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Friday, December 23, 2016

Drinksgiving 2016 - Part IV: New Hampshire & The Road Home

Day 6 - New Hampshire

This day kind of started off on the wrong foot, because a few of the breweries we'd planned on visiting unfortunately didn't open until later in the day on Sunday. So when any setbacks hinder our travel plans, we instantly shift to "audible" mode. While we weren't able to get to Tributary Brewing Co. in Kittery, ME, nor were we able to swing by Barreled Souls in Saco (which we'd enjoyed last time). So, we decided to head straight for Stoneface in Newington, NH, which would have us arriving right around opening time. For some reason, I didn't remember visiting here in the past, but as soon as we walked in to the small tasting room, memories came flooding back.

Tap tower at Stoneface in Kittery, ME.
The tasting room features cheap beer samples (no pints) and take-out beer, including growlers and bottles. Like last time, we each ordered a few sampler pours. I was in the mood for hops this morning (I think it was prior to noon), so I went with the following:

Oated Ella - IPA brewed with oats and Ella hops from Australia.
Full Blip - IPA brewed with Mosaic, Columbus and Simcoe, and fermented with an English yeast strain.
Full Clip - hazy IPA with a fruit punch.
India Red Rye Ale - As the name implies, a hoppy red ale brewed with rye.

My favorite was Full Clip, and I was happy they had bottles of this available. I had a few empty growlers, but unfortunately the state of NH prohibits the filling of growlers unless they are labeled with the actual brewery logo from which you are purchasing said beer. Sadly, I had no generic empties with me. However, in talking to the server (and I think one of the brewers), we realized we remembered each other from our last visit. I pointed out the empty Tröegs bottles and cans on the high shelf (with which the entire room was decorated), and that's when it dawned on us. "Oh yeah! I must have given those to you guys last time I was here," I said. I immediately went out to the car and picked a few treats for them. They reciprocated with a discount on my tab, which was mighty kind of them. We were enjoying our conversation with them and a few customers who had straggled in while we were there, but unfortunately it was time to hit the rocky road and head into Portsmouth for a few stops back to Boston.

We had been to our next stop, Earth Eagle, a few times in the past on recent trips to the area. Once, we even bumped into Steve, Heather and company from Selin's Grove, who were on vacation at the time. Earth Eagle brews some seriously off-the-wall stuff. This visit proved no different. With that said, I felt I appreciated what they did rather than considered myself a bona fide fan of the brewery. That is, until this particular visit.

Earth Eagle brews some oddball stuff, but it's damn tasty!
Perusing the chalkboard, I found myself wanting to try, well, everything! I was stoked to see yet another Rauchbier on the menu. This trip was turning into the Rauchbier trip. But one particular beer really piqued my interest - Puca. This was described as a "curried pumpkin porter with rum-soaked coconut." What? Yes indeed. And let me tell you, this was freaking delicious! None of the flavors strong-armed the others out of the spotlight. Instead, I was treated to an amazingly balanced concoction of odd ingredients. Speaking of odd ingredients, my next selection was something called Erebos, a black gruit with horehound, star anise, sweet fern and colts foot. Gruits are "hopped" with herbs and spices rather than traditional hops, hence all the weird ingredients. I'm typically not a huge fan of star anise flavors in beer, but it was held at bay here and only offered a hint of black licorice. Next, Brewslut and I shared a pour of Petite Galoot, a rum barrel-aged "session" barleywine-style ale. Session Barleywine? Sign me up! I absolutely love me a good barleywine, but I often find the high alcohol tag hinders my ability to go with quantity whilst traveling. This was quite tasty as well. Of course, I couldn't leave without a pour of Smokestack Lightning, a traditional German Rauchbier. I typically have to go stag with smoked beers, because Brewslut isn't too keen on them. I, however, love 'em! This one was right on the nuggets. While we were there, we enjoyed some tasty brunch-like grub and talking about Hendrix with one of the guys in the kitchen. Apparently, it was Jimi's birthday and this guy would be playing his music all day at the brewery. Fine with me. I always thought Mitch Mitchell was the unsung hero of that generation of drummers (always overshadowed by Moon, Bonham, and Ginger Baker). Good tunes, good beer, good food, and good peeps. That's what it's all about!

We've been digging the downstairs lounge at Portsmouth lately.

Up next was our obligatory stop at Portsmouth. The first time I visited was back in 2010 for the annual Kate the Great Imperial Stout release. Yes, I used to stand in line for hours in cold, rainy weather to get a few bottles of highly coveted beer. Thankfully, it was a short-lived phase I went through, because... well, fuck that shit! I'll leave all of the waiting in line to the hipsters and millennials who just use the stuff as trade bait. Whales, bro! 

Anywho, we took a short walk to Portsmouth, which is just around the corner from Earth Eagle. the last time we visited, we sat downstairs in the lounge area. Since the space had its own bar and was typically light on children compared to the larger upstairs dining area, it definitely appealed to us. Settling in, I ordered Surrender to the Flow, New England style DIPA that was pretty tasty. Brewslut went with a Belgian Kriek with Blackberry on the beer engine. For dessert, we shared a pour of Coffee Milk Stout. This one was brewed with the cold water extraction of El Conquistador coffee from Breaking New Grounds coffee shop in Portsmouth. Good stuff fo' sho'! Unfortunately, our visits to Portsmouth are pretty uneventful unless we're with a group of friends. Typically, the bartenders aren't too chatty, and the bar is sparsely occupied. So we finished our beers and hit the high road. Besides, Pleeps had a bit too much of the Coffee Milk Stout and needed a quick intermission.

Pleeps is down for the count!

