|My typical drunk selfie.|
Here's a random picture I snapped with my phone outside of Back Bay when we left. Please note that I have no recollection of taking the following picture:
|I call this one "Spray-painted TV screen through inebriated eyes."|
Kelly definitely seemed amused by my shenanigans, as illustrated by this photo:
|Our DD with the DDs... actually triple Ds!|
Aaah, the joys of having a designated driver for Drinksgiving. She loves me. Anyway, let's get back to the beginning of the day, shall we?
Things got off to a rocky start at our first stop, Bearded Bird. We arrived to find some sort of artisan market taking place, which was actually kind of cool. Most of the dozen or so vendors were still setting up their tables and displays, but we moseyed around for a bit and chatted with some of them. These friendly folks were peddling everything from hand-made jewelry to soap (Kelly purchased some of the latter). After a quick stroll around the perimeter of the tasting room, we decided to grab a few barstools and peruse the beer menu. While the chalkboard boasted about a dozen beers, we decided to share a sampler flight. As you will soon find out, I'm glad we did. Before we go any further, here's the low-down:
- Sweet 16 - homebrew collaboration ale brewed with sweet potatoes
- Ginga Ninja - honey ginger saison
- Experiment X727 - "kind of sour" amber ale. Hmmmm...
- Neon IPA - American IPA (no details provided other than 5.6% ABV and 92 IBU)
|Bearded Bird sighting at the bar.|
Back in my early twenties when I worked at Boscov's, I had a friend named Dan who would always preface a negative comment about someone with, "Nice person, but..." I couldn't help but think of him and chuckle as I was forcing these beers down my gullet. The people were indeed friendly. The artisan market offered a nice connection to the local community. The beer? To be brutally honest, it was a chore to drink. To offer some constructive criticism: If you brew a beer and it's infected or clearly displays "off" flavors, don't release it to the public and try to pass it off as a "sour" beer. I feel this was the case with the Experiment X727 "kind of" sour amber ale. I know ingredients are expensive, especially for tiny mom and pop breweries, so dumping beer might not seem like the practical thing to do. Ten years ago, there weren't a dozen or more breweries all within a stone's throw of each other. Folks searching for good local beer now have the luxury of driving a few miles down the road (or in some towns, walking a few blocks down the street) to visit another brewery. This is your reputation. Don't put out something sub-par (or worse) just so you don't take a loss. Believe me, it will help you in the long run. There are breweries that I simply won't re-visit because I've been burned too many times. I used to employ the standard "three strikes and your out" rule of thumb. Nowadays, a brewery pretty much has one shot to impress me. Hell, a glimmer of promise is all that I require. And overall, I feel I'm fairly easy to please.
So I'll spare you all a critique of the beers here and just say they were "inadequate." Just thank your lucky stars that I'm writing this blog and not Brewslut. 'Nuff said, right? To put a positive spin on our visit, I kind of enjoyed the Sweet 16 sweet potato ale. Ironically, it wasn't an actual Bearded Bird beer, but rather a collaboration with a local homebrew club called Tocorzic Twin Screws Brewing. Other than a few listings on Untappd, I couldn't find any information about them at all on the interwebs. And with that, we were off to stop #2.
|Outside Rip Rap Brewing Company.|
Not much was happening at our next stop, Rip Rap Brewing Company. This was a typical "garage" situated in an industrial park setting. When we arrived, there were three guys who were glued to the popular sports program on TV. We snagged part of the long, wooden picnic table near the bar and plunked down our flight featuring the following offerings:
- Marlin Spike - Berliner Weisse
- Bilgewater - coffee stout
- Weather Helm - IPA hopped with Cascade, Citra, and CTZ
- Southern Cross - Belgian-style Quad
Overall, the beer was an improvement compared to Bearded Bird, but nothing was what I'd call "memorable" either. We stuck to our shared sampler flight and moved on, especially since all of the customers and staff were more interested in the game than beer chat.
|Pleeps is Rippin' and-a Rappin', sippin' and-a slappin'!|
O'Connor was on my list as one of our Black Friday stops, but we changed things up a bit and did VA Beach on Friday. I'll admit I'd never heard of the brewery before, but once we arrived, I was fairly confident that we'd just landed at the biggest and perhaps longest-running brewery in the area.
|Outside O'Connor Brewing Co.|
I was glad to see O'Connor still had plenty of its Ibrik Imperial Turkish Stout available (leftover from its Black Friday release), as well as a few of the limited variations. This was also a stand-out of the trip, and I purchased a bottle of the bourbon barrel-aged variation to take home to share with Team D(r)INK.
We also were able to try the Ibrik variation with vanilla and coffee beans, which was quite heavy on the vanilla character. I believe there was a cacao version (which we didn't try) and a maple syrup version we would have loved to try but was sold out.
Rounding out our visit was a pair of tasty IPAs: That New New, a hazy NE-style IPA, and Muy Guapo, a DIPA version of El Guapo, which I'd just had the previous night. (Remember the piano bar? I sure do!)
