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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Retirement is overrated

“The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

While this quote is generally attributed to Mark Twain (thanks Google), it has been committed to my memory courtesy of Jim Morrison (OK… Val Kilmer), who uttered the phrase in one of my all-time favorite movies: Oliver Stone’s 1991 The Doors. Indeed, hiatus can seem like a death of sorts. Giving up something you love due to time constraints (or any other number of legitimate reasons) can be a sad thing.

Let's be clear, though. I’m not promising anything. Perhaps my 21 followers will rejoice in my return to beer blogging.

With that said, I suppose it’s time to come out of retirement (albeit on a part-time basis) and dip my toes back into the hot tub that is beer blogging. I guess you could say that my recent weekend of beer tripping helped solidify my desire to write about what I drink and the places I travel to enjoy said drinks.

At any rate, here you go.

“NEPA, baby!”

That’s another fun quote from a friend/bandmate of mine originally from the metropolis of Mountain Top, PA.

Where? Exactly.

Yes indeed, Brewslut and I were off to Northeastern PA for a pair of gigs I would be playing over Memorial Day weekend. The impetus of the beer trek took shape when we didn’t want to be woken up by bagpipes at 9 a.m. when the Annville Memorial Day parade swept down Main Street like a jet screamer. But enough of my clever banter, right?

In need of accommodations for Friday evening, we quickly scored a cheap hotel on Priceline.com in the Wilkes-Barre area, a mere hour’s drive from my gig on Saturday. After consulting the fantastic Beer Mapping Project web site and by buddy Deuane, I worked up a quick itinerary for the weekend. 

Up first was a stop at Breaker Brewery, just a few minutes away from the Red Roof Inn at which we were spending the night. We struck up a conversation with some local coal region guys (thanks to the help of Pleeps) and enjoyed some samples and paninis. My turkey panini with blackberry jalapeno jam was quite tasty! Brewslut really liked their Patchtown Peanut Butter Porter, and she followed up her sample with a full pour. The locals were digging that one too.

We closed the place down at 9 p.m. and headed to nearby Krugel’s Georgetown Deli. Known for its extensive bottle shop, they recently added six growler fill stations with rotating taps. We perused the aisles a bit but opted not to eat there. Instead, we headed across town to Sabatini’s. I’m glad we did. We ran into our friend Kristen, one of the owners of Intangible Ales (the other being her fiancée, Terry Hawbaker, head brewer at Pizza Boy), hanging at her old stomping grounds. Sabatini’s new digs were quite impressive! In addition to a self-contained bottle shop with aisles of beer as far as the eye can see, the tap selection was equally impressive. I was surprised to see a few selections from Surley, but I opted first for the local Kushy Clouds, an oatmeal pale ale from SOLE Artisan Ales. (I wanted Surly Cocoa Bender but it had recently kicked.) SOLE, a self-professed “gypsy” brewing company, collaborates with other local breweries and packages some of its beers at nearby Susquehanna Brewing Company. This was indeed a great first impression! Brewslut and I also shared a tasty BBQ chicken pizza and a 16oz. pour of Surly 1349, a gargantuan 13+% black strong ale that was as dark and foreboding as the Tobes of Hades (when not lit by flickering torchlight, anyway). Brewslut had to take the brunt of it since I was driving. After our visit to Sabatini’s, it was off to Red Roof country.

The next morning, we checked out at about 10:30 a.m. with a pretty ambitious schedule ahead of us. Our first stop was the newly opened North Slope Brewing Company in Dallas, PA. We had planned to enjoy brunch at the brewery’s pub, but unfortunately user error on my part had caused us to seek sustenance at a nearby local diner. (Apparently, the internet was broken when I checked their hours of operation. Perhaps my brain was malfunctioning. Either way… shit got fucked up.) After a carbo-licious breakfast burrito, we headed up the road to North Slope. We parked the CRV just as they unlocked the door. We decided to share two sampler trays, which left us unable to try just two beers. While they were pretty hit or miss, my absolute favorite of the bunch was a dry-hopped Belgian-style Witbier called Jungle Boogey. Runner up was Sneaky Banana, a rye Heffeweizen. That one was Pleepleus’ favorite for obvious reasons.


Up next was Endless Brewing Company in Montrose (the destination of our trip if we had just decided to drive straight to my first gig). For the last two years, my band herbie had played at a private festival over Memorial Day weekend called DetFest. Last year, we had some time to hit Endless Brewing on the recommendation of not only Deuane, but also my buddy and avid homebrewer Adam (after whom DetFest is named). Its Grasshopper Pale Ale is a mainstay on the beer menu and always a winner (I picked up a 4-pack of pounder cans during last year’s visit), but my favorite of this particular visit may have been the Stone Crop Maple Amber Ale. I typically see maple syrup used in brown ales, porters and stouts, but this was a first for me. The sweetness of the maple syrup (REAL local maple syrup, by the way… not that sugary Aunt Jemima stuff you get at the supermarket) shined through due to the simplistic nature of the Amber Ale. Whereas stouts and porters are much more rich and malty, I must say using Amber Ale as the base beer was a stroke of genius. Liquid maple candy indeed! Brewslut gravitated to the Triple Bombshell Blonde IPA, which was quite a heavy hitter at around 9% ABV. I love this place because of its meager design and the people that we meet here. I always say that my favorite thing about travelling for beer (besides getting to drink beer) is meeting all the locals and other imbibers along the way.

After an enjoyable visit to Endless, we headed north to nearby Binghamton, NY. Our first stop was Galaxy Brewing Company. Once inside, I was surprised by how spacious the area was. Aside from a long bar and plenty of tables, they also had an adequate stage area perfect for hosting live music. We shared a plate of nachos that were delicious and I washed them down with a sampler flight of mostly IPAs including Singularity, Celestial Nova, and Andromeda. We also enjoyed the Far Star, a barrel-aged farmhouse ale.

Following our voyage across the Galaxy, we turned the corner to nearby Water Street Brewing Company, where we enjoyed more samplers and some conversation with the locals. My favorite was the aptly named Wheat IPA, which was apparently a recent addition to its tap selection. They also had a hybrid Heffeweizen/Bock called “Aaaaah, Bock!” which was pretty tasty.

Our final stop before backtracking to DetFest was another spot recommended by Deuane – The Farmhouse Brewery. Located just a few miles down the road in Owego, Farmhouse boasted an eclectic tasting room with no fewer than 18 house beers and ciders on tap. I felt like I was hanging out in my grandmother’s basement, only she’d been renting it out to three or four 19-year-olds. The names of their offerings were memorable as well. Beers such as Commander Bovine (a wild DIPA), Sour Evangelist (Gose), and Don’t Miss a Beet (a beet saison) were all scrawled on the chalkboard. We tried them all, and then some. Also worth noting was a smoked cider called Smokey McDaddy, which was intensely smoky but somehow worked well within the context of a cider. Think charred Applewood from a recently timbered apple tree. Brewslut enjoyed some other sour-type beers while playing some Nintendo wii 100-pin bowling.

Then it was off to DetFest, where I dug into a cooler of cold Tröegs cans and tore up the stage with herbie. After a long set followed by four hours of sleep (in the back of the CRV, no less), it was off to my next gig just outside of Reading, PA. Hopefully it won’t be another three years until my next blog.

Until next time…

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The Pour Travelers thank you for reading about our beer travels!