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Friday, May 17, 2019

Old Rag Shizzle: Part 2

After parting ways with the Hillers, we headed over to Hopkins Ordinary Ale Works. If ever there was a place that reminded me of "the pub" (aka Selin's Grove), it might be this place; not necessarily for the beers, but rather for the ambiance, surroundings, and people. Steeped in local lore, you can read all about the building's history here, but the gist of it is this: The original building was constructed in 1820 (or thereabouts) by John Hopkins and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Of course, there was a tavern in the basement (see... just like the pub)! The folks at Hopkins also operate a Bed & Breakfast, which probably comes in handy to beer travelers who get lost in conversation with fellow patrons only to find themselves about five or six beers deep. Luckily, these people only need to walk a few feet to rest their spinning heads. 

Outside Hopkins Ordinary Ale Works.

The main bar area was narrow and tight, and packed with thirsty patrons. I finally squeezed by a few folks and came across a beer list. Right off the bat, I noticed a smoked beer. This particular offering, Mary's Rauch, features local apple- and cherry-smoked malt from Copper Fox Distillery. "Gotta get this!" I thought. Upon my first sip, it came across as an entry level smoked beer with a hint of smoke and a sweet, fruity, malty backbone. I'm all for approachable smoked beers if it means more people will try them and - God forbid - actually like them! This one wasn't bad at all.

Since the bar area was so crowded and boomy, we opted to sit outside in the garden area, as the weather was unseasonably warm for late March. Right away, we started conversing with everyone sitting outside, including a mother-daughter pair spending a birthday weekend together, and a group of middle-aged folks staying at the adjoining B&B (who, if memory serves me correctly, were in town for a class reunion). Time soon began to slip away as we got lost in conversation with the patrons. However, it was time for another beer, so back into the bar area I headed.

Up next, I delved into the White Oak Winter Ale. Even though we were at the start of springtime, I couldn't resist trying this winter warmer brewed with fresh ginger, cinnamon, honey, orange peel, and roasted malts. Dark and soothing, this was a tasty winter seasonal with a pretty balanced combination of flavors. This one may have been my favorite of the bunch, despite it was more of a cool spring evening rather than a chilly winter's night.

By this time, we were waist deep into conversation with the group of middle-aged folks who were staying at the B&B. Geez, I say middle-aged like we're not middle-aged. Fuck, at 45 I'm probably over middle-aged; I'd be lucky to live until I'm 90, right? But who knows how medicine will progress over the next few decades. I guess I'll keep working out and drinkin' my Tussin!

Nice day to be outside, eh?

After a while, I was starting to get a hankering for something barrel-aged, and Pass Mountain Imperial Porter was calling my name. The beer, a Baltic Porter aged in whisky barrels for six months, sounded like it'd do the trick. While it wasn't amazing, it was a pleasantly rich, dark and boozy beer with hints of anise and chocolate.

Although I didn't need another beer, I decided to close out with Inkeeper's IPA, a moderately hoppy East Coast-style IPA hopped with a combo of Centennial, Citra, and Cascade to provide an ample wash of citrus fruit. We ended up spending quite a bit of time at Hopkins, making it to last call. We were all pretty shellacked by now, anyway, so it was time to head back to Old Rag for some final imbibement. (I'm not sure if that's even a word, but it sounds cool.)

Back at Old Rag, I cracked open a pair of Hardywood beers I'd picked up during our Richmond weekend trip several months prior. The two beers - Peach Tripel and Virginia Blackberry - were both tasty but the consensus was unanimously in favor of the Peach Tripel. Bright and stealthy with a smack of juicy peach goodness, I wish I'd purchased a few more bottles after about two sips. The Virginia Blackberry was quite earthy but still had a solid blackberry backbone and a hint of tartness.

Deuane provided the next two, Who Need Galaxy? from Southern Grist and V. Fudge with Strawberries: Olive & Sinclair by Bearded Iris, two breweries that were new to me. Both were enjoyable, to say the least. The former was a thick, sticky DIPA with loads of tropical fruit, while the latter was (as the name implies) a decadent fudgy treat with a very pronounced strawberry finish. It reminded me of a milkshake.

We closed out the night with a double dose of Night Shift cans we brought back from Boston the weekend before: Night Fever and Stout's Honor. Feel free to refer back to the Boston blog for details about these two decadent treats.

Old Rag weekend spread.

The next morning, I actually got up first and (out of boredom and the fact that I didn't know how to work the coffee pot) washed the dishes from the previous day. Deuane soon lumbered downstairs with the girls following shortly after that. Following breakfast, we packed up our belongings and bid a fond farewell to Old Rag Cabin.

First on the agenda for Sunday was a visit to Hawksbill Brewing. We arrived in Luray, VA (where the brewery is situated), about half an hour before the brewery opened for the day, so we took a stroll through the quaint downtown area. I couldn't help but think of Patton Oswalt's bit about a "Chapstick entering the Luray Caverns" to illustrate an elderly couple practicing the act of coitus. As a result of this bit of comedy, I'd often wondered where the Luray Caverns were housed. Turns out in Luray, VA.

But back to Hawksbill. We circled back after our stroll through town and set up shop at the bar. Inside and out, the place isn't much to look at. The name of the brewery is painted white on the side of the plain brick red building. The inside was adorned with wood paneling and a long bar overlooking the modest brewing area.

I eased into our visit because, after all, we'd experienced quite a productive day on Saturday, and we had a solid three-hour drive to get home later in the day. With this in mind, I opted for a pour of Hawksbill Hopped Pale Ale, a single-hopped American pale brewed with honey malt and locally grown Cascade hops. Simple, tasty and easy-drinking is how'd I'd describe it. It was kind of boomy inside and hard to talk to each other since we were sitting in a straight line at the bar, so I started chatting when I overheard (or rather thought I overheard) the couple next to me open a tab under the name Hoffman (the same surname as Deuane). Turns out it was, I believe, Kaufman. The pair were stopping in for a beer before setting off on either a bike ride or hike. Either way, it was something outdoorsy.

Brewslut and I split a pour of the somewhat scandalously named Cock Your Doodle Doo, a nitro coffee stout. I couldn't find any additional details on the beer, including the type of coffee used, etc. It was pretty solid overall but nothing extraordinary. Meanwhile, the owner had since come in and was talking about Pontiak, the band featuring the guys from Pen Druid, and played a few songs (which was a welcome change of pace from the country music being played for the previous hour). Overall, it was a pleasant visit with a few solid beers, but by now it was time to bid adieu to Luray and head about forty minutes north to the town of Woodstock, VA.

After a fairly slow drive which took us along winding roads up and down the Blue Ridge Mountains, we arrived in Woodstock, hungry and ready for some lunch. We pulled into town just around the same time a power outage had affected the entire town. The restaurant we'd planned to visit was actually closed as a result of the outage, so we were forced to head around the corner to Woodstock Brewhouse. Deuane had originally asked if we wanted to stop there to cross it off the list, but mentioned that it wasn't anything special. So out of desperation, we ended up stopping in for lunch and a few beers.

Inside, the place had a sort of Appalachian brewpub vibe with a big open floor plan and high ceilings. Service is cafeteria style, which I don't mind. However, we had to use the restroom when we arrived, and from the time we entered the building to the time we finished micturating (~ 2 minutes), the line went from 2 people to about 12. Apparently, the power outage forced other people to flock to Woodstock as well. Then, for some reason, about eight of the people just decided to leave. "Cool," I thought. "Now I'll get my food more quickly." The menu was basic and pretty limited (especially due to the power outage), but there was plenty of beer flowing. Deuane gave thumbs up to the Carpet Bagger, a NE-style IPA, so I followed suit and ordered one as well. It was fine, although nothing special. Woodstock would be a one-and-done stop for me, as I was saving myself for our next stop, a rare departure from our usual beer trail plans - a distillery.

We ended the day with a visit to Filibuster Distillery, which included a brief tour with the owner. I was definitely on board with this, as I've really been getting into bourbon for about the last six months or so. It's also nice to be able to sip an ounce or two of bourbon on a weeknight rather than be subject to the empty calories and carbs of a full beer. After all, I gotta watch that girlish figure, kiddos! But back to Filibuster. For $25, the tour also included a flight of the following four spirits:
  • Bourbon whiskey
  • Rye whiskey
  • Boondoggler whiskey (i.e. a blend of the former two spirits)
  • Gin
I must admit that I'd never been a fan of gin, but I really enjoyed the variety of gin-barrel-aged beers I've had in our travels. Go figure. Well, turns out I might have not been drinking the right gin, because this gin was amazing! I almost took home a bottle but I really liked the Boondoggler and thought I'd drink it more often than the gin. Craft spirits are a bit more pricey than standard offerings, and although I debated getting both, I settled for the Boondoggler. I won't go too far down a rabbit hole (after all, this is a beer blog), but it was nice to mix things up a bit and learn something new in the process. I'd also like to share a few photos from our tour below. Enjoy!

Well folks, that's a wrap on yet another beer-soaked birthday weekend with a few drops of liquor for good measure. Until next time...

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Old Rag Shizzle: Part 1

Editor's Note: The following should be sung to the tune of "Ol' Man River" in the style of the Chairman of the Board, the late, great Frank Sinatra...

Old Rag shizzle, that Old Rag shizzle
There must be somethin'
We keep on drinkin' 
and keep on rollin' along...

You get the picture. Wait... do you? Actually, you probably don't. Let me backtrack a bit.

When Deuane and I were in the midst of planning my annual birthday weekend jaunt into the nether reaches of yet another unknown forest, I must have been drunk because I added the dates to my calendar with the subject line: "Old Rag Shizzle." Days later, Brewslut asked me, "What the hell is 'Old Rag Shizzle?'"

Fuck if I knew. 

Deuane set the record straight. We'd be traveling to northern Virginia to Old Rag Mountain near Sperryville (population 342, according to the 2010 census) in Madison County. Old Rag is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, its peak is located within Shenandoah National Park. Deuane said it is the most popular hiking destination inside the boundaries of the park. I didn't doubt him after we'd been there for a few hours, as groups of hikers passed by our cabin about every few minutes. 

But before we get to the "Old Rag Shizzle" portion of the program, let's start at the beginning of the weekend: Friday afternoon. I decided to take a half day at work. Since Brewslut is always chained to her desk and never - that's right, folks... NEVER! - takes off work, Deuane and I left early and hit a few places on the way. Since Old Rag is approximately three-and-a-half hours from our home base, there were obviously a few breweries along our route: trophies for us as a result of our head start. 

First up was the familiar GearHouse in Chambersburg. I will say that I'd frequent this place way more often if it wasn't a solid 90-minute drive from my house. Each time I visit, I like it more and more. The beers continually improve, and David (owner and brewer) is still as fuckin' rad as the day I met him. This visit was enhanced by a short tour of his new private space, which is set up kind of like a speakeasy. But more on that in a few seconds.

Thirsty already, Deuane and I hit the bar at around 1:30-ish and ordered a pair of beers. Deuane was kind enough to get my first one (happy birthday to me!), which was nice. The beer was Shifting Gears #19, an IPA hopped with Amarillo, CTZ, and Warrior. Shifting Gears is the brewery's rotating experimental IPA series. This one boasted a flavor profile of sharp herbs and pithy grapefruit. It might have been my favorite IPA I've had there thus far. This set the mood for the rest of the visit. 

While we enjoyed our beers, David showed us around the recently gutted brewing space where he'd soon be installing a new brewhouse, fermenters and other equipment. If my memory serves me correctly, he's upgrading from a 7-bbl to a 15-bbl system. Gotta love when one of the small guys expand! To keep the GearHouse beer flowing and its customers libated during this downtime, our good friends at Pizza Boy have opened up some of their tank space and helped out by contract brewing a few beers.  

After a quick tour of the construction site, we headed over to the new special event space, which I mentioned earlier. Man, I want a place like this is my basement, but I have too many drums. In addition to space for private rentals, the "speakeasy" is also used for overflow traffic during peak hours. With a variety of well-curated PA wines and spirits, David also has a few taps pouring specialty beers, some of which we were able to sample during our visit. 

THE room at GearHouse.

The first of two beers I tried in the Speakeasy was GINary, a gin-barrel-aged version of Canary in the Coal Mine blonde ale. I'd had a gin-barrel-aged beer at GearHouse on a previous visit, and mentioned how I was glad that this trend was making its way eastward. (Avid Pour Travelers followers may remember my infatuation with gin-barrel-aged beers, which began on our trip to Portland, OR, a few years ago.) This was a beautifully complex beer boasting equal parts juniper berry, fresh botanicals, and a sweet, fruity finish. Previous versions of this beer were aged in gin barrels acquired from One-Eight Distillers in Washington D.C. However, I'm not sure if this is the case with this particular batch. 

GearHouse: "We have liquor too!"

The other beer, Spiral Ham, is a Belgian Quad brewed in collaboration with Barley & Hops, Cushwa (more on them very soon) and Waredaca (a MD-based brewery and horse farm. Note to self: Need to get there pronto). Weighing in at 10.2% ABV, this monster Quad features PA honey, Belgian candi syrup, and turbinado (a dark, unrefined) sugar. Man, was this delicious! I love me some molasses cookies and Shoo Fly pie, and this beer elicited hints of both. 

Specialty beers in the private room at GearHouse.

Back up in the main tasting room area, we finished up our visit with a pour of Sticky Fingers Incident, a German chocolate cake, pastry stout brewed with 72% Peruvian chocolate from Nathan Miller Chocolate, tart cherries, flaked coconut and lactose. It was a bit more roasty than I was anticipating, but the chocolate was definitely at the forefront with the cherry and coconut taking a backseat. With a few slight tweaks, this could be a really great beer. And thus ended an amazing visit to GearHouse. I'm already looking forward to the next one!

We said goodbye to David, hopped in the car and set our sights for Williamsport. Not "Billtown, PA," but rather Williamsport, MD, home of recent favorite Cushwa. Brewslut and I first heard of Cushwa through Deuane, so we called an audible a while back when we were headed to Virginia for an Iron Maiden show. Turns out they almost made my Top 10 list for 2018. (They did, however, make the "Honorable Mentions" list.) 

I've already written a decent amount about Cushwa in the last two years, so we'll just get right down to the nitty gritty. It wasn't a lengthy visit by any means, but I was able to try a few new beers. First up was a traditional German Schwarzbier called Illusory Correlation. Featuring notes of light roast coffee, dark chocolate, and crusty bread, this was a textbook example of the style. It's also a rarely-seen style, especially at smaller breweries that crank out quick-selling IPAs and other similar hoppy offerings.

Speaking of IPAs, up next was a bangin' DIPA known as Tedium. Dank, zesty and boasting a barrage of tropical fruit (especially papaya) and rock candy, this beer was anything but tedious to drink. This one elicited more West Coast tendencies, while my third and final beer, Outsider's Perspective, was straight-up New England. Also a DIPA, this one features hints of hard candy, pineapple, and evergreen. Cushwa describes it as "peach smoothie meets strawberry oatmeal." I enjoyed Tedium a bit more overall, as I opted for its papaya-forward character over the slightly more minty Outsider's Perspective. Both beers were enjoyable, but I gotta give props to Tedium.

Outside Sperryville's Pen Druid Brewing.

Based on Deuane's enthusiasm, the brewery I was most looking forward to visit was our next stop, Pen Druid. I was first struck by the name of the brewery and soon learned that Pen Druid borrows its moniker from an old family farm situated on the Thornton River in Rappahannock County, just a few miles downstream from the brewery. Deuane also explained that the tiny brewery operates using a 10bbl wood-fired brewery, employs coolships, and is all about spontaneous fermentation, barrel aging, and bottle conditioning.

Wait a minute... let's backtrack a bit.

Wood-fired?! What is this, Amish brewers gone wild?! OK, so these guys aren't Amish, but they are all about old world, artisan technique. The three brothers who own the brewery also happen to be members of a pretty bitchin' psych-rock band called Pontiak. When they're not on the road bringing mayhem to the stage, they're back in little old Sperryville churning out some amazing beers.

We didn't have a ton of time, as they were closing up soon. The girls were still about half an hour away or so, and wouldn't be arriving until a few minutes after closing time. Turns out that "closing time" is kind of a "soft closing time," meaning they would stay open until folks cleared out. Gotta love a place that will stay open late to ensure the thirst of its customers is adequately quenched. People were still coming in when we were leaving, which was like 40 minutes after the posted closing time. Bonus points, yo!

Small selection but amazing diversity at Pen Druid.

Deuane was anxious to try a brand new beer; a rare DIPA from a brewery that typically churns out wild ales and sours almost exclusively. Floored Nelson, the DIPA in question, is a collaboration with The Veil based out of Richmond, VA. Hopped with Nelson Sauvin (one of both Deuane's and my favorite hop varieties), this soft, fruity IPA boasts a strong white grape character with a splash of citrus fruit and hint of spice. For a brewery that focuses on wild ales and barrel-aged beers, this DIPA was legit!

Yup. They like their barrels.

Up next, I opted for one of its flagship beers: Golden Swan. Weighing in at 7% ABV, this wild blonde ale is "coolshipped" and fermented with raw organic wheat from the Farm at Sunnyside. I understand that this beer is brewed with Pen Druid's “flower” strain of wild cultures, giving it a honey and pollen-like character. Approachable and refreshing with a zesty lemon zing, the funk is pretty minimal, so it's a good place to start if you're visiting Pen Druid for the first time.

Interior of Pen Druid's modest tasting room.

I closed out with a pour of  Venus, a sour blonde ale aged for 10 months in French oak barrels with house cultures and "critters" (aka the stuff that floats through the air and lands in the beer). In perusing some of its beers online, I noticed they have a beer for each planet in our solar system. As a matter of fact, most of Pen Druid's beers have a celestial or mythological flair. This one had a bit more Brett character than Golden Swan, which I'd anticipated. Still, it was pretty subtle compared to some Belgian heavy-hitting wild ales I've had in my travels. Aging in French oak imparts a Chardonnay grape-like quality to the beer with soft tannic undertones. Another winner in my book! I can't wait to get back here and spend more time snooping around and possibly meeting one of the owners and talking shop... and music!

Me & D.

From Pen Druid, it was off to Old Rag Cabin, our home for the next two nights. After we got settled in and Carolyn got the wood stove ablaze, it was time to crack open a few bottles. First up was La Saison du Tracteur, an old one I picked up during our Drinksgiving trip to Quebec many moons ago. This one didn't age gracefully. I definitely picked up on some nice cardboard flavors (i.e. oxidation folks). Oh well, shame on me for cellaring it so long.

The second beer, Pen Druid's Mure De Fantaisie, was purchased a mere minutes prior to our arrival at Old Rag Cabin. This barrel-fermented sour ale was aged in oak for 13 months with local blackberries. This beer was glorious! No hints of cardboard here; just juicy, earthy blackberry goodness with plenty of oaky notes and a hint of toasted coconut and vanilla.

We woke up on Saturday morning in typical fashion: first Deuane, then me, then Carolyn, and - last but not least - good ol' Brewslut. She loves her slumber time. Deuane was already making breakfast and brewing a fresh pot of coffee. After breakfast, we all got cleaned up and ready to partake in some drinking activities around the area. We'd be meeting up with Mike Hiller and his wife, Kira, both of whom would be joining us at our first few breweries on the agenda. It was a beautiful day to be outside, and I'm glad most of the breweries we hit on this particular day had outside seating areas. But before we leave, here's a quick glimpse of our accommodations and surroundings for the weekend.

Old Rag Shizzle... I mean Cabin.

First up on the brewery list was Fär Göhn, situated in the tiny town of Culpeper, VA, not too far from Old Rag. 'Twould be a day of new-to-us breweries, which was exciting. Don't get me wrong; I love returning to old favorites, but part of the experience is meeting unique people in different places and trying new beers for the first time. Turns out this place was my favorite stop of the day... umlauts and all!

Fresh local beer and umlauts about at Culpeper's Fär Göhn!

After greetings and salutations with the Hillers, we set up shop at one of the bigger tables in the corner of the establishment, and right off the bat I was digging this place. I was even able to tune out the sporting event (some March Madness nonsense) on the TV while we were there... except when Deuane was commenting on it. He likes college guys who chuck balls through hoops. Nuts to that... let's dig into the beer!

Looks like they've got quite the mug club!

The beer menu was rife with variety, which I always appreciate. I decided on a pour of Sleeping Elefant, a malt-forward IPA featuring heavy doses of Citra, Simcoe, Amarillo, and Magnum hops. This hop combo produces a wash of sticky grapefruit and juicy peach flavors. Dry-hopped with one pound per barrel, this one boasted a fairly fragrant nose as well. And we're off to a good start!

On deck at Fär Göhn.

Keeping things hoppy, I moved on to a "Vermont style" IPA called Hopfensaft for my second beer. This beer is brewed with wheat and oats as well as three doses of dry hops including Mandarina Bavaria and Citra for a citrus-forward IPA with a silky mouthfeel. Fermented with RVA yeast labs "Hoptopper" ale yeast (that's code for Heady Topper), Hopfensaft finishes with a fruity, estery note to complement the orange and grapefruit character of the hops.

Once I found out about the impetus of the name Heva Hava, a nitro milk stout, I had to order a pour! The name refers to a farmer who must lube up a male cow and guide its penis into the female cow's naughty bits. Sometimes a little fondling is needed in order to arouse the male cow, apparently. Whoever named this beer needs to win some kind of award. Best name for a milk stout ever! The beer was quite good, too, which made for a solid win-win and three out of three for me.

Pleeps with Heva Hava... it's a stroke of genius!

Even the bathroom here was awesome! Check out this wall of shame and its accompanying letter to the men of Culpeper who ravage the bathroom with ignorant graffiti in a feeble attempt to come across as clever.

The wall of shame in the men's room at Fär Göhn.
By the way... why is Jo Polniaczek on there? Check out the photo in the lower right corner. Remember The Facts of Life? Jo ruled! I mean, I'd throw one into her rather than Natalie Green. Sadly, I know far too much about that show than any grown man should. I can even sing the entire theme song... bridge and all! Seriously though, this "wall of shame" really brought a smile to my face. I'm glad to see the folks at Fär Göhn have a sense of humor. Bonus points for the shot of Ron Jeremy lampooning the video for "Wrecking Ball." Gold, Jerry. Gold! I hope to be back here sooner than later.

Bathroom poets beware!

We spent a solid amount of time at our next stop, Bald Top. Touted as "Virginia's first historic farm brewery," Bald Top is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains (almost heaven, indeed!) in the shadow of Bald Top Mountain. The brewery is situated on 53 acres of farmland, which is listed in the Virginia Landmarks Register as well as the National Register of Historic Places. The also grow five varieties of hops in their on-site hop yard that's just over half an acre and boasts over 450 hop plants. One of the bartenders told me that they try to use as many ingredients grown on-premises as possible. If you have a farm, you might as well reap its benefits, right?

Entrance to Bald Top Brewing.

Speaking of local ingredients, I started with a pour of Virginia Ale, a collaboration with Murphy & Rude Malt Roasters of Charlottesville, ZD Rock River Hops and Holler Hops from Madison County, VA. The beer itself is brewed exclusively with Virginia-grown hops and malt grains. The flavor was pretty textbook American Pale Ale with a strong Cascade hop flavor but with a taste of Virginia courtesy of the malt. Hints of honey and flowering herbs mingled with baked bread, adding a nice depth of character to the beer.

Our next few beers were kind of all over the map. The bourbon barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout was mediocre at best. Aged for 6-months in bourbon barrels of an unknown origin, the flavor was a bit unfocused and therefore fell a bit flat. Lazy Daze, an IPA with citrus and tropical fruit overtones, didn't earn any bonus points either. Things improved with Dueling Diplomats, a DIPA brewed with six different hop varieties. Which ones? Not sure. But there are six of them. Deuane recommended this one, and it was a solid beer with which to end our session. The beer has a sticky, resinous hop character with a sweet malt backbone. Although there was a hint of alcohol warmth in the finish, it drank pretty effortlessly for a beer with an 8.3% ABV tag.

Bald Top offerings.

Nothing here was great, but the atmosphere was fantastic and I did enjoy the Virginia Ale quite a bit. They also had a brick-oven (or maybe it was wood-fired) pizza food vendor on site during our visit, which provided some necessary sustenance during our drinking session. It's also fun to be in the company of couples who don't have (or want) any kids. It makes for great people-watching, especially when children act like assholes or - even better - fall on the ground and cry. That's what you get for gettin' drunk with your kids in tow, parents.

Let's leave it here for now, folks. Stay tuned for Part 2 of "Old Rag Shizzle" as we continue on with one more stop on Saturday and a solid half day on Sunday. Until next time...

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Cradle of LiBEERty: Baahston - Part 3

Things got off to a great start on Sunday afternoon at our first stop, Mystic. For some reason, I thought I'd had some of its beers before, but a quick scan of my Untappd credentials indicated that, nope, I hadn't. Perhaps I was familiar with the name. Either way, I was glad to be here.

Into the Mystic.

Mystic came onto the scene in 2009. Taking its name from the nearby Mystic River, its actual logo and name is also inspired by the "mystic knot," a symbol synonymous with infinity. The brewery made its mark by embracing difficult-to-brew yet traditional styles such as saisons, gruits, and wild ales, and also by employing antiquated techniques like square fermenters and native fermentation cultures. As a matter of fact, the brewery prides itself on being the first brewery to win a GABF gold medal for a beer brewed with an American indigenous yeast strain. Turns out the Mystic folks enjoy gallivanting around New England to collect native yeast for its R&D endeavors. Pretty cool, eh?

But enough geekery. Let's dive right into the beer.

Pour me my breakfast, Dolores!

A solid crowd was already beginning to assemble around opening time. Due to its dog-friendly policy, many patrons had their four-legged friends in tow. This is always fine by me, because Brewslut and I both love dogs. We parked ourselves over in the far right-hand corner of the bar area and perused the beer selection, which featured eight offerings of varied styles.

I opened with DDH Saturation, a double dry-hopped variation of its hoppy pale ale, Saturation. Boasting Mosaic pellets and lupulin powder, these are freshly layered on top of Amarillo, Citra and yet more Mosaic hops for an explosion of citrus and tropical fruit flavors and aromas. This was a nice introduction to the brewery, although I quickly discovered that Mystic was all about the aforementioned farmhouse-style ales.

While we were enjoying our initial beers, we struck up a conversation with a regular customer named Justin, who was sitting next to us at the bar. I can't remember how we got sucked into the vortex, but it turned out to be a fantastic back-and-forth about our lives, beer travels, working in the industry, and a little bit of background about Mystic. Coincidentally, I'd just mentioned to Brewslut that morning that we hadn't yet had one of those encounters we love so much where we get lost in a conversation with someone at the bar. Better late than never, right?

Pleeps was busy posing for Brewslut.

Justin urged me to dive into the saisons, saying they were highlight of Mystic's portfolio. He suggested starting with, Saison Dutronc, which I ordered next. The beer itself is a modern version of Mystic's flagship saison, Saison Renaud. It's essentially the same base recipe with a few tweaks to give it more shelf life since they now package it in cans. This was a complex, semi-dry and slightly fruity saison with a good bit of funk. All of the hallmarks of the style were present, making it an enjoyable quaff. (OK, that just sounds dirty... kind of like British slang for "afternoon delight.")

From there, we moved on to Luminous Ruins, a dry-hopped sour farmhouse Ale that straddles the line between sour ale and saison. It opens with a bit of lemony pucker before segueing into spicy/fruity territory. Hints of apple, pepper and a tinge of oak appear in the flavor, with a toasty malt backbone emerging as it warmed it.

Justin wouldn't let us leave without trying a beer called Chien Andalusia, a saison brewed in collaboration with one of Vermont's finest, Foam Brewers. He was kind enough to buy a can to share with us. This was another fine saison, although I preferred the Saison Dutronc a bit more, if only for its spot-on classic farmhouse flair.

Look out below!

Next up was a visit to Idle Hands Craft Ales, a Belgian and German-inspired brewery situated in Malden, MA, in the greater Boston area. This was one of a handful of Boston-area breweries that I hadn't been familiar with prior to organizing the trip's itinerary. The name and logo reminded me of Tired Hands, and the beer list looked interesting so I felt a visit was necessary. Sadly, I don't have much recollection of this place. Even checking some photos on Google Images didn't really jog my memory too much. The place is cool and I remember having no issues with the beers, but for some reason I just must have been in that hazy zone. Rare for this time of day, I know; but hey, what can you do?

Once we settled in a perused the beer selection, I settled on Double Crossroader, a toasted oak-aged version of its American Stout amped up by an addition of real maple syrup. This one featured pleasant aromas of toasted coconut, maple, and fudge with hints of burnt sugar, coffee and vanilla in the finish.

Brewslut kept things sour with a pour of a beer called Kill Your Idles, part of Idle Hands' rotating sour fruit beer series. We swapped sips of each others' beers, but for some reason (again with the brain fog), I can't recall which variation we had. I'm pretty sure it was the mixed berry version featuring strawberry and raspberry. Regardless, it was quite tasty!

That darn Pleeps is two-fisting again!

We seemed to enjoy the beers here, because a third shared beer was on the table. The beer, a NEIPA called Four Seam, turned in a cloudy performance with soft bitterness and massive hop character reminiscent of citrus, mango, guava and ripe melon. Despite not remembering much about our visit, the beer was enjoyable. Perhaps we were too excited to get to our next stop on the agenda.

With that said, Night Shift turned out to be the highlight of the day for us. To be honest, this didn't come as a surprise to us, as we'd enjoyed its beers for many years and had a great time during our last visit to the brewery. Known for great beers all across the board, Night Shift is definitely one of our favorite New England breweries. Particularly, its stouts are some of the best we've had in our travels. No small words there, as we rarely visit a brewery and don't try at least one stout. Plus their owl-hop logo is pretty badass, so they've got that going for them as well.

Front bar at Night Shift.

We kicked off our lengthy visit with a pour of The 87, a bright hop bomb with a simple malt bill and refreshing blend of citrusy hops. This tasty DIPA is named after Night Shift's mailing address of 87 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA. It was a great way to start our session.

Following The 87, we dove into some Bourbon Barrel-Aged El Lechedor. This yearly release is a horchata-style (i.e. Mexican) milk stout aged in bourbon barrels with poblano peppers, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla beans. God damn, was this delicious! Featuring rich notes of chocolate, vanilla cream and cinnamon rolls, this colossal stout finishes on the piquant side with a dash of pepper and some bourbon warmth. I might favor NEBCO's Mexican Stout Trooper, which we had a few days prior, but this was definitely a close second. These Mexican stouts are liquid works of art, because the heavy-handed use of one of the many ingredients can lead to an unbalanced mess. I've had plenty of cinnamon bombs and equally as many pepper bombs in my travels. This was neither. In a word: delicious!

Then came Stout's Honor, a decadent "salted caramel" Imperial Stout brewed with cacao nibs and coconut. Cacaobunga! Brewslut was pretty infatuated with this one, and I must concur that this was something special. There's something about the combination of sweet and salty that makes my tastebuds perk up. Again, this was a very balanced beer despite its inherent sweetness. I mean, it has to be sweet if it's got caramel, cacao nibs and coconut. The coconut cut through a little bit, offering a nice toasty contrast to the sweetness of the caramel. But the hint of salt pulled everything together. We liked this one so much that we took home a 4-pack of pounder cans, because that's what everybody needs... 16-ounces of an over 12% ABV Imperial Stout in one sitting. OK, make it two.

Back bar at Night Shift.

By this time, things started to get a bit silly. In the middle of our session, I bowed out to visit the restroom (as one tends to do frequently when drinking all day). On my way, I noticed a reserved table with a bunch of tasty-looking food. On the table was a sign, which read: "Reserved for INSERT NAME HERE 1 to 3 p.m." It was well past 3 p.m. and there was nobody surrounding the table. So, my pretty-close-to-being-drunk logic chimed in, urging me to grab a snack for me and the wife. On the way back to the table, I grabbed a few delicious-looking Rice Krispie treats occupying the table that I assumed were left behind, and the good folks at Night Shift hadn't had time to clean up yet.

Nope. Not the case.

When I returned to our table, someone from a neighboring table got up and moved a bunch of the food to another table. No, they were not amused. Oh well. The moral of this story is: Clean off your table when you're done using it; otherwise, a semi-drunk guy is gonna walk by and bogart some of your snacks. I mean, c'mon. I don't know about you readers, but I'm like a stoned teenager when I'm drinking. I always want to shove some tasty grub in my face.

By now, we were on a roll with the Imperial Stouts, and two others - Dynasty and Darkling - followed suit. The former is a straight-up traditional Imperial Stout featuring notes of chocolate, molasses, and stone fruit. The latter is Night Shift's annually-released bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout. The 2019 version was aged in bourbon barrels and Short Path apple brandy barrels. Needless to say there was a lot going on with Darkling. Both were enjoyable, although we preferred the previous two Imperial Stouts over these.

On the way out, we were feeling pretty good, and we decided to grab a pour of World Tour, a Brut IPA brewed in collaboration with Boston Brew Tours. Dry and fruity with plenty of effervescence, this was a solid offering, although I'm generally not a big fan of the style. Still, it didn't match up to the stouts we'd been drinking for the last 90 minutes. Before vacating the premises, we scoped out the merch and each bought a shirt and some beer to go. In addition to the aforementioned 4-pack of Stout's Honor, we grabbed a 4-pack of Night Fever, a delicious coffee stout. Until next time, Night Shift!

Down the Road, our next stop, was much bigger than I'd anticipated. Boasting a 300-seat taproom, the space also houses an impressive collection of pinball machines and other arcade games. It doesn't look like much on the outside. See?

Check out this brewery... it's just down the road.

Inside is another story. The tasting room area is sparse with modern decor and a psychedelic bent that gives visitors the impression of being on a spaceship. The cacophony of all the pinball machines enhances the trippy vibