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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Happy Birthday, I'm 43 - Team D(r)INKing in Virginia: Day 2 of 3

I'm not gonna lie to you... I got a little schwilly on Friday night. Having Deuane steer the ship allows me to partake in additional libations, so I tend to take advantage of such situations accordingly. First on the agenda for this lovely Saturday morning was food, so it was off to the nearby Beer Run for... wait for it...

Breakfast tacos!

Wha-wha-whaaat?! Yes indeed. Basically, these little torpedoes of deliciousness were like mini breakfast burritos wrapped in hand-made corn tortillas. It was also helpful that they opened at 10 a.m. and served beer, so I was able to enjoy a big honkin' 20-ounce pilsner glass of Evolution's DelMarVa Pure Pils. This proved to be a great way to start my morning, and paired well with my two "Gardener" breakfast tacos filled to the brim with local eggs, black beans, cheese, organic potatoes, and daikon (translates to, literally, "big root") sprouts.

Since it was so pleasant outside, we decided to sit in the enclosed patio and enjoy our breakfast. We must have all had too much to drink the previous night (except Lisa), because we seemed to be having trouble with the menu and making any kind of decisions this early in the day. Nevertheless, we made it through breakfast without looking like total ass hats (except maybe me).

Inside, Beer Run boasted a vast bottle and take-out selection, including lots of local breweries and bigger names. They even had a pretty nice Belgian selection in a back room that we didn't notice at first, as well as a small wine selection. This proved the perfect place to kick the day into gear.

Donkeys rule! Now, point me to the goats...
For the day's itinerary, we decided to head out to the furthest destination and work our way back into Charlottesville. First up was Waynesboro's Stable Craft. Situated on the vast Hermitage Hill Farm & Stables, Stable Craft is one of several "farm breweries" that have been popping up in recent years across the country. With an on-site hop yard, Stable Craft grows and uses their own hops (when they can) and utilizes as many ingredients grown on premises as possible. I was excited to learn that not only did they have a number of horses living on the farm, but they also had a pair of donkeys - Riley and Pedro - both of whom I was able to see in action at feeding time!

Inside, the taproom was much bigger than I'd anticipated. I was expecting more of a small, rustic space with a "ranch" vibe. Instead, we were greeted by a comfortable space with lots of blonde wood and intricate metalwork decor. I was also surprised to find televisions here. I guess this was more of an "urban farm."

Inside Stable Craft's tasting room.

We perused the beer menu, and there was plenty to be had, so we each opted for a flight (except Deuane, who never gets flights). Here's the run down:

Pleeps gettin' down with our sampler flight at Stable Craft.
Pale Ale - citrusy American-style pale ale.
Sunbaked IPA - IPA brewed with Comet and Mosaic hops and 4lbs. of apricots per barrel.
Ginger Brew Ale - light, refreshing ale with ginger, lemon peel and coriander notes.
IPA - showcases Cascade and Nugget hops grown on their farm!
Throatlatch DIPA - Imperial version of the standard IPA with citrusy notes.
Munich Dunkel - dark German lager with hints of caramel, bread, and roast.
Whoa Bucker - oatmeal stout with notes of roasted malt, chocolate and coffee.
Monocle Nut Brown - nut brown ale run through a "randall" with coconut.

The sample sizes were quite generous, and all of the beers were pretty solid. The Pale Ale was a stand-out to me, and I appreciated the Ginger Brew Ale for its uniqueness.

While we were enjoying our flights, we bumped into "friends of a friend," both of whom we met through a mutual friend a few months ago at Spring House Brewing in Lancaster, PA. Turns out they (Josh and Juli) were also on a weekend beer trip and - even weirder - turns out Josh's dad lives about a block away from us in good ol' Annville! How 'bout that?!

Since the weather was cooperating so nicely, we took a stroll around the grounds and admired the horses and donkeys, took some pictures, and chatted with one of the animal care-takers about Pedro and Riley. Any time you add animals into the equation is always fine by me! All in all, it was pleasant visit and good sign of things to come.

Up next was Seven Arrows, our second of three stops in Waynesboro. It seems like every town is moving from having "its own" micro or nano brewery to having two or three... or more! Once we filed inside, I found that Seven Arrows had a Native American flair. The name of the brewery refers to the creator, the earth, the four directions, and back to the creator. So its brewery logo uses this as inspiration (4 directions and 4 basic ingredients found in beer). Pretty cool, eh?

Tap handles at Seven Arrows.
Seven Arrows opened its doors at a launch party on New Year's Eve 2014, so like most of the breweries we visited on this particular day, they were pretty new. When we arrived, there were a only few stragglers occupying bar stools. We snagged the nearest high-top table that would accommodate the six of us, and checked out the beer menu. In addition to about 12 beers on tap, they also offer a decent-sized menu of apps, sandwiches, and burgers. Brewslut and I decided to share a plate of pulled chicken nachos with queso and house-made pico de gallo. We were surprisingly hungry after each scarfing down a pair of breakfast tacos at Beer Run! These hit the spot adequately.

