r)INK compadres!

By the time I moved on to a pour of Leipzig Bop, a Gose, "some douche" had moved from guitar to the upright piano occupying the room. That was our cue to finish up and head to the next place.

After Dan's glowing review of Lord Hobo's Hobo Life session IPA (he compared it to Three Floyds' Zombie Dust), we made a quick decision to swing by and scarf down a pint between the four of us. And that we did. Dan also ordered a pour of something called Fallow Harvest, a beer from Hermit Thrush, a brewery based out of VT with whom I wasn't acquainted. This particular beer was an unspiced pumpkin sour ale uniting two vintages aged in French oak barrels. This was pretty fantastic and these guys are now on my radar. We'll hopefully be back in VT in 2017, so we'll be sure to track them down!

Pleeps takes a break and enjoys a rare beerless pose.

After our little 5-minute beer carousel ride at Lord Hobo (we literally stood at the bar and passed each beer around to one another until both were finished), we were off to another new brewery. This time, it was Lamplighter. When we arrived, I noticed the place was clean and well-kept with modern decor. Think a semi-fancy brunch spot with a variety of seating options, lots of time, and funky lighting. And it was bumping in there by the time we walked in. If any place in Boston is "Hipster Central," it's this place. Located in Cambridge and just a stone's throw away from our final destination (Cambridge Brewing Co.), Lamplighter was dripping with hipsters. That's not necessarily always a bad thing, though, because some hipsters have the innate ability to sniff out the good stuff. In this particular case, Lamplighter was indeed "the good stuff." With a penchant for brewing "aroma-packed, funk, and flavor-driven ales," many of the Lamplighter beers I sampled during our visit were yeast-focused. Check out this diverse sampler flight I enjoyed:

Danger Zone - Get ready to call Kenny Loggins, because this tasty dry-hopped sour ale features wildflower and tart lemon notes.
Mad Hatter - 100% Brettanomyces Pale Ale with ripe peach and resiny flavors.
Lion Eyes - dry and funky 100% Brettanomyces IPA.
Easy Tiger - another 100% Brettanomyces IPA with tropical fruit and earthy funk.

Hangin' with the hipsters at Lamplighter.
I enjoyed all of my beers, and Brewslut was impressed as well. However, the day was winding down and it was off to Cambridge before closing time. Aside from Lord Hobo (which hadn't even begun brewing when we last visited), Cambridge was the only "been there" place of the day. Dan and I both love their Blunderbuss Barleywine, but alas it was not on tap on this particular occasion.

Beer-wise, this was our final stop of the day, so we decided on a single pour of something from the tap list. I went with Don't Panic, a juicy Session IPA with notes of berries and wildflower amid herbal spiciness. Brewslut opted for a Boilermaker Stout, a barrel-aged dry stout. Both served as the closure of a day well-spent in Boston.

Aside from the beer, one of my favorite things about this place is the rotating mural on the wall adjacent to the bar. Depicting a variety of movie stars, musicians, fictional characters, Cambridge employees, and even local customers, this ever-changing mural always elicits a fun topic of conversation during our visit. We noticed, among others, President Obama, John Winger (Bill Murray's character from Stripes, and Barney from the Simpsons). It's always fun to try and figure out who's who on the mural!

Stay tuned for more Drinksgiving adventures including Portland, ME and a romp around New Hampshire before heading back to PA. Until then...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Drinksgiving 2016: Part I - Getting Kinky in NEPA on the way to New England

Thanksgiving is widely regarded as a holiday to spend with family. But what happens when you don’t really want to spend it with your family because it means having to deal with your bat-shit crazy sister-in-law? If you’re anything like us, you come up with “Drinksgiving,” and get as far away as possible. So, let us give thanks for everyone’s favorite festive fermented beverage and the fact that there is a multitude of breweries within driving range of Central PA.

For the 9th installment of our little holiday excursion, we headed up to Boston to spend a few days with our old beer friends Dan and Kristen, who migrated to New England about two years ago. One of the unfortunate side effects of traveling over Thanksgiving is missing out on arguably the best meal of the year. Lucky for us, Dan possesses some mad culinary skills and invited us for an epic Thanksgiving feast. Yay for us! No Subway turkey subs this year! In addition to Boston, we decided to spend a night in nearby Portland, ME and head back down through Portsmouth, NH on our way back to Boston before spending our last night of the trip at Dan and Kristen’s. This would afford us the opportunity to hit a few favorites and some new places as well.

So... on with the show!

Day 1 - Tuesday 11/22

We also decided to get a jump on that nasty day-before-Thanksgiving traffic by getting hotel accommodations in the NEPA area on Tuesday night. So after our daily rigmaroles on Tuesday, we made our way to Wilkes-Barre, which put us about an hour-and-a-half closer to our destination.
For our pre-game drinking festivities, we stopped in a favorite spot of ours in Wilkes-Barre – Krugel's. I remember this place when it first opened, and they have since expanded about three times. Krugel's definitely paved the way for craft in an area previously devoid of any kind of decent beer. 

Ironically, we initially stopped in to scope out our “shitty beer" for the trip. Wait a minute... what?! Shitty beer, you ask? I'll elaborate with a passage from one of my previous blogs, French Canada - Part I: Oui oui, eh?

We typically have a tradition of purchasing a "shitty" beer at a convenience store on the way to our destination and drink it as our inaugural beer of the trip in the hotel room.  This is a tradition that we started on our second trip (to Asheville, NC).  Bud Chelada was the first, followed by Tilt Red and Tilt Purple (enjoyed on our way to Athens, OH, complete with video footage of an angry black man venting about white people responsible for getting caffeinated malt liquor banned).  This year, it was a honkin' can of Steel Reserve, an 8.1% high gravity lager brewed by Miller.  With such catch phrases as "slow brewed," "select hops for extra gravity" and "extra malted barley," I knew this was going to be a winner.  First whiff reminded me of creamed corn, an aroma befitting of the Thanksgiving holiday.  With tongue planted firmly in cheek, I poured my share of the beer into a stemmed wine glass.  While I've definitely had worse, I don't think I'll be revisiting this one any time in the near future.  

