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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sometimes Beer and Ice Cream Don't Mix

For those of you who follow The Pour Travelers blog, you probably have read about our weekends trips to nearby Millmont, PA, where we enjoy a few quiet, beer-soaked days in seclusion. OK, while maybe not entirely in seclusion, our little excursions to the chalet DO include jaunts to a few nearby breweries. We typically rotate Saturday drives to State College and Williamsport based on what we’re feeling, as both are about an hour’s drive from the chalet. After our previous two visits to the chalet (one was so cold that we didn’t feel like going outside; the other, we were just too lethargic to bother leaving the chalet), we decided to head to Happy Valley, my alma mater. Most friends who know me know of my disdain for Penn State (I won’t go into specifics), but I still have a soft spot for the town of State College itself. Our visits always seem to drum up a few vague memories from my college years back in the mid-90s. Yes, I know… I’m old.

After an intense kickboxing session with our personal trainer, we went home to get cleaned up and headed off to my happy place – Selin’s Grove Brewing Company. “The Pub,” as us locals call it, is a real diamond in the rough. I won’t bore you with all of the details of my love affair with this place; I’ll just say that it’s a special place. Summer into the fall season is always my favorite time of year to visit the Pub. Their amazing Kriek is usually flowing by mid-June and there’s a good chance that the IPA is on tap (or even better, on the hand pull)! To my delight, both beers were on tap during our visit. I’d also wanted to try the new Summer Solstice Dubbel, but it had kicked. This is a lighter version of their winter anniversary ale brewed with orange peel and coriander. We also caught wind that a new stout would likely be added to the tap roster on Saturday. Lucky for us, a trip to chalet more often than not includes a return stop to the Pub on the way back home. Aside from the beer, we always run into great folks at the Pub, and this time was no exception. As usual, some good ol’ conversation resulted in more beer as well as our late departure, so we didn’t arrive at the chalet until around midnight. So it was a nice evening that looked something like this: IPA > Stealth Triple > Phoenix Kriek > Scottish Ale + Cold Brew Coffee on nitro. #winning.

Rise of the Phoenix!

After a hearty breakfast the following morning, we pointed our compass to Happy Valley and headed off on the hour-long drive. But first, a quick stop at one of our favorite coffee shops and breweries in the quaint town of Millheim. We always make it a point to stop in to Inglebean for a quick visit. We enjoyed some tasty iced coffee while I tried my best to remember the chords to a few Rush tunes while I strummed the house guitar. I’ll stick to drums, thank you very much.

Just up the street is Elk Creek Café and Aleworks, a place we’ve been frequenting since it first opened its doors in 2007. The beer, food and service here have always been top-notch, and I always look forward to our stop here. On this particular visit, we enjoyed two seasonal offerings: Yarrington’s Best Bitter (named after head brewer Tim Yarrington) and the Penn’s Valley Pilsner, an honest to goodness German-inspired Pilsner lager. I always enjoy Elk Creek’s traditional ales on nitro our cask (they offer fantastic low ABV English milds and bitters from time to time). Both beers hit the spot, and we were soon ready to ship off to Happy Valley.

Yarrington's Best Bitter. Look at that crown!

First on our agenda once we rolled into the valley was to hit up a recent favorite of ours, the aptly named Happy Valley Brewing Company. We’d visited a few times in the past and have been routinely impressed with their offerings. The vibe of their artwork and atmosphere of the pub both have a barnyard theme. For some reason during this visit, I gravitated to a Belgian-style Pale Ale (not one of my favorites) because it was a beer I hadn’t tried yet. To my surprise, it was quite tasty! Typically, I find the Belgian yeast too overpowering, but this beer (HopGoblin) offered a nice interplay of spicy Belgian yeast, bubblegum notes, and citrusy hop flavor. Brewslut opted for one of their year-round offerings, the Phyrst Family Stout (named after a long-standing family band of the nearby Phyrst Pub on Beaver Avenue).

Brewslut suggested we stop at the Creamery for a quick ice cream cone. Usually, I’m the one who has to beg to stop for ice cream, so I jumped at the chance. For some reason, I was in “too truthful a mood” and made inappropriate jokes while standing in line. I even tried to photo bomb a wedding party photo, which had congregated just outside the Creamery on the sidewalk. After perusing the menu and noticing they discontinued my favorite flavor (Sandusky Blitz), I opted for the Coffee Chip, while Brewslut went with the Mint Chip. The Creamery offers a “one-size-fits-all” cone at a single uniform price. What they apparently forget to do, however, is train their staff on the appropriate size of the ice cream scoops topping the aforementioned cone. Take a look at this hoodwink:

My long-standing disdain for PSU Football flared up to a level where I could no longer control myself and I went on a bit of a tirade (unfortunately for the people around us but fortunately for Brewslut, who thought it was amusing).  The rambunctious, foul-mouthed, video-game-playing little kid in me reared its ugly head, and I found myself setting off a string of obscenity-laden phrases that I can’t even recall a mere few days later. I eventually shook it off and was maybe even a little embarrassed (hard to believe, right?) but I can safely say that next time, we’re going to Meyer Dairy!