We're more than just another Brewery. We focus on creating unique takes on classic styles - crafting well-designed, balanced ales and authentic lagers. We don't make a bunch of hoppy beers. We don't make Pumpkin beer. We don't follow the crowd. We make our own path.
|Outside Coelacanth Brewing|
I started off with a sampler flight of the following four beers:
- Passion Fruit Gose - tart ale brewed with passionfruit and Hawaiian sea salt
- My Lady - tart Belgian ale with sour Montmorency cherries from Michigan
- Caramel Apple Pie Porter - collaboration with Parkway Brewing using apples from Bold Rock Hard Cider
- Kopimanis - cold-steeped coffee milk stout brewed with organic, direct trade Sumatran beans
While I enjoyed some more than others, there wasn't a dud in the bunch. The gose was super-tart and fruity; I enjoyed these beers enough to warrant a full pour of something else. Hmmm... a 10.5% barleywine, you say? I was thinking the same thing. Enter Gorgon. This bitch was as nuanced as the mythological labyrinth, an elaborate structure brought to fruition by Daedalus, the skilled craftsman and father of Icarus. (I use the term "bitch" because Medusa was a Gorgon, and who else was a bigger bitch than her? Well, maybe my sister-in-law.) OK, you might want to brush up on your Greek Mythology so you can follow along. In a nutshell, this beer was COMPLEX! To be quite honest, I'd never had a barleywine that tasted like Gorgon in all of my travels. Flavors and aromas of apple brandy, tobacco, earth, peat, butterscotch, and cocoa (just to name a few of the more prominent characteristics) came to life in this beer. Was it my favorite barleywine ever? Probably not. But was it the most complex? I could definitely pose the argument in favor of this statement. It was definitely a highlight of the trip. You know a beer is good when you can still remember how it smells after trying more than 100 beers over the course of four days.
|Happy Ffej at Coelacanth!|
Next stop was Bold Mariner. I couldn't help but get "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Iron Maiden stuck in my head for a bit. Good thing it wasn't the entire song, which runs in excess of 13 minutes. After enjoying that pour of Gordon at Coelacanth, I think I was just at the point where I needed some good music to accompany my moderate drunken state. What does that mean? Cue up the Rush, folks! I prefer playing Rush not only because they are my favorite band, but because you can really get your money's worth by playing side 1 of 2112 or Hemispheres AND piss off at least two or three hipsters or 22-year-old "Woo" girls in the process. It's also important to point out that his place liked wood, which is good. I like wood too. Wood is good. See?
|Wood, Jerry... WOOD!|
Speaking of wood, I was giddy to see a gin barrel-aged beer on the tap list! So much so that perhaps the sight of this gave me wood. This particular nugget was a blended whiskey and gin barrel-aged imperial coffee milk stout. That's a lot of ingredients, eh? Coincidentally, this one was named Whiskey/Gin Barrel Imperial Coffee Milk Stout. Clever, right? I was pretty tasty, but the gin presence was a bit too prominent and, as a result, the other flavors got kind of lost in the shuffle. But I'm always stoked when I see a gin-barrel aged beer on tap. I really think the botanical qualities of gin work well with specific hop varieties. The best gin-barrel aged beers I've had have all been IPAs. (That's something for all you brewers to put in your pipe and smoke. i.e. get a gin barrel!)
The other beer we tried, Shellback Coconut Stout, was a collaboration with Young Veterans Brewing, a brewery we'd be visiting later. Lots of breweries are making coconut stouts and porters (and even cream ales) these days, and this one fell somewhere in the middle of them. It was nice to try but didn't wow me as much as some others I've sampled in our travels.
|Inside Bold Mariner Brewing. More wood.|
Smartmouth Brewing Company, our next stop, was pi-dacked! Inside, the place had a modern German beer hall vibe with long, communal tables and a high ceiling. We found a few spaces at one of the tables near the back of the room. Up front, a solo musician playing an acoustic guitar was performing. He was quite enjoyable and played a nice version of "Eyes of the World" by the Grateful Dead, a song I regularly play in Think Tank. I found this to be tip-worthy and placed a few shekels in his tip jar. I also saw he was selling CDs of original material, which was cool.
|Enjoying the tunes and beer at Smartmouth.|
Anyway, the atmosphere inside Back Bay was dark and crowded, yet somehow I felt like I was at the beach. It's hard to explain, especially with a 10-hour drinking haze wrapped around my noggin. Case in point, this picture:
|My aim was a bit off, wouldn't you say?|
I hadn't seen many if any smoked beers thus far on the trip, so I was immediately drawn to Toby's Dream Smoked Ale. This was a dark base beer (perhaps a Schwarzbier rather than a porter or stout, as it was a bit thinner) and the smoked malt was fairly restrained compared to more traditional rauchbiers I've encountered. Still, a smoked beer on tap means it goes into my gut.
Brewslut opted for the appropriately named Coconut Chocolate Stout. It's coconut, it's chocolate, it's delicious! We did enjoy it a bit more than the one we had earlier at Bold Mariner, but it still didn't moisten our underpants as some have done in the past.
Beer aside, I would be remiss if I didn't divulge a fun little tidbit that occurred during our visit to Back Bay. Two very attractive female servers were working the bar that evening, and I was surprised when neither of them charged me for our beers. I had thought that perhaps Kelly had picked out our tab covertly, but she vehemently denied this multiple times. I wasn't satisfied. I then came to the realization that maybe these sexy ladies thought I was just a hot piece of ass that deserved a few free rounds. Of course, that wasn't anywhere near the realm of possibility, so I remained quite perplexed. Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that we must have crashed some kind of private party Back Bay was having with an open bar. That seemed like the only plausible answer. But hey, FREE beer, right? I win! (Editor's note: My diary entry got the "hot piece of ass" story.)
|Back Bay's Bar. Sorry, no shots of the bartenders.|
I think we got a pizza afterward, but it's pretty foggy from here on out. Pleeps definitely fared better than me, that's for sure. (If you need a reminder, simply scroll back to the top of this page.) Gulp Fiction or Gulp Non-Fiction... you be the judge. Stay tuned for the final two days of the trip, where - you guessed it - more drinking ensues. Until then...
|This is Pleeps signing off!|