Their core beers all sounded pretty pedestrian - a pils, a wheat, a Vienna lager, and a red IPA. However, one beer jumped out at me: Bear Mountain Barleywine. Now, I usually steer clear of a 9% beer this early in the day, but this particular beer was also infused with Perk Place coffee, so I couldn't resist. After a few sips, I realized I'd made a sound decision. I've been doing this for a while... I'm no dummy! (Editor's note: That's not entirely true. Sometimes, I am a dummy, as you will read about later as the day progresses.)

Brewslut opted for a pint of Azeotrope IPA, inspired by the hazy New England heavy hitters a la Tree House, Trillium, etc. These types of IPAs are popping up everywhere like genital warts on prostitutes. OK, maybe that was a bad analogy. But you catch my drift. It seems almost every brewery has one or two of these hazy IPAs nowadays. Not that it's a bad thing (especially if they are well done, as you will read about at our next stop). With that said, this one was a pretty solid example of the style. Azeotrope was dry-hopped four times, each time with a different variety: Cascade, Mandarina Bavaria, Falconer's Flight, and Citra. They also included flaked wheat and oats in the malt bill to soften the body a bit.

Continuing on our Waynesboro trifecta, next on the agenda was a stop at Basic City. Surprisingly enough, Deuane didn't know the backstory of the name Basic City. We never researched it during the trip, but a quick trip to trusty Wikipedia provided some insight, which you can read about here if you are so inclined or curious.

The brewery itself is situated in a large, most likely decommissioned warehouse. We ended up sitting back in the loading dock area, which they opened up since the weather was cooperating. They also have patio seating out front, and there were a good number of people enjoying the outdoors with a beer. On the way back to the loading dock area, the vast open room featured plenty to keep you occupied - ping pong, video games, pinball machines, and cornhole. But, let's talk about beer! While perusing the beer menu (a projector illuminating the wall with the day's selections... brilliant!), Deuane was the first to spot a beer called Lithia, an IPA brewed with Alchemist yeast (you know, Heady Topper) and Amarillo hops. Deuane quickly ordered one and upon smelling it, he made what I call the "Deuane face," which is a combination of childish naivety and giddy discovery. To paraphrase my favorite comedian, Patton Oswalt: his face "lit up like a pinball machine at Binion's." OK, I needed to drive some of this stuff down my gullet too.

I must admit, this was a pretty bangin' IPA! Using Amarillo hops exclusively coaxed out a flourish of citrus and spice with a huge smack of orange. We agreed that this was one of the best beers of the trip, and his favorite of the day thus far. (More on that later.)

To take a quick break, I ordered a 16-ounce pour of house-brewed Trager Bros. coffee on nitro. Any time I see coffee dispensed via nitrogen at a brewery, I NEED to get it. It's not open for debate. Even if it's 11 p.m. and I know I'll have trouble falling asleep that night, it's going to happen. After the nitro coffee, it was back to beer, and this time I opted for The Advance, a juicy, unfiltered DIPA brewed with Citra, Cascade and Falconer's Flight. Perhaps it was a bit muted after the coffee, but it was solid, although I definitely preferred the Lithia over this one.

We were on the fence about stopping at Blue Mountain (next on the itinerary and situated in the town of Afton), because Deuane said it was going to be a "shit show." (For a frame of reference, think of the last time you visited Tröegs on a Saturday on the same day as a concert at the Giant Center.) However, we checked out the tap list in advance, and noticed a cognac barrel-aged variation of its Dark Hollow Imperial Stout with coffee, cherry and chocolate. Um, yeah... we decided to stop.

I love this monkey on my back!
As expected, the parking lot and adjoining patio area were both packed with customers, but we managed to get a table for six inside. Finally, when we were seated and our waiter arrived, he seemed quite relieved that we were only getting beer. Despite being packed elbow to asshole, I'm glad we stopped by, because this beer was very enjoyable. With plenty of black cherry flavor (obviously), this was quite a complex, nuanced Imperial Stout featuring notes of vanilla, earthy truffles, cigar box, and vanilla. With so many additional ingredients and an unusual barrel dropped into the equation, this beer could have been a complete disaster. However, it was well-balanced despite having so many cooks in the kitchen, and any residual boozy heat remained at bay. Overall, it was insanely drinkable for such a huge beer teetering at just under 10.5% ABV. I'd definitely have it again!

