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Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekend at the chalet

This past weekend marked a rare entire three days void of any band activities, so I took the opportunity to plan a little weekend getaway for Brewslut and me.  Back in the 70s, my family purchased an acre of land near Penn's Creek in Millmont, PA, about an hour west of my hometown of Shamokin, PA.  Back in the day, it was more of a family cottage-type vibe, with a couple of mobile homes on the property, a picnic shed, a bunk house for the kids, and a fire pit.  As the years went by, my uncle Harry decided to build a rather large chalet (a kind of wooden A-frame style dwelling) on the property.  I have always enjoyed visiting the "trailer," as I used to call it.  But ever since the chalet was erected, our outings to the "trailer" have become more like relaxing weekend getaways compared to the slightly more upscale camping excursions from days past.  I feel like I'm on vacation when I'm there.  Lucky for these two craft beer lovers, the chalet is situated in close proximity to Selin's Grove Brewing Co. and Elk Creek Cafe & Aleworks.  This poses the question: "Do I really need an excuse to go the chalet?"

Me and a Drunk Puppy
We hit SGB on a rare Friday night, a little later than we typically visit the pub.  I was excited to try Steve and Heather's latest bourbon barrel-aged concoction, this time a version of their Mudpuppy Brown Ale.  With the bourbon barrel-aging also came a slight name revision - Drunk Puppy.  Of course, no visit to SGB for me is complete without at least one pint of their stellar IPA.  When it's on, you can always count on me pounding down at least one of these bad boys.  Upon my last perusal of BA's Top 100 beers in the world, I was ecstatic to find SGB's IPA sitting at #97!  I can't say enough about this complete gem of a brewpub.  If you've never been there, do yourself a favor and get into the nearest car and drive there NOW (unless you are reading this on a Monday or Tuesday, or at like 3:17am).  Check out my BA review of Drunk Puppy.  After snacking on a delicious local cheese plate and our beers, we headed up to the chalet for a relaxing evening and bottle of red wine. 

Mural outside Elk Creek Cafe & Aleworks
On Saturday afternoon, we headed out to Rt. 45 for a quick 30-minute drive to Elk Creek Cafe & Aleworks.  Nestled in the quaint little town of Millheim, Elk Creek is situated right on the main corner of Routes 45 and 445 at the only traffic light in town.  I had always enjoyed driving through this small town each time I traveled to and from Shamokin to State College, back in my collegiate days.  When I heard of a brewpub opening in Millheim a few years back, I was excited to finally have an excuse to visit Millheim.  And Elk Creek Cafe and Aleworks is definitely reason enough to visit.  During this particular visit, I started with a Colyer Kolsch, which hadn't been on tap for about two years.  

 I was in the mood for something crisp and refreshing, and this lightly hopped ale did just the trick!  However, I was glad to see a new offering on the beer menu - an MFA, or Multi-Faceted Ale - called "Little Villeage," which turned out to be a big, robust, hoppy American Strong Ale weighing in at 7.5% ABV.  You can check out my BA review here.  I kept things hoppy this afternoon and opted for a short pour of Double Rainbow IPA, which is dry-hopped with generous amounts of Fuggles hops, which in my opinion are underrated in the kingdom of hops.  I typically gravitate to this beer during each of our visits to Elk Creek, as it is one of my favorite regular Elk Creek offerings.  

Elk Creek's Colyer Kolsch
Aside from the stellar beer, Elk Creek also serves up an amazing menu filled with local flair and plenty of vegetarian and even vegan offerings.  Their motto is "We buy local.  You eat fresh... and sustainable," and they ain't kidding!  Their produce is local and fresh, and they source many of their ingredients from sustainable area farms.  For example, they get vegetables from Tait Farm Community Harvest, breads from Gemelli Bakery in State College, and other natural, organic goods from Frankferd Farm Foods of western PA.  They buy as much seasonal produce from local farmers as possible.  They even bake all of their desserts on premises and serve Fair Trade organic coffee.  Brewslut and I both opted for the smoked tempeh sandwhich, which was absolutely delicious!  It is also worthy to note that we rarely order the same menu item.  The sandwich featured a generous portion of smoked tempeh with hummus, tofu mayo, pickled onions and a variety of sprouts, all on fresh sourdough bread, and served with house-made chips.  I am getting hungry just thinking about it!

