Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Drinksgiving Goes to Eleven: Chapter IV

Saturdays always prove to be productive drinking days. Breweries and bars are open longer, and our agenda typically addresses this fact. Today was no different. We had about eight places to visit throughout the day, plus a record store or two and perhaps a coffee shop. Around noon, we were off to our first of many stops: Land Grant. It was pretty damp and dreary outside, so I was glad we'd be inside for the majority of the day.

Well, kind of.

The dreaded Ohio State vs. Michigan game was on, and fans adorning scarlet and gray were out in full force. Hooray for SPORTS!!! Despite the annoying tendencies of the majority of hardcore football fans (or any sport for that matter), their behavior nevertheless provides some excellent "people watching" opportunities. However, when sports are involved it proves to be a pastime both Brewslut and I enjoy only in moderation. She tends to get annoyed with people much quicker than I, but when it comes to over zealous sports fans, we're both pretty short on patience.

First stop of the day... Land Grant Brew Co.

Coincidentally, it turns out the brewery was actually founded by a few hardcore mid-western sports fans, so it all makes sense to me now. Inside, the decor was pretty heavy-handed with the sports memorabilia, so that should have lit up the little light bulb in my head too. Thankfully, the fans here were more or less respectful and not too belligerent.

I kicked off the day with a half pour of a beer called Goon, a strong American Pale Ale featuring Magnum, Northern Brewer, Chinook, and Green Bullet hops. The name jumped out at me and I immediately thought of Peter Sellers, the actor who portrayed Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies. He was a member of the popular British radio show The Goon Show. While I've never seen it, The Beatles were huge fans, so I'm only familiar by proxy. But I love those old Pink Panther movies. Regardless, the word Goon is just fun to say, especially when you hold out the "oooooh" sound in the middle. Try it out loud... GOOOOOOOOOOOON!!! See?

References aside, the beer was solid, not great. There was nothing wrong with it, but it wasn't what I'd call memorable either. That seems to be a recurring leitmotif lately: pretty good but not great. I guess that's not a bad thing. If the beer isn't flawed, then I'm generally OK with it.

Inside Land Grant.
I'm not sure why I went from a strong pale ale to a session IPA (I know, I know... rookie move) but Greenskeeper Mule sounded pretty tasty on paper. Also, the name of the beer appeared to be a homage to one of my favorite movies of all time, Caddyshack. With a fair amount of citrus character, I believe this beer was actually a "mule" variation (presumably of the "Moscow" variety) of the base beer, but sadly I couldn't find anything on-line to verify my assumption. Overall, the flavor was a bit muted after drinking the more hop-forward Goon prior to this one.

Great shot of our boy, Pleeps!

For my final selection, I opted for Dropout, a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout. Brewed to celebrate the brewery's fourth anniversary, this dark treat features bourbon-soaked oak from Middle West Spirits to release traces of vanilla, coconut, and chocolate with a coffee-forward finish. This one was easily the stand-out of the three. Brewslut and I split this pour, but I'm pretty sure I consumed the lion's share of it.

Pleeps LOVES his impy stouts!

Up next was Barley's, the longest operating brewpub in Ohio. Founded in 1992 (the year I graduated high school), Barley's is also home of Ohio's longest tenured brewmaster (Angelo Signorino). I also discovered they housed an old-school arcade on the second floor above the brewpub featuring some 40-odd classic video games from the '80s. I decided to check it out, but apparently they hadn't opened for the day. Some random dude was up there sitting behind the bar. I think I startled him when I asked if they were open, but even he didn't know. M'wah.

We settled in, and I noticed a firkin on the opposite side of the bar. I inquired about it, and it turned out to be a variation of Twisted Christmas, Barley's holiday ale. This particular one-off firkin featured vanilla, oak (perhaps oak spirals?), and Simcoe hops. The base beer also includes orange zest, fresh young ginger, whole cinnamon sticks, and organic honey.

Brewslut opted for Brutopia, a light-bodied Brut IPA brewed with minimal bittering hops for a clean, dry finish. I wasn't too fond of this one. While it offered some hints of mango, citrus fruit and pine, it wasn't as dry as I'd anticipated. The hop character seemed muddled too.

While the beer wasn't necessarily memorable, our visit was marred by perhaps THE most annoying sports fan we'd ever encountered in a public place. While there were several bothersome patrons at Barley's donning their scarlet and gray attire, this twenty-something nitwit seemed to be having a shouting match with the television. His family and friends at his table didn't seem to mind, because they too were there to watch the game and root for the home team. He was so off-putting that we began to badger him and mock his behavior out loud. Brewslut wanted to punch him in the genitals. I tried to trip him as he walked by to visit the restroom. Seriously, this guy was about as big a douche as we'd ever encountered and will forever be etched into my brain as someone I'd love to watch be mauled and trampled to death in public by a crash of aggravated rhinos. I mean, imagine if I displayed similar behavior when an Iron Maiden song came on the jukebox. I'd likely be tossed out on the curb. We finished up our beers and couldn't get out of there quickly enough.

But enough about sports. Let's get back to beer, shall we?

On tap at Elevator.

Since we wanted to visit Elevator but they weren't open until 4 p.m., we'd decided to head over to Wolf's Ridge. However, it turns out there is a smaller Elevator tasting room a block or two down the street from Wolf's Ridge so we stopped in for a quick one-and-done. Things at Elevator were pretty quiet now that the game had wrapped up. A few scattered patrons occupied the small space, and by the time we'd finished our beer, there were only about two or three people left at the tiny bar.

Knowing this would be a quick visit so as to not lose track of our agenda, I opted for 380 IPA, a straight-up old school IPA with equal parts pine and citrus. The beer takes its name from Columbus' area code. This one reminded me more of a slightly dry, citrusy West Coast-style IPA, albeit not totally up to snuff compared to some of the Left Coast heavy-hitters. Still, this one was enjoyable as we passed about thirty-odd minutes checking out the small, garage-like tasting room.

Pleeps needed a quick power nap.

After a quick visit to Elevator, it was off to Wolf's Ridge, which is situated just a few short blocks away. A family-owned and operated brewery, Wolf's Ridge also houses a pretty legit restaurant that stems from a deep love of both craft beer and food. Like many up-and-coming small breweries, they focus on locally sourced products and services to remain true to their roots.  

Exterior of Wolf's Ridge Brewing Co.

Clear Sky Daybreak seemed like a good place to start, especially after a holiday ale and an IPA at our last two stops. This one is a variant of the brewery's popular Clear Sky Cream Ale, a pre-prohibition style ale and features vanilla and light roasted beans from Columbus-based One Line Coffee. It was a solid beer and definitely piqued my interest enough to stick around for seconds. Besides, the beer list was tempting me to explore things further. 

Meanwhile, Brewslut decided to go Swimming In the Mangrove. That's actually the name of the beer, folks. The beer menu described it as a "red ale aged in red wine puncheons." Excuse me... what exactly is a "puncheon?" Let's ask the bartender, shall we?

Turns out a puncheon is basically a really big wine barrel. The vessel holds one-third of a tun, which is the English unit of liquid volume used for measuring wine, oil, or honey. According to the Wikipedia entry: "The term puncheon, shortened to 'pon' in the United States, is thought to derive from the fact that it would have been marked by use of a punch to denote its contents. The unit was also known as a 'tertian' (from the Latin word for 'third')."

The scenery at Wolf's Ridge.

