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Monday, June 26, 2017

Scream for me Virginia... and you too, Maryland!

I know it sounds like I'm beating a dead horse, but we always seek out breweries when we're traveling. I mean, duh! Typically, we're traveling just for beer anyway, but when something comes up like the opening of Iron Maiden's latest U.S. tour in Virginia and it coincides with your wedding anniversary weekend, you plan accordingly. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "Iron Maiden is playing in Virginia over our anniversary weekend. Do you want to go?"

Brewslut: "Fuck yeah!"

Me: "Awesome! I'll start working on a beer itinerary!"

That's how we work, and that's why our relationship has endured for so long (18 years of marriage and almost 27 years as Ffej & Brandi).

However, the itinerary for this little weekend jaunt proved difficult, as there were so many small breweries that had popped up across the area we'd be traversing. With that in mind, I completed two separate travel itineraries to prepare for any spontaneity that might occur during our travels.

Two days before we were set to embark, Deuane highly recommended that we try and squeeze in a new place called Cushwa, situated in Williamsport, MD. It was slightly out of the way, he said, but well worth the deviation. So, back to the drawing board! In order to facilitate a visit to Cushwa, I drew up a third itinerary that included a completely disparate "Day Two:" one hitting some places in VA not far from our hotel, the other making a stop at a recent favorite, then spending the rest of the day in nearby Frederick, MD. In the end, we opted to go to Cushwa and end at recent favorite Ocelot, which was in close proximity to the venue (the evocatively named Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, VA). Our trek home would take us through Frederick, which allowed us to hit three new breweries that had opened since our last visit to the area (Rush's R40 tour at the aforementioned venue).

Cushwa, named after the Cushwa Basin in Williamsport, MD.

The trip kicked off on a positive note when we arrived at Cushwa Brewing Company slightly ahead of schedule, just prior to opening time. Like many breweries we've encountered on the West Coast, Cushwa is situated in a business park with dozens of identical suites. They opened the doors and in we went, parking ourselves at the bar. With eight house beers on tap, we decided to nix our usual sampler flight and go with our gut. Deuane mentioned how much he enjoyed the silly-named Jello, a hazy NE style IPA. I joked with the bartender about eventually getting a cease and desist from Jell-o. Of course, any publicity is good publicity, right Fonzie? Correctamundo! Brewslut went with a pour of The People's Champagne, a puckery Berliner Weisse.

"You guys got Jello?" - Special Ed
Both beers were highly enjoyable, setting the bar high for the other breweries that followed. I also liked how their beer menu on the wall read "(Y)OUR BEERS." Because, you know, the customers drink them too. I thought it was a nice sentiment and nod to their local regulars.

Mi cerveza es su cerveza a Cushwa!
Since Jello was so enjoyable, I opted for Face Chop, a hazy NE DIPA with an abundance of tropical fruit notes. Yum! Brewslut selected Ricky Rydes a Rickshaw, a whimsically-named rye beer. Personally, I think she enjoyed the alliteration of the name, being an English teacher and all. I couldn't help but think of Ricky from Trailer Park Boys (one of our favorite TV series) running around the park with a rickshaw and swearing at people.

Design your own crowler label on Cushwa's chalkboard!
 All in all, this was a great way to kick off our weekend! Deuane typically offers pretty sound advice when it comes to breweries, and this one definitely did not disappoint! The beers delivered and the owners (the bartender and brewer are husband and wife, I believe) were extremely friendly and accommodating. So now there's another Williamsport we'll need to visit frequently for beer.

Cheers, Cushwa!

Up next was Mad Science Brewing Company, situated on Thanksgiving Farm in Southern Frederick County, MD. At first glance, Mad Science looked more like a tree nursery, flower garden, or greenhouse rather than a brewery. But as we approached the entrance, we learned it was both: part garden center and part brewery. They also had a shop where you could purchase various plants, flowers and yard items such as gnomes, lawn orbs, gazing globes, etc. As if that wasn't enough, they also featured live music. Since they are located on a farm, they are open seasonally. The place was pretty crowded when we arrived. Not Tröegs on a Saturday afternoon crowded, mind you, but we had to stand in line for a few minutes to get beer.