So, after a quick perusal of the cold beer coolers, Brewslut zeroed in on what now seems like a totally obvious choice - Extra Kinky Pink. More on that later... I promise! 

We ended up staying longer than usual after striking up a conversation with one of the owners while enjoying a few draft selections. I was delighted to see Captain Lawrence Effortless Grapefruit on tap. This session IPA reminded me of a more crushable Grapefruit Sculpin, and I enjoyed it immensely. Brewslut opted for the Bruery's Autumn Maple, and she kicked the keg so it was complimentary. She wasn't a big fan, unfortunately. We also each got a pour of the new Cold Press Coffee Pumking from Southern Tier. Say what you will about pumpkin beers (we even had a discussion with the owner about them), Pumking is generally regard as the best pumpkin ale on the market. I must say adding coffee was a stroke of genius. As a matter of fact, I'll go ahead and take credit for this tasty little combo, because a few weeks before I learned of this beer, I blended Selin's Grove's pumpkin ale (the TRUE best pumpkin ale, folks... let's not kid ourselves) with cold brew coffee, dispensed via nitro at the pub itself. So Southern Tier, you can send some residuals my way. 

After an enjoyable stop at Krugel's, it was time to move on. But first, a few purchases. In addition to our annual shitty beer selection, we also picked up a 4-pack of Saugatuck Neapolitan Milk Stout (just because) and a big-ass can of Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy from Oskar Blues (whalez, bro)! 

No trip to NEPA is complete without a stop at Sabatini's (aka the NEPA branch of Al's of Hampden). Boasting some killer pizza and an expertly curated draft selection, Sabatini's is the premier beer spot in this neck of the woods. After picking up our pizza next door (we had to call because the kitchen closed at 10:30 p.m.), we headed in for a few beers. I was delighted to see a few SOLE offerings on tap, as this was the first place I’d experienced its beers back in May on our NEPA and Burlington excursion. I started with Rage Quit, a double dry-hopped Oat IPA brewed with a "melange of dank/citrus forward American hops." This beer was quite good, to say the least. Dry and dank indeed! Brewslut went with a pour of Lagunitas Born Yesterday, an aggressively hopped American Pale Ale. Surprisingly, I hadn't had that one before. Another winner! Finally, we ended our visit with another SOLE beer called Swamp Witch. At 13.666% ABV, this one was a heavy hitter. (Coincidentally, we ended our last visit to Sabatini's with another huge beer - a monster Strong Ale from Surly called 1349 Black Ale.) Swamp Witch was pretty tasty and super complex, but it was definitely a sipper. I think Brewslut drank the lion's share of this pour. Besides, I had bigger fish to fry once we got back to the hotel, which was a few short miles away. 

Now, for the moment you've all been waiting for! I give you the Drinksgiving "shitty beer" of the trip. And oh man, is it a doozie!

It doesn't get much better than Extra Kinky Pink from Kinky Beverages in a plastic hotel cup. Just look at those carbonation bubbles.

Aaaah, the effervescence! It also had that smooth 8% finish... you know how we do!

After sloshing down more than my fair share of this fruity malt beverage, it was time to get a good night's rest for tomorrow's long day. 

Day 2 - Wednesday 11/23

On Wednesday, our first full day of the trip, we traversed NEPA through New York into Connecticut, where we made the first of four stops in Oxford. I wasn’t familiar with Black Hog when I was planning the trip, but they were offering special holiday hours of operation and had a lot of interesting stuff on tap. Case in point...

We arrived about twenty minutes early, but one of the staff let us and a few other customers in early. With such a varied tap list, what's one to do? Try 'em all, of course! Since it was our first stop and we were both eager to commence with our imbibing exercises, we each opted for a “super flight” featuring a 5oz. pour of everything on tap. The folks at Black Hog get bonus points for serving these in cupcake tins! Here’s the run-down:

Easy Rye'da - session rye IPA
Autumn Nugget - wet hop ale with a variety of spices and vanilla
Delicata Squash Saison - spiced farmhouse ale
Ginga' Ninja - red IPA with fresh ginger
Hog Water - kick-ass, straight-up IPA!
Rosemary Dunkelweizen - traditional dark wheat beer with fresh rosemary
Granola Brown - ale brewed with a blend of oats, grains and roasted nuts
Coffee Milk Stout - brewed with organic cold extract coffee
CT Love Bomb - wet hop ale brewed with CT-grown hops
Biere de Hog - tart Biere de Garde (aka French farmhouse ale)
Disco Pig 5.1 - Barrel-Aged Kyūri Saki Bīru - experimental wild ale
Disco Pig 7 - Pineapple Express - another experimental wild ale, but this one was barrel-aged!

Pfew! I wish I could say that was a chore, but it wasn't. Instead, it was a treat, and the perfect way to kick off Drinksgiving '16!

Pleeps doesn't know where to start!
When traveling, we always come well-stocked with an assortment of Tröegs beer. Working in such a friendly industry definitely has its privileges. To paraphrase Sir Paul McCartney, “the beer you take is equal to the beer you make.” Show up with some gifts, and ye will be rewarded. We picked up two bottles of Disco Pig sour releases, plus a bomber of a Berliner with woodruff syrup and a 6-pack of the Nitro Coffee Stout. All in all, it was a great visit and a good omen for what lied ahead of us. When the first stop is enjoyable, the rest of the trip usually follows suit; not that I’m superstitious or anything.

