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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Beers-giving 5: The Journey to Charleston, SC - Part II

After a longer-than-anticipated visit to Coast (due to waiting for the stout to kick and the barleywine to go on), we headed over to the new Westbrook Brewery.  When we pulled up to the front of the building, I was quite surprised to find a pretty huge, modern-looking facility that was in stark comparison to Holy City and Coast.  This place reminded me of one of the mid-sized breweries in California, both for its functionality and atmosphere.  We immediately could tell that they plunked down some serious dollars for this brewery!

Westbrook Brewery
We bumped into the trio of guys from Coast, but they were just about ready to leave and move on to Holy City, their next stop on their birthday crawl.  It was fairly crowded in Westbrook's tasting room, but we were able to snag the vacant seats recently left by our departing friends.  Perusing the tap selection, it appeared there was plenty I wanted to try, so we went with two sampler flights.  My flight included the following: IPA, Nelson Sauvin Rye Pale Ale, the previously-imbibed-and-thoroughly-enjoyed Citra Rye Pale Ale, and finally Mini Growler Imperial Stout, a collaboration with Evil Twin Brewing Company.  For those of you not in the know, Evil Twin is the mastermind of Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, brother of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, founder of Mikkeller. Born in Denmark, the brothers each went their separate brewing paths and opened two distinct breweries.  Without going into too much detail, Evil Twin latched on to Westbrook, who does some bottling and canning for Evil Twin; hence this collaboration beer. 

Inside Westbrook Brewery.
We arrived just in time to take a tour of the facility, which was quite impressive (as you can see from the pictures) for a start-up brewery.  While I always enjoy touring a production brewery, our guide was not the most knowledgeable guide by any stretch of the imagination.  She responded to many of the of the questions asked by the tour group with, "That's a good question" or "I'm not sure."  When we got to step inside the barrel room, someone asked what was in the barrels, and she looked at one and said, "Well, this one says 'quad' so I guess a Quadruple IPA."  Despite her lack of knowledge, it was still a nice visit, and we were quite impressed with not only the facility, but also the beers.

Mountain of cans!
Hill of kegs!
In typical fashion, I picked up "one of everything" for Deuane and also purchased several bottles for future use and "beer cellar decorations."  In addition to its usual offerings, Westbrook had a nice variety of specialty bottles, including Bearded Farmer Saison, the aforementioned Mini Growler, a Greman Lichtenhainer Weiss (think pale, sour and smokey wheat ale), and a Belgian Tripel aged in apple brandy barrels.  I can't wait to tear into some of these bottles in the near future!

Wall of barrels!
A sea of six packs!
We had decided to visit EVO Pizza, another Deuane-recommended establishment, for dinner and drinks, but unfortunately they were closed when we arrived*, so we had dinner just up the road at Taco Boy. I was happy to scarf down some delicious shrimp and fish tacos and wash them down with a tasty michelada made with Dos Equis.  Brewslut got the same, except she opted for chicken tacos. 
*Editor's Note: I absolutely despise when restaurants close for two or three hours between lunch and dinner.  M'wah!

Micheladas made with Dos Equis Amber (Brewslut) and Lager (me).
While the food was quite good and the michelada was indeed refreshing, our service was lackluster.  It took forever to get our check and almost as long to get our change.  Chalk up another M'wah!

Afterwards, we were off to The Charleston Beer Exchange to (hopefully) purchase some more bottles.  To be honest, I totally forget what we purchased here.  I think we only got a total of about six bottles, but it was a great place with an amazing selection, especially if you like obscure Belgian beers (not me, really, but I appreciated the diverse selection).  It reminded me of a cross between Capone's and Bruisin' Ales.  The clerk was very friendly too, so I gave him a bottle of Mad Elf to enjoy for the holidays.  He also gave a good recommendation to the next stop on our itinerary, The Griffon.

Since The Griffon was only a few blocks away, we left our car outside the Charleston Beer Exchange and walked down the scenic street to our destination.  This place could be described as a dive bar with a very good beer selection.  Inside, The Griffon also has the distinction of having around $10,000 of one dollar bills stapled to the walls by thousands of visitors over the years.  I asked the bartender if they had that factored into their insurance should the place ever burn to the ground!  All in all, this was quite a unique place.  I decided to give Lazy Magnolia's Timber Beast DIPA a shot, as I've only ever had its flagship beer, Southern Pecan, on a previous occasion.  I must admit that I didn't have high expectations, but I must say that this was definitely a solid DIPA.  I'm not sure if I was just craving a DIPA or what, but this beer just hit the spot.  It was fresh, balanced and had plenty of hop flavor and aroma to satisfy my craving.  Brewslut tried an Amber Ale from Palmetto Brewery, a Charleston production brewery that we were unable to visit due to limited hours and no tasting room.  I suppose it was a good thing, because Brewslut wasn't impressed... no, no, no, no no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no... she wasn't impressed at all.  This was a one-and-done spot, and the evening was winding down, but we still had one more place to hit before calling it a night.