Where to now? Off to Liars' Bench, Portsmouth's new kid in town. We were able to add them to the itinerary since we couldn't get to Tributary or Barreled Souls, but I'll admit that I hadn't heard of them. To be honest, I can't remember if Dan told us about this place or if it was someone at Stoneface earlier in the day. Either way, we were here. I wasn't sure what to make of this place when we first arrived. The tasting room definitely had an unfinished vibe. Not that that's a bad thing, of course. We pulled up a few bar stools and perused the menu, which was scant. We settled on two beers - France Pants, an American Pale Ale, and Hai Ikki, a Saison brewed with rice. Both were enjoyable. While we imbibed, I glanced around the room and noticed game tables, large community tables that seemed more like shared work stations in an office building. Part of me felt like I was hanging out in an abandoned warehouse with a few other squatters who also happened to be drinking good beer. I can't explain it, but I just liked this place.

My view from the bar at Liars' Bench.

Since I have so many beer T-shirts in my wardrobe (rivaled only by the amount of band shirts), I seldom purchase them anymore. In the past, I'd buy perhaps three or four shirts on any given trip. These days, I might get one if I really like it. Liars' Bench proved to be the "one" of the trip. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was going home with me. This one was one of those really soft dark heather gray shirts featuring an outline of New Hampshire filled with a bunch of randomly sized Liars' Bench logos, which are (most likely) purposefully reminiscent of a mirror image of the state's shape. So while we didn't take home any beer, unfortunately, I did return with a souvenir of our visit. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for this tiny brewery, especially since we get up to Portsmouth somewhat frequently.

Pleeps enjoys France Pants while wearing no pants.

I was pretty excited to get back to our next stop, Throwback. We had first visited back in March of this year on my birthday beer jaunt, and I couldn't wait to get back. I didn't think it would be so soon after our initial visit, but I'm not complaining. When we arrived back in March, we opened the place and had a sizable Team D(r)INK constituency in tow. The staff was amazing (including my favorite server who gave me a hard time when I asked for a different bobblehead figure upon ordering my first beer). I saw The Dude and HAD to have him next to my beer (and Pleeps) for a few choice Kodack moments.

Inside Throwback Brewing (Hampton, NH)
With a huge selection of beers available, it was tough to whittle it down to just a few. We each settled on a few short pours and shared them. Sharing is caring, and that's how we get to sample so many beers when we travel. Pleeps also has to get a swig or two in as well. Water helps too. Here's what we enjoyed during our visit:

Gin & Juice - Hopstruck Red IPA aged in gin barrels. LAID BACK! I was stoked to see a gin barrel-aged beer on tap during our visit. I'd fallen in love with these in Portland, OR over the summer and was hoping the trend would make its way to the East Coast. I guess it did!
BA Gourdgeous Pumpkin Ale - Brewed with real pumpkins and aged in Flag Hill apple brandy barrels for a year. Yum yum gimmie some!
Hippo-HOP-amus - black session IPA with rye and piney hops. This was also pretty bangin'!
Scapegoat Coconut Porter - roasty dark porter with coconut, chocolate and vanilla notes.

Slate beer boards at Throwback.

We were pretty peckish when we arrived, so we also enjoyed some tasty fried rice bowls for dinner. They'd only just opened the pub in 2015. I appreciate their vision of creating dishes using ingredients sourced within 200 miles of their location in Hampton, NH. They even run their very own Hobbs Farm and grow a variety of ingredients on premises. I saw a few chickens running around when we arrived, which I thought was cool. Afterward, we chatted with the servers, who were super friendly and funny. I ran out to the car to grab them a few beers, which they appreciated very much. This place is awesome, and will always warrant a visit when we're in this neck of the woods.

Painting inside Throwback Brewing's brewpub.

Day 7 - The Drive Home

Our first stop on the road home was Two Roads, situated in Stratford, CT. We walked in through the main entrance, up a flight of stairs and down a hallway until we reached the bar, which was overlooking the brewhouse. It was early in the day, so it was pretty dead. We planted ourselves at the bar and checked out the beer list. Like many of our first stops of the day, we opted to enjoy sampler flights. We each got our own this time since we'd only be making stops at a total of three breweries while we made our way back to Central PA. In talking to our bartender, I was surprised to learn that Two Roads was as big as they were. She mentioned that they were number thirty-something on the Brewer's Association's 2015 list of Top 50 U.S. Craft Breweries based on total sales volume. (Lucky for me I researched this; turns out they aren't even on the Top 50. Go figure.) Still, the brewery itself was pretty immense, especially for a brewery that opened its doors in 2012. Outside, the place reminded me of an old school or large post office. Inside, it was vast and warehouse-like, but with wooden floors and high ceilings.

Entrance to Two Roads Brewing Co.
Each flight included five beers, plus I piggybacked on some of Brewslut's beers. We both got our own pour of the Espressway, because... well, coffee! Here's the run-down:

Road 2 Ruin - DIPA with citrus, pine and floral notes.
Espressway - Oatmeal Stout brewed with cold pressed coffee.
Two Evil: Pachamama Porter - Collaboration with Evil Twin; brewed with sweet potatoes, purple main and Aji Panca chili peppers.
Route of all Evil - hefty Black Ale with mocha, molasses and dark fruit notes as well as a big Pacific Northwest hop bill.
Holiday Ale - traditional Biere de Garde style ale for the holiday season.
Geyser Gose - Another collaboration with Evil Twin, this Gose was brewed with ingredients sourced from Iceland including Icelandic moss, rye, herbs, sea kelp, skyr (a cultured dairy product similar to yogurt), and birch smoked sea salt. (Yeah, we picked up some cans of this one to take home!)
Bog Wild - sour ale brewed with local CT cranberries, various spices, and a Belgian yeast strain.
Tart IPA - sour IPA hopped with Simcoe, Comet and Chinook.

Pleeps in his classic pose... with a sampler flight!