Q: Is this a greenhouse or brewery? A: Yes!

Being a farm brewery, Mad Science uses its own homegrown hops, fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients in every batch of beer they brew. Pretty cool, eh? I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the guy who lived two miles away that bent my ear for at least half an hour about hops and how he is a certified beer judge. He was nice enough, but, well... insert the "rolling eyes" emoji here.

As for the beers, here's a list of what we consumed at the brewery:

  • Chinook Harvester - fresh hop IPA through a Randall with Chinook hops.
  • Hemophiliac - a roasty "session" RIS (haha!) with coffee and chocolate notes.
  • Human Harvester - fresh hop IPA hopped with Cascade, Columbus, Magnum, and Nugget.
  • Antidote - citrusy pale ale hopped with Centennial.

The beers were enjoyable on a hot day. My favorite was easily the Chinook Harvester. For $8.00, you get a pint and can take home the glass. That's all fine and dandy, but we have waaaaay too many beer glasses; so many, in fact, that we use most of the newer ones we acquire as raffle prizes at Imminent Liquidation (the annual bottle share event we organize during Harrisburg Beer Week).

We had hoped to hit Vanish before ending at Ocelot, but we decided to meet some friends who were going to the show at Ocelot Brewing Company in nearby Dulles, VA. We'd first visited Ocelot a few month's earlier during our Team D(r)INK beerthday weekend trip. It was a favorite of everyone's so I was glad to learn how close the brewery was to the venue. When we arrived this time, our friends had come and gone, due to the fact that the food vendors were close to running out of food and it was packed with Maiden fans pre-gaming before the show. I was kind of bummed because we missed Vanish, but in retrospect it turned out to be the right decision, because it gave us a bit of leeway getting to the show, parking, and chilling for a bit. I always hate having to go in "hurry-up mode" prior to a concert, because I always get nervous about missing part of the show. Since we had general admission tickets in the pit area, I wanted to get there a little early anyway to ensure a good spot on the floor.

Recycled photo from our first visit. Too busy discussing Maiden!

I was excited to try the Grunge Legdrop, a dry-hopped Simcoe IPA brewed in collaboration with our buddy Cy from Amplified Ale Works in San Diego (where we'd be headed shortly). I'd learned about this collaboration during our inaugural visit to Ocelot. Turns out Cy was in for the Craft Brewers Conference this year, which was in Washington, D.C. Hence the collaboration. We also sampled Tongue Tied, a tasty DIPA, and Loaded Questions, another IPA variation. Ocelot is doing some of the tastiest IPAs I've had on the East Coast. Incorporating brewing philosophies of both coasts, I suppose Ocelot's IPAs could be marketed as "No Coast" IPAs. (Trademark on that is pending, BTW.) Since they were slammed due to the Maiden show, we didn't get a chance to chat with any of the folks at Ocelot this time. We did, however, grab some questionable BBQ from the food vendor of the day. I use the term "questionable" not for the quality of the BBQ, but the pricing structure. It was, after all, tasty. Eight bucks for a smoked chicken sandwich. OK, fine. Twelve bucks for the platter, which essentially was the sandwich and coleslaw. That better be some amazing, orgasm-inducing coleslaw! We went sans slaw.

Now... onto the show! 

Since this is a beer blog, I'll digress from going into details about the show. In a nutshell, Ghost was surprisingly very entertaining and enjoyable, and it got me really listening to their latest full-length CD again. You know these guys; all of the musicians wear matching ghoulish masks and the singer wears skull face paint and a Pope hat. Pretty f'n rad, right?!

Ghost: Satan is alive and well in Sweden!