We were off to a good start here with our initial beers, so we decided to explore a bit more. In hindsight, I'm glad we did. With about 18 beers on tap, it was tough selecting a follow-up. However, the honors went to a beer called Terre Du Sauvage Green, a farmhouse-style saison fermented and conditioned in oak with a mixed culture of Brettanomyces and saison yeast. Dry-hopping with whole cone Ekuanot hops lent notes of ripe melon and lemon-lime. I'm really glad I honed in on this one, because I'll go on record and say it was my favorite beer of the trip. Tart and complex yet fruity with zesty citrus and juicy tropical fruit, this beer was an absolute joy to drink.

I've noticed that dry-hopped sours have come into their own over the past several years. As a newer style, these tend to appeal to beer drinkers who like IPAs but not necessarily sours and vice versa. As someone who likes both, this hybrid style offers the best of both worlds to me. I'm typically not a "sweaty feet and stinky cheese" kind of sour guy, so the addition of a dry hop to brighten up a tart or sour beer with some citrus or tropical notes offers a pleasant twist to me. 

Pleeps sitting proudly next to Terre Du Sauvage Green.

Did I mention the food here is killer too? Indeed it is! I actually wish we would have eaten here, because the "seacuterie" (essentially charcuterie for pescetarians) was amazing. Featuring pickled herring and assorted accoutrements, this plate was a veritable flavor explosion from the sea. All in all, this place is definitely a gem and in our top three of the trip. The beer, the food, the service, the vibe... all A+.

The tasty "seacuterie" plate. They had me at pickled herring!

I must admit that I wasn't sure how I was going to like Hoof Hearted. I mean, I reckon myself a funny guy with a very well-rounded sense of humor. But I just wasn't sure about naming a brewery Hoof Hearted. Say it slowly, out loud: Hoof Hearted. Hoof Hearted. Who Farted. Yes, indeed. That, my dear readers, is the impetus of the name and in turn a brewery that doesn't take itself too seriously. In all honesty, I have to admire that. Like most men, unfortunately, I never made it out of the anal phase. I still adore gaseous secretions and other assorted scatological anecdotes, much to the chagrin of Brewslut. As it turns out, I was just getting goofy enough after visiting the four previous breweries to enjoy Hoof Hearted to the fullest. Coincidentally, this place was in direct contrast to the much classier Wolf's Ridge, but I'm equally cultured and childish enough to realize this dichotomy and thus able straddle the line and hang with both breweries. I mean, diversity makes the world go 'round. Am I right or am I right?

Shit's about to get real... real silly!

Sadly, Konkey Dong was not on tap when we arrived (cue the "Dain sucks at life" music!), which was one of the beers my buddy Nuts said I had to try. Oh well. After perusing the varied beer menu, there was plenty I wanted to try. Let's dig in!

The first beer I tackled was a double dry-hopped Pale Ale called Thanks For Letting Us Play Tonight. I'm just going to present the beer's description verbatim for you all to get an idea of how Hoof Hearted rolls:

"I want to wash that man right outta my hair," Trevor sung into the mic as he made a break towards the bar top. "...And send him on his way!" Swinging around the shoulders of a stout and increasingly indignant older Japanese woman, he lost his grip and fell face first over the bar and into a mound of Galaxy hops. Just when you thought he'd be down for the count, a hairy set of knuckles emerged over the surface of the counter top. In its grasp was half of a Mai Tai with a microphone as a garnish. "But they made me wear a wristband!" he screamed as the waitstaff fireman-carried him out into the parking lot and back into the wild.

Without delving too far into the poetry of that epic description, I'll just say that I've never seen "fireman-carried" used as a verb anywhere, much less in a beer description. "Mai Tai with a microphone as a garnish" might just be the dumbest yet most hysterical image I've come across in beer writing. To quote one of my favorite movies, "It's such a fine line between stupid and clever."

Hoof Hearted's beer board.

Up next was the evocatively named Put Some Bangs On It, a soft nitro-dispensed DIPA with vanilla and milk sugar. I was initially drawn to this when I noticed it was a collaboration with New York's excellent Other Half Brewing. There was lots to soak in here, so we pretty much stuck to half pours of everything and shared them all. This was on the sweeter side of the spectrum (as anticipated) but also delivered a citrusy hop character similar to an orange creamsicle.

I continued on with Motion Lao-tion, another collaboration beer, this time with Horus Aged Ales of Oceanside, California. Weighing in at 11.5% ABV, this heavy-hitting Imperial Stout is brewed with Laotian coffee. I later discovered that Laos produces some of the highest quality coffee beans in the world (at least that's what Wiki tells me). Laos' abundant farmers, land resources, and suitable climate provide perfect conditions for producing Arabica coffee in large quantities. Since coffee is another beverage I can't live without, I'll be sure to seek out some Laotion coffee in the near future.

Hoof Hearted's got some serious wood.

Where does one go from a hefty imperial stout? How about a Triple IPA? Sounds like a logical progression to me. Enter Most People Can’t Handle High Bass, a bristly, sticky IPA brewed with El Dorado and BRU-1 hops. The latter is an experimental variety developed by Brulotte Farms in Yakima Valley, Washington state's hop hot-spot. Brewing with this hop imparts notes of dank pineapple and spicy citrus rind as well as some floral notes in the background. This one was insanely drinkable despite its 10% ABV heft. And with that, you can stick a fork in us, Hoof Hearted.

That's not to say we were done for the evening. Far from it. While we were at Hoof Hearted for quite some time, our visit to Seventh Son was a fairly quick one. The brewery's name, however, stuck out to me initially, as it hearkens back to one of my favorite Iron Maiden albums, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

Overall, this place just kind of felt good. Folks at the bar were talkative, the place was comfortable, and the bartenders were cool. The beers were solid too. In a change of procedure, Brewslut opted for the IPA while I went with a sour. But when I saw the description for Almighty Thicket, I was sold. I'm a sucker for blackberries and this deep purple-hued, kettle soured farmhouse beauty of an ale was delicious.

Today is born the seventh one / Born of woman the seventh son
Brewslut was hankering for some more hops, so she opted for an IPA called The Scientist. I appreciated the concept of this IPA: a constantly evolving beer with each new batch. Essentially, every time the brewery releases a new version of this beer, they swap out a single ingredient (i.e. a hop or malt variety) from the last version. Fans can actually follow along with Seventh Son's "Scientist Log" on its web site. The IPA was tasty and I found this to be a neat little angle played by the brewery to shake things up and get the fans coming back time after time to detect the subtleties of each revision.

Pleeps mingling with the Scientist.

In hindsight, I wish we would have spent a bit more time at Seventh Son. Turns out we kind of did, but more on that in a bit.

While researching record stores in Columbus for our itinerary, I came across the holy grail of vinyl shops called Craft + Vinyl. Wait... you mean to tell me that there is a record store with its own craft beer bar... in the same space? Good God, just take all of my money! While the place was cool (and even hosted live music), both the beer and record selections were fairly modest. The tap selection included about eight beers, which were predominantly local Ohio offerings. I opted for Truth by Rhinegeist, a brewery based out of Cincinnati. A West Coast-inspired IPA, the combination of Amarillo, Citra, Simcoe, and Centennial hops deliver a tropical fruit aroma, grapefruit and mango notes, and a fairly dry finish.

Overall, the place didn't quite meet up to my expectations, but I love the concept and was able to find a few choice records while sipping on a tasty beer. The fact they host live music is also a plus for me. With that said, I wish we had a place like this in Central PA. Any takers? Throw in an 80's arcade and I'm there at least once a week!