Next up was a short drive to the oddly named town of Crozet for a stop at Pro Re Nata Farm Brewery. I thought this was a peculiar name for a brewery, mostly because I had no idea what it meant. Luckily, there was a doctor and a pharm tech in our group who filled me in. Although the literal translation is "for the affair born," Pro re nata is a Latin phrase meaning "under present circumstances" and is commonly used in medicine or medical prescriptions. Sounds like a good name for a brewery, right? Well, my present situation was twofold: hunger AND thirst.

Cherry Coal Train
We examined the beer list and I quickly made my selection: Cherry Coal Train. Let me tell you, this barrel-aged cherry porter just may have been the highlight of the day for me, nudging Basic City's Lithia out of the top slot. Aged in Cabernet Sauvingnon wine barrels from Pollak Vineyards, this amazingly supple porter features Michigan-grown Montmorency tart cherries. Wow! The balance of this beer was amazing, with intense notes of Belgian chocolate and tart cherry followed by rich vanilla and a tinge of oak astringency and tannins from the barrel. Yes indeed, this was one to savor!

Brewslut was equally impressed with her Beans Deep Coffee Stout. This medium-bodied stout features coffee additions from Trager Brothers (the same roaster that provides the nitro coffee at Basic City) for hints of espresso and chocolate. Meanwhile, I headed over to the food truck to join Lisa, who was waiting in line for some grub. I decided to go with a huge boat of tots because, well, why not?! Tots rule! By this time, I had already abandoned my "I'm-gonna-eat-healthy-this-weekend-to-compensate-for-all-of-the-beer-I'm-going-to-consume" mantra, so tots sounded like a good idea at the time. I don't regret it. 

By this time (a little after 7 p.m.), a live band started playing inside. They were pretty quiet, surprisingly, given that they were a 4-piece with drums, bass, guitar, and keys (instruments listed in order of importance, obviously). The drummer was using "hot rods," or brush sticks, and they sounded pretty solid. The name of the band was "INSERT MAIN GUY'S NAME HERE" Band, so not too clever there. Overall, everyone in the group really dug this place, and I concur. I mean, it was worth it just for Cherry Coal Train. I can still mentally taste it almost a week later. Now that's the sign of a good beer!

I also need to mention that a large group of customers was celebrating some 30-year-old woman's birthday while we were there. James schwicked one of the party hats for me (thanks buddy!) and I ended up wearing it for the rest of the evening. NOTE: The ridiculousness of the hat you wear is sometimes directly proportional to the amount of beer you've had to drink. Case in point, this...

"Happy birthday, I'm 43."
This one is a little more "metal"...

It was time to bid a fond adieu to Pro Re Nata, for we were off to the brand new Pilot Brewery & Taproom for Hardywood! I'd had a number of their beers in the past, and was pretty bowled over with the barrel-aged DIPA. The barrel-aged Gingerbread Stout ain't too bad, either. Needless to say, this was one of the breweries on the trip I was familiar with (though I'd never visited the brewery). These new digs were also conveniently located to Dunlodge (about 2 miles, give or take a stumble).

The Pilot Brewery & Taproom houses Hardywood's 3.5-barrel pilot brewhouse used exclusively for test batches and experimentation (think Tröegs Scratch Series). The taproom features 16 rotating draft lines with stuff that you won't find outside of this place. Sweet! I'm always up for trying one-off and weird beers. With that said, here's where it started to go downhill for me.

Still, I managed to drive a few more beers into my libation locker. Mango VIPA, a variant of the standard VIPA, is brewed exclusively for Wegman's Pub locations in VA. Empress Evelyn, an imperial version of its Evelyn Session IPA, was quite tasty, considering my wrecked palate.
Brewslut opted for Ruse, an imperial milk stout aged in red wine barrels. At 11.3%, perhaps this wasn't a good beer from which to take a few nips. Live and learn. But here's what really did me in... a full pour of the Bourbon Cru, a Belgian Quad aged in whiskey barrels. We'd recently been talking about Gran Cru at Tröegs during a meeting, and we basically deduced that it's not really a beer style, but more a "catch all" for a "big ass, high gravity, specialty beer." Fair enough. Anyway, how much harm could a 12% ABV beer do to me now? Well folks, the struggle was real. As if that wasn't enough, I also sampled some Quadrahop, an Imperial IPA brewed with Amarillo, Nelson Sauvin, Citra, and Mosaic hops (four of my favorite varieties). I wish I'd been in a better state of mind, because I really have no recollection of how these beers tasted (I'm sure they were great). Oh well. Next time, we'll have to start at Hardywood rather than end there.

Pleeps was in better shape than me at Hardywood!

Back at the house, I was in worse shape than even the night before, but I managed to get a pair of new beers from Elk Valley checked in: Le Ferme (a Brett saison) and Pumpion (imperial pumpkin ale aged in bourbon barrels). I wish I could say I remembered these, but at least I have Untappd to log these for me. I capped off the night with one of my favorites, Serendipity from New Glarus. Then Brewslut put me to bed and it was hoppy dreams from there. Right Pleeps? 