Up next was another Connecticut brewery new to us called Cold Creek, which came with a recommendation from Dan. Situated in the town of Ellington, the small brewery opened its doors in August 2015. Similar to when Hill Farmstead first started, Cold Creek's beers are named after people. Unfortunately, I didn't get to ask about this while we were there, as I was only able to grab one of the brewers for a very brief conversation after sharing some beers with one of the servers. We settled on another flight of everything, although they had less than half the number of beers as Black Hog. Here's what we enjoyed during our visit:

Jane - American Pale Ale with Simcoe and Amarillo
Adelaide - Juicy NE style Pale Ale brewed with Mosaic and Amarillo
Natalie - DIPA dry-hopped with Mosaic and Azacca
Maple Winnie - a delicious honey oat stout infused with dark roast coffee from Kevin's Coffee Connection in Vernon, CT and raw maple syrup from Worthington Pond in Somers, CT.
Gisele - Gose

More samplers for the monkey, please!
Using my charm (since it was a male server; otherwise I'd rely on my dashing good looks), I was able to procure a crowler of the Maple Winnie, which they were not offering as a fill. OK, I bribed him with free beer. Either way, I can't wait to drink more of this, because it was pretty damn tasty!

Inside Cold Creek's tasting room.
For our next stop, we had planned on swinging by Tree House, which was only about half an hour away. Unfortunately, we got word from Dan that they had completely sold out of both cans AND draft. With the well dry at Tree House, we kicked into audible mode and decided to head into Framingham. We had already planned on stopping by Jack's Abby, but Dan also mentioned a brand new place called Exhibit A that had just opened in September. So these guys were brand spankin' new, and their beers were pretty damn good to boot! These guys have a clean, modern facility with their own canning line. One of the guys was nice enough to give me a quick walk-through when they closed. They are definitely poised for growth given the size of the space. And with Jack's Abby focusing exclusively on lagers, it makes sense for them to churn out some tasty hoppy offerings. Here's what was on the menu during our visit.

The Cat's Meow - IPA with Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado
Demo Tape 3: American Pale Ale - brewed with "high oil" Cascade hops
Demo Tape 6: Dry Hopped Kettle Sour - dry-hopped with El Dorado
Demo Tape 7: Double IPA - DIPA with Galaxy, Pekku and Cascade
Demo Tape 8: Simcoe Oat Pale Ale - session IPA with flaked oats and Jarrylo, Mosaic, and, of course, Simcoe hops
Goody Two Shoes - Kölsch-style ale

I dig the concept of the Demo Tape series. Well, the concept ain't new, but I like the name. It takes me back to when bands actually had physical demo tapes. My band had one (we recorded it on a 4-track machine). Sounds quite primitive in the digital age, but fuck downloading, I say. Give me something tangible I can hold in my hands and pop into a boom box (or even better, gently plop onto a turntable). OK, enough music geekery. Back to the beer. Both Brewslut and I concurred that the Dry Hopped Kettle Sour was our favorite of the Demo Tape offerings, so we ordered a full pour just before they started closing down for the evening.

Pleeps loves them tropical El Dorado hops!
Our last stop of the day was also located in Framingham. Jack's Abby brews lagers exclusively; a rarity in a scene dominated by ales. They've definitely carved out a unique niche in the craft beer universe. I've had the pleasure of sampling a few of their beers in the past, and I've enjoyed what I had. When I learned we'd be passing through on our way to Boston, I added their tasting room to our itinerary. I'm glad we did.

Interior of Jack's Abby
The vast tasting room area boasted a huge open floor plan with communal tables that screamed German biergarten. The place was inviting and the staff was super friendly. We found an open spot at one of the communal tables after ordering our beers at the bar counter (standard ordering procedure there). We started with a Wet Hop Lager (me) and Cuvee D'or Rouge (Brewslut), her beer being a blend of red and golden sour lagers. As for food, the menu looked great and the prices were reasonable, so we each ordered an entree. The food was bangin'! I had roasted chicken with dirty rice, Haricots Verts (I soon learned this was the fancy term for "green beans"), and a sweet fruit chutney (mango, I believe). Brewslut settled on an equally tasty salmon dish. I enjoyed a Sibling Rye-valry with my dinner. This India Pale Lager brewed with rye was flavorful, hop-forward and slightly dry, the latter characteristic a hallmark of rye beer styles. Oddly, Brewslut opted for a sour pumpkin version of Smoke & Dagger, which is a cross between a German Schwarzbier and smoked porter. After dinner, I perused the merchandise kiosk and picked up a bottle of Brandy Barrel-aged Framinghammer, a Baltic porter. Overall, it was a nice cap on a day well spent.

We arrived in Boston at around 9:30 p.m. and enjoyed a few more beers with Dan and Kristen (and fifth wheel Charles) before retiring for the evening.

Stay tuned for more Drinksgiving adventures from Boston, Portland and Portsmouth. Until next time... keep in kinky!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Music is the best

By way of my older brother, I was fortunate to get into music at a very early age. Real music. ROCK music! Before I dove headfirst into heavy metal around 1983, I used to sneak into my brother’s bedroom and dig through his vast record collection, despite the fact his room was “off limits” to me. I was mesmerized by the band names and album titles, and I listened intently with headphones while sitting on his bed and getting lost in the music. I remember albums by Boston, ELO, Kansas, Queen, Styx, Rush, and Billy Joel, to name a few. 

Since those formative years, to say music has dominated my life would be an understatement. To me, music isn't a hobby; it's a way of life. You don't grow out of it. It gets inside of you and embodies your spirit. It moves and inspires you. It can provoke a million different emotions. Music can elevate you to the heavens or tear your heart right out of you chest... sometimes it can achieve both of these within the confines of a single song. 

At any rate, I'm excited beyond belief to be hosting a monthly rock trivia night at my favorite local watering hole - The Corvette Grille - in my adopted hometown of Annville, PA. 