Somewhere, somehow we caught wind of a brand new brewery called Antiques on High that wasn't on our original itinerary. Turns out the place is a sister brewery of Seventh Son (yes, the very same brewery we'd just visited two places ago if you're keeping score).

Antiques on High in the cool night sky.

This place reminded me of a modern SOHO club; only they didn't serve over-priced domestic beer and blast annoying, fast-paced techno music at a deafening decibel level. Instead, they focused exclusively on sour and wild-fermented beers as well as hazy hop-forward ales. Despite the hipster vibe, this place seemed pretty chill. The decor was trendy with lots of bright geometric shapes and odd color combinations. Plus the bartender seemed to be exceptionally knowledgeable about beer, which is always a breath of refreshing air.

Bar at Antiques on High.

Although I can seldom resist a good IPA, I was drawn to the sour beers here. The ambiance of the place just seemed to create a vibe more conducive to sipping sours. The beer menu indicated whether the sours were "highly sour," "moderately sour" or "mildly sour," which I supposed would come in handy if you were a sour newbie. That we aren't, but we appreciated this caste system they've integrated into its beer descriptions. Here's the lowdown on our beers we enjoyed during our visit:
  • Crushed Velvet - Sour Red Ale with black and red raspberries (highly sour)
  • Saddle Lamp - Sour Dark Ale (mildly sour)
  • Hoop Driver - Sour Red Ale (mildly sour)
OK, so not the best descriptions, but these three were all quite enjoyable albeit with varying degrees of complexity. Obviously, we both gravitated to the Crushed Velvet (the most sour one of the bunch), but all were well done. I would have liked to have had the time (and liver) to delve into some of the hoppy offerings, but by this time we were pretty bojangled. I'm glad we were able to squeeze this place in because it was one of the highlights of the day for us. 

AOH even has glowing Teddy bears.

Well, that was quite a busy day. Stay tuned for the final chapter of Drinksgiving Goes to Eleven in the coming days. Until next time...

Friday, December 21, 2018

Drinksgiving Goes to Eleven: Chapter III

Day three, a Friday, proved to be quite productive with a grand total of eight new brewery visits under our belts. When all was said and done, we'd covered a total of eight breweries. Since it was also Black Friday (and therefore Record Store Day), I was also able to squeeze in visits to three small mom-and-pop record stores.

Oddly enough, our first beer stop of the day wasn't even on our original itinerary. Over the last two days, a few people in town asked if we had planned on visiting Brewdog. We hadn't. While Brewslut and I both enjoyed the Brew Dogs television show quite a bit, I honestly was never wowed by any of the entertaining Scottish duo's beers. Frankly, I wasn't even close to wowed. I'd had a few in the past and they were definitely less than stellar, especially the Tactical Nuclear Penguin, which is the lowest rated beer I ever logged back in my Beer Advocate reviewing days. (You can read it here.) Past experiences aside, we decided to stop in since it was just a few feet away from the first record store I was going to check out that day. It was a perfect scenario for Brewslut too: she could hang out and have a beer while I leafed through shelves of vinyl.

This particular location was the BrewDog Short North site (apparently they have multiple tasting rooms situated in Columbus). It was small and cozy, and kind of reminded me of Toronado's San Diego location. We plopped down at the bar, got our bearings and scoped out the beer list, which to my surprise included about 14 house beers and 9 or 10 guest taps. Right off the bat, a beer called Elvis Juice jumped out (if only for the name). Could this beer a peanut butter, banana and bacon beer? Mmmmm... a smoked hefeweizen with emulsified peanuts. Thankfully, it was a grapefruit-infused IPA. Based on the beer descriptions, another called Piña Playa intrigued me. So we ordered both of those.

BrewDog's beer selection.

Elvis Juice was actually pretty tasty. It was straight-up grapefruit juice with a big smack of citrus rind up front and a bitter, almost pithy finish. With that said, it was also pretty one-dimensional, but I'd say "mission accomplished" with this one. The grapefruit dominance was unwavering. Of the two beers, though, I definitely favored Piña Playa. Described as a kettle-soured Gose brewed with pineapple, rum extract, and coconut, this beer tasted like a Piña Colada/beer hybrid. A touch of sea salt kept it true to style, while hopping with Mosaic and Amarillo gave the beer a fresh, tropical nose and played nicely with the pineapple and coconut notes. I enjoyed this one quite a bit! 

Elvis, Pleeps and an unknown playa

I included Hofbrauhaus on the list even though we'd already visited the Pittsburgh location in the recent past. I'm always down for a half liter mug of some straight-up German beer. True story: The first beer I ever consumed was a Hofbrauhaus lager straight from the source during a trip to Germany and Austria with my high school German Club. We visited Munich as well as an assortment of cities in both countries, and we were required to get a permission slip from our parents if they allowed us to consume alcohol on the trip. Having just turned 16 years old at the time of the trip, I found it quite appealing that I'd be able to drink alcoholic beverages legally. Some kids went way overboard and were shitfaced 24/7. Aside from the one beer at Hofbrauhaus (it was a liter mug from which I was intoxicated by the end of it), some friends and I hit up two discoteches in Innsbruch, Austria, where I discovered Screwdrivers. After the trip, I enjoyed drinking screwdrivers once after invading a friend's parents' liquor cabinet. I overdid it but wasn't thwarted by the negative effects of too much alcohol (i.e. I didn't vomit). The next time, though? I got so sick (i.e. I did vomit... profusely) from drinking shitty lime vodka that the mere aroma of hard liquor sent my innards into an upheaval of queasy uneasiness. As a result, I wasn't even able to smell liquor - much less drink it - until I was of legal drinking age. I mean, I had to enjoy the novelty of being twenty-one, right? It was short-lived, though, and I stopped drinking for about 4 or 5 years. Then I found beer, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Hofbrauhaus Columbus, OH.

But let's get back to Columbus. The Hofbrauhaus chain in the States is definitely more of an Americanized experience versus the real thing. In the U.S., they still have long, communal "beer hall" tables, German grub, and busty serving wenches decked out in dirndls. The beer was authentic, too. Well, some of it. Brewslut noticed this sign in the far distance beyond where we were sitting at the bar and joked, "I don't think those would comply with Reinheitsgebot." I love it when she makes me laugh.

Reinheitsgebot doesn't reside at Hofbrauhaus.

We'd just done a really good Dunkel Weisse at Troegs through our Scratch Series, so I decided to go that route rather than the tried-and-true Helles Lager. The Dunkel Weisse was enjoyable; notes of German hefe yeast (pepper, clove, touch of fruit) played nicely with the chewy, crusty wheat bread character that's a hallmark of the style. By this time of day, we were in need of a light snack, so we opted for the giant German pretzel served with a trio of cheese and mustard dips. The Dunkel washed it down nicely and it was a short albeit satisfactory visit.

Aside from David Hasselhoff, Germans love copper vessels.

Our next stop, Smokehouse Brewing, reminded me of an antiquated brewpub from the mid 1990s that hasn't made any changes since day one. Even when we pulled into the parking lot, it didn't seem like they were open. The building appeared to be in need of some serious TLC, and even the parking lot was weedy and unkempt. I had a sneaking suspicion that this would be indicative of the beer we were about to be served. 

Inside, the place was pretty dead, although it was between lunch and dinner time when we arrived. We sat at the bar and perused the beer list. I had pretty much already decided that this was going to be a one-and-done stop for us. Some called Clan Brodie caught my eye: a beer described as a "dry-hopped Scottish Ale." It sounded interesting. I wasn't privy to precisely which variety or varieties were used to dry-hop said beer, but this might have been the first time I'd ever encountered something called a "dry-hopped Scottish Ale." I was underwhelmed. Fun fact, though: There actually is a Scottish Clan Brodie, and its origins are apparently unknown. So I suppose it is kind of a fitting name for a style of beer I'd never came across before. Meanwhile, Brewslut was working on a sour beer whose name escapes me, but I had a few nicks and it was much better than my selection. 

If it's not Scottish, it's CRAP!

I must admit I wasn't too inspired as I sat and sipped on my beer. I just went through the motions and thought to myself, "Well, at least I'm cross another one off my list." Visiting a brewery like this always brings me back to the "quality vs. quantity" debate. There's a new acronym that I've been hearing in the craft beer industry for a while. It's called FOMO and it stands for "Fear of Missing Out." The phrase can also take on the proper noun form, as these folks are sometimes referred to FOMOs. In essence, they are afraid of missing out on a great, sought-after beer. So I guess I can relate to this, at least somewhat. I'm typically pretty good at picking out duds when planning our itineraries, but every now and then a brewery will turn in a lackluster performance. If the beers sound interesting on paper, I'll usually give them a shot. Had I known in advance, I would have gladly spent a bit more time at our next destination. Oh well. Live and learn.

Pleeps... forever the sillyhead.

Our next stop, Endeavor, was probably our favorite of the day, not only for the beer but just for the unpretentious atmosphere and super-cool bartender. I love the word "endeavor" and feel that it fits nicely with a small craft brewery of this kind. They beers we sampled here were all above average and stand-outs of the trip. It wasn't too busy when we arrived, so we easily procured two seats at the bar and got down to business. 

After perusing the beer list, I inquired about a beer named YNDA. I could have sworn the bartender said it was some kind of reference to a favored soccer team. I could be wrong. Sadly, I couldn't find any information about this beer other than it's an English-style Mild Ale (which I already knew), a style to which I seldom gravitate. But something about it piqued my interest, so I ordered it. Perhaps it was the 3% ABV that reeled me in. The only kernel of information I could find concerning "YNDA" on the good ol' interwebs was this:

In the DC Comics realm, Ynda is the younger cousin of the Omegan Kalista and is a novice magic user.

Regardless of the origins of its name, YNDA is an excellent interpretation of the classic, low ABV English Mild ale style. Serving via nitrogen really rounded out the mouthfeel and made for an enjoyable quaff. This one boasted a nice toffee character with a hint of nuttiness and some butterscotch. Overall, it was a fine first impression of Endeavor. 

Photo courtesy of

My next beer, Campfire S'mores, was an absolute delight. Infused with real cocoa, vanilla beans and milk sugar (the latter two ingredients to impart marshmallow flavor), this creamy nitro-dispensed stout also features massive amounts of biscuit and honey malts to mimic graham crackers. But the real stroke of genius here is the use of smoked malt to elicit the flavor of toasted marshmallows over a campfire. This might have been my beer of the day, now that I think about it. Everyone loves s'mores (if you don't, you're a Communist!), and this beer delivered.

While we were enjoying our visit, I got to talking about music with the bartender. Turns out he's a bass player and our musical preference overlapped in many areas. He eventually commented on Brewslut's shirt (one of our new Solar Federation ladies' designs), asking: "Is that some kind of Rush shirt?" After opening that can of worms, we talked about Rush (and Solar Federation) for quite a bit, so I suppose that had something to do with how much we liked this place. It's always great when the beer is top-notch, but engaging in an enjoyable conversation about like-minded topics is the icing on the cake for me.  

In keeping with a (loose) Rush theme, I decided to get a small pour of New World IPA (although not likely named after the Rush song "New World Man"). A variety of hops from three different continents provide aromas of tropical fruit and minimal bitterness. This one was a pretty easy-drinking IPA, although I preferred the other two beers over this one overall. Still, it was good to try one of the hoppy offerings after having a pair of malty beers. 

New World Pleeps.

Sideswipe, the next brewery on our agenda, reminded me of so many other "garage-style" breweries we'd encountered in California, Oregon... really just about anywhere these days, it seems. This place is the definition of a tiny brewery with an adjoining tasting room; no food, just beer. 

To celebrate his celebrity status, I decided to share a flight of imperial stouts with Pleeps. After all, it is his favorite style of beer, even though he has been known to go off the deep end from time to time after enjoying too many. Despite his tiny stature, he can put away quite a bit of beer. His tolerance continually astounds me. And with a few variations of Sideswipe's imperial stout, Mastermind, available on tap, it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Here's the low-down:
  • Coffee Mastermind - featuring cold brewed coffee from the Backroom Coffee Roasters.
  • Cherry Mastermind - with sour cherries added.
  • Bourbon Barrel Aged Mastermind - aged in OYO bourbon barrels.
  • Plumberry Mastermind - some delicious concoction of plums and fresh berries.
Oddly enough, the one I was anticipating least turned out to be my favorite: the Plumberry variant. This one featured a sweet berry character with the complexity of dark stone fruit and a slightly tart finish. It was definitely the most complex of the bunch and therefore the one to which I gravitated. Sadly, I failed to snap any photographs during our visit, so there's nothing to see here, folks. Move along... move along... 

Like Smokehouse, the next brewery on our agenda, Knotty Pine, also came across as an "old school" brewpub-type establishment that just keeps on keepin' on. We bellied up to the bar and checked out the beer situation. The tap list was pretty slim, but I immediately was drawn to the Cherrywood Smoked Porter (you know me and smoked beers by now). It wasn't overly memorable; in fact, I'm struggling to remember much about this place or the beer at all. 

This place kind of felt like I was hanging out in a Bonanza restaurant in Shamokin, except they served beer. I don't know. This place seemed pretty vanilla. You know, incredibly mediocre. Bland would be a good description. The food looked very good though, which is typical of the "brewpub" model: bangin' food and lackluster beer. 

The only photo I snapped at Knotty Pine.

I just remember there were several TVs placed high on the walls around the bar area and the place had a diner feel to it. I think we finished up our beers and headed out to the next place. I'm just not inspired to write more about this place, so we'll move on.

Earlier in the day, our paths crossed with Lineage when we visited our first record store of the day. Another place that wasn't on our original itinerary, we decided to head across the street after digging around the record store for half an hour or so. Unfortunately, they didn't open until 4 p.m. So we made a note to try and squeeze it in later in the day. That time was now. (Turns out one of the other places on the agenda had recently closed its doors, so we had to fill the space with another brewery. Even Steven!)

Exterior of Lineage Brewing.

The place was booming when we entered, but we managed to snag a pair of seats at the full bar a minute or two after we arrived. After scanning the beer and food menus, we decided to grab something to eat. The "hand pies" sounded interesting, and the one that jumped out at me was the "Farm Hen" featuring slow-cooked chicken, peas, carrots, and potatoes in pan gravy with a touch of cream. It was really tasty with a nice, flaky crust but kind of small. I definitely could have eaten two of them. Still, it hit the spot and provided the necessary fuel to help keep us vertical.

View from our bar stools at Lineage.