As expected, our favorites were the Espressway and Geyser Gose, and we picked up a few of each in the cool gift shop before we left. For a relatively new brewery, they seem to have everything pretty dialed in. The beers were all solid, they're not afraid to experiment, and they have some pretty sweet branding. Chalk up another "thumbs up" for Connecticut. I'm sure we'll be back at some point in the near future.

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There wasn't much going on at our next stop, Defiant in Pearl River, NY. The town reminded me of a the coal region in NEPA for some reason. Not sure why, but I got that vibe when we pulled into town. I found out about this place while doing some research on the great Beer Mapping Project web site. I'd never heard of them before, but it was right on the way home and Captain Lawrence was closed, so we needed to stop somewhere, right? By this point in the trip, I had run out of cash and turned to using plastic. Unfortunately, this place was cash only, and the on-premises ATM was out of commission, so I had to find a bank. Luckily, there was one just up the street about a block away. I walked up and had to get a cash advance from one of my credit cards because the ATM wouldn't accept my bank card. Nothing like making me work for my beer. 

Main entrance to Defiant.

I got the impression that Defiant didn't really care about their beer. It didn't look like they'd made any improvements since they first opened back in 2005. It just felt outdated. The beers were pretty expensive comparatively, and while they weren't undrinkable, they were lackluster. The place was pretty huge and boasted a long bar overlooking some of the tanks in the brewhouse. In the back, there was a huge open space used for events and occasional live music. The place was empty when we arrived save for one guy and the bartender. They didn't offer sampler flights, so we were forced to get either 10- or 20-ounce pours. They did have a good variety of beers on tap, about 12 or so in total. The Smoked Porter caught my attention, so that's what I went with initially. Brewslut opted for the Tart Cherry Lager. The Smoked Porter had a hint of smoke but was more akin to a robust porter with chocolate notes. The Tart Cherry Lager wasn't too bad, but it wasn't memorable either. My next selection was the Catskill Hop Harvest. I couldn't find any information about this, but figured this was brewed using hops from a local NY farm. I didn't really care for it, unfortunately. The hop character was pretty muted and non-descript, so it didn't do anything for me. Our last beer was the Weapons Grade DIPA, which was pretty solid overall. It had a pretty big malt backbone, but it wasn't too sweet, which was a pleasant surprise. The best thing about our visit was the dry-rubbed, smoked wings we ordered. When we arrived, there was a sign advertising their BBQ. Unfortunately, they never serve food on Mondays. However, the bartender said they always have wings available. Since Two Roads didn't have food, we were pretty famished, so we each got a dozen. They were pretty freakin' bangin'! Aside from the wings, it wasn't the most memorable stop. I was hoping we'd end on a high note at our next stop. 

Old school tanks at Defiant.

The last few times we found ourselves in or around Easton, PA, Two Rivers had eluded us. When we went to see Dweezil at the State Theatre a few years ago, the brewery didn't exist. Last year when we drove through, they weren't open. One other time, we didn't have time to go. Finally, we were getting to check out what they had to offer. I'd heard good things from a co-worker at Tröegs who'd recently visited, so I figured that was a good sign. Man, she wasn't kidding when she said they were great!

When we arrived, we parked on the main street and found that Easton metered until like 8 p.m. There were several entrances to Two Rivers, but each one we approached had a sign that read: "Please use next door." After the third sign, we finally came to the entrance. Inside, this place reminded me of an old hotel bar maybe from the 40s. There were a few seats at the bar, so we occupied two of them. In reviewing the menu, I noticed it was happy hour for another 30 minutes, which was cool. We were pretty hungry and they had some tasty-sounding specials. The first beer I noticed was a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout. When I inquired about it, I was informed that it had kicked recently (like within the hour). D'oh! So I settled on a pour of Flowers Helping Hands IPA 2.0, a hazy IPA hopped with El Dorado and Simcoe for a juicy mix of citrus and melon with a hint of pine. I found the name of the beer to be rather curious, so I did some research and discovered that the beer was named in honor of a guy named Steven Flowers, who gives free haircuts to homeless and needy folks. Pretty cool story, right? Brewslut went with a pour of Mammy Morgan's Key Lime Brett IPA, a tart, funky IPA brewed with a plethora of interesting hop varieties and a wild yeast strain. Like my beer, this one also featured an interesting name that also tells a story. Turns out this beer was named after Elizabeth Bell Bay "Mammy" Morgan, a hotel keeper and leading citizen in Easton during the early 1800s.

Food-wise, we ordered some poutine, a Canadian delicacy featuring fresh-cut fries, cheese curds and gravy. This particular version featured chicken gravy, so it was "Ffejetarian." I've had some excellent poutine in our travels, and this was on-point. Happy hour pricing made it even better! The beer was so good that we decided on two final pours to close out Drinksgiving '16. I went with the Esoterik Imperial Stout. Like the others, this was also - you guessed it - named after someone. This thick, jet black stout boasted coffee, chocolate and black currant notes, and takes its name after Anthony Marraccini, someone who has been influential to the arts community of Easton. Brewslut went with Sixth Street Sour, a lacto-soured young bruin fermented on French oak with sour cherries and raspberries. Back in 1995, Weyerbacher began brewing on Sixth Street in Easton. Twenty years later, Two Rivers started brewing just two doors down from the original Weyerbacher facility. There's lots of stories in them there beers!

So there you have it! Drinksgiving '16 was tons of fun, and we covered a lot of ground in a few days, including a ton of new-to-us breweries in Boston and visits to some regional favorites. Not sure where we'll go next year for the big 10th anniversary, but one thing's for sure... we'll go somewhere. Thanks for reading. Until next time...

This isn't the monkey you're looking for.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Good beer in Shamokin. Yes, you read correctly.

