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Monday, February 20, 2017

Everybody got to deviate from the norm

Readers of the Pour Travelers are certainly familiar with "The Chalet." In case you're just joining us and have no frame of reference, you can read the opening paragraph of this blog for some background on the Chalet. For those of you who have been following us for a while and have wondered what the Chalet looks like, I decided to snap a few pictures this time to share. Here you go:
The Chalet
Typically, +we'll follow one of two standard itineraries when we get away to Chalet for the weekend. Friday evening always begins with a stop for dinner and drinks at Selin's Grove. This is a constant and always a given. Sunday is sometimes a mixed bag, but more often than not, we'll hit Selin's Grove again in the afternoon and end up at Pizza Boy by the early evening. As for Saturdays, here's the two alternating itineraries we usually follow to the T:

Option 1 - State College: Elk Creek > Happy Halley > Zeno's > Otto's


Option 2 - Williamsport: Bullfrog > Riepstine's

We'll usually tack on a visit to Rusty Rail at the end of each day since it's in such close proximity to the Chalet, followed by a nightcap at Pap's Pub (ie: Ffej's Igloo North).

This past weekend, however, I was up for some much-needed deviation from the usual suspects. I felt that our weekend trips were becoming too predictable and stagnant. On Friday afternoon, I texted Brewslut and asked, "Feeling limber on Saturday?" Always one to go with the flow, she responded in terse fashion with, "Sure." This is one of the many reasons why I love her.

I'd suggested that we head north to Mansfield, PA, and eventually across the border into upstate New York, then loop back around to Williamsport, PA, before heading back to the Chalet for the evening. It was quite an ambitious itinerary for a single day, as I'd hoped to hit six breweries. While it doesn't sound like too many stops given our track record of visiting up to 10 breweries in a single day, the challenge here was the five-and-a-half hour round trip from the Chalet to our northern-most destination and back. I, too, was feeling limber. We got this!

But first, we had a date with the Pub on Friday night. I was hoping the new cask-only Cocoa Nib Stout would still be available when we arrived, and luckily it was. This cask-conditioned version of
Shade Mountain Oatmeal Stout was aged on vanilla beans, cocoa nibs, and bourbon-soaked oak spirals. The oak and bourbon character was modest, but the cocoa aroma and flavor was quite pronounced. Brewslut and I both enjoyed it quite a bit! I followed up the stout with an IPA (can't pass on one of these when it's on), and a Framboise. We also tried the latest draft cocktail, which was a blood orange vodka-infused concoction with house-made lemon-lime soda, which was quite tasty. I love that the Pub is now offering these draft cocktails in addition to its stellar beer, local wine, and cider, and nitro cold brew coffee. The only problem now is that there are too many awesome selections! Steve, the owner, was also in rare form this evening. I think he was hitting the Tripel pretty hard and trying to remain in a well-lubricated state due to the fact that his twin daughters were having a birthday slumber party next door. He was also gracious enough to give me a healthy sample of a special secret beer he got from the brewery while he disappeared for a few minutes. I'm not gonna lie to you, but it was like getting a gold star on my book report in fifth grade.

We woke up uncharacteristically early on Saturday morning, made breakfast, and headed out around 11:15 a.m., which was only about 15 minutes behind schedule. Our first stop of the day was Yorkholo Brewing Company. Situated in Mansfield, PA, (within walking distance of the college), Yorkholo has been around for about six years. Brewslut had visited once a few years ago on a Team D(r)INK trip to the Fingerlakes. I couldn't join them, as I had a gig that particular weekend. I'd been wanting to get there for quite some time. After perusing their tap list on-line, I decided it was finally time to make the trek. I'm glad we did because I loved this place!

Pleeps lends a hand with our 10-beer sampler flight!

It was close to 1 p.m. when we arrived. Just across the street, there was a small crowd of ladies holding signs about educational rights, so I beeped to show our support. I parked next to what we assumed was one of the protester's cars, because Brewslut noticed a comical bumper sticker, which read: "What if we destroy the planet before Jesus comes back?" I had to chuckle. It made me proud to be a liberal and glad to have a warped (scratch that... depraved) sense of humor. Plus my sarcasm meter is usually running well into the red at all times, especially as I get older and crankier. But enough of that. Why are we here? Because of beer!

In typical fashion, I wanted to try everything on the beer menu. So, we opted for a full flight of all ten beers currently available. Five were hoppy offerings while the others were an assortment of dark beers like Belgians, porters, and stouts. Here's the run-down:
  • House Beer - a Belgian-style "Single" (aka Blonde Ale)
  • Komorebi - an "extra" pale ale. (FUN FACT: Komorebi is a Japansese word used to describe when sunlight filters through trees and the interplay between the light and leaves.)
  • India Pale Lager - hoppy lager with hints of pine, mango, and grapefruit.
  • Amarillo IPA
  • Alpenglow - dark Belgian-style ale brewed with ginger and aged on tart cherries and sweet black cherries. Yup, this one was as good as it sounds! Probably my favorite of the lot. (Another FUN FACT: Alpenglow (noun) is the rosy light of the setting or rising sun seen on high mountains.)
  • The Tantalizing Succulent Monk - Belgian Dubbel with lots of dark fruit, clove and a hint of anise. 
  • Molé Stout - milk stout aged on cocoa nibs, Serrano peppers, vanilla beans, and cinnamon. This was was brand new as of 2/13. 
  • Imperial Porter - chocolate and espresso goodness!
  • The Yanochik - A Scottish Wee Heavy style ale with notes of tobacco, leather, caramel and faint smoke. I dug this one quite a bit too.
  • Rez-Head - Imperial IPA with citrus and peach notes. Loved this one too!
#winning at Yorkholo!

