But now, back to beer!
Our first of two breweries today was Grist Iron, located on the strip where drinking establishments littered the sides of the road for miles upon miles. We'd already visited a craft distillery and a few wineries before we switched gears for beer, so everyone had a hankering for some snackage (myself included). I was pleasantly surprised to see poutine-style tater tots with mushroom gravy (instead of the usual beef gravy). Brewslut and I shared (and quickly devoured) these scrumptious morsels, washing them down with some pretty solid beer to boot.
|Tap handle action at Grist Iron.|
I opted for a half pour of Ol' Buddy Ol' Pale Ale, a straight-up American Pale Ale hopped with Centennial four different times in the brew process. This proved to be a pretty pleasant, easy-drinking ale with a good pit of piney hops and light floral notes. Brewslut settled on Lake Life IPA, a Citra-hopped American IPA with a pretty substantial amount of bitterness (96 IBU) and notes of mango and grapefruit. Not bad, although I was enjoying my Pale Ale a bit more, I must admit. These days, it's extremely difficult to brew a memorable IPA that stands out from the pack. It can still be done, but with so many breweries brewing IPAs (after all, it is the quintessential American beer style to the majority of craft beer drinkers), most just get lost in the shuffle. But I drink them anyway, and move on. I equate drinking IPAs these days to chasing the dragon; I'm always trying to find that one perfect IPA. Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of what I'd describe as "perfect IPAs" in my travels, but it still remains my favorite style and I will generally gravitate to an interesting-sounding IPA when presented with the opportunity.
|Interior of Grist Iron (with the Bodans back and to the left).|
Adrienne offered a swig of her Ely Pilsner, and I must admit I thought it was a pretty solid interpretation of the classic German style beer that so many beer geeks find boring or passé. I personally appreciated a well-crafted pilsner for all its simplicity. You can't hid behind anything; it's four simple ingredients working in concert to create a very subtle, balanced beer. Anyone can triple dry-hop a lackluster IPA or throw a pedestrian porter in a bourbon barrel for 9 months and hope for the best. But to brew a fine pilsner is a true work of art, in my opinion. We're blessed to have so many great ones brewed right here in PA too (folks reading know the ones I'm talking about)! At any rate, I enjoyed this one and ordered my own pour to savor for the rest of our visit to Grist Iron.
|Pleeps just hangin' out at Grist Iron.|
Just a hop, skip and jump away from Grist Iron was our next stop, Lucky Hare. This place was arguably my favorite brewery of the weekend. Plus the tasting room was dog-friendly, and the folks here were quite jovial as well. Lucky Hare boasted one of those beer chalkboards that had me wanting to try virtually everything on tap. But the first one to jump out at me was Ned Ryerson. (Fans of Bill Murray's Groundhog Day will get the reference.) I assumed it was some kind of rye beer, and I was correct. Ned was indeed a Rye IPA with New York-grown Cascade and Chinook hops. This was an all-around nice semi-dry IPA with plenty of citrus notes and a spicy rye finish. Brewslut chose the Ballwebber, an orange session IPA. I'm not sure if this was brewed with orange or orange zest, or just referred to the flavor of the hops used, but this one was pretty poundable. Only one beer in each and we knew we'd found a winner.
|What's on tap at Lucky Hare?|
Up next, we went with the one-two punch of Falcon Punch and Millennial Falcon Punch, two very tasty IPA variations. Falcon Punch was a lovely golden-bodied East Coast IPA with a citrusy kick (or punch, right?) of grapefruit and lemon zest courtesy of Falconer's Flight hops (of course). Locally grown Cascade and Chinook hops rounded out the hop bill. The millennial version, on the other hand, was a hazy, imperial version of the standard Falcon Punch. This one features Maris Otter malt and flaked oats for a soft, round mouthfeel and the added "haze craze" effect. Then, of course, it's "dry-hopped to the max" with a constantly rotating assortment of hops. I had to chuckle a bit when I saw it was a hazy IPA. Millennial equates to "hipster" for most folks in their 40s (like this middle-aged man), so the slight dig on them wasn't lost on me. With that said, it was a damn fine beer!
