However, fate (or perhaps it was poor planning) intervened, and we decided that booking a flight was simply too much of a hassle, not to mention that prices for flights this year were through the roof! So, we made an executive decision and decided to head north to New England. Since all of the states are so small, we figured we could cover a lot of ground over the course of eight days. It would also give us an opportunity to visit our friends, The Bodans, who now reside in Waterbury, VT. So, we sketched out a rough itinerary (with the help of my fellow beer compadre and geography scholar, Deuane) and planned to visit breweries, beer bars and other assorted beer destinations throughout (in order of destination) Connecticut, Massachusettes, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and finally upstate New York.
But first, a quick recap of the night before the trip. As if my job at Tröegs wasn't awesome enough (what with the free beer, discounts and, well, just getting to work there every day), I used my contacts and resourcefulness to obtain two meet and greet passes for the Rush concert at the Giant Center in Hershey on Friday, June 21. For those of you living in a cave or new readers of The Pour Travelers, Rush is my favorite band of all time. To call me a "fan" is an understatement. But I digress...again! Needless to say, I was completely stoked by this sudden turn of events! (I'd only found out a few days prior to the show that this was going to happen, having been told that it wasn't going to happen!) And when it rains, it pours. More good fortune found its way to me, when I found out that Joey Dougherty's dad (who works for Clair Brothers), had arranged for me to meet with Neil Peart's drum tech, Lorne Wheaton, prior to the show to get a tour of the stage and Neil's kit. Wha-wha-whaaaaaaat?!
|l to r: Alex Lifeson, Neil Peart (ok...me!), Brewslut, Geddy Lee|
|They love frogs here! A bit of research revealed that the Frogs|
represent the legendary Windham Frog Fight of 1754.
|Willimantic Brewing Company. Do you need any stamps today?|
|Enjoying my first beer of the trip!|
Up next on the agenda was an unexpected stop at Pioneer Brewing Company, a small brewery only a few miles from our planned destination, Tree House Brewing Company. Pioneer was recommended by our server at Willimantic. Since it was in such close proximity to Tree House, we figured an hour-long stop wouldn't hurt.
Pioneer had about nine beers on tap, ranging from English-style ales to IPAs to an experimental alcoholic birch beer. We settled on two separate sampler trays, so we were able to try all but one of the beers. Here's a quick run-down: American IPA, The New Frontier DIPA, Minx (Saison), American Red Ale, Welkin Ringer (English-style Bitter), ESB, Path of the Unknown (Double Brown Ale), and finally Noble Birch (the alcoholic birch beer and easily the best of the lot). Most of the beers were well-done, with a few exceptions being simply average. However, the Noble Birch was without a doubt the stand-out selection. I would have loved to bring a growler home to share, but unfortunately they did not have any available in the coolers (growlers were pre-filled and available for purchase).
One of the perks of working for a brewery (and a respected one, at that!) is that you tend to get VIP status when visiting other breweries. This treatment increases tenfold when you have beer in tow and present is as a gift to brewers, owners, bartenders, etc. Case in point, I gave the bartender a few bottles of some Troegs selections, and he reciprocated by comping our tab and giving us a growler and bomber to go. The growler was filled with Path to the Unknown, which was my favorite save for the Noble Birch. "That's the way we roll," he said. It was going to be that kind of trip, folks! We also ran into an older couple (a term I use to describe people older than we... not elderly!) and the woman was wearing a Troegs DreamWeaver hat! They saw my work shirt when we entered, so naturally we got to talking; they turned out to be fans and had visited the brewery in the past. I gave them a bottle of Impending Descent, which they had never had, and were quite gracious.
Next on the itinerary was a visit to Tree House Brewing Company. Jason, Troegs' Massachusetts sales rep, referred us to Tree House and promised some amazing IPAs. We were sold. I decided to touch base with the guys at Tree House prior to visit, and coincidentally I emailed them just as they were checking out our BrauKon brew house on-line at that very moment! We exchanged a few emails, and they informed me that they were releasing Julius, an American IPA, on Saturday and would be "slammed." We decided to show up about an hour before they closed in order to let the anticipated crowd subside a bit. This proved to be a good idea, as they filled some 400-odd vessels with the much sought-after IPA over the course of about six hours.
|Inside Tree House. Note the musical instruments!|
Afterwards, we sat around for a bit and talked about all things beer, music, and even had a little jam session (I played djembe). We regaled our small audience with impromptu lyrics set to simple blues chord progressions. I seldom turn down an opportunity to jam with fellow musicians for a bit!
|Molded Tree House tap handle!|
Our final destination for Day 1 was Armsby Abbey, a renowned beer bar in Worcester, MA. Fellow Team D(r)INK member Dan recommended this place, and so did the guys from Tree House. Turns out they carried Tree House beers there, and I was lucky to see Tornado on tap when we arrived, so I ordered one. Brewslut went with a Maine Beer Co. Peeper, even though we'd be visiting their tasting room on Tuesday. The food menu looked great and the food was fresh, local and well-executed. We each started with salads. Brewslut got a beet salad while I opted for Strawberry Fields. Since it was strawberry season, both salads and many of the menu selections featured fresh strawberries. We also got the mac and cheese, which was delicious. We were hoping for something a bit more substantial and protein-rich, but the non-red meat and pork selections were sparse. Still, the food was presented well and delicious.
Again, we ran into some Troegs fans and got talking about Mad Elf, so I ended up giving them a bottle of Naked Elf to share. Also, one of the bartenders was wearing a green T-shirt with the words "Fiddlehead Brewing Co." emblazoned on the front. I asked where they were located, as we'd never heard of this brewery before. Brewslut and I were pleased to learn that Fiddlehead was situated about 7 miles or so outside of Burlington, VT, where we'd be visiting in a few short days. The bartender spoke highly of Fiddlehead, so we decided to work a visit into our itinerary, which was fine with us because we had plenty of time to kill in Vermont!
All in all, it was an amazing first day, with our visit to Tree House being the highpoint of the day. One of our favorite aspects of "beer tripping" is simply meeting the people behind the beer and getting a sense of the beer culture in each community or state we visit. They guys at Treehouse were especially accommodating, and we definitely made some new friends. I look forward to returning sooner than later!
|Pleeps was starting to sway by this point!|