Please join me on Sunday, November 13 from 7 to 9 p.m. for the inaugural "Second Sunday Rock Music Trivia." Come and flex your rock music trivia muscle for your chance to win some awesome prizes including Corvette gift certificates. We'll also have $3 Tröegs draft specials and some other sweet giveaways. You can also "like" our Facebook page. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Celebrity Status

Podcasts are like slightly more high-tech versions of blogs. I've had the pleasure of doing a handful of these over the last few years through Tröegs and a couple centered around some of my bands. However, I've never been asked to appear on one based on my own merit as a - for lack of a better term - local celebrity.

With that said, check out my recent appearance on the new craft beer-centric podcast, Operation Shutdown. For its ninth episode, we discuss (among other things) working at Tröegs, my love for Selin's Grove, my Rush tribute band Solar Federation, Ffej of July, goats, beer traveling, and this very blog itself, The Pour Travelers.

Thanks to Bill and Ed for being cool hosts. I look forward to doing another episode soon (maybe to talk about Imminent Liquidation)!

You can stream the audio or download it by clicking HERE. Enjoy!

Brewery in my backyard!

For the longest time, I had wished for a small brewery to open in Annville, PA. As most people know, both Brewslut and I hail from Shamokin, PA. However, we've called Annville (our adopted town) "home" since 2000. Over the years, every time I'd see an interesting building in town come up for sale on the market, I'd say, "That would make a great spot for a brewery!" Years passed and Annville remained a college town bereft of its own little brewery.

Until now, that is!

Flying very low under the radar is the recently established Rotunda Brewing Company. Owned by the same group of three brothers that run the Batdorf Restaurant in town, RBC started off as a small bottle and "mix a six" shop situated a few doors down from the restaurant on West Main Street. A while back, they began brewing in earnest on a tiny 1-barrel system, making its beers available at the Batdorf. I decided to go out on a limb and try a pint of the Annville IPA (the only house beer on tap at the time). It sure sounded great on paper: an unfiltered NE style IPA with Citra, Mosaic and Galaxy. And you know what? It wasn't bad! To be honest, I really wasn't expecting much.

Rotunda Brewing Company tap handles.

Fast forward a few months, and Brewslut and I decided to head down to the Batdorf for Trivia Night. I was surprised to see these four RBC offerings on tap:

  • Annville IPA - I was told that this is out-selling ALL other beers on tap at the Batdorf... and they have a pretty decent selection of locals, regionals, and nationals. 
  • Squirm - Sweet potato ale aged on vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and ghost peppers
  • Steubenfest - a Märzen, or Oktoberfest style, lager
  • Left My Wallet in El Dorado - an IPA brewed with oats as well as Lemon Drop, Zeus and El Dorado hops
I must admit that I was intrigued by Squirm because of its unusual combination of ingredients, but I was cautious to try it due to its use of ghost peppers. I've had some chili pepper beers in the past that have... well, let's just say that they have caused some future discomfort in the posterior region. Lucky for us, an older couple was sitting next to us at the bar and became adopted allies for our trivia team. They ordered a sampler flight of the aforementioned four beers and only took about a sip of each, then graciously offered them to Brewslut and I. The Annville IPA I'd had before, so I let Brewslut polish that one off. The Fest and El Dorado IPA were decent attempts that were neither memorable nor horrendous. However, the Squirm was pretty damn amazing! 

I was surprised to see a brewery employing a 1-barrel system execute a beer with these ingredients (especially the ghost pepper) with such finesse. The end result was a well-balanced, high ABV ale that concealed the alcohol heat really well. The ghost pepper character was spot-on and played nicely with the other ingredients, especially the vanilla, which produced a sweet, cooling effect. To top it off, they floated a few mini-marshmallows on top for some added aesthetics. Overall, I was pretty bowled over with this beer. I told my Team D(r)INK buddy (who was competing against us at a nearby table) about it, and he decided to try a pour. He too was quite impressed. 

Full pour of Squirm (courtesy of Untappd gallery)
I bumped into the manager of the bottle shop when we were there, and he informed me that they may be dropping the bottle shop and bringing in a 7-barrel brewhouse to ramp up production. I was pretty stoked to hear that, as I think they have some potential to make some interesting stuff. I will say, however, that the draft prices have gone up considerably over the last two years, and the house beers are a bit pricey, in my opinion. Still, if their house IPA is their top selling draft beer, then more power to 'em! So it looks like Rotunda Brewing Company is poised for some exciting times. I'm anxious to stop back in soon to see what they're up to. I see they currently have a Double Black IPA on tap called Chewbacca (perhaps a nod to Firestone Walker's Wookey Jack) that I'd like to try. Next time you're cruising through Annville on Rt. 422, pop in for a quick beer and check out what's brewing!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fairweather Fall Frolicking & Fun Fermented Festivities

Having grown up in Shamokin, the Bloomsburg Fair was always a highly anticipated event for me. I was never much of a "ride guy" (especially the sketchy rides at carnivals and state fairs), but I loved the vendors, food, and games... in that particular order. I could find some sweet pins or patches for donning the names of my favorite heavy metal bands for my jean jacket, or maybe even a cool studded wristband, leather wallet with chain attachment, or some other piece of flair I used to think was cool. Who am I kidding? I still think these items are cool. Metal is a lifestyle. You either abandon it completely, or it engulfs you for life. I fall under the latter category. As for the food, I definitely had my favorites: Benton Cider Mill, St. Mary's potato cakes, and many others. Between scarfing down hundreds of calories of comfort foods, I would try my luck at winning glassware or - even better - goldfish! I once won so many goldfish that I traded them in for a super cool "fish house" so I had somewhere to keep all of my fish. Aaaah, the memories.