But there was still more beer to be had! Right Pleeps?
|Pleeps being Pleeps.|
Meanwhile, the Bodans were working their way through a sampler flight, and Kit mentioned her affection for a beer named Uppers and Downers, a dark lager. I saw it on the board but kind of shrugged it off. But when I discovered it was brewed with local coffee, my ears perked up and I knew I had to have one. Plus it came with the endorsement of the Bodans, who are both bona fide coffee geeks in the same vein as I am with beer. I took a quick nip of their sampler, and quickly realized I needed my own pour. I don't come across dark lagers too often, and I will usually order one when I see one. But there were just too many other beers I wanted to try. Oh well, what's one more piled on top of a bunch of wine, other beers and a cocktail?
|Them's some sweet rabbit ears!|
Washkevich was also sucking down the Brotato #4, a hazy NE-style IPA, so of course I had to get some of that in my gullet. I couldn't find any additional information about this beer, other than it had been preceded by three other variations. Something tells me that it was brewed with Idaho 7 hops (Idaho = potatoes = brotato). Maybe that's stretching it a bit. You say Brotato, I say... you know what I mean. But it definitely had that complex, experimental hop flavor and somewhat strange finish that I couldn't put my finger on. While it was enjoyable, I preferred both Falcon beers over this one.
After we wrapped up our daytime drinking adventures, it was time to head back to the homestead for more fun. Brewslut was wiped out and retired for the evening after our make-your-own-taco-inspired dinner. Afterward, we opted for a rollicking round of the Exploding Kittens card game while we explored further imbibing. After the game, we decided it was time for some hot tub shenanigans before finally retiring for the evening at around 12:30 a.m. We needed to be out of the house by 10 a.m. so it was a good time to pack everything in.
Monday morning came quickly, and after a quick breakfast (which included a mead/cider hybrid from B. Nektar called The Dude's Rug), we cleaned up and packed our belongings to bid farewell to our home for the weekend. Brewslut and I took the day off from work (obviously), as we'd planned to continue our brewery expeditions for the remainder of the day. Sadly, the vast majority of the brewers in the immediate area were closed on Monday, or at very least, didn't open until late afternoon. Even Yorkholo, which was two hours away in Mansfield, PA, didn't open until 4 p.m. We were striking out everywhere we looked, so, defeated, we decided to just drive home and stop at Pizza Boy.
Not too far out of town, we drove past a place called Wagner Valley, and the sign out front said "Open" and also indicated wine and beer tastings inside. The place looked quite impressive from the outside, so we pulled a U-turn and popped in for a visit.
Save for employees, we were literally the only people occupying the building. The building itself was pretty awesome, with an interesting (albeit slightly confusing for a directionally-challenged person like myself) octagon-shaped floor plan. We passed through a spacious gift shop, restrooms, and several wine tanks before landing in the brewery tasting room. I could already sense that this was going to be worth our time for a quick stop.
My instincts were on-point, because all of the beers we tried were legit. I was also surprised to learn that its brewing operations got off the ground back in 1997. I was even more surprised that they weren't on my initial list of places to hit. Our bartender mentioned he'd been working there for about a year or so, and he did a little bit of everything. We was friendly and talkative, and I'm sure he appreciated some people stopping in who were knowledgeable and up for a bit of beer conversation. I'm sure it made his day (generally allocated as a cleaning day, from what we gathered) go a bit faster. Since we'd be driving for about four hours, I settled on a sampler flight of the following four beers:
- Cross-Section IPA - crisp IPA with floral and citrus notes
- Hop Tropic - bright and refreshing tropical fruit-forward with hints of mango and pineapple
- No Innuendos IPA - hazy, tropical fruit bomb brewed with lactose sugar and oats for a fluffy, dense body.
- Reserve Trippelbock - 10% ABV dark strong lager with a deep mahogany hue and bold flavors of caramel, toffee, and dark stone fruit. Thick and chewy but not too sweet.
I also tried a bit of Brewslut's Sugar House Maple Porter, which was quite delicious. From what we discovered, local maple syrup was almost as popular as the wine from this region. We came across several roadside stands and saw plenty of signs directing drivers to "local maple syrup ahead." This beer is brewed with pure New York "Sugar House" maple syrup and added a slightly sweet counterpart to the roasty porter. Think molasses and vanilla akin to Shoo Fly pie!
And with that, folks, the adventure concludes. Join us next time when we traverse the Earth for more frothy fermented goodness. Until next time...
|Photo credit: Disco Tits.|