Overall, the place had a great vibe and we felt very comfortable drinking there. I liken it to hanging out with an old friend. The space was open and inviting, with high ceilings, exposed brick walls and fun strings of lights strewn about the space. The servers were super-friendly and we learned a bit about the history of the brewery, including the man behind the logo (Grandpa Yorkholo), and a few Japanese words. (We were both English majors, so we're always interested in expanding our vocabularies.) Word of the day: KOMOREBI (pronounced ko-mo-RAY-bee). Editor's note: Sorry to all the linguists out there... this might not be the actual phonetic spelling of the word.

After a fantastic visit to Yorkholo, we were off to New York. We had another 30-odd miles to traverse, plus we ran into a detour, which tacked on a few additional minutes. Our first stop was in the town of Elmira. Like Yorkholo, Upstate Brewing boasts a 6-year brewing history. When we arrived, I was excited to see a firkin sitting firmly on the bar. Turns out it was a bourbon barrel-aged version of its flagship beer, Common Sense, a dark cream ale. Brewslut went with a beer called Ipso Lacto, a Berliner Weisse dry-hopped with Amarillo and Equinox. Both were pretty solid. For this stop, we decided to share a few half pours of some more interesting-sounding selections. Around us, the place was brimming with friendly people chatting about beer and travel (go figure!), so we were happy to chime in. We chatted with a couple from nearby Sayre, PA, as well as another couple from Rochester, NY. Upstate is also dog-friendly, and there were some pretty chill pups hanging out with their owners. We're both pro-dog, and we'll gladly take a brewery packed with pooches over a congregation of ill-behaved children any day of the week.

On tap at Upstate.

Up next, we sampled the New Zealand IPA and another Molé Stout. Hops harvested in New Zealand continue to be in vogue in 2017, and we come across many hoppy offerings brewed with hops "Southern Hemisphere" varieties. This one didn't "wow" me, but it was pleasant enough. The stout was solid too. We ended with a pour of the aptly named Double, a DIPA with minimal bitterness and notes of tropical fruit and berry. 

The many moods of Pleepleus.

A few miles north of Elmira is the oddly named village of Horseheads, NY, which is actually a part of the greater Elmira area. I just love the name Horseheads. Needless to say it sparked an interesting conversation between Brewslut and I while we were on our way to our next stop, Birdland Brewing. I suggested that the founder of the village perhaps saw a team of horses as he was coming over the horizon and named the town after this sighting. Brewslut, on the other hand, had a somewhat more morose theory about decapitated horses. (A quick Wiki search revealed a brief account of how the village acquired its name, which you can read about here if you are so inclined. She was closer to the actual story in her estimation.)

Birdland is a tiny place nestled in a small commercial plot next to a carpet cleaning business. The place probably seats only 25 or so people. Since we passed on a snack at Yorkholo and Upstate didn't have any food (except for bar pretzels), we decided it was time to feed. Lucky for us, Birdland has some tasty-sounding sandwiches and salads. We both opted for The Gobbler, a turkey breast sandwich with American cheese, cracked pepper mayo, cranberry horseradish, Granny Smith apple slices, and lettuce. The sandwiches hit the spot, and we especially liked the crusty baguette-style bread. 

Inside Birdland's tiny tasting room.

As you might imagine, all of its beers and menu items are named after species of birds (or parts of birds' anatomy). I thought that Deuane would appreciate the effort here. We again opted for a sampler flight of six different beers selected from a list of ten. These included some fruited porters, a maple beer, an IPA, and a few others. Unfortunately, none were particularly memorable. We appreciated the effort of beers like Bluebird (a chocolate blueberry porter) and Crimson Chat (a double chocolate cherry Porter), and the staff were super friendly, but overall the beers were lacking complexity and aroma. Still, it's always nice to get a new brewery under our belts and chalk off another place from the list. Plus the place was packed, so it looks like the locals are digging it. 


Our final destination in NY was the actual Horseheads Brewing Company. This was one I'd been privy to for a number of years, as its Pumpkin Ale is considered one of the best of its kind in craft beer circles. (NOTE: A quick search of my old BA reviews revealed that I did, in fact, have at least one of its beers in the past. Click here to check it out!) Inside, the tasting room was booming with folks getting down to some tasty beers and a trio of musicians playing antiquated but entertaining music on acoustic instruments (although the one guy did play a Tele with a slide on a few tunes). We found a tiny table in the corner of the room and settled in with our drinks. It was loud and boomy inside, making it difficult to hear the trio's vocals. The TVs didn't help, either. The place wasn't dripping with ambiance (it was a big square room with plain white walls and non-descript seating), but the beers were solid and the place was packed with locals. It was tough to strike up a conversation with the band playing, so we kept to our own devices and planned our next attack over a pair of tasty beers. While we're not huge fans of getting beer in plastic cups, we did like what was inside said cups, so forgiveness was in order.  