These days, I'm more concerned with checking out the livestock exhibits and connecting on some cosmic level with a Nubian goat or miniature donkey. I must admit that the animals are the main reason I enjoy going to the Fair in my older years, although the food is a close second. Since there's no beer (except of the root and birch varieties) available at the Fair, I won't bore you with a detailed account of our day at the Fair. Instead, here are some pics I snapped throughout the day (mostly of animals) for your enjoyment.

Little webbed-footed friends outside the Rabbit Exhibit.

How now?
Alpacas look like they're from the swingin' 60s!

We saved the best for last... GOATS!!!

Obligatory beer content: Hops are part of the agriculture competition!

We never go anywhere without first scoping the area for beer destinations. Fortunately for us, we were staying at the Chalet, so we know the area all too well. Backtracking to Friday evening, we landed at Selin's Grove around a quarter to nine, and I was bummed to find that Saison de Peche (my favorite beer) had a little frowny face sign covering its intricately drawn name on the chalkboard. For those of you who have never been to the Pub, the little frowny face means that the beer has kicked but will return soon. "Soon" means whenever Steve (the owner) is around the change out the keg. Unfortunately, he wasn't around, so no Peche for us that night. Oh well. It's not like they don't make a bunch of stellar beers. Sadly, the Whole Hop IPA was also off, and I must admit I was craving something green and hoppy. Plan C. I ordered a Shade Mountain Stout (back after a recent hiatus in favor of the newer Roasted Oat Stout) with cold brew coffee. I love blending darker beers at the Pub with this amazing cold brew, which is dispensed alongside all of the beers and ciders via a nitro tap. I followed up with a Market Street Fest, a variation on the Oktoberfest, or Märzen, theme. I was surprised to learn that I'd never checked this beer in on Untappd. New check-in for me, even though I've had it numerous times in the past. I finished the night with an 8oz. pour of my Kryptonite - Stealth Triple. Every time I end our visit with one of these high octane suckers, Brewslut has to drive home. She didn't have to this time, as I only imbibed a small amount. Still, this beer is aptly named "Stealth," as it can really sneak up on you like a ninja sneaks up on Hellen Keller.

Shade Mountain Stout with cold brew coffee!

Back at the Chalet on Friday night, we shared a can of The Alchemist's Focal Banger, graciously donated to us by Al (Kominski) by way of "Lawyer Steve," one of our many acquaintances from the Pub. He stopped in to see Al after a recent trip to Vermont, and he had plenty of beer in tow. Lucky for us, Brewslut was working and able to procure a can of this hoppy treat (as well as one you'll read about a little later).

Fast forward to Saturday after the Fair. We made it out of the fairgrounds just as it had started to rain (albeit a light mist rather than the downpour they were expecting) and were on our way to nearby Turkey Hill Brewing Company. I'd heard they were doing some good stuff in the form of sours and barrel-aged beers lately, so I was eager to swing by and check out what they've been up to since our last visit. I'd been a fan since our initial visit, not long after they first opened to the public.

Taps and chalkboard at Turkey Hill Brewing Co.

For my first selection, I went with my tried-and-true favorite - Revelation Pale Ale. However, this particular version was cask conditioned and dry-hopped with Citra. It went down way too quickly and I found myself still thirsty. I also had a few swigs of Brewslut's Berliner with Raspberry from Turkey Hill's new "Abandoned Sour Series." It appears that Turkey Hill is kicking things up a notch and dabbling in sours and other interesting styles. I noticed a variety of cork & cage 750mL bottles for sale in the reception area - everything from barrel-aged beers to blended sours - so it seems like they are doing a fair amount of experimentation, which I always appreciate.

Pleeps guarding our Berliner with Raspberry.

We decided to have another round and followed up our first selections with two tasty beers new to us: Mango-Habanero Pilsner and Urban Abbey Pumpkin Lager. Both of these were very well done. The Pilsner was sweet and fruity up front with a moderate amount of heat in the finish. The crispness of the malt helped bolster the sweetness a bit, which is a good thing because this flavor combination is all about balance. This combo is picking up steam and becoming quite popular among craft breweries. It almost seems like the next big trend after the Gose explosion of the last few years. I guess we'll have to wait and see. The Urban Abbey was also quite tasty. Pumpkin beers can be hit or miss for me. More often than not, it depends on the spice combination. I tend to prefer cinnamon-forward pumpkin beers versus ones heavy on clove or nutmeg. This one had a dominant cinnamon flavor but it wasn't over the top. Brown sugar sweetness mingled with the piquant cinnamon, ginger and other pie spices nicely, and I like the fact that they used a Märzen style as the base beer rather than an amber ale or lighter base. Hints of molasses and caramel came through in the malt, which thickened it up a bit, giving it the subtle chewiness I crave in pumpkin beers. Overall, it was nicely done.

We ate conservatively at the Fair, so we were starting to get a bit peckish. I spotted fish tacos on the menu so I didn't need to look any further. Brewslut ordered a Thai noodle bowl with chicken. This small meal held us over for a while and allowed us to keep the beer flowing, as we were on to our next stop.

I'd been following Old Forge Brewing Company in Danville since well before they were open for business. They were probably the first brewery to open in such close proximity to my hometown of Shamokin (although Selin's Grove is pretty close too). I remember seeing photos of their brewing equipment being delivered, and I was excited to have a place close to home when we visited our families. It was also easier to keep track of all the new PA brewery and brewpub openings back then. Nowadays, there are multiple openings every month instead of one every six months or so. At any rate, I love the philosophy of Old Forge (even though their beers have been hit or miss for me since the get-go). I love the fact that their approach to brewing beer echoes everything from the food they serve to the decor of the brewpub. All of the furniture at their location (including the bar itself) was handcrafted by a local wood and metal worker, while the tap handles, dinnerware, mugs, and sampler trays were hand-made by local potters and artisans. Now that's pretty damn cool!

Mug Club carousel at Old Forge.