Stay tuned for Day 3 when we head back to PA and return to the real world. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Happy Birthday, I'm 43 - Team D(r)INKing in Virginia: Day 1 of 3

Readers of the Pour Travelers blog have likely deduced that Brewslut and I typically travel as a pair (OK... technically, a trio; I can't forget about our beloved Pleeps). However, we also enjoy a good group outing. It had been a while since we planned a beer trip with friends. Team D(r)INK had been talking about it for a while now, and a group of us landed on the weekend of March 24-26. "Sweet!" I thought. "My birthday weekend." We eventually settled on Charlottesville, VA (uncharted waters for the Pour Travelers), and Captain Deuane took care of making all of the arrangements. We'd be spending two nights at Dunlodge Cabin, a 4-bedroom, 2-and-a-half-bath home on five acres of land, complete with a cozy sun room, patio, and outside fireplace. Although we will have not gotten there until much later in the evening, I'll include some pics of our accommodations for the weekend (courtesy of Carolyn's Facebook page):

Sun Room

Living Room

Our bedroom. We took the kids' room with two twin beds.

Now, back to PA. Deuane picked me up at home and we headed to Carlisle to meet our wives. While we were waiting for Carolyn (Deuane's wife) to finish up at work, we realized we had time for a quick one-and-done visit to a new brewery in Carlisle, PA. When we arrived at Desperate Times, the place was completely empty, save for the bartender. I joked to Deuane that it might be difficult finding a seat. We moseyed up to the bar and perused the chalkboard. Deuane had visited before and enjoyed the Black Forest Schwarzbier, so that's how I kicked off the weekend. Overall, it was a very good interpretation of a style (a dark German lager) that I seldom see on tap at local breweries. Same goes for a Rauchbier (a German smoked beer). So when I find a beer style on the menu that doesn't get a lot of love, I'll gravitate to the underdog.

My view from the bar at Desperate Times.

Inside, the tasting room was vast and spacious, boasting high ceilings, modern decor with lots of shiny metal and tile, and a large, handmade bar that arced around the bartender's serving area. Soon after we arrived, Brewslut showed up with Pleeps in tow, and more customer started to file in. She settled on a pour of Turtle Stout, an Imperial Stout with notes of chocolate and pecan to mimic turtles candy. She was digging it, as was I. We didn't have a whole lot of time, as we wanted to get on the road to Charlottesville, VA (our destination for the weekend).

I'd wanted to visit our next stop, GearHouse out of Chambersburg, PA, since it opened, but Chambersburg isn't exactly a hop, skip and jump away from Annville. So I was excited to swing by and check out Dave Kozloski's new digs. I know Dave from his tenure as a brewer at Tröegs. He'd always been a friendly, talkative guy with me. I find that brewers are either at one end of the spectrum or the other with regard to social skills, and there's seldom much middle ground. Needless to say, Dave's a good guy and I was happy to see him finally open his own place after many, many months of preparation.

The brewery and adjoining tasting room were both much bigger than I had anticipated. Actually, I was pretty blown away by the atmosphere and obvious amount of time spent making the space into a fun, comfortable place to hang out with friends. The sprawling floor plan included a bar area, lounge with various chairs and sofas, and air hockey and shuffleboard tables, offering plenty of space to spread out and get some drinking done. I was glad to see the place brimming with customers on a Friday after work. After reviewing the draft selection, I opted for IPA #3, the latest in the GearHouse IPA series. This one features a blend of Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, and Columbus hops to elicit piney, resinous hop notes. It was well-balanced and smooth, and curbed my IPA craving for the time being.

Interior shots of GearHouse
After getting cozy in the lounge area on an old sofa, Dave came in from his smoke break and showed us around the brewery. He was also kind enough to share a few upcoming beers via his "test batch" bar in the production area. We enjoyed two different beers: Puzzling Pilsner, an unfiltered German-style Pilsner brewed with Enigma hops from New Zealand; and a yet-to-be named IPA that smelled like a fresh pack of Juicy Fruit gum. I was really digging the aroma of this one! Flavor-wise, it was quite tropical with a huge smack of mango and guava, but finished very bitter and almost chalky (in a good way). This was a really interesting IPA that I'd love to revisit once it gets a proper release. (NOTE: The Pilsner went on tap once we returned to the tasting room area and found that one of the other beers had kicked.)

Pleeps posing with Conco Gin.