After navigating through the altered streets of the PSU campus, we arrived at one of my favorite bars in PA… maybe even the country. Zeno’s Pub is so cool that I feel like an idiot every time I visit because I never hung out there during college. Ah, the humiliation of not getting into beer until my late twenties! But I digress. No trip to State College is complete without a stop to Zeno’s. Fortunately for us, Zeno’s was having a rare Belgian beer event when we arrived.  In the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of Belgian beers. I prefer American craft beer. Not only do I prefer the flavor of pungent in-your-face hops, but I have trouble pronouncing the names of Belgian breweries. However, I suppose I was in the mood for something different on this day, because I went with a flight of four Belgians: Westmalle Tripel; Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux (a super saison); Flanders Fred (a collab between De Proef and Hair of the Dog); and a 2011 vintage of De Halve Maan’s Straffe Hendrik Heritage (a delicious oak-aged Quad).

My Belgian flight at Zeno's.

Combining our efforts, Brewslut and I only chose one repeat (Flanders Fred), so I was able to try these other three gems: Gouden Carolus Cuvée van de Keizer (a strong dark ale); Orval (the quintessential Belgian pale); and finally Liefmans’ Goudenband (a Flanders Oud Bruin).

Beer aside, I also enjoy the bathroom literature Zeno's offers.

Next, it was off to Otto’s Pub & Brewery. Keeping with my Belgian theme, my first selection was Pallet Jack, a relatively new Belgian-style Pale Ale. It was pretty tasty, although I preferred Happy Valley’s HopGoblin a bit more. Also new to us was Triple D IPA. Triple D?! We’ve had and enjoyed Double D on numerous occasions. How can anybody not enjoy some Double Ds in his face? Drinking this was as easy as motorboating a serious set of funbags. I found the 10% ABV to be well-masked and the intense hop profile was supported by a sweet but not cloying malt presence. Good stuff! We also make it a point to grab some snacks here. We opted for the vegan chili and shared tofu wings and chicken thighs with a selection of tasty tipping sauces, our favorite being the spicy peanut sauce.

Soon enough, it was time to skedaddle back to the chalet. But first, a quick stop at Rusty Rail Brewing Co. in Mifflinburg was in order. I must admit that this new brewpub has been hit or miss for us. Given its close proximity to the chalet, we always stop in whenever we visit the area. The building itself is quite impressive, and I must admit that I was hugely impressed with the place on our first visit. Since then, we’ve eaten there and had poor service, and the beers have been all over the map (some good, some mediocre, and some not so good). Since our last visit, Rusty Rail started a limited, small-batch series called Side Track (similar to Tröegs’ Scratch Beer Series or St. Boniface’s Offerings). I settled on a Blood Orange Pale Ale, the first beer in the series. Brewslut opted for #3, a mango wheat ale. Mine was decent, but she was less than thrilled with her selection, unfortunately. At any rate, we will continue to frequent Rusty Rail if not only for the atmosphere. But I do hope they eventually step up their game in the beer and service departments, because the place itself truly is a gem.

Back at the chalet, we enjoyed a nightcap including Welcome to Scoville (an IPA brewed with peppers from Jailbreak Brewing) and Smuttlabs: The Stallion (an imperial stout aged in wine barrels from Smuttynose Brewing). The former came from a random variety case brought to Tröegs and passed around to co-workers. I was able to snag a can of this and a DIPA. We enjoyed the DIPA more than this one. The latter I received as a result of beer bartering with Smuttynose on our recent trip to New England. It’s always good to travel with local beer. Lucky for me, I’m typically swimming in free beer from Tröegs, so I always have a good selection in tow.

More often than not, we pay a second visit to Selin’s Grove on the return trip home. I was thrilled to see not only the brand new Roasted Oat Stout on the wall, but also IPA on handpull (super fresh and delicious) as well as the Summer Solstice Dubbel on tap, which must have returned on Saturday at some point. Two new beers for me! Of course, I slid a Phoenix Kriek in there, as well as more Oat Stout blended with the nitro cold brew coffee. I always joke that I love the soup at Selin’s Grove as much as the beer (no joke, actually) but now I have a third thing to look forward to when we visit: the cold brew! God damn is this stuff tasty! We also had lunch, and I think it was the first time I’d ever ordered a salad from the menu. (Note to self: Must do that again… and be sure to add the smoked salmon!)

After another enjoyable visit to the Pub, we headed to Al’s of Hampden (Brewslut’s part-time employer), as we’d seen a pair of beers hit tap lines a few days prior: Juicebox and Gypsy Tears. Both are from SOLE Artisan Ales (a new brewery I wrote about recently). After my experience with Kushy Clouds, a damn fine Pale Ale, I was eager to try these beers. It seems they’ve been benefitting from some internet hype lately, too. Thankfully, both beers were still available when we arrived at Al’s, so we quickly ordered. Terry was hanging out and was also nice enough to let us sample the then-fermenting Magic… Under Where? IPA brewed especially for my Ffej of July shindig. He also poured some Magical Brettanomyces Tour #3 from Trinity, a brewery we’d once visited during a trip to Colorado (NOTE: They’re located in Colorado Springs). We rounded out our visit with the amazing new beer, Amoré Shark, a Triple IPA aged in wine barrels, and another Trinity offering: Seven Day Sour. The fact that I still had money on my Al’s gift card made the visit even sweeter!

Afterwards, we enjoyed some Tröegs back at Julie and Eric’s house, where we recorded a podcast interview dedicated to our Rush tribute band, Solar Federation. If you like Rush, check us out. If not… well, just keep coming back for the beer porn!

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