We were meeting my cousin (who happens to live nearby) for a few beers. I decided to go outside of my comfort zone for a pair of beer styles I rarely order. Of course, I don't really see these styles on beer menus too often. Despite them having one of my favorites on nitro, Slack Tub Stout, I opted instead for 10oz. pours of the Ryetious Roggenbier as well as a Rauchbier. For those not familiar with the styles, a Roggenbier is a traditional German style made with a grain bill containing about half malted barley and equal portions of rye and wheat. The spiciness of the rye stands out in both the aroma and the flavor, giving a slight pumpernickel bread quality to the beer. Rauchbier, or "smoked beer," is exactly that - a beer brewed with smoked malt. This gives the beer a wood-smoked, beef jerky, or even a bacon flavor, which some people just don't care for in beer (Brewslut included). I, on the other hand, love them! This one was pretty solid, too. We were enjoying good conversation, so I opted for a third choice, this time Overbite IPA poured off the beer engine. I've had this one before a few times and it definitely benefits from cask conditioning to smooth out its rough edges.

By this time, it was getting pretty late and we decided we had to get to the Mifflinburg Oktoberfest for at least one beer. We'd attended a few times in the last couple of years and have always enjoyed the festivities. They serve a pretty solid roster of authentic German beers, the only recent deviation is the locally brewed Oktoberfest from the neighboring Rusty Rail just down the street. By this time of day, the rain had subsided and, although the field was pretty muddy in spots, our boots made it in and out of the tent unscathed. The food vendors were just shutting down for the evening, but we were able to score some free potato dumpling soup and tater tots. We made sure to reciprocate with a hefty tip. With our official Mifflinburg Oktoberfest mugs in tow, we filled them with Köstritzer Schwarzbier (me) and Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Naturtrüb (Brewslut). We've had both beer several times in the past, and I didn't remember liking the Schwarzbier as much as did on this particular occasion. I wasn't even going to get it, but by the time we arrived it was late and they were sold out of a few selections. It went well with a bag of roasted peanuts Carolyn's friend gave us when they left.

Speaking of Carolyn (Deuane's wife), she's the reason why we know about this event in the first place. Although Mifflinburg is just a few miles from the Chalet, she grew up in nearby New Berlin, a small town just down the road. Mifflinburg and Lewisburg are considered the closest "big cities" in that particular neck of the woods. This year, she was entertaining some friends from Vermont who were staying in town at - of all places - the Scarlet D, which was just down the street. I didn't even know they had rooms for rent! After Oktoberfest wound down, they decided to convene at the VFW for a drink, while Brewslut and I headed over to Rusty Rail.

Pleeps clilli' with some NOktoberfest!

When we arrived, I noticed the considerable lack of crowd typically inhabiting the place. Plus it was a Saturday night, so I was even more surprised. There was plenty of room at the bar, so we grabbed a pair of seats and perused the beer menu. I spotted some new Side Track beers on tap (Rusty Rail's limited, small batch series) as well as a new seasonal called NOktoberfest, which Brewslut ordered. I went with Side Track #7 - Mixed Berry Imperial Stout. We found both of these beers to be vast improvements on the beers we sampled during our last visit. The NOktoberfest was a Märzen hybrid brewed with rye malt and blood orange juice. Kind of an odd combination, I know, but it seemed to work. The Side Track #7, which I suspect is a variation of its year-round Wolf King Imperial Stout, was also quite good and featured a blend of blackberries, blueberries, and boysenberries. On the insistence of Pleeps, we also decided to try our luck with an odd-sounding beer. Sidetrack #9 - Imperial Peanut Butter Hefeweizen was brewed with "peanut butter flavoring" and Jarrylo hops, a variety with which I wasn't familiar. (Upon further investigation, I learned that this variety imparts notes of pear, orange, fruity spice, and banana.) Optimistically, I was thinking this could be like a peanut butter-dipped banana (since most Hefes have a distinct ripe banana note as a result of the type of yeast strain used to brew the style). Instead, what we got was more like roasted peanuts with a hint of spice. It was definitely more dry that I was anticipating, and the roasty, nutty quality really overpowered everything else. Still, it was an interesting experiment I was happy to try. It actually wasn't that bad, just rather odd.

We were going to head back to the Chalet, but then Brewslut noticed Carolyn & Co. checked in at the Scarlet D just down the street. We'd stopped in the Scarlet D a few times over the years, mostly because it used to be a cool spot our families took us on occasion to have dinner or get roasted peanuts. (Aside from my family owning land in Millmont since I was a toddler, Brewslut's family also had a summer cottage in the area.) Almost every bar in PA has Yuengling Lager on tap. As a matter of fact, the flagship offering of America's Oldest Brewery has become synonymous with "lager" in Pennsyltucky. But what about the under-appreciated (and far superior)  Lord Chesterfield Ale? The Scarlet D has the distinction of having this (as well as Yuengling Porter) on tap! We enjoyed each of these at the Scarlet D to cap off a fun evening. We arrived just after last call, but the bartender was kind enough to allow us one beer each. Plus Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast" was blaring out of the speakers, which was a huge plus for me! Apparently, the bartender likes to listen to "House of Hair," a syndicated radio show featuring hard rock and heavy metal from the 1980s. \m/

After our fun, impromptu visit to the Scarlet D, we headed back to the Chalet and enjoyed another treat from the Alchemist, Heady Topper. If you haven't heard of this beer, then I'm surprised you are reading a blog about craft beer. This is one of the most hyped-up beers in the pantheon of craft beer, and although its shelf life is shorter than that of an already ripened avocado, when this beer is in its sweet spot, it's tough to beat. This particular can was indeed right on the nuggets.

On Sunday morning, we had breakfast and packed everything up to return home. More times than not when visiting the Chalet, we do what I call a "Selin's Grove sandwich," meaning we stop in on Friday evening and again on Sunday afternoon. I guess this time we also had some dessert, because we'd planned on hitting up a few additional destinations on the way home.