About two years ago, I met the owner of a tiny brewery in Catawissa, PA (which is located near our old stomping grounds of Shamokin and just a stone's throw away from Knoebel's Grove Amusement Park) through a mutual beer friend, Kramer. The brewery, Covered Bridge Brewhaus, was started by homebrewer-turned-pro Eric Kuijpers, a friendly Dutch guy who brings and old-world style of European brewing to Central PA. (You can read a bit more about Eric and Covered Bridge on the River Rate Brew Trail site if you're so inclined.) This was a few years after the region started booming with small breweries such as Old Forge in Danville, Turkey Hill and Marley's in Bloomsburg, Berwick Brewing in Berwick and a few others. I was excited that a brewery existed so close to my hometown. However, I quickly learned that this was only a production brewery with extremely limited hours. While I was able to try some of Eric's beers (he's the owner and brewer of Covered Bridge, by the way) at a few of Kramer's annual gatherings, I was glad to see that he was on the right path. The Coconut Porter was a standout, which has ultimately become Covered Bridge's flagship beer. At any rate, I followed Covered Bridge peripherally through Facebook but (aside from Kramer's parties) the beers eluded me.

Wooden tap handle at Covered Bridge.
About a year or so ago, I heard that Eric was opening a small tap room on 8th Street in Shamokin (part of the same building where Brewslut used to rent VHS videos... remember those days?) about a block away from the house she lived in when we started dating. I thought, "This is too cool!" The problem was the hours of operation: Thursday only from 5 to 9 p.m. I seldom had a reason to be in Shamokin on a Thursday night. God knows there aren't too many reasons to even go to Shamokin. So the beers continued to elude me.

A few weekends ago, I had a free Saturday with no gigs or other obligations, so we decided to visit my mom and hit Selin's Grove on the way home. (I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'll use any excuse to stop by the Pub for a few pints and some grub!) On a whim, I decided to check out Covered Bridge's Facebook page to see if they perhaps added some expanded hours for the holiday season. We all know how people love to get their drink on during this time of year... myself included! My instincts paid off, because they had recently added Saturday hours at the tasting room from 6 to 10 p.m. Booyeah!

We arrived shortly after they opened at 6 p.m. and had planned to have a few samples and head down to Selin's Grove for a late dinner. When we entered, I was delighted to see Eric as well as a chalkboard filled with a dozen offerings on tap! I was only expecting maybe 4 or 5 beers, so this was a treat! The aforementioned Coconut Porter was present, and we had already tried the Dim Wizzy as well. We decided on the following flight of four sampler pours:
  • KW-IPA - I seem to recall Eric mentioned this was brewed with local Central PA hops, but I couldn't find additional information on-line. 
  • Koekie Claus - Our favorite of the four! This one was a darker ale and brewed with "Dutch spices," as Eric informed us. This had a nice molasses note with hints of anise, nutmeg and Grandma's spice rack!
  • Pumpkin Beer - This was a pleasant pumpkin ale brewed with real pumpkin and not overly spiced. 
  • Strubarb Wit - Belgian-style Witbier with tart rhubarb and sweet strawberries. 

Full draft list at Covered Bridge during our visit.

While we were working on our samplers, a couple walked in and the woman looked very familiar. After a quick double take, I realized she was our long-lost friend, Mary, who we'd been close friends with during our later years in high school and first few years of college. Turns out she and her husband had got bitten by the craft beer bug a few years back, and were stopping in for some samples and a growler fill. We hadn't seen Mary in about 20 years, so it was great to catch up with her. I also remembered her husband, who was a year ahead of me in school. Needless to say, we ended up staying a bit longer than anticipated so we could catch up. We traded stories and Facebook info over a full pour of the Cherry Triple, which was pretty tasty. I appreciated that Eric brewed this one with sour cherries to help keep the sweetness of the base Triple at bay. I love me a good Triple, but sometimes they can become cloyingly sweet after several sips. This was a pretty solid interpretation of the classic Belgian style. 

We honestly could have stayed until they closed, but we were pretty hungry by then, and I was eager to try the brand new draft Mule cocktails at Selin's Grove (which, by the way are off the freakin' charts)! Much like my description of one of Laddsburg Mountain Winery's port wines, it was easily one of the most amazing things I'd ever put inside my mouth. Go ahead. Feel free to make a few jokes about that. I'll wait...

A sight to behold while you're making fun of me.

Seriously, though, this was nothing short of amazing. Think of the absolute best mule you've ever tasted that was hands-down leaps and bounds better than any other you ever had. Well my loyal readers, this was even better than that. This thing could cure cancer! Apparently, Steve and Heather change up the batches with different ingredients. This particular concoction was made with cranberries, real juiced ginger, vodka, and I swear the nectar of the Gods. It was garnished with a lime wedge and a few cranberry floaters on top. As if I need something else to tempt me away from ordering a beer there (i.e. their amazing nitro cold brew coffee). Is there anything this place can't do? Answer: Nope.

I won't go into detail about the rest of our visit, because I give them enough love on here and elsewhere. Next time you hit up "The Pub," do yourself a favor and order a mule. Holy shitsnacks, are they good! 

Until next time, this little Dutch girl bids you a fond farewell...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Drinksgiving 2016 - Part III: Whole Lotta Port!

Day 5 - Portland, ME

Although we'd just visited Portland earlier this year (in March for my birthday), we couldn't pass up another opportunity to visit since we'd be so close. Portland is less than two hours away from Boston by car, so it seems to me like a no-brainer for us to spend the night in one of our favorite cities. It would also make a sweet "Portland sandwich" since we also visited the Portland West this past summer. Additionally, despite the fact that we've visited Portland numerous times in the past, I've never blogged about our adventures in this great city. So to borrow another Rickyism again, it's like getting two birds stoned at once.