As for Maiden, what can you say? Easily one of the most kick-ass bands of all time, regardless of genre. In addition to beer and classic arcade games, some of my absolute favorite things in life are Maiden guitar solos. (I mean, the songs are pretty good, too.) And as far as musicians go, this guy is probably in my top 5 favorite musicians (scratch that... people) of all time:

Steve Fucking Harris! Yes, that's his real middle name.

After the ass-kicking the previous night courtesy of Iron Maiden and a good night's sleep, it was time to continue or little weekend beer-cation. We'd first visited Lost Rhino over the weekend of the R40 tour a few years prior. Located in Ashburn, VA, Lost Rhino was conveniently situated near our hotel in the town of Reston. We enjoyed the beers and people so much, I even purchased a work shirt after our initial visit (and I have to really like a place to buy a work shirt).

I was a little disappointed to see Lost Rhino had changed a bit; not its tasting room atmosphere but rather its beer selection. Last time, I seem to recall a variety of interesting sours, Belgian-style beers and barrel-aged offerings in addition to a variety of core beers. However, this time, everything on tap seemed pretty pedestrian. I settled on the Face Plant IPA. Despite my initial grumblings (which really wasn't a grumbling at all; I just like that word), the Face Plant was incredibly enjoyable. It boasted everything I love about the style: an aromatic nose, a balanced hop profile, restrained but moderate bitterness, soft carbonation with a hint of prickle, ornate lacing around the glass, and just a touch of haze. This one had it all wrapped up in a single beer. So even though I was sad to see no "interesting" beers on tap, I was more than happy with my selection.

While we were driving through Leesburg from Lost Rhino to Frederick, MD, we drove right past
Vanish Farmwoods Brewery. We decided to flip a bitch (look it up in Urban Dictionary if you're unfamiliar with the term) and stop in for a beer. It was a split albeit very sound decision. As a matter of fact, it was one of the best quick beer decisions I've ever made in my life, right up there with attending the soft opening of Lagunita's beer garden on our 10th anniversary trip eight years prior.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... Vanish!

Upon immediately setting foot inside the open tasting room area, I knew we were in for a treat. The vibe of this place was beyond cool, the beers all sounded amazing on paper, and the outdoor space was scenic and vast. I would have loved to have sat outside, but it was a scorcher of a weekend, so we opted to stay indoors. Since we had such an ambitious itinerary for a Sunday (and work the next day), we decided we'd stop in for a "quick one." Famous last words. Yeah, we could have stayed here all day. After we'd visited all of the breweries at the end of the weekend, we both agreed that this was our "find" of the trip.

After some deliberation, I opted for a pour of the Imperial Ghost Fleet III, an imperial version of its house Ghost Fleet IPA, while Brewslut went with the Juicy Tangerine White, a tart, kettle-soured witbier made with real tangerine juice. Hot damn! Both beers were bangin'! If you know me, about the highest praise a beer can get is "bangin'!" Upon finishing our beers, we both realized that this place was simply too special for a "one and done" stop. So, it was back to perusing the varied beer menu.

Pleeps striking his best Vanna White pose.

In an unusual break of character, I chose a pour of The White Wine Project, a tart, fruity ale aged in Fabbioli Pear Port barrels. This was rare for me, especially since they had several IPAs available.
But in this particular instance, they had me at "port." Brewslut, on the other hand, chose an IPA. Go figure! This particular one was a Grapefruit IPA hopped with Summit, Citra and Centennial. However, Vanish took things a bit further by adding real Ruby Red grapefruit juice to the mix. Both did not disappoint. Four for four, baby!

After an amazingly enjoyable visit to Vanish, it was off to Frederick, MD. I had pretty high hopes for Olde Mother Brewing Company, the first stop of three in Frederick. I'd heard good things from Deuane, and the beers sounded intriguing. The tasting room was small but eclectic, and there was a small back room that reminded me of the Northeast Taproom in Reading, PA. OK, maybe not that eclectic, but if you've been there, you catch my drift. Reminiscent? Sure.