Back at Selin's Grove, I was excited to see two open seats at the bar among a group of regulars. I was also stoked to see that not only had Whole Hop IPA returned, but Wild Peach was now on tap! I had both during our visit. While the Wild Peach is indeed an amazing beer, I actually prefer the standard version. Still, it was great to see this rare treat back on tap for a limited time. I also noticed that Hop Nouveau was coming out soon, as the chalkboard advertised a firkin event the following Friday. I wish the firkin tappings occurred later than 3 p.m. so we could attend them. Oh well. I'll get my fix of this sweet elixir brewed with locally grown hops during our next visit. The arrival of this beer also means that Pumpkin Ale is right around the corner! September through November is definitely my favorite time of year to visit the Pub. At the time of writing this, we'd visited the last 5 weeks in a row. The proof is in the pudding.

Wild Peach... what a surprise!

After yet another enjoyable visit to the Pub, we were off to Al's of Hampden to try some new Pizza Boy beers. Brewslut has the luxury of trying new beers more often than me because she works there once a week. So I always put in a request to visit when we're in close proximity. Al recently installed some new TVs to be used in conjunction with his rotating beer menu. In addition to all of the draft, nitro and cask selections, the new screens include all bottle releases available for on-premise consumption.

Al's new wall of TVs. That's a lot of beer!

First up was a new Saison brewed by Al (with help from the new Assistant Brewer, Roger) called The Hell That is My Life. Brewslut had it recently and mentioned it was awesome, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. This was a solid straight-up Saison with lots of zesty citrus fruit, some earthy herbs, and a hint of barnyard funk. I also had the Wet Shore, a wet-hopped version of their flagship West Shore IPA (recently re-named Hampden IPA due to a small entanglement with a West Coast brewery that will remain anonymous). I'd had this about two years ago when it first came out, and this year's version was killer! If you like fresh hop IPAs, this one is juicy and insanely drinkable. Check it out before it's gone. Up next, I settled on Washed Up, a bacon-washed beer. Brewslut opted for On the Fritz, an India Pale Lager. While I don't eat pork anymore, my one caveat is that I will still drink beers brewed with bacon (or any meat, really). I asked Al what the base beer was for this, and he said it was an Oatmeal Porter, so I was sold. Man, this beer was awesome! It featured just the right amount of smoky meatiness backed by a luscious mouthfeel and robust chocolately, roasty malt character. I had some of Brewslut's On the Fritz as well (another one new to me) and it was crisp and hoppy, just as I'd anticipated. We used these last two beers to wash down our tasty subs.

After Pizza Boy, it was off to a brand new Central PA brewery. Evergrain Brewing Company in Camp Hill had opened the week prior to our visit. Owned by the same two guys (Norm and Larry) who own the Brewhouse Grille, a beer bar in Camp Hill and mainstay of the local craft beer scene, Evergrain features a roster of ten house brews and food available through the adjoining Our Kitchen Table (where you literally order at a window connecting the two establishments). Brewmaster Bruce Tanner used to work at Tröegs for a number of years, so I knew the beers would be solid.

I was dying to try Joose Juicy, a NE-style IPA with a "hop character of dank, resinous hops" I'd heard from several friends to be excellent. Brewslut went with the Dark Necessity, a 10% Russian Imperial Stout. She doesn't mess around! Both were solid and enjoyable. We also enjoyed sharing a pint of the Wet Hop Cascade IPA, which was brewed with local hops grown and harvested at Painted Horse Hop Farm based in Dillsburg, PA. It was quite busy for a Sunday evening when we rolled in, and there was a hefty constituency of Tröegs peeps in attendance, which was nice to see. This place boasts a huge, open floor plan with the brew deck and tanks in plain sight, plus spacious seating options and even a ping pong table. Overall, it has a boomy warehouse vibe similar to some of the larger "industrial park" breweries in California. It seems like Evergrain is off to a great start, so I'm anxious to see what lies ahead for them.

Inside Evergrain's Tasting Room.

Thanks for reading. Perhaps we'll cross paths one day while seeking out some fresh, local beer. Until next time...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Adventures in Portlandia: Day 8 - More Portland than you can possibly handle!

We were flying back to PA today on a red-eye flight, which meant we technically had an entire day of drinking left before we plunged back into the real world. We decided to stay in close proximity of the airport. Good thing there were plenty of nearby breweries to keep us occupied while we waited for the inevitable expiration of our Summer 2016 beer-cation.

I needed more Serendipity stat!
Even though we just visited Great Notion on the previous day, we HAD to go back and drink a few of our favorites before bidding a fond adieu to this great beer city. This time, I kept it to my three absolute favorites: Juice, Jr., Serendipity, and Peach Punch (the 4th time I had this one on the trip). While we sat at the bar, a group of six fellow beer travelers descended upon the bar, and soon enough we struck up a conversation with them. They were visiting from a few different areas of California. I'll refer to them as Sammy & Co. from here on out, as you know by now I'm terrible at remembering names. Plus that just makes things easier to read, doesn't it? Yes it does. We traded beer stories including favorite destinations, East Coast vs. West Coast living, and a myriad of other (mostly beer-related) topics.

Sammy & Co. were open for suggestions, as they'd just recently rolled into town. We'd mentioned we were heading to nearby Old Town Brewing's Northeast location. Recently voted one of the country's best pizzeria brewpubs by Thrillist, Old Town had also just one the 2015 GABF gold medal for its Shanghai'd IPA. This place had a definite ski lodge vibe, with high ceilings, lots of dark, rustic wood, a huge stone fireplace, and cozy seating including a deep burgundy-colored velvet couch (where Brewslut and I sat). Not long after we arrived, Sammy & Co. wandered in and sat at the bar. We continued our discussion and I mentioned that we were going to check out Ex Novo after having a great beer of theirs just the night before.

