Our first stop was at the familiar Two Rivers Brewing in Easton. Brewslut and I had first visited at the tail end of our Drinksgiving 2016 trip, and we both enjoyed it quite a bit. I was excited to return, and since we rolled in around 11:15 a.m., we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
Once the site of the Mt. Vernon Hotel - a hotel that occasionally served as a brothel from 1855 to 1994 - the owners of Two Rivers purchased the historic building at a sheriff's auction in 2011, and the brewery was born. (If you're interested, you can read more about the history of the building here.)
|Two Rivers Brewing Co. (courtesy of Google Images).|
I started off with a pour of bourbon barrel-aged Bangor State Baltic Porter, because... well, why not? It wasn't even listed on the tap list, but I was paying attention (rare for me, I know) and heard our server mention it when she was reciting the beer list to our group. She actually brought me the wrong beer - Jewel Pomegranate Dark Saison - which resembled in no way, shape or form a BBA Baltic Porter. I was like, "oh well" but she soon realized her mistake and brought me the correct beer. I'm glad she did, because I enjoyed it leaps and bounds more than the dark saison. I finished off our stop with a pint of Colonel Left Eye IPA, which was fresh, juicy and pithy (think grapefruit) with a very green, vegetal nose.
After a fantastic lunch (a house-made vegetarian black bean lentil burger with a side salad), Josh, the brewer, was kind enough to give us the ten cent tour of the brewhouse and barrel cellar. He has definitely made good use of the limited space in the dank, narrow cave-like cellar. Barrels were crammed into every nook and cranny of the cold basement. Turns out Two Rivers is doing quite a bit of barrel aging (at least as much as a brewery that produces about 550bbl per year can do), because he gave our group a few bottles of some great barrel-aged, fruited sour beers (i.e. road sodas). We were happy to crack a number of these once we got back on the bus.
First up was Fifty Cent Rosie's, a Wild Ale aged in wine barrels for two summers and finally blended with four pounds of dark and sour cherries per gallon of beer. The beer itself, a Belgian-style Kriek, poured into my plastic cup a deep ruby and boasted a pleasant cherry character with a good bit of barnyard funk. According to its web site, the beer is named after a notoriously seedy brothel located on Easton's South Side in the 1920s. I'd definitely like to know what kind of service a patron might have gotten from Rosie for fifty cents back during the depression.
Up next was Sadie's Green Peach Juice, an American wild ale aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels with 500 pounds of local peaches. This one may have been my favorite of the bunch, as I of course LOVE peaches! White peach is a flavor characteristic of Sauvingnon Blanc grapes, so it was a natural choice to use these barrels for this particular beer. Add in a hint of zesty citrus and green apple skin, and you've got a very nice, refreshing wild ale with a bit of pucker and plenty of juicy peach goodness.
By the time we finished this bottle, it was time to check out the Martin Guitar factory. Being a musician (albeit a drummer... and yes, still a musician despite all of the worn-out jokes), I must admit that I was pretty stoked to visit this mecca for guitarists. I was blown away first by the size of the facility then later by the sheer craftsmanship each of the 500 employees bring to the table to hand-craft these amazing guitars. I'll let the pictures do the talking here. Too bad they don't offer a beer to take with you on the tour!
|Outside the Martin Guitar factor in Nazareth, PA|
|Our awesome tour guide, Joel|
|Me being me.|
Now, get ready for some wood. Lots of wood, actually!
|Guitar bodies prior to finishing.|
|Neck pieces prior to attachment.|
|Guitar-smith working his magic.|
|Martin's custom shop!|
|Almost finished with these beauties!|
Our final stop of the day was the brand new SOLE Artisan Ales tasting room. This once gypsy brewery has finally found its home in Easton, PA. I'd already been very familiar with SOLE over the last few years, encountering beers at Sabatini's and Al's of Hampden, as well as a few stray cans here and there. (According to Untappd, 13 times to be exact).