First on our itinerary was Allagash, a favorite of mine ever since I was introduced to a bunch of their beers at Prohibition Pig in Stowe, Vermont a few years back. For Black Friday, they had poured a quartet of dark beers in the tasting room, which were still available during our visit the following day. With the exception of Black, a Belgian-style Stout, all of them were new to us! It's also worth mentioning that every visitor gets a complimentary flight of four beers just for setting foot inside the tasting room. Here's what we enjoyed during our visit:

Black - the aforementioned Belgian-style Stout
Hibernal Fluxus - another Belgian-style Stout, this time brewed with figs
Dougernaut - yet another Belgian-style Stout, this one blended with cold brew coffee
Josephine - a delicious dark strong ale with house Brett and aged in Cognac barrels

I must say this flight was a treat, with Dougernaut being my favorite of the bunch (although all were fantastic). Any time cold brew coffee is an ingredient, you can be assured that I'll be drinking it.

Darkness... imprisoning me!

Since I came bearing gifts from Hershey, PA, I was allowed velvet rope access. Bella, one of the managers, took us for a stroll around familiar territory. Each time we visit Allagash, we get the royal treatment due to knowing the right people. The highlight for me is always the barrel-aging room. Allagash has a very mature barrel-aging program, and it's always nice to walk through and see what's aging. Plus the smell of the space itself is a fringe benefit in and of itself!

As a thank-you for the beers I brought, they reciprocated with a bottle of Golden Brett and Émile. (These beers are so complex that it's easier to provide a link to each rather than regurgitate their tasting notes.)

Just across the street from Allagash is another favorite of ours - Foundation. When we first visited Foundation a few years ago, their focus was on farmhouse ales and Saisons. We were immediately impressed with their offerings and make sure to visit each time we're in Portland. These days, they are also making some fantastic IPAs and other styles outside of the farmhouse realm. Also, they have since occupied the space left behind from Bissell Brothers (more on those guys later), so the tasting room was obviously much larger and spread out. Meanwhile, I got in touch with my old friend Vikki, who had just moved to Portland with her boyfriend Bill a few months prior to our visit. I first became friends with Vikki almost 15 years ago when she used to tend bar at ABC in Harrisburg back when my band herbie was performing regularly. She later worked at Tröegs with me and then Snitz Creek before moving to Portland. Vikki and Bill met us at Foundation for a beer, and then Bill had to work for a few hours, so Vikki hitched a ride with us to the next several destinations. Here's a quick recap of what we enjoyed at Foundation:

Afterglow - juicy American IPA with notes of tangerine, pine, and berries
Venture - "Maine" IPA featuring a variety of hops including Mosaic and El Dorado
Burnside infused with coffee - a version of their traditional brown ale infused with coffee
Zuurzing - tangy citrus-forward farmhouse ale soured with Lactobacillus
Ember - hoppy amber ale brewed with Columbus and Mosaic
Forge - big stout with coffee, chocolate and dark malt flavors

I picked up some 4-packs of cans and we were off to our next three stops, all of which were but a stone's throw away from each other.

Urban Farm was up next. This place is actually known for its kombucha more than anything else, although they have been dabbling in ciders and, most recently, beers in the form of gruits (ancient ales brewed with herbs and spices rather than hops). They have also been doing some dry-hopped ciders and kombuchas as well. They've got quite a hybrid business model. Plus this place is really crunchy, if you catch my drift. Brewslut loves this place, which is funny, because she hates hippies. This place is a hippie haven; at least to me it emanates that particular vibe. Think soy candles, pachouli oil, and earthy incense. At any rate, Brewslut always leaves with a few bottles of kombucha to enjoy at home.

While we were here, we each enjoyed a sampler flight of some truly unique offerings. Here's the run-down of my flight:

Harvest de Gruit - a French style Biere de Garde
Dry Hopped Booch Beer - a dry-hopped gruit/kombucha hybrid
Berliner Fruit Gruit - a sour Berliner Weisse-style gruit
Baby Jimmy - Dry Cidah aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels
Coffee Kombucha - self explanatory

See? I told you they made some pretty cool stuff! I dig the earthy vibe of this place and they make some really off-the-wall stuff. Plus they are the only brewery of its kind in Portland. This is always a must-stop place for us to hit when we're in town. Brewslut wouldn't let me leave Portland without stopping here for her Booch fix!

The crunchy vibe of Urban Farm.

Across the street from Urban Farm is Lone Pine, brand new to the Portland beer scene. This relatively small facility has a tight tasting area for folks to congregate and enjoy a pint or sampler flight of about 8 or so house beers. While discussing the name of the brewery with Brewslut and Vikki, I immediately thought of Back to the Future. In the beginning of the movie, the name of the mall is Twin Pines. However, when he inadvertently travels back in time to 1955, he crashes the DeLorean into a tree on a farmer's property. Later in the movie when he returns to present day, the name of the mall had changed to Lone Pine. It's those little things you catch after repeated viewings that I love about that movie. Brilliant! At any rate, I wasn't able to ask about the origin of the name, as this was a quick stop. I settled on Brightside IPA, which was good enough but not a stand-out of the day. This place is so new that their web site is still under construction and I was unable to find an actual description of the beer. Brewslut went with the Chaga Stout, a straight up Oatmeal Stout. I don't recall if they had take-out beer available aside from growler fills, but I did just read that they have introduced cans as of December 9, so we just missed out on bringing some home to share with our drinking team.