Pleeps was on the menu at Old Town... literally!
Since it had just won gold at GABF, I decided to give Shanghai'd IPA a shot. Brewslut opted for the intriguing sounding Kentucky Refresh-Mint, a beer based off the recipe for a mint julep, a popular cocktail featuring bourbon and fresh mint. This light-colored ale was aged on bourbon-soaked oak chips and freshly plucked mint. I must admit that, while it sounded great on paper, I was skeptical of this one. I'd had a few beers brewed with mint in the past, and a lot of them was like accidentally swallowing a mouthful of Scope. However, this beer was awesome! It seems that Oregonian brewers have a knack for artfully blending light-bodied, amber-colored ales with odd ingredients and aging them in spirits barrels. In my opinion, the results have been overwhelmingly delicious. The Shanghai'd was a good enough IPA, although I'm not sure it was "gold medal" good. There's so much competition at GABF in the IPA categories that the judges palates are probably disintegrated after drinking so many in one sitting. I found myself nicking a few sips of Brewslut's stellar beer. We also grabbed a few plain slices of pizza, which were still on special as part of its lunchtime menu. It hit the spot. Next time, I'd like to sample an entire pie to see what all the hubbub is about.

Exterior of Ex Novo, a non-profit brewery!
Our next stop was a place we'd never heard of before - Ex Novo. As I said, I picked up a can of their Eliot IPA on a whim and liked it so much, I felt an obligation to check out the brewery. I'm glad we did! Opened in July 2014, this non-profit brewery donates 100% of its net profits to organizations whose missions include building a better world and bringing hope to places where it is scarce. Sounds like a cause both my liver and I can get behind!

Lots of cool sounding stuff on the board at Ex Novo!
With a plethora of interesting beers on the chalkboard, we each opted for a sampler flight of four beers. Check out some of these interesting sounding beers:
  • Cactus Wins the Lottery - Berliner Weisse brewed with prickly pear
  • All of the Things - dry-hopped sour with passionfruit and habanero
  • Piñata - Imperial Mexican Lager brewed with guava, key lime and habanero
  • Eliot IPA - I talked about this one in the Day 7 blog entry
I really liked the beers and wish we could have spent more time here. Next time we're in town, we will definitely visit again!  

Pleeps: Mr. Happy Go Lucky!
 Next on the agenda was Breakside Brewery. Opened in 2010, Breakside is a relative newcomer to the Portland beer scene. Their claim to fame is snagging the gold medal in the American Style IPA category at GABF 2014 for its flagship, eponymously named IPA. I probably should have tried it, but by this time I was pretty IPA'd out. I saw they had a Smoked Porter on tap (a style I don't think we'd yet encountered on our trip thus far), so I opted for that. By this time of day, everyone was off work and Happy Hour had set in and the place was bumpin'. We caught up with Sammy & Co., who were just finishing up at a table when we arrived. They'd mentioned they were heading over to Ecliptic next. Sounded like a good excuse for us to revisit another favorite, especially since it was close to the airport. PA was calling us home, but we still have a bit of drinking to do. After all, we were representing the East Coast as self-appointed "Craft Beer Ambassadors."

There was another beer on the list that sounded too good to pass up. It was called Homunculus, and rather than jot down some notes about the beer, I just decided to take a picture of the description on the beer menu. This should give you a glimpse into what this beer was all about:

It sounded better on paper. Not to say it was bad, it just wasn't as complex as I was anticipating. Still, I was happy to try it. We were fortunate enough on this trip to get to sample a variety of amazing sour and barrel-aged beers.

With the clock quickly approaching the time to return our rental car, we decided we had time to hit once more place. Actually, we had already decided to go back to Ecliptic after Sammy & Co. mentioned they were stopping there next based on our recommendation.

Back at Ecliptic, I decided to go for a beer I hadn't tried on our first visit. That beer was Xpec 3 Pale Ale. Pretty good overall, but it didn't have the same impact as some of the other beers I'd had in our sampler flight. For my second beer, I decided to return to one of my favorites - Starburst IPA. By this time, our entire group was feeling pretty good after hitting five breweries. There was an acoustic trio playing some music that added to the ambiance. It's always a pleasure to meet great people traveling for the same reason as you. It kind of validates our crazy vacations in the name of beer, doesn't it? I think it does. I remember Brewslut's mom's comment when we first decided to go to California. "Why are you going to California?" she asked. "To drink beer," said my crafty wife. "Can't you do that at home?" Traveling for beer might be my favorite thing to do besides play drums in bands (especially if the songs are by my favorite band, Rush)! As long as there is beer to be had and breweries across the country to visit, Brewslut and I will be there, eagerly waiting on a barstool and chasing our own vision of "beer-vana."

The Pour Travelers feat. Sammy & Co. Thanks to the band for taking this pic!
Back at the airport, our trip came full circle as we enjoyed the same beers at Laurelwood as we did when we landed a week prior. More Workhorse IPA for me and Gose for Brewslut. I finished my beer way before the wife, so I opted for a second selection. Hey, I needed all the help I could get to sleep on a plane. The last time we took a red-eye flight did not go well for me. So, it was an imperial pint of Treehugger Porter, which wasn't bad at all. Fortunately, our flights were on time (we had a layover in Texas... oh how convenient for an overnight flight... nothing like getting up from half-sleep to race to eat, take a piss, and get to another plane). We had planned on spending the afternoon in Philadelphia when we returned, but we were both exhausted. Brewslut even had to drive home, as I got about two hours of sleep on both flights combined. Lucky for me, I had the rest of the day to recover.

And so ends another chapter in our Pour Travelers compendium. We're currently planning our "Drinksgiving 9" (I think) trip to Boston, MA, to visit our beer friends Dan and Kristen. Stay tuned for more beer adventures in 2016 and beyond. Until next time...