Beer-wise, I settled on Oscura Obscura, a blonde stout served via nitrogen. These have been becoming quite popular lately and I've enjoyed most of the ones I've come across. Taking its favorite stout recipe, Lineage replaced the roasted malt with locally roasted coffee, organic cocoa nibs and vanilla beans to up the ante and introduce a creamy chocolate character with plenty of coffee notes. Like so many others I've had, this too was served via nitro, giving it a creamy mouthfeel.

Pleeps is a dark beer monkey, but he's willing to try anything.

Meanwhile, Brewslut was working on a pour of Alobar, a beet saison. I had a few nicks and it was one of the most beet-forward beers I've encountered in our travels. Beet beers are uncommon but have become somewhat of a thing in the last few years among more experimental breweries. I've noticed that saisons are typically the bases for beet-infused beers, which pair nicely with the sweet but subtle earthy and vegetal qualities of a red beet.

As I often like to follow a malty beer with something more hop-forward, I ended our visit with a pour of Space Echo, a soft, supple NE-style pale ale. Overall, it was pretty tasty with notes of tropical fruit and citrus. The beers here were some of the better ones we'd had throughout the day (possibly even the best aside from Endeavor).

Pleeps looks ready to perform the Triple Lindy.

We'd already had the opportunity to sample a beer from Zaftig during Creed 2 the previous day, and it seemed like a promising brewery. Zaftig was on our agenda for a different day but we were nearby and had ample time to squeeze it in before we retired for the evening.

After perusing the beer list, I settled for a pour of Nuttn' 2it, a brown ale brewed with pecans. I opted for the coffee variant served via nitrogen. I find brown ales in general to be a bit pedestrian. Add coffee, though, and my eyes widen and ears perk up. Plus this particular brown ale was brewed with pecans, and I enjoy the roasted nuttiness of a "nut brown ale" as opposed to a "plain Jane" British-style brown (i.e. Newcastle). The nitro pour softened up the mouthfeel and gave the body a creamy texture.

Zaftig's bar, minus the cat.

Meanwhile, the brewery cat was mesmerized with Pleeps and kept batting at him with his paw. We've encountered a few "house" brewery cats in our travels. Brewslut is highly allergic to felines, and I have a mild to moderate reaction (depending on the number of cats in my vicinity), but thankfully we didn't have any issues. After all, this little guy was crawling all around the bar and acting like he owned the place. I've found that this behavior is commonplace among the majority of cats with which I've interacted over the year. They think the world revolved around them. I'm a die-hard dog guy and find them to be soooo much cooler than cats. With that said, this house cat was pretty chill and also quite fun to observe. I think he actually believed Pleeps to be a living, breathing thing. At any rate, it made for a fun visit. The bartender was pretty talkative too, and interacted with Pleeps and the cat as well. Good times!

"Here kitty, kitty, kitty..." - Pleeps

We finished the evening with a shared pour of BamBaLam Stout (whoa! Black Betty), a breakfast stout brewed with flaked oats, locally roasted Crimson Cup coffee, and Ghirardelli chocolate. This one (a recent release, perhaps on black Friday) was pretty tasty but ultimately didn't inspire me to procure a bottle to take home. Still, it was a good way to finish out our (long) day. Great name, too!

Thus concludes Chapter III of "Drinksgiving Goes to Eleven." Stay tuned for Chapter IV as we continue to work our way through every nook and cranny of the Columbus beer scene. Until next time...

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Drinksgiving Goes to Eleven: Chapter II

Every year, we always struggle to find a bar or brewery open on Thanksgiving day. In the end, we get lucky and find at least one place that opens after dinner for the locals. This time around, I did a bit more reconnaissance and found two craft beer bars that opened at 7 p.m. as well as a cool movie theater and craft beer bar hybrid. As if that wasn't enough, I discovered several establishments serving Thanksgiving dinner! With our agenda pretty much mapped out for the entire day, we set out to our first stop on Turkey Day.

After checking out a few potential candidates for dinner, I decided on a winery called Cooper's Hawk. To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect. The menu sounded perfect - a traditional 3-course Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixins. Turns out the winery is based in Chicago, and they have a few regional locations, Columbus being one of these. We arrived about 30 minutes early because Google Maps indicated it might take a while to navigate through a shopping strip littered with traffic lights every tenth of a mile. Traffic was pretty light, hence our early arrival. The place was massive; much larger than I'd anticipated. We checked in, and they were able to seat us after only two or three minutes, which was great because we might not have made it to the 3 p.m. screening of the movie we'd planned to check out after dinner (more on that later). We were seated upstairs in a loft area overlooking the gift shop. The place was a bit more elegant than I thought it would be, but definitely not too fancy. I'm a pretty cultured guy anyway... or at least can be when I need to be.

The loft area inside Cooper's Ridge (courtesy of Google)

Our meal began with a thick, creamy butternut squash bisque with walnut and creme garnish. It was delicious and served at the perfect temperature. The pretzel rolls were also pretty awesome. I could have eaten two more but knew I had to keep some room in the gut for the main course. The main entree featured both white and dark meat turkey with all of the sides you'd expect on your Thanksgiving dinner plate: mashed and sweet potatoes, stuffing, veggies (green beans and roasted carrots), cranberry relish, and a creamy corn casserole that was sweet and savory. For dessert, we each enjoyed a piece of pumpkin cheesecake that was totally worth the calories! The wine, a house Cabernet Sauvignon with notes of black cherry and pepper, elevated the meal. This was indeed a far cry from the Subway turkey sub I'd consumed on Thanksgiving day a several years prior on our Drinksgiving trip to Charleston, SC. One of the things I've always hated about Drinksgiving is missing dinner at my mom's house, but this definitely lived up to the umami of past Thanksgiving dinners prepared by my mom.

After dinner, it was off to Studio 35 Cinema & Drafthouse for beer and a movie. I was hoping Bohemian Rhapsody would still be playing (we'd seen it already and enjoyed it, but was hoping to see it again... you know me and rock music), but Creed 2 had just taken over the day before. The other location (there are two similar theaters in Columbus) was screening Fantastic Beasts, some Harry Potter-esque wizard nonsense, so we opted for Creed. I shouldn't hate on Harry Potter because I never saw any of the movies or read any of the books. Plus, I was a bona fide D&D nerd for most of my adolescence. But the Rocky movie franchise was one of my favorites as a kid, and even though we didn't see the first Creed movie, I figured I'd be able to follow along just fine.

Pretty dope tap selection at Studio 35.

We perused the surprisingly vast draft selection and made our picks. I went with Bodhi, a DIPA from Columbus Brewing, primarily because I wanted something hoppy but also because it appeared that CBC was a production brewery only (i.e. no taproom), so this was a good opportunity to try one of its beers. The server behind the counter indicated it was their top-selling beer. And for good reason, because it was pretty damn delicious! I'd even go so far as to say it was one of the most memorable beers of the trip. A no-frills DIPA with a West Coast vibe (the way I like 'em) Bodhi boasted a bellyful of Citra hop goodness with lots of juicy orange and grapefruit notes with a balanced malt profile and a pretty dry, hoppy finish. Absolutely delicious. Fun fact: The name "Bodhi" refers to the type of tree under which Buddha was enlightened. I actually remembered this from 10th grade World Cultures class (thanks, Mr. Probert). We took a quick stroll around the lobby, which was decorated with movie posters and memorabilia, including a nice little nook dedicated to my favorite movie, The Big Lebowski. See?

Studio 35 is privy to all the new shit.