Lucky for us, Liberty Taproom was pretty much right across the street from our townhouse.  We arrived just in time to get on the Happy Hour train, which was about to depart for the evening.  I ordered their house IPA, which was decent, but at only $2.50 during happy hour, it was a bargain. Brewslut opted for the house Porter, which was also on special.  We also got an order of grilled wings and followed up with Hawaiian chopped salads for dinner. This atmosphere was your typical Sports Bar feel with dozens of televisions blaring college football games and even more loggerheaded sports fans causing a ruckus every time a twenty-year-old kid scored a touchdown, sacked a quarterback, or performed just about any other mundane sports act, it seemed.  We especially appreciated the attractive-but-overly-annoying young lady at the table next to us with the excruciatingly high-pitched voice.  It was enough to make me order another beer.  I closed out the night with a Brrr from Widmer Brothers, a winter seasonal.  It reminded me of toasted bread and had very little hop presence, unfortunately.  I had wanted to try it based on the name and also after having some stellar IPA selections from them as of late.  However, this beer was nothing to write home about.  Still, kudos to Widmer for the name of the beer.  Afterwards, we retired to the townhouse and watched the fantastic A Mighty Wind.

The following day, we decided to return to Closed for Business for Sunday brunch. We arrived to find a young couple sitting outside on a bench waiting for the doors to open.  It was just 11am, and they said, "We're here for brunch and waiting for them to open."  After standing there for five minutes, Brewslut decided to try the door on a whim.  They were indeed open.  Apparently, the oblivious young couple hadn't even tried the door when they arrived.  Um, yeah.  Once inside, we sat at a small two-person table, but quickly moved to the cozy fireplace seating (pictured below).  I decided to try something adventurous, so I ordered an oyster omelet with home fries.  Despite enjoying mussels and clams, I had never been much of an oyster fan.  However, the lightly breaded oysters made for a very flavorful (and textured) omelet indeed.  Brewslut and I also shared some delicious home-made banana bread with walnut cream cheese. We enjoyed the coffee quite a bit, too.  For beer, I went back to my old faithful (on this trip, anyway), Westbrook Citra Rye Pale Ale.  Brewslut had a Holy City oyster stout.  We talked a bit more to the staff this time around, as we had less on our agenda for this day. 

Inside Closed For Business.
After brunch, we swung by Charleston Beer Works for a quick one, which was right down the street from Closed For Business.  We caught them as they were just opening for the day, so the place was empty.  Overall, this was you typical Sports Bar with televisions and a decent tap selection that boasted some good local brews.  Since the Schwartz was with me, I ordered a Dark Helmet, Westbrook's cleverly-named Schwarzbier derived from the classic Mel Brooks film, Space Balls. Brewslut also opted for a Westbrook offering, its White Thai, a twist on a classic Belgian Witbier.  This place wasn't offering much in the form of ambiance or conversation, so we finished our beers quickly and headed to our next stop, a rare non-beer destination - a record store! 

As much of a beer geek as I am, the only thing in my life that tops beer is music.  I had to coerce Brewslut into swinging by Monster Music and Movies by assuring her I'd only be "about an hour."  She opted to stay in the car and catch up on some Kindle reading.  As promised, I was out in an hour (or so) with some cool vinyl in tow.  When visiting a city for the first time, I always try to seek out the best record store in town (assuming there is one, as records are virtually extinct.  Hell, most music mediums have fallen by the wayside in light of recent iTunes downloads and the like.  All I have to say is, "Fuck that shit!")

After my little detour to Monster Records, we were off to Smoky Oak Taproom, which turned out to be a real diamond in the rough, as far as we were concerned.  The place wasn't much to look at (yes, another Sports Bar), but we had an awesome server and the tap selection was perhaps the best we'd encountered thus far on the trip.  I opted for another Westbrook offering, a saison named Bearded Farmer, then followed it up with a favorite of mine, Foothills People's Porter. Brandi got New Belgium's Lips of Faith Peach Porch Lounger and finished with Your Black Heart, a Russian Imperial Stout by Odempseys, a brewery that was new to us both. We needed a light snack, so we shared an order of chicken tacos that were quite tasty.  Afterwards, we'd decided that we could have hung out there much longer, if only for the fantastic tap selection.  There were certainly five or six other beers that I would have liked to try, but alas it was time to move on. 

After a short drive, we landed at Oak Barrel Tavern, where I ordered another Westbrook Dark Helmet and Brewslut, a Bells Christmas Ale.  The tiny establishment was decorated nicely, with cool barrel tables and a short bar.  We talked to Matt the bartender for a while, and it turned out he used to live in Harrisburg for several years and even knew several of my friends and bandmates.  Though Oak Barrel's tap list was short, it was still decent, and we ended up purchasing a bottle of Evil Twin's Imperial Biscotti Break, a beer we were denied last year during Philly Beer Week, when Eulogy was having difficulty with their tap line.

Right up the street was Gene's Haufbrau, another dive bar with a pretty good local tap selection, where I enjoyed a Westbrook Covert Hops (black IPA) and Brewslut a Holy City Porter over a game of Yahtzee.  We also enjoyed watching an inebriated middle-aged woman mack on her boyfriend while waiting for a cab.  People watching at its finest, folks!  And with that, we retired to the townhouse to get a good night's sleep before shipping out at the ass-crack of morning and heading back to PA. 

We kept our stops to a minimum, but we did manage to stop for lunch at Rosa's Italian Restaurant in Hopewell, VA, where they had Legend Brewing Company's Brown Ale on tap.  That was a nice surprise, as I figured we wouldn't have another beer until we got back to PA, where we were planning to meet up with Deuane and Carolyn for a quick recap and some more... yep, you guessed it... beer!  Until next time...

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