Pleeps and the plastic cups.

For our first selections, I opted for Tropical Daze, a blood orange IPA, while Brewslut ordered OMFG, a chocolate peanut butter porter). Both were quite tasty and neither had that "fake" flavor (you know what I'm talking about) you sometimes get with other similar beers using these types of ingredients. Brewslut commented that the Tropical Daze was her favorite beer of the day thus far. I liked it also, but it was like drinking orange juice. Not a bad thing, right? Could be an alternate breakfast beer when you're short on coffee stouts. Since we were impressed with our first two selections, we decided to share another half pour of the Double IPA, which was also quite good. At almost 9% ABV and around 91 IBUs, this one was pretty potent and displayed a huge citrus punch. After sharing that one, it was time to hit the rocky road back to PA. However, the day wasn't over just quite yet. 

Billtown (that's code for Williamsport, PA) is familiar territory for us. I'd just learned of a brand new brewery in Billtown called Boom City, which was just down the street about two blocks from Bullfrog Brewery. I figured this night was as good as any to swing by and check another new place off the list.

Inside Boom City.
Inside, it was fairly crowded, but we managed to spot two stools on the far left side of the bar. We recognized the bartender as a guy who previously worked at Bullfrog (or perhaps still does). Beer-wise, they had six offerings available. We settled on Smash Simcoe IPA (me) and Muddy River, an American Porter (Brewslut). Both were solid and showed promise. However, they've only been open a very short period, so I'm sure they'll get their system dialed in quickly. It's great to have another place in Billtown, especially one just around the corner from Bullfrog. They also have a full menu that looked pretty good. Tonight, they were featuring fried banana peppers as an appetizer special, and we actually managed to get a few free samples. These were bangin' and after tasting these, I'd wished we'd ordered some. Oh well. Hopefully next time they'll have them on the menu.

View from the bar at Boom City.

Since it was getting late, we unfortunately decided to skip Riepstine's this time and drive around the corner to Bullfrog. I decided to shoot my buddy and fellow drummer, Joel, a message. Thinking he was probably gigging that night, I thought I'd at least invite him to meet us for a beer. He handles the marketing duties (sound familiar?) for Bullfrog, so I know he's always up for some "frog in his throat." As it turns out, he was enjoying a rare night off, and happened to be hanging out at his office right across the street from the Frog. Joel was gracious enough to hook us up with a few beers and an appetizer (we love the tofu bites, so we opted for those). I settled on a pint of Edgar IPA, one of my all-time favorites, while Brewslut opted for a pint of Coffee Stout. The recipe for this seems to change from time to time, and this version was very different than the one I'd just had during our last visit. This version was lighter and extremely hazy, almost like a Northeast Style IPA a la Trillium, Tree House, or Alchemist. It was fairly dank and citrusy. It paired nicely with the killer band that happened to be playing that evening, a band from Burlington, VT, called Gang of Thieves. I was immediately struck by the quartet's unorthodox instrumentation, featuring a frontman and lead vocalist who also played electric violin, and a guy playing trombone. The rest of the ensemble was rounded out with guitar, bass, and drums. These guys boasted a fat 70's funk groove with some danceable beats and killer vocals. The group also traded off slick leads on the violin, guitar, and trombone. I liked them enough to buy both of their CDs during set break. They were just kicking off a 6-week tour that would take them all the way down the east coast to Florida, then out west to Colorado followed by a few random dates in the Midwest. Their originals were enjoyable, and they even threw in a few choice covers including some Chili Peppers, a Stevie Wonder medley, and Hendrix. Great stuff! After finishing our beers, we shared a pint of Hopsphycitration, a dry-hopped Pale Ale steeped with fresh, organic citrus. This version was light, vibrant and pretty hoppy. It was great to catch up with Joel a bit and enjoy some great beers at the Frog. Plus, I absolutely loved the band (which is rare... like the beer, the band has to be pretty damn killer to capture my attention). It was the perfect cap to an amazing day. Did I mention it was like 65 degrees all day... in February... in northern PA and upstate NY?! Yup. It was surreal to walk around outside in February in a T-shirt. I would have loved to have stuck around for Gang of Thieves' second set, but we had a 45-minute drive ahead of us, and we'd been drinking since 1 p.m. It was time to retire for the evening. Stick a fork in me, Billtown!

Until next time... Pleeps says, "Cheerio!"


  1. Great post, glad to see some outside of the area enjoying our Brewery's (my wife does complain about how Upstate is always crowded is now since that is our local).

  2. Thanks for reading, Jason! It was a really nice day. The weather definitely helped too. Glad to see Upstate is dog-friendly. We don't have a dog, but we love 'em! Cheers!


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