Midway through the movie, it was time for a refill, and Brewslut could tell that I was more into the movie than both of us would have thought. Hey man, it's Rocky! I told her to pick something I'd like, and she returned with a beer called Hazy Miss Daisy from the local Columbus brewery Zaftig (more on Zaftig in Chapter III). A NE-style IPA, this one is hopped with Amarillo and Mosaic for a juicy, fruity, sweet-tart kind of flavor. It was pretty tasty but fell kind of flat after the Bodhi. West Coast IPAs are definitely more aggressively bitter than their NE counterparts, and one of the side effects of imbibing a DIPA is enduring its palate-wrecking nature. Regardless, the movie was much better than I had anticipated. Most people know that, despite not being into sports at all, I'm a sucker for underdog sports movies. I've seen Rocky many times over the years and still cry at the end. Every time. Without going into too many details about the movie, I will say that it has intrigued me to go back and watch the Balboa and first Creed movies, both of which I've never seen despite my Rocky fandom.

After the movie, we had some time to kill before the bars opened, so we headed back to the homestead to relax and watch some TV before heading out to Bodega. I'd gotten a tip on the BA forum that this place is open on Thanksgiving evening, so I made sure to lock it into the agenda. We arrived shortly after they opened for the evening at 7 p.m. A healthy crowd of regulars was already beginning to emerge, and we took two seats at the bar among them. Almost immediately, Pleeps ascended to his usual rock star status with the customers, so he felt right at home. The tap list was pretty impressive and included plenty of local breweries with a cast of heavy hitters and rarely seen favorites like Alaskan. They even had Troegenator on tap, which always proves a good segue into conversation with the bartender.

Decor-wise, the place was kind of quirky but clean and uncluttered. A mural of cassettes adorned one of the back walls, which reminded me of something Modern Times in San Diego would do. There were also some other cool, unusual decorations giving the place a modern-vintage look.

Wall of cassettes (mostly shitty music, though... I looked).

Always glad to see something from Jackie O's on tap, I opted for one of their beers called Perpetum, a Berliner Weisse-inspired American Wild Ale. To achieve its tart character, the base beer - a blend of two-row barley and white wheat paired with German noble hops - is introduced to a proprietary mixed culture of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Saccharomyces during fermentation. After four to six weeks, the beer is blended with previous runs of Perpetum to ensure a consistent flavor profile. Think light, refreshing tartness with bright lemon and subtle wheat bread notes.

Meanwhile, Brewslut was working on a pour of Sunrise at Dusk from Cleveland-based brewery, Platform. Platform actually has a remote tasting room in Columbus, but we'd already visited its main location in Cleveland a few years back, so we decided to explore other new-to-us breweries. A Berliner Weisse (one of her favorite styles), this beer features a pinkish hue and dark fruit notes akin to plum and cherry and a faint tannic, slightly tart finish.

Continuing on, I decided to explore the dark side with an Imperial Pumpkin Porter from Alaskan Brewing. Unless we're out galavanting on the West Coast, its beers are few and far between. So when I come across one of its beers on tap, I'll generally order it. This particular pumpkin beer was brewed with six different malts including Alaskan alder-smoked malt. Alaskan's smoked porter is one of my favorite beers ever and easily my most loved smoked beer of all, so once I read that little nugget of information, it was a no-brainer. The spice blend comprises brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove for the typical "pumpkin" flavors and aromas. It's also brewed with actual Red Hubbards pumpkin, too. Well, technically they're squash. Flavor-wise, this slick, black ale reminded me of the smoked porter thanks to the addition of the smoked malt, but the spices formed the basis of the dominant flavor. Honestly, the smoked malt aspect made it more enjoyable and added a depth of complexity rarely seen in pumpkin beers. While the spices could have been dialed back just a tad, this was a very enjoyable beer overall.

The coolest pachyderm-shaped mirror ball ever!

Brewslut was hankering for some hops and settled on Proliferous, a DIPA from Seventh Son Brewing (more on this brewery in an upcoming chapter). This Mosaic-heavy DIPA boasts layers of tropical fruit and citrus with bracing pine bitterness in the finish. This was pretty solid and definitely piqued our interest in going to Seventh Son later on during the trip.

Overall, this was an amazing visit. The staff was excellent, and to celebrate the holiday I cracked open a bottle of Wild Elf to share with the bartenders (one of which was the beer manager). They both enjoyed it immensely, and the manager inquired about how to obtain some to sell at the bar. We also enjoyed a long conversation with two thirtysomething guys who worked for Amazon. They weren't huge beer guys, but we talked a lot about music (especially Metallica and Rush) and just life in general. It made our visit that much more enjoyable.

After a lengthy session at Bodgea, our plan was to visit another local bar called St. James Tavern, which was also open on Thanksgiving evening. We made the short drive, just a few blocks from Bodega, and parked on the street. We headed in and the tap list wasn't nearly as impressive as Bodega. We were also pretty hungry, but unfortunately they had no food options and nothing was close. So we decided to leave and find somewhere to eat. We drove by a few places, but alas, none were open. After all, it was Thanksgiving night. We found another place the appeared open, so we parked and went inside. Unfortunately, they too had no food available.

After wandering around town a bit, we circled back around to Bodega and decided to hit up a place a few doors down called Oddfellows. Someone at Bodega mentioned they were offering a Thanksgiving dinner buffet for only $12. Thoughts of nasty-ass food at a strip club quickly entered my mind but were eventually thwarted by my hunger pangs. Surprisingly, the buffet was pretty legit (even though much of the turkey had already been depleted). No fear, though, as I'm a king picker! In addition to turkey, the buffet featured mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, apple walnut stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, and even tofurkey (i.e. baked tofu). See?

The best $12 I spent on the trip!

This place was decorated to the hilt for the holidays. Strands of old school lights were strung across the ceiling, vintage-looking signs and dolls adorned the walls, shelves, and pretty much any nook and cranny they could cram them. I was digging it! The bar was packed, but we were able to grab a small table betwixt two groups of patrons. Meanwhile, some annihilated customer had to be hoisted out of his seat by two friends - one on either side to prop him up - and escorted out of the bar. I was hoping he wouldn't vomit near us. Honestly, I think he was completely passed out. It looked like they were dragging this guy out of there. Amateur.

It appears that Oddfellows enjoys the Christmas season. 

While we were here, we might as well get a beer, right? I was pleased to see yet another Jackie O's beer on tap (especially since we were so close yet so far away from Athens), so I ordered it. Nothing like ending the day with a cheap turkey day feast and a Triple IPA. Hopped with six different American hop varieties at the rate of 5 lbs. per barrel, this triple IPA boasts aromas of orange marmalade, ripe melon and zesty lemon. To quote from the official beer description: "The flavor is full of rich orange flesh with herbal piney jabs that linger endlessly." Jabs. I like that. Seems fitting since we'd just seen Creed 2.

The reason for the season, mother fuckas!

I could have stayed here for a while, but the day was catching up to us. Two big Thanksgiving meals in one day meant that the tryptophan was kicking in hard... not to mention all of the beer. Plus, the music changed over from STP-like 90's alternative rock to flavor-of-the-moment modern pop while we were there, which just grates on me after a while (like ten minutes... and that's being generous). After a bit, I visited the unisex bathroom to rock a piss and saw this poster displayed on the wall...

Amazing! Where do I sign up?!

Man, I wish we'd have been staying until the following week! I definitely need to pitch this to a local bar in my area. I'm just not sure if I'd want to host it or be a contestant. Well, that's all for now, folks. By then it was time to head back to the ol' homestead for some rest. Stay tuned for Chapter III, when things get kicked up a notch or two and more drinking ensues. Until next time...