We parked at the bar and perused the beer list, displayed on brightly colored chalkboard slats above the tap tower. We settled on the following sampler flight:
  • Burnside Swinger - coconut cream ale
  • Just a Gose - sour wheat ale brewed with salt mined from the Appalachian Mountains.
  • '86 IPA - IPA hopped with Centennial and Citra. 
  • Stagefright - raspberry sour ale
View from my seat at the bar at Olde Mother.

While nothing was particularly offensive, everything definitely sounded better on paper (or in this case, chalkboard slats). My expectations fell short, unfortunately. It didn't help that there was an annoying older couple sitting next to us at the bar who kept blabbering on and on about how their son drinks craft beer and knows everything about it. Yay. Here's a gold star. Now shut up. I don't know. Something about this place just wasn't jiving with me. I'd definitely like to give them another shot, because the place itself was cool and our server was friendly.

Attaboy Beer, our second of three brewery visits in Frederick was a pleasant surprise. I must admit, I wasn't a huge fan of the name Attaboy. It reminded me of a proud dad yelling at his slightly "special" kid while standing awkwardly at home plate during a little league baseball game: "Attaboy, slugger! You can do it! Just choke up on the bat and keep your eye on the ball!" Analogy aside, this place definitely didn't strike out with me. (Ouch, that pun hurt!) All lame joking aside, this place serves up some tasty beers amid a cool, modern tasting room with an industrial vibe. I also appreciated the simplicity of its tasting notes for each beer (three words indicating flavor, aroma, or feel).

Notes MaGoats!

The beer menu was rife with interesting-sounding beers, so we felt a sampler flight was in order. Here's the low-down:
  • Creeklife with Citra - Pale Ale with citrus and tropical notes. 
  • A.C.E. - DIPA hopped with Amarillo, Citra, El Dorado, and Horizon.
  • Bumpkin - a brawny "super saison" with cherry and woody tones. 
  • Galaxy Maid - Hazy, juicy NE-style IPA with tons of citrus flavor. 
Attaboy, Pleeps!

All of the beers were well-done and enjoyable, and overall Attaboy was our favorite of the three new breweries in Frederick. See? Sometimes a name can be misleading. Right, Pleeps?

Our final stop in Frederick was Rockwell Brewery. Due to our impromptu visit to Vanish, we decided to make this a one-and-done stop. However, we were pretty famished by this time, as the last two places didn't have food (although Attaboy had granola bars for $2, and I scarfed one down during our visit). Luckily, Rockwell housed a chicken truck that made some pretty bangin' (albeit a bit pricey) fried chicken. We got a bucket to share and some fries, which served its purpose. We settled on Double Vision (me), a pretty solid DIPA, and Uptown Girl (Brewslut), a blonde ale with subtle lemon and orange notes. In perusing the list of beers, I noticed that all of them were names after songs or made reference to songs or lyrics. For example, its brown ale was named Bad Leroy's Brown (after the Jim Croce song, "Bad Bad Leroy Brown"). Others included Revolution (The Beatles); Rapture (Blondie), a blonde ale; and Good Vibrations (Beach Boys), a summer shandy. After thinking about the name of the brewery, it made sense: ROCKwell. Rock music. Being a huge rock music fan, I made the connection and appreciated the effort. Simply put: I likey!

Can you pick out the songs referenced in Rockwell's beers?

With the addition of these new breweries and a few others, plus the veteran Brewer's Alley and regional giant Flying Dog, Frederick, MD is definitely a beer destination now more than ever. For those readers of Pour Travelers who reside in the Central PA area, it would make a great day trip or overnight jaunt.

While we were in the area, we did a quick drive-by at Pizza Boy, where I enjoyed a pour of Liquid CUREage, another solid IPA from Al, Terry & Co. And thus ends another chapter in Pour Travelers "beer-story."

Until next time... Happy Anniversary to us! :-)

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