After our brewery tour and sampling, we returned to the tasting room for one final beer - Conoco Gin. This limited offering is a gin barrel-aged version of GearHouse's Birch Run Brown Ale. If you've read my past blog about our trip to Portland, OR, you may remember an abundance of breweries tinkering with gin barrels. I'd hoped this trend would find its way eastward, and it looks like it did! This particular beer, which takes its name from the nearby and (sometimes) muddy Conococheague Creek, spent 46 days in the gin barrel to impart hints of juniper berry and some earthy, floral notes around the edges. It was pretty sharp at first, but really softened up as it warmed. hopefully Dave will continue to experiment with the gin barrel. (Hint: put some of that Juicy Fruit IPA in there for a few weeks and see what happens!)

Me & Dave Kozloski.
By this time, the place was hoppin' with customers, and rightfully so. If GearHouse wasn't located in Chambersburg, I'd definitely visit often. It's easily one of my favorite spaces of any start-up breweries in PA over the last few years. The beer ain't bad, either! I'm definitely looking forward to a return visit in the near future.

After busting my GearHouse cherry, it was time to hit the high road to Virginia. We had about an hour-ish drive until we reached our next destination. Located in the heart of "Old Town" in Winchester, Alesatian is situated above Roma's Old Town Wood-Fired Pizza. Lucky for us, Alesatian offers Roma's pizzas on the menu, and we were all PDH - pretty damn hungry! We settled on the Chipotle Chicken pizza featuring spicy chipotle tomato sauce, roasted red peppers, provolone, and smoked Gouda, and it was delicious. I personally loved the crust.

Pleeps digging into my 320 Citra Wheat!
Beer-wise, there were only about six house beers available, as well as a handful of guest taps. I started off with a pint of 320 Citra Wheat, which I enjoyed immensely. This one was drenched in tons of Citra hops, providing total grapefruit dominance. Pleeps typically gravitates to dark beers, but he was loving this one! I'm rarely in the mood for traditional wheat beers (hefes, weizenbocks, etc.) but when you introduce copious amounts of American hops, well... sign me up! This one hit the mark, and was an omen for what was to come with our next beer.

Loka Koko, a ridiculously amazing coconut stout, turned out to be one of the best beers of the trip. Coconut beers can be all over the map (some I've sampled in the past have had a chemical, or "fake," flavor), but not this masterpiece. To infuse natural coconut flavor into this beer, the geniuses at Alesatian used wood-fired toasted coconut. Sounds like a good method when you already have a wood-fired pizza oven, right? In hindsight, I wish I would have procured a growler of this beer, because it was THAT GOOD. Oh well. I guess I have to get back there again sooner than later.

My view from the bar at Alesatian.
Rounding out our visit was a goblet of Paw Paw's Seein' Tripel, a Belgian-style Tripel Ale. Deuane and I were curious if this was brewed with paw paw fruit (akin to a mango and abundant in some parts of the Eastern U.S.). We asked but alas it was not. It was a solid interpretation of the style, but overall a little too sweet for my palate.

All in all, this place delivered the goods, and the young staff was friendly and talkative. Deuane and I went out to the van to bring back a few gifts to share with our servers (who double as brewers - or at least one of them do), and they were appreciative. When traveling and we visit a brewery, it's a good sign if we come bearing gifts. We typically reserve special beer gifts for our very favorite breweries. These guys definitely made the cut!

Pleeps was still pretty chipper at midnight.
After an enjoyable visit to Alesatian, we had just enough time to swing by one more place before they closed up shop for the evening. Random Row out of Charlottesville, VA was close to where we'd be calling "home base" for the next two nights. Soon after we arrived, they made "last call" so it was a one-and-done stop. I decided to go with the Method IPA, described as its flagship beer. Brewslut opted for Sublimation, an oyster stout. We didn't really get to soak this place in, unfortunately. While my beer was pretty solid, there was some chatter among other Team D(r)INKERs about certain beers being less than stellar. Still, overall they don't seem to be doing too bad for a new start-up brewery (Google searches revealed that Random Row opened in mid-2015). Although for a Friday night, the place was sparsely filled with customers. Perhaps it was because we arrived right around last call. At any rate, I wish I would have gotten a sampler flight here to give them a fair shake. While the IPA definitely didn't possess that "wow factor," it was pretty tasty. It's also worth a mention that the young staff were nice enough to let us finish our beers after closing time while they mopped the floor and cleaned off the counter, tables, etc.

Back at the homestead, we decided to crack open a few choice nuggets, including Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine and Bourbon County Stout, both 2016 vintages. These are always enjoyable, and James (aka "Jamberg" if you follow me on Untappd) also brought two other BCB beers, but those would have to wait until later. I also decided it was time to crack open my 10-year-old bottle of Sam Adams Triple Bock. I had been regaled with depressing stories of disappointment about this beer for the last decade, so I had always held off on opening this. Well, tonight was the night! Turns out, it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd anticipated. I liken it to maple-aged soy sauce. Sure, it was sludge-tasting (especially at the bottom of the bottle), but for a beer I'd kept hiding in my cellar, it was still quite drinkable and not as hot or boozy as friends had suggested. So there you go. Right, Pleeps? Stay tuned for Day 2 as we really dig into what north central Virginia has to offer. Until then...