The modern tasting room reminded me of Torst, the Brooklyn home base for Evil Twin Brewing Co. Inside, the room was sparsely decorated with in black and white with unique lighting, stark counter tops, and lots of clean, straight lines. Exposed brick accents added a bit of contrast, as did the colorful mosaic-like stained glass windows framing the front entrance.
|Entrance to SOLE's tasting room.|
The beer board took me back to the concessions stand at little league baseball games (just replace hot dog, hamburger, fries, etc. with the various names of beers). See?
|I want a hamburger... no, a cheeseburger...|
Each of us was allotted a flight of three 6oz. pours. SOLE is known for some NE-inspired IPAs and hoppy beers employing heavy dry-hopping, flavorful hop varieties, and oats to create delicate, hazy, flavorful ales. Naturally, I gravitated to two of them, which both happened to be high ABV IPAs. The first, Fruity Dabs, is a new DIPA brewed with SOLE's Nordic IPA Yeast and flaked barley, then triple dry-hopped (not to be confused with Miller Lite's triple hopped technique) with Citra and Amarillo, and finally conditioned on Satsuma orange and Madagascar vanilla. Needless to say, this one had lots going on. Indeed it was fruity, but the vanilla softened the 8.7% ABV, and the orange creamsicle notes shined through. Bitterness was light, but the aroma was big on citrus fruit and vanilla.
Moving on, I upped my game and dug into All the Feels, an 11% ABV Triple IPA brewed using a heavy dose of white wheat with panettone cakes thrown into the mash, and sacks of orange peel and white raisins steeped in the boil. This puppy was dry-hopped with Lemondrop and El Dorado. This beer could be described as "liquid dessert." The finished product resembled a birthday cake with a dense body, boatloads of tropical fruit, and orange gumdrops. It sounds ridiculously sweet on paper, but it wasn't. Plus the high ABV was kept at bay with everything going on within the context of the ingredients. I love experimentation in beer, and this one - pardon the pun - takes the cake!
Lastly, I simply couldn't resist trying a beer named Atmospheric Black Metal, an Imperial Stout. But guess what? The description is even better! From the SOLE Untappd description:
Atmospheric Black Metal is our really fucking metal’d out Imperial Cocoa Stout,
conjured into being using the blackest of malts and conditioned on
cocoa nibs harvested from the devil's loins.
After the three 6oz'ers, we were on our own. I had been eyeing up a beer called Hipster Blood, and thought it sounded tasty. SOLE considers this one a "Nordic farm-bier." OK, I'm listening. Fermented with what SOLE calls "Viking yeast," Hipster Blood was conditioned on 600 lbs. of tart and sweet cherries. I like when cherries and beer collide, so I was definitely curious about this one. However, the name put this one over the edge for me. The thought of a hipster bleeding in agony was somewhat comical to me... in a deranged, black comedy sort of way. A guy wearing a 1920's throwback bow tie and vest with a monocle and handlebar mustache bleeding to death from would inflicted by a Viking's battleaxe? My inner monologue had to give a chuckle.
From what I recall, the beer was pretty tame compared to what I was expecting. Perhaps my palate was still recovering from the one-two punch of Fruity Dabs and All the Feels. Either way, I felt I had one more in me.
|Adjoining tasting room at SOLE.|
Someone had given me a sip of Simcoe Nerd, and it was probably the best beer I sampled at SOLE. I was hanging out on the other side of the tasting room checking out the "to-go" cans. Fritchey (one of my marketing team cohorts) came over and we started taking, and he offered to buy me a beer. So I had to get a pour of this one. Hopped exclusively with Simcoe (a favorite variety of mine), this sucker provides a blast of candied mango, grapefruit, tropical fruit, dank cheeba, and - to pull from its description - "white gummy bear juice." I wasn't aware one could juice a gummy bear. I guess anything is possible, right?
After ending on a high note with Simcoe Nerd, it was time to load up the bus and head back to Hershey. One final "road soda" was on the agenda, a bottle of the recently procured Six Finger Sam's Saison from Two Rivers. To my surprise, the cork popped rather aggressively and I found myself with a wet, saison-soaked lap for the remainder of the trip. At least it happened on the way home. The bus driver wasn't too enthused, but what do you expect with a bus full of people who work at a brewery? We cleaned up our little "spill in aisle five" and all was forgiven.
All in all, it was a fun day spend with co-workers. It's nice to get out from behind the desk every once in a while. I could definitely get used to these kinds of trips. Maybe it will become a weekly thing. Come to think of it, maybe not. Either way, we'll have to get back here with Brewslut and Pleeps in the near future. Until next time...