Also in this neck of the woods is Rising Tide. We'd been to Rising Tide a number of times since they first opened back in 2010. However, we first learned about the brewery while visiting San Diego the previous year. We bumped into the owners, who were also on a beer trip, at Hess Brewing. At the time, Rising Tide was only in the planning stages. However, he gave me his card on the off chance that we'd visit Portland at some point in the future. Sadly, each time we've visited, he (Nathan) wasn't at the brewery. Since we first visited Rising Tide, they too have expanded the facility to accommodate more customers. I liked their stuff from the get-go. On this particular occasion, I decided to go big and have just one beer, so I ordered a pour of Nikita, a Russian Imperial Stout weighing in at just under 10% ABV. It was particularly chilly outside on this day, so this beer really warmed me up on the insides! The tasting room was quite busy, so we finished up and headed to our next spot, but only after I purchased two bottles of Hesperus, an 11.2% ABV barleywine. For 2016, they blended a newly brewed version with an oak-aged version. (Editor's Note: I shared with with Team D(r)INK shortly after we returned, and this was quite good but pretty boozy. Can't wait to see what 6 months - or more- of cellaring does to this!)

Get the Bunker, baby... get the Bunker!
So, it was off to Bunker! We'd been to Bunker's old tiny tasting room on two previous occasions. This time, however, they'd moved to a much larger space with a huge, open floor plan with plenty of room for growth. Yet another expansion! Seems as though Portland needs more beer. By this time, Bill was done with work and re-joined the party. They'd also begun canning in earnest, and had a few offerings available. This place just had a cool ragtag vibe, which reminded me of Coast Brewing in SC. During our two previous visits, they had a very limited number of beers available. No more than 3 beers on tap. This time, they boasted 10+.

I brought in some Troegs beers as a gift, and they reciprocated with a few cans of Salad Days (a lager) and two others. While we were there, we enjoyed Green Mind (a Maine wet-hopped IPA), Neo Classical (a hazy session IPA) and Weird Wave (a barrel-aged dark sour ale) on tap. I was really digging this place as well as the staff and clientele. The guy working the bar gave us a quick ten-cent tour of the brewing area, and it looked like they just moved in. Turns out they did. While they signed the lease in December 2015, they just opened their doors a few weeks before our visit. The moved from a tiny 800-sq. ft. facility to a whopping 9,000-sq. ft. facility, so we can expect to see plenty of beer pouring from Bunker in the years to come.

Inside Bunker's new facility. The colors, man. THE COLORS!!!

By the time we got to Bissell Brothers, I was beginning to feel a bit of a buzz combined with the pangs of hunger. Luckily for us, there was a adjoining chicken joint inside the brewery just off from the tasting room area. I think we ordered chicken tenders and sweet potato fries. Whatever it was, it hit the spot and gave us the fuel to continue on. Beer-wise, Bissell Brothers seems to be the trendy place in Portland. While I enjoy their beers, I'm more of a Foundation and Allagash guy personally. Bissell does the cloudy, turbid IPAs as good as anyone, which seem to be all the rage in New England. I've had quite a bit of their beers over the last year or so from friends and visiting there this past March when they were still across the street from Allagash. On this particular evening, I enjoyed a pour of Lux, a tropical rye beer, with my chicken dinner. The place was quite busy and by this time everything was a whirlwind. For some reason, I felt like I was at a hotel or casino. I can't quite explain it. I suppose I was on the verge of inebriation when we were there and needed to chill out a bit. So this was a once-and-done stop for us. It was good to fill my gullet with something substantial and, you know, solid. After our stop at Bissell, we parted ways with Vikki and Bill and were left to our own devices. There was still much to do. So, off to the next place.

Inside Oxbow's dimly lit quarters.
When we arrived at Oxbow, it was dead. The last time we were there back in March, it was pretty bumping and there was a healthy crowd of people there. Not this time. There were about five people at the bar and that was it. Not good for a Saturday night to say the least. Regardless, we pulled up a pair of barstools and perused the beer menu. This place is extremely dimly lit making it hard for someone of advanced age to read words on a page. Despite my struggle, I finally settled on a pour of Snowball 1, a Black IPA that was pretty tasty. Nothing much was going on here, and the bartender wasn't too chatty, so we finished up and split.

Stick a fork in us, 'cuz we're done!
Our last stop of the evening was Liquid Riot. We'd been here a few times in the past, including when it used to be called In'finiti. In addition to brewing some fine craft beers, they also are a distillery and handcraft spirits including a variety of whiskeys, rum, vodka and more. While we haven't tried any of the spirits, we do enjoy the beer quite a bit. The room is also probably my favorite of all the breweries in Portland for the ambiance. I like the bar and enjoy viewing the tap handles, which look like old-school faucets. For what we thought were our last beers of the night, we ordered a pour of IPAwesome Vol. IX, a rotating IPA brewed with a "generous dose of Mosaic hash," and The Killing, a cranberry Berliner Weisse dubbed their "Thanksgiving beer." In what seemed like a good decision at the time, I opted to close out the night with a pour of NSFW, a 10% Triple IPA that was mighty tasty and quite strong. However, this wasn't as sweet or boozy as other similar high octane, hopped up huge IPAs. Even after a full day of bludgeoning my palate, I could still taste this bad boy, although after this I must say that my tongue was douched. This was definitely our most ambitious day of the trip, and we handled it as any drinking professionals would... with decent judgement, a lot of fun, and perhaps just a bit of grace. It also helps when you have a monkey that isn't on your back. Pleeps definitely keeps us in line, although he's been known to get a little schwilly from time to time. You lay off those Imperial Stouts, buddy!

So there you have it! Stay tuned for details from the tail end of our trip including a quick jaunt around New Hampshire and the road back to PA. Until next time...

Monday, December 5, 2016

Drinksgiving 2016: Part II - Baaahston, baby!