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Drinksgiving Goes to Eleven: Chapter I

To borrow from the name of quite possibly my favorite Ffej of July reference - FOJ Goes to Eleven (a homage to one of my favorite movies of all time, This is Spinal Tap), I felt it only fitting that I also refer to our eleventh Drinksgiving outing in the same fashion. You may remember that we'd considered visiting Columbus, OH, last year but ultimately decided on Virginia Beach. The reason was twofold. First, we had the opportunity to stay with our friend, Kelly, for free. Second, she also volunteered to commandeer the drunk bus for us. How could we say no to that?! 

So it was decided early on that 2018 would be the year we'd set sail to Columbus. Since Columbus is situated in central OH, we didn't take our usual route, which typically traverses us through Pittsburgh. Instead, we'd be traveling via the PA Turnpike to I-70 West, which runs right through Columbus. With that route in mind, I'd planned for a lunch break in Wheeling, WV, to visit a pair of small breweries that were new to us. I was also excited to learn that the small town of Zanesville, OH, was also on the way to Columbus. Zanesville is the home of Weasel Boy Brewing, a brewery we stumbled upon during Drinksgiving 4 with Deuane and Carolyn. We loved the beer and the place in particular, but we'd never had the opportunity to revisit Weasel Boy. Well, that was about to change! More on Weasel Boy later, though.

For now, let's focus on "almost heaven." You know, West Virginia? Blue Ridge Mountains? Shenandoah River? 

Well, Wheeling anyway.

Pulling into town, Wheeling reminded me of a blue collar town in the same vein as Pittsburgh and Cleveland. I felt as though we were transported back to the 1970s (yes, I'm old enough to have remembered the last gasp of the decade). On the surface, it's a town that appears to have lived a hard life; kind of like a 52-year-old stripper you can tell was pretty slammin' back in her prime but looks a bit weathered and road-weary these days. 

First on the agenda was a little place I'd discovered called Brew Keepers. Once we finally found a parking spot (the brewery is a block away from a seemingly upscale shopping strip with trendy-looking stores and eateries that typically prove to be catnip for tourists and holiday shoppers), we moseyed up to the door. It was an orange door with a peephole. Above it, a brown and orange vinyl banner with its slogan, "Simple. Craft. Beer." To the right, a sign depicting hours of operation and a residential mailbox. I thought to myself, "Hmmmm..." 

I'll take what's behind the orange door, Monty!

The orange door revealed a small production brewery, and therefore we could only sample beer and purchase growler and crowler fills. So our visit would be a short one. We sampled a few beers, including Flip Flop IPA and a tasty Coffee Stout, and inquired about a place nearby that might serve its beers on draft. The beers all tasted promising, so I wanted to dig in more than a few ounces at a time. The guy manning the counter suggested a place just up the street called Market Vines, which happened to sit next door to Wheeling Brewing Company (where we were headed next anyway). So we purchased a crowler of Flip Flop IPA (Brewslut's favorite of the few we tried; I'd have preferred the coffee stout, but the IPA was tasty as well) and headed up the street in the brisk November afternoon.

We decided to stop in at Wheeling Brewing Co. first because the food sounded pretty good (the menu was posted on a corkboard outside the front door) and it was time for lunch. Inside, the place boasts a cozy pub feel: exposed brick walls, wooden signs, a shiny copper-like bartop, and dimly lit atmosphere. Perhaps not quite dimly lit, but it wasn't too bright. Come to think of it, I don't recall seeing any windows except for the one in the front  door. Still, it felt familiar and I was happy to find two open seats at the bar. 

View from our barstools.

The beer selection was fairly modest but pretty diverse, with about eight beers available on tap as well as a cider and a kombucha. Nothing sounded super exciting or unusual, so we kept things simple. I decided to start off on the hoppy foot and opted for Moon Dog IPA, while Brewslut selected the Top Mill Pale Ale. The pale ale was bright and hoppy with a well-balanced flavor boasting citrusy Cascade hops and a sweet, biscuity malt backbone. A well-done pale ale for sure. As for the IPA, it had a West Coast vibe about it: citrusy with a dry, hoppy bite in the finish. The aroma didn't really draw me in like a West Coast IPA typically does, but the flavor was pretty enjoyable. Off to a pretty good start, I thought.

Pleeps poses with a Moon Dog.

Meanwhile, we were subjected to watch a horrendous show on the History Channel called Swamp People, which happened to be showing on the TV above the bar. I rarely get offended by anything, but a show glorifying the killing of alligators while I tried to enjoy my lunch was somewhat appaling. At any rate, we did our best to ignore it and carried on with our lunch, a shared Indian-inspired Vindaloo wrap and a bowl of vegan chili. Both beers were solid, but the pale ale was definitely the winner of the two. It was actually quite delicious in all honesty. The wrap was tasty as was the soup, but the TV show left a bad taste in my mouth. 

Pleeps in chill mode.

Next door, Market Vines (advertised as a wine bar) was devoid of patrons save for maybe five or six people scattered about. Oddly enough, General Hospital was on the tube at the bar (definitely on the opposite end of the spectrum from inbred rednecks killing animals). Brewslut has been watching that show religiously since before we were even dating, so I was quick to make a joke about it. For a dude, I know way too much about this show than I'd care to admit. Frankly, though, I'd rather watch a ridiculous soap opera than that History Channel rubbish we were subjected to next door. But enough of that shit. We're here to talk beer.

General Hospital on the tube. Hey, it's better than sports!

We grabbed a seat at the bar and inquired about the beer selection. By the looks of it, there were three Brew Keepers beers on tap, another couple of local-looking beers, and two or three others. Since we were there to try some of Brew Keepers' beers, we decided on Suspension, a pre-Prohibition cream ale, and Deathwind, an American pale ale. Neither beer did much for us, although I ended up drinking the lion's share of the pale ale because Brewslut wasn't "likin' it." The hop finish was a tad harsh; not overly hoppy per se, but more like a slightly burnt malt finish. The cream ale was pretty lackluster as well. It reminded me more of an American adjunct lager than a silky, smooth ale brewed with flaked corn. The beers were drinkable but not inspiring in any way, unfortunately. Still, I was happy to be supporting a small local brewery in an old school, blue collar town. We finished those up and decided to split a pour of a beer called Mothman, a black IPA from Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company from Maxwelton, WV. I enjoyed this one more than the Brew Keepers beers, and was glad to discover a brewery with which I wasn't familiar. To be honest, I'm not too versed in West Virginia breweries. I'd been to a few but it's not a state that screams craft beer, although I'm sure the community is growing. With that said, I'd wager that Yuengling sells a lot of beer there.

Since we'd expected to spend about an hour or so at Brew Keepers, we were able to tack on some additional time to our original agenda. Due to this, we were able to land in Zanesville just as Weasel Boy was opening its doors for the day.

I'd once commented that having a beer at Weasel Boy was like hanging out and drinking with friends in your grandma's basement. Once we got inside, I realized the place hadn't changed at all (other than the addition of a pizza restaurant attached to the other side of the tasting room). The lounge area with vintage furniture from the 1970s was still intact, and I was stoked that nobody was sitting there. The decor is eclectic, the place is unpretentious, and the beer is rock solid. I was so happy this place hadn't changed since our initial visit. For only visiting one time seven years ago, Weasel Boy definitely left a mark on me for whatever reason. I was hoping I wouldn't be disappointed this time. (That has happened before, by the way.)