Pleeps says, "Sayōnara!"

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Springtime in February: Day 2

We awoke in our hotel room on Sunday, February 26 to the sound of intense wind echoing across Cherry Hill. I checked my weather app and the current temperature was 29 degrees, a far cry from the mid-70s temperatures we enjoyed the previous day. I didn't even bring my hoodie into the hotel room because it was so warm on Saturday. Nevertheless, it was time to continue our little weekend jaunt and head back across the river into more familiar territory - Philadelphia.

My vantage point from the bar at Bar Hygge.
First up was a brand new place called Bar Hygge (pronounced huu-guh). This place, along with its brewing counterpart, Brewery Techné, first hit my radar a few months ago when I was reading an article about the influx of new tiny breweries in the Philadelphia region. Bar Hygge was one of the places I was most excited about, just from the types of beer they were brewing and some photos I saw. They also open at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays and serve a special brunch menu. At this time, I'd like to encourage other establishments to follow suit and open earlier on weekends. It's never too early for a beer! (If you're interested in the name, you can read about its origins HERE.

Located at 1720 Fairmount Avenue in the Spring Garden section of Philly (in close proximity to both the Art Museum and Franklin Institute), Bar Hygge is co-owned by Tom Baker, who you might know from Earth Bread + Brewery (EB+B) in the Mt. Airy section of NW Philly. Tom's also the brewer at Bar Hygge/Brewery Techné. FUN FACT: Brewslut jokingly refers to EB+B as "Earth Bread and Daycare" because both times we visited, there was an inordinate amount of children romping around. I actually didn't have the connection until I was doing a bit of post-visit research.

Slightly to the right of my barstool.
Inside, Bar Hygge is clean, sophisticated, and offers a variety of seating including tables, a comfortable bar, and small lounge area. It reminded me of a place we visited in Charleston, SC a few years earlier on our annual "Drinksgiving" excursion called Closed for Business. Perhaps Bar Hygge wasn't as eclectic, but the space and atmosphere definitely felt in sync. We'd perused the brunch menu in advance to ensure they had a few "Ffejetarian" options (we don't eat red meat or pork, and Brewslut is allergic to shellfish) and they did. The food sounded promising and the beer list appealed to us. While they don't have a ton of taps, they offer a well-curated list of rotating house beers ranging from an IPA to a Baltic Porter (the latter snagged a gold medal at the 2014 GABF for EB+B).

Onto the beer. With eight offerings, we decided to get half pours of four of the most interesting sounding beers on the menu. I started with House of Bitterness, an IPA brewed with Amarillo and Citra hops. Brewslut opted for a more morning-appropriate beer in Imperial Java, a coffee-infused double stout served via nitrogen. Both beers definitely delivered. I was pretty floored, to tell the truth. The IPA boasted everything I love about the style - a zesty, pungent aroma, soft texture, balanced bitterness, and tons of flavor. This was gold in a glass! The Imperial Java hit well about the mark as well, touting a smooth, creamy mouthfeel, huge coffee aromatics, dense nitro head, and balanced malt character with plenty of roast, chocolate, coffee and vanilla notes. "Sweet," I thought. "Two for two!" It was a great way to kick off the day.

For my next selection, I decided to go off the beaten path and try the aforementioned GABF-winning Baltic Porter, named Perkuno's Hammer. From its Untappd description: "Perkuno's Hammer was brewed to the original Heavyweight Brewing recipe, a gold medal winner at GABF. It contains 50lbs of Roman beans in a grist of Munich and pale chocolate malts and is fermented with a prestigious German lager yeast." Not many Baltic Porters have left a lasting impression on me over the years (Danzig from Devil's Backbone comes to mind immediately as one that has), but this one was definitely memorable and worthy of its gold medal status. Intense flavors of dark stone fruit, bold coffee, roasted malt, cocoa, molasses and caramel all washed across my palate. Brewslut was equally as bowled over as me with her second selection, a blood orange sour saison named Low Hanging Fruit. The name of this beer prompted me to strike up a conversation with the bartender about Tenacious D (they have a song on their last album by the same name), and turns out he was a fan and actually was at the concert at Festival Pier we saw a few years ago. Brewslut deemed it "the shit" and listed it as a standout beer of the trip. Four for four. In my best Austin Powers impersonation, "Yeaaaah, baby!"