Day 3 - Thursday 11/24

Thanksgiving Day was spent in Boston at Dan and Kristen's house in our lounge pants eating way too much food for five human beings and drinking some choice gems from Dan's beer cellar (actually, some of his beer is stored in a guest room, while the rest is kept in his DFB, or Dedicated Beer Fridge, in the garage). Here's what we cracked open throughout the day, in no particular order:

  • One Hop This Time: Vic Secret - Night Shift
  • One Hop This Time: Mosaic - Night Shift
  • Citra Cutting Tiles - Trillium
  • Apple Brandy Barrel Noir - Prairie
  • Bourbon Barrel-Aged Mexican Cake - Westbrook
  • Imperial Blu Bu - De Garde
  • Petit Kriek - De Garde
  • Special Rogue - De Garde

Beer aside, Dan really went above and beyond for Thanksgiving dinner, although I must say that I wasn't surprised at all. This is the same guy who made a metric ton of pulled pork and turkey for Ffej of July as well as gallons of homemade BBQ sauce and enough baked beans to make everyone at the party flatulent enough to burn a hole in the ozone layer. For dinner, we enjoyed a feast of smoked turkey, sausage stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, maple mashed sweet potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower, corn, pumpkin pie, and a homemade Mexican cake with Bavarian cream in the middle. I hope I didn't forget anything. After not having Thanksgiving dinner for the previous 8 years, I must say this was a big treat for us! Dan knows his way around the kitchen fo' sho'!

We capped off the day with a viewing of the fantastic Marvel universe movie Deadpool, starring Ryan Reynolds. I must admit that I never jumped on the Marvel bandwagon aside from my all-time favorite superhero, Spiderman (even though I collected various Marvel comics for a few years during my mid-to-late teens), but this movie was pretty damn awesome! It was funny, irreverent, violent, and serious when it needed to be. Dare I say it was the coolest superhero movie ever made? Sure, why not?

Day 4 - Friday 11/25

Since we stayed locked in at Dan and Kristen's place all day for Thanksgiving, Brewslut and I had some serious cabin fever. So, we put together a pretty ambitious itinerary for Black Friday including 7 breweries. The day's tally actually turned out to be 8 due to a quick impromptu visit of one not on our list. I mean, we were walking right by it, so we had to stop in, right?

Our first stop of the day was Dorchester Brewing Company, who'd just opened its doors back in July. Dan hadn't even paid them a visit yet. Typical of any first stop of the day, a sampler flight was in order. Here's the low-down on my tray:

Entitled IPA - straight-up IPA with tropical fruit notes
V1 DIPA - fruit-forward DIPA with tons of Mosaic hops
Mass Ave IPA - IPA hopped with El Dorado
Warp Rider - Red IPA with notes of pine resin

I also sampled some of Brewslut's Secret Decoder Ring (awesome name... if you don't get the reference, you need to drink more Ovaltine), a brown porter aged on cocoa nibs. This was pretty tasty.

However, I was still in the mood for a smoked beer, especially since the one I wanted at Jack's Abby had kicked. So, I opted for a half liter mug of Engine 21, a traditional German Rauchbier made with 33% Beechwood smoked malt. This one was right on the nuggets! Not too smoky and a prime example of this unpopular style. I wish more breweries would make traditional Rauchbiers. For those afraid of smoked beers, you really need to try a classic Rauchbier. They are fantastic! (Steps down from soapbox.)

Enjoying an Engine 21 Rauchbier at Dorchester.

Up next was a stop at the new Night Shift location. I'd had a number of their beers already, and it took me a few to get into them. After a pair of initial disappointing beers, they first wowed me with Whirlpool, a delicious, fruity American Pale Ale. Since then, I'd enjoyed just about everything I tried from them.

Upon entering, we were greeted by an expansive space with communal seating, a bar area, high ceilings and an additional room in the back for more seating options. I perused the beer selection, and they had about 10 or so offerings currently available. I started with a pour of Morph, Night Shift's constantly evolving IPA series, which changes from batch to batch. This particular batch was #38, dated 11/17/16. Upon further investigation, I learned this version incorporated Bravo, Vic Secret, Simcoe and Citra hops to create a juicy IPA "bursting with citrus and tropical fruit flavors." They didn't have to twist my arm to drink this. It was quite tasty! Brewslut opted for the Aloha Weisse, a Berliner Weisse brewed with pineapple, which I also sampled. This was pretty damn delicious, and she concurred. Since Dan was a member of the Barrel Society, he was able to procure a pour of Sheridan, a Flanders-style sour ale aged in various oak wine barrels. This sucker was warm, fruity and tannic with some moderate mouth pucker. I ended with a pour of Awake, a delicious coffee porter aged with coffee from Counter Culture. I'm always in the mood for a coffee beer (or coffee, for that matter), and I seldom miss an opportunity to sample one when I'm travelling. Good stuff, this was!

Pleeps says, "Aloha from Night Shift!"

Our next stop was another new place with which I'd not yet familiarized myself: Bone Up. This place was quite small but boasted some modest charm through the use of unique lighting and a Metallica pinball machine. It was looking like a quick one-and-done stop, so I settled on Wasted Life, their flagship IPA. As I was doing a bit of post-trip research, I checked the Bone Up web site and noticed that, in addition to food pairing notes, they also added a specific cheese pairing and, oddly, enough, music pairing for each beer. I thought this was kind of funny. Unfortunately, this particular beer is recommended to go well with "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls, which makes me wonder if this beer has a predominantly gay male fanbase. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Forget bellying up to the bar... I want to BONE UP!

After our visit at Bone Up, we convened back at Dan and Kristen's to eat some leftovers from the previous day's feast, and cracked open a Dusk Trill Dawn, an Imperial Stout with cold brewed coffee made in collaboration with Trillium and Evil Twin. That was some mighty fine drinking, let me tell you! Unfortunately, we once again ate too much and later in the evening experienced a few unfortunate "puke burps" as a result. That's the price you pay for loading up on carbs before you drink all night.

After dinner, we continued our Boston brewery crawl by Uber-ing back into town. Our next stop was a newish place called Winter Hill. Brewslut and I opted for the same beer - Hesher, an American Wheat IPA dry-hopped with Citra and Zythos. This one missed the mark a little, and I detected a hint of diacytl in there, but it wasn't off-putting. She wasn't digging it at all, unfortunately. The place seemed cool enough, although it was sparsely populated while we were there. Dan and Charles were caught up in some compelling conversation and Brewslut was feeling the effects of too many carbs, so this was a one-and-done stop for us. This was fine with me, as we had many more places to cross off the list.

Pleeps sometimes likes the murky ones.

Our next stop, Aeronaut, was a brisk 25 minute walk from Winter Hill, which found me wishing I'd worn my heavier coat instead of just a hoody. It wasn't uncomfortably cold, just a tad bit chilly with a hint of cool breeze. Upon entering the premises, this place felt right up my alley. Like my previous comments about Ecliptic in Portland, OR, I'm a sucker for "outer space bullshit," to quote Ricky from Trailer Park Boys. My first selection was First Steps on a Sour Planet, a Berliner Weisse on cask! This was a rare treat, as I seldom see this style on a beer engine. I was very pleased with this decision, and it was one of my favorites of the day, so great first impression, Aeronaut! As we made our way back into the adjacent room, I noticed about a dozen classic arcade games in the corner. I'm definitely a sucker for 80's arcade games, and even better was the fact that these were all FREE PLAY machines (meaning no quarters or tokens needed). BOOYEAH! Plus the arcade games served two important purposes on this particular evening. Not only did they provide about half an hour's worth of free entertainment, they also served as a distraction from "some douche playing an acoustic guitar" who was just around the corner near the front of the room. (Editor's note: Sick Cards Against Humanity reference, Ffej!) He wasn't a hired musician; he just felt like bringing his guitar in to show off to all the ladies (or perhaps dudes... he was sporting a questionable sweater).

One small step for Pleeps, one giant step for monkies!

My next selection was Hop Hop & Away, a Citra and Mosaic-hopped American Pale Ale. At 4.6% ABV, this was an easy drinker! I wish I would have picked up some cans of this one before we left, but I was still reeling from the free arcade games. Oh well. We ended up toting back a pretty sizable haul of goodies to share with our Team D(r)INK compadres!

By the time I moved on to a pour of Leipzig Bop, a Gose, "some douche" had moved from guitar to the upright piano occupying the room. That was our cue to finish up and head to the next place.

After Dan's glowing review of Lord Hobo's Hobo Life session IPA (he compared it to Three Floyds' Zombie Dust), we made a quick decision to swing by and scarf down a pint between the four of us. And that we did. Dan also ordered a pour of something called Fallow Harvest, a beer from Hermit Thrush, a brewery based out of VT with whom I wasn't acquainted. This particular beer was an unspiced pumpkin sour ale uniting two vintages aged in French oak barrels. This was pretty fantastic and these guys are now on my radar. We'll hopefully be back in VT in 2017, so we'll be sure to track them down!

Pleeps takes a break and enjoys a rare beerless pose.

After our little 5-minute beer carousel ride at Lord Hobo (we literally stood at the bar and passed each beer around to one another until both were finished), we were off to another new brewery. This time, it was Lamplighter. When we arrived, I noticed the place was clean and well-kept with modern decor. Think a semi-fancy brunch spot with a variety of seating options, lots of time, and funky lighting. And it was bumping in there by the time we walked in. If any place in Boston is "Hipster Central," it's this place. Located in Cambridge and just a stone's throw away from our final destination (Cambridge Brewing Co.), Lamplighter was dripping with hipsters. That's not necessarily always a bad thing, though, because some hipsters have the innate ability to sniff out the good stuff. In this particular case, Lamplighter was indeed "the good stuff." With a penchant for brewing "aroma-packed, funk, and flavor-driven ales," many of the Lamplighter beers I sampled during our visit were yeast-focused. Check out this diverse sampler flight I enjoyed:

Danger Zone - Get ready to call Kenny Loggins, because this tasty dry-hopped sour ale features wildflower and tart lemon notes.
Mad Hatter - 100% Brettanomyces Pale Ale with ripe peach and resiny flavors.
Lion Eyes - dry and funky 100% Brettanomyces IPA.
Easy Tiger - another 100% Brettanomyces IPA with tropical fruit and earthy funk.

Hangin' with the hipsters at Lamplighter.
I enjoyed all of my beers, and Brewslut was impressed as well. However, the day was winding down and it was off to Cambridge before closing time. Aside from Lord Hobo (which hadn't even begun brewing when we last visited), Cambridge was the only "been there" place of the day. Dan and I both love their Blunderbuss Barleywine, but alas it was not on tap on this particular occasion.

Beer-wise, this was our final stop of the day, so we decided on a single pour of something from the tap list. I went with Don't Panic, a juicy Session IPA with notes of berries and wildflower amid herbal spiciness. Brewslut opted for a Boilermaker Stout, a barrel-aged dry stout. Both served as the closure of a day well-spent in Boston.

Aside from the beer, one of my favorite things about this place is the rotating mural on the wall adjacent to the bar. Depicting a variety of movie stars, musicians, fictional characters, Cambridge employees, and even local customers, this ever-changing mural always elicits a fun topic of conversation during our visit. We noticed, among others, President Obama, John Winger (Bill Murray's character from Stripes, and Barney from the Simpsons). It's always fun to try and figure out who's who on the mural!

Stay tuned for more Drinksgiving adventures including Portland, ME and a romp around New Hampshire before heading back to PA. Until then...