Smoked tempeh sandwich with a side of house-made chips
After our delicious lunch at Elk Creek, we headed across the street to a local wine shop (aptly named The Wine Shop at Millheim), which carries a variety of selections from two local wineries - Shade Mountain and Brookmere.  I am familiar with Shade Mountain, as we have stopped in a few times, since their winery is on the way up to the chalet from Selinsgrove.  But we had not heard of Brookmere.  I was pleased to see a Cabernet Franc, which I set aside immediately, as it may very well be my favorite wine style.  Overall, our purchase of six bottles also included, among others, an oak-aged Chardonay and tart Cranberry wine that Brewslut enjoyed.

Next door was a brand new coffee shop that had opened only three months ago (to the day, we were told), so we decided to stop in to get two coffees to go.  However, upon entering the establishment, the ambiance grabbed ahold of me, beckoning me to pull up a chair (or, in this case, a sofa) and stay for a while!  The IngleBean Coffee House is a perfect addition to the quaint downtown area of Millheim, and, along with Elk Creek and The Wine Shop, create a trifecta of sorts for Brewslut and me, as we both love beer, wine and coffee.  The prices were very reasonable for the area, and the menu seemed quite extensive.  Some of the sandwiches sounded amazing, so we will definitely need to make plans to eat there next time.  

The back room is comfortable and set up like a living room in a cabin, with a cozy sofa, several chairs, end tables and a main coffee table.  There is plenty to read while sipping you coffee, or enjoy one of the various board games they have on their shelves.  Upstairs is an actual Inn, The Triple Creek Lodge, where you can rent one of three rooms if you're inclined to stay in the area for more than a few hours.  I really enjoyed our time spent here, and we will definitely make it a point to stop in when we visit Elk Creek.  Plus the coffee is great!

 On Sunday morning, we got up from bed, made breakfast and straightened up the chalet before heading to Berwick Brewing Company for a few beers prior to meeting some Team D(r)INK members at the brand new Turkey Hill Brewing Company Pub and Grille in Bloomsburg.  Now that more brewpubs have popped up in the area, we definitely have an excuse for taking the hour-long drive to Berwick from Annville.  

Enjoying a Foxy Stout at Berwick Brewing Co.
Head brewer Guy Hagner makes some great beers and there is always something stellar on tap.  Beer aside, no stop to Berwick Brewing is complete without the Steve-O Inferno pizza!  This deliciously spicy concoction is the brainchild of Steve-O, who is a jack-of-all-trades at Berwick.  In addition to coming up with the recipe for this famous pizza, he also helps with the brewing process and plays guitar in one of the house bands, Jack Squat.  In addition to the pizza and some pleasant conversation with some first-time visitors, I enjoyed a new low ABV dry Irish stout, Foxy Stout, as well as my one requisite Atomic Punk IPA, which was as good as ever.  Since I was driving, Brewslut opted for FOUR beers, albeit all half pours in lieu of full standard pint glasses.  Check out my BA review of Foxy Stout. After almost two hours at Berwick, we were ready to head over to the brand new Turkey Hill Brewpub and Grille in Bloomsburg to meet fellow Team D(r)INK members Deuane, Carolyn, Dan and Kristen. 

Turkey Hill's brewpub was a long time coming.  They debuted beers almost two years ago at the Selin's Grove Hops and Vines festival and was scheduled to open some time ago, but severe damage to their roof and building during a storm caused many delays.  Well, they have finally overcome all of the hurdles and are open for business for about the last month or so.  And let me tell you, they are here to stay!  Overall, I really enjoyed the vibe at Turkey Hill, with its rustic stone walls and dark, earthy decor.  The service was stellar, and our waitress was chipper and friendly without coming across as over-anxious or annoying.  

Turkey Hill's beer chalkboard
The beers were solid as well.  I had a half pour of the Journeyman IPA (named after a Jethro Tull tune!) and the Bark Dance Blonde Ale, which is a kolsch.  Feel free to check out my reviews for the IPA and Blonde, respectively.  In addition to the solid beers, the menu looked great and, while I only had the roasted red pepper hummus appetizer as my main meal, a lot of the people at our table ordered a seared tuna salad with wasabi-infused goat cheese that looked amazing!  I am looking forward to visiting this area more often since there are now two brewpubs in Bloomsburg (the other being Marley's), plus Berwick, Old Forge and Selin's Grove and River House all nearby.

Now that's a good looking six-pack!
 All in all, it was a fantastic weekend spent with beer, friends and, of course, Brewslut!  I look forward to a return trip to the chalet in the near future.

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