Brunch was equally impressive. Upon reviewing the brunch menu ahead of time, I knew Brewslut would opt for the tuna melt (which I must admit sounded delicious). However, I went with a fritatta made with roasted poblano peppers, avocado crema, and fried onion straws, plus a side of Hygge home fries. One word: BANGIN'! This place has got it's shit together, man! Atmosphere? Check. Service? Fantastic. Beer? Outstanding! Brunch? Delish! Hell, even the coffee was great, and it came served in a custom logo mug. And the icing on the cake was there were no little rugrats crawling around or making a ruckus. Yeah, I think we'll be back.

I'm in the mug club.

Our next stop, Crime & Punishment, was in contention for brunch this morning. I was eyeing up a house-made pretzel bagel with beet-cured salmon, farmers cheese, and pickled veggies, but ultimately we decided on Bar Hygge since they opened half an hour earlier. However, we decided that we were both still hungry, so we decided to share the aforementioned bagel and salmon plate. It was very well done and gave us a bit of additional fuel to continue onward. This place had a definite Philly vibe, with its exposed, weathered brick walls, high ceiling, and an eclectic gathering of customers congregated at the bar and adjacent mix-and-match tables.

Find yourself a (secret) city to live in.
Beer-wise, the tap list looked extremely interesting, with a few off-the-wall selections such as a sour ale brewed with beets and a "Sugar Cookie" IPA. OK, we were game. Brewslut jumped right in and ordered the sour, which carried the intriguing name Disturbing the Beets. Kettle-soured and fermented with Brettanomyces and 50 pounds of juiced beets, this lovely pinkish ale combined the earthy sweetness of beets with a tart yeast character. I opted to begin with a shorty of Secret Cities, a Citra and Mosaic-hopped Pale Ale with notes of grapefruit and fresh-cut grass. This is also unique in that it's the first beer where the guys at C&P experimented with hop additions. For this particular beer, they added all of the pre-fermentation hops during the whirlpool process. This provides a lower temperature of flavor extraction, producing a "tea bag" or steeping effect. Overall, this was a solid effort. It was hazy, pale and lacked a frothy head, but the aroma was fresh and the flavor was balanced and not overly bitter. It was definitely a "soft" pale ale, if that makes sense.

For our next selections, I was intrigued by Magic Lantern, the "sugar cookie" IPA I mentioned earlier, so I chose that. Brewed with oats and dry-hopped with Lemon Drop and Citra, this was definitely an IPA, albeit a strange one. Strange in a good way, though, because they conditioned the beer on 50lbs. of homemade vegan sugar cookies and Madagascar vanilla beans. This conditioning lent a sweet, supple finish, which played nicely with the citrus and lemongrass notes of the hops. The vanilla was definitely apparent and softened it just a bit. I love when breweries experiment with unusual, non-traditional ingredients, and this little experiment seemed to gel quite nicely. The other beer we chose immediately grabbed me just by reading its stream-of-consciousness description:

It’s the juicy fruit gum thing. A menagerie. Dad’s peach tree. The amount of Citra hops in this beer, it’s a huge amount. THE MOST. Like drinking from Pooh Bear’s sweet funny reserve; honeysuckle. The gentle juice. Just be careful, it’s offensively easy to finish and repeat.

Love it! This beer was called Repeat Offender, a single-hopped DIPA brewed with (as the description reveals) Citra hops. You can't really go wrong with Citra. Since "citrus" is pretty much my favorite IPA flavor profile, naturally I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

My vantage point from the bar at C&P.
For our last beer, we opted to share a Russian Imperial Stout called Gulag Uprising. We seldom skip over a RIS when traveling (despite the style's high ABV content), although that's more of Brewslut's doing than mine. This dark beast was aged for two months on cacao nibs and vanilla beans, then finished with local One Village coffee. I let her have the lion's share because I had ulterior motives, as you will learn in a few seconds. The bartender was nice enough to also give us a complimentary sample-size pour of the Behemoth, a straight-up Oatmeal Stout, for comparison. The Behemoth definitely wasn't as intense, but it was pretty full-bodied with plenty of chocolate flavor and hints of coffee, dark fruit, and raw earth.

When we parked the car outside C&P, I noticed a little record store right across the street. I could feel Brewslut's eyes roll as I mentioned stopping in for a "quick look" after our beers. She loves digging through crates of vinyl about as much as I enjoy shows like Cake Wars, Bridezilla, or Chopped. As she was finishing up our pour of Gulag Uprising, I decided to take a quick stroll over to check out the store, coincidentally called Brewerytown Beats. I'm glad I did... not just because I found original copies of Metallica's Ride the Lightning and Anthrax's State of Euphoria, but also because I'd discovered that I was missing not one, but TWO of my three credit cards. It was a distressing "WTF?!" moment. My wallet is pretty old and the card slots are stretched and blown out like a 60-year-old prostitute's woman parts, so I thought perhaps they slid out at some point when I paid a tab. Hitting so many breweries in a single day results in the wallet going in and out of my back pocket quite frequently. In uncharacteristic fashion, I actually remained calm and thought about it for a second. When we travel, we typically bring along cash, which serves as a "soft" budget (meaning we each try to spend less or equal to that amount, thus avoiding the use of credit cards). However, many bars and breweries ask for credit cards in order to open a tab in your name. I suppose this stems from one too many drunk patrons forgetting to pay their bar tab over the years. Although we use our cards as a "marker," I always tag on the following phrase when opening a tab: "...but we'll probably pay cash." After mulling it over for about a minute, I realized that I'd used two different cards and two different breweries. My instincts were correct, and I was relieved to learn that both Forgotten Boardwalk and Tonewood were keeping my cards safely behind the bar.

Of course, this threw a wrench into our Philly plans, as we had to traverse back into NJ and pay the dreaded toll to drive across the bridge. (You don't have to pay to get into NJ, but you have to pay to get back into PA... makes sense, right?) Fortunately, we were only about 20 minutes away from Forgotten Boardwalk. We decided to stop in at Tonewood for a one-and-done, and I revisited the Terminal DIPA, while Brewslut opted for a full pour of Chief since I'd enjoyed it so much the previous evening.

Ashland... tastes like the 
Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine.

After our little detour back into NJ, we changed gears and called an audible. I'd planned on making our last stop at the newish Stable 12 in Phoenixville, but we decided to hit a brand new place in Philly on Passyunk Avenue (home of the infamous P.O.P.E.) called Brewery ARS. This place is the latest "garage brewery" in the city, and that's a fitting description of the place. Terry (Hawbaker, Pizza Boy's head brewer) also mentioned that he was really interested in visiting this place, and he'd heard good things and was familiar with the brewers' work (twin brothers, apparently). Inside the tiny tasting room, tables were crammed closely together, while a tiny standing bar occupied the right side of the wall as you entered. Toward the back of the room was a counter where patrons can order beer. There was also a serving hole in the right wall, where a local BBQ vendor was serving a variety of items. We opted for a snack in the form of guacamole and chips (can't go wrong with that combo)!

Beer-wise, we shared a sampler of all five beers available during our visit. Here's the run-down:
  • Wayne's Pale Ale - American-style Pale Ale with lots of citrus character.
  • Antique'n - saison brewed with copious amounts of Simcoe hops.
  • Ashland - robust porter with coffee and chocolate notes. 
  • Living Saints - ale dry-hopped with El Dorado and infused with local Ethiopian Guji Sidamo coffee from Green Street Coffee.
  • Old Stoop City Rye - rye saison with a blend of German hops.
All in all, solid beers across the board. Nothing jaw-dropping, mind you, but I appreciate both the craft and the experimental nature of the beers. One thing I must point out is the simplicity and charm of their beer label artwork. Each whimsical drawing looks like it'd been torn from a child's coloring book. The handwritten fonts and brewery logo add to the appeal as well. 

To cap off the weekend, no stop to the greater Philadelphia area is complete without a visit to Tired Hands. I was in the mood for their bread and butter (so simple yet so delicious), so we opted for the Brew Cafe rather than the newer Fermentaria. It wasn't packed when we arrived, so we were able to procure bar seats on the first floor. There's always plenty of interesting-sounding beers on tap, including hazy, hoppy creations and more sophisticated saisons, two styles I feel are Jean's forte. I settled on a half pour of Space Canoe, a new rye IPA hopped with Simcoe and a new variety with which I was unfamiliar - Huell Melon, a fruity aroma hop that lends hints of honeydew and strawberry. Brewslut selected Unimpressive View, a saison brewed with pink peppercorns and lemon zest. I like the flavor note of "lemon verbena" and "Claey's watermelon hard candy drops" for this one (on Tired Hands' web site), which I thought fit the bill perfectly. Space Canoe was solid but not a favorite in the grand scheme of Tired Hands' hoppy beers, although the rye spiciness complemented the bread and fennel pollen accoutrement nicely. up next, we enjoyed half pours of On Tap, an IPA brewed with oats and Citra and Amarillo hops, then dry-hopped with Galaxy and more Citra. Yum! Thick Ambient was up next, and I'm glad Brewslut chose this one, because I really wanted to try it based on the description. The beer, a dark saison brewed with rye, midnight wheat and Tired Hands' house yeast culture, as well as 100lbs. of local sweet and tart cherries. This may have been my favorite of the four beers we sampled. 

After our beer and bread break at Tired Hands, it was time to head home. All in all, it was a productive beer trip, with 8 new breweries visited over just two days. We also got to return to two new favorites - Spellbound and Forgotten Boardwalk - and check in at Tired Hands. Thanks for following us on our journey to "beervana." Until next time...