On tap at Weasel Boy Brewing.

I'd gotten in touch with someone from the brewery to inquire about holiday hours, and although they weren't open on Thanksgiving, I was glad they would be operating on regular hours for Black Friday. I was also informed that the most memorable beer from our trip, Snow Ermine, would likely be on tap! A dark brown, almost murky-looking holiday ale, Snow Ermine is named after a short-tailed weasel called a "stoat." Another name for this cute little rascal when it's decked out in its winter white coat is "ermine." This delicious, festive holiday ale begins with a base beer called Blackfooted Porter. They raise the starting gravity, add plenty of locally sourced Ohio honey and imported vanilla, then finish it off by cold-aging on organic cocoa nibs.

Pleeps with his first Snow Ermine.

By now, I was jonesin' for some hops. Enter Tickle Me IPA, a crisp, citrus-forward West Coast-style IPA. The original beer, Tickle Me Pink, was a "pink" IPA brewed with saskatoon berries in collaboration with Lineage Brewing (more on them later) for breast cancer awareness. The berries imparted a pinkish hue and its color honored the pink ribbons associated with breast cancer awareness organizations. Sadly, this beer wasn't available. I'd have liked to have tried it, as I'd never heard of saskatoon berries before. Nevertheless, the base IPA quenched my thirst for hops sufficiently, although I seems to recall enjoying the Dancing Ferret quite a bit more than this one. Still, it was a solid hoppy offering.

The brewing side of the operation at Weasel Boy.

Meanwhile, we were hankering for something to nosh on, so I checked out the menu in the other room. Turns out Weasel Boy now serves up some bangin' pizza creations. After perusing the menu featuring about a dozen different pies, one stood out above all else: The Jenny. Created by and named after a former employee of the brewery, this white pizza features olive oil garlic sauce, a house blend of cheeses, Gerber chicken, portabella mushroom, pineapple, bleu cheese, and basil on a whole wheat, beer-infused crust. It sounded amazing on paper, and it tasted even better! This pizza crushed it! Any inkling of hunger was thoroughly depleted after polishing off this masterpiece.

We rounded out our visit by sharing a pour of Anastasia, a bittersweet Russian Imperial Stout that earned Weasel Boy a pair of GABF medals (bronze in 2010 and gold in 2012). I recalled having this beer during our inaugural visit all those years ago, but Untappd really wasn't a thing yet (at least I hadn't discovered it). So I decided to refer back to my old BA reviews. Upon consulting my Beer Advocate profile, it turns out that I did, in fact, have the bourbon barrel-aged version of this back in 2010 on that first visit (you can read my original review HERE... I awarded it a score of 4.17 out of 5). Although this wasn't the BBA version, the flavor was rich with notes of cocoa, burnt caramel, and roasted coffee with traces of tobacco, leather, and dark fruit around the edges. Overall, a pretty complex RIS, although it was perhaps not as thick and viscous as I typically prefer. Still, this guy (or should I say lady) only weighs in at 8% ABV, which is on the lighter end of the spectrum for the style. Still, it was nice to revisit this beer again, even if it wasn't the BBA version.

Brewslut chillin' at Weasel Boy... just like in grandma's parlor.

All in all, it was an enjoyable, relaxing visit to Weasel Boy. I honestly didn't want to leave, but we still had over an hour's drive to get to Columbus. With the additional time we saved back in Wheeling, though, we were able to roll into Columbus (or Cowtown as the locals call it) and check into our Air B&B (the first time we booked one of these on our own... highly recommended, by the way) before heading to our first brewery in town. You know, to get a head start. My itineraries are usually pretty ambitious, so crossing a place off the list early in the trip would put us one step forward to attaining "beervana."

By the looks of it, North High looked to be the closest place to our home away from home for the next few days, so after we unloaded the CRV we headed out, plugged her into the ol' GPS and were off to dip our toes into the craft beer scene of Cowtown. The beer list was pretty expansive and diverse, so we each opted for our own flight of four beers. Since four plus four is eight, now we were doing great! #math. All silliness aside, here's the low-down on the beer line-up: 
  • Tree Tapper Maple Brown Ale - brewed with Ohio maple syrup from Moffitt Farms. 
  • Danke Imperial IPA - Brewed to celebrate the first anniversary of respected beer bar Brewfontaine and also the repeal of Ohio's ABV limit on beer. Notes of bold citrus akin to grapefruit, orange, and lime, as well as flavors of pine and cedar. 
  • Local Bearings Rye Porter - collaboration with OYO, using a thick malt with their pumpernickel rye and then blended with Ohio-grown pale barley malt and a healthy dose of chocolate malt.
  • Barley Legal Barley Wine - aged in OYO bourbon barrels.
  • Coffee Golden - Golden ale infused with local Thunderkiss Coffee.
  • Cucumber Ale - Light ale with a refreshing cucumber finish.
  • Break On Through Double IPA - dank, pungent DIPA. Brewslut: "There's no way I can not try this beer." She loves the Doors, baby!
  • Golden Stout - nitro golden ale infused with Thunderkiss cold brewed coffee and TCHO cacao nibs.
Pleeps can't wait to dig in!

OK, that was a lot to get through. While I don't recall anything bowling me over, everything we tried was pretty solid and well executed. Brewslut didn't dig the maple brown ale but I thought it was decent. The barrel aged beers were pretty tasty but lacked body and complexity. The two coffee beers - Coffee Golden and Golden Stout - were probably my two favorites overall. It takes a lot for me to not enjoy a coffee beer, and these were two fine examples of light coffee ales (i.e. not stouts or porters) that stood out above the rest.

As we worked through our flights, we noticed that the building was reminiscent of an old, decommissioned post office, likely from the first half of the 20th century. Turns out the building was originally a Ford dealership way back in 1917. When North High obtained the building, the founders decided to restore the building to its original historical glory. Inside, there are numerous salvaged and repurposed architectural elements including windows and doors from historic OSU buildings, a late 19th century distillery, and - wait for it! - old post offices! I suppose we're pretty astute for pair of beer drinkers.

After finishing our flights, it was time to head back to the homestead and gear up for the moment you've all been waiting for. That's right, it was time for our highly anticipated annual "shitty beer" tradition. Readers of this blog should be well aware of the drill by now. Although we didn't officially launch Drinksgiving 11 with a shitty beer (as the holiday bylaws clearly state we must do), we procured this year's "dud" after we'd been to a few places in West Virginia. So we'd be enjoying our annual shitty beer in the hotel later in the evening. We were able to swing by a local convenience store and procure this little nugget for our consumption:

Yes, you read the label correctly. This beer is named "Natty Daddy." Oh, the possibilities. I wasn't expecting much with this one, and I must say it delivered. After the first sip, I thought, "Wow. That actually wasn't too bad." Subsequent sips, however... well, that's a different story. Once my palate connected with my brain, I realized this was pretty horrendous. With that said, it wasn't the worst shitty beer in the annals of Drinksgiving history, but it still warrants prefacing with the term "shitty." Hey, gotta keep folks of all income levels lubricated, right? But with all of the issues breweries have obtaining cans these days, it seems pretty pointless to waste perfectly good aluminum to fabricate a vessel for such ghastly swill. Damn, that was pretty poetic! Hey, I have a degree in that shit. Glad I utilize it every once in a while. 

Who's your daddy and what does he do?

We're only getting started, folks! Strap in for a few beer-soaked days in Cowtown as we traverse the city in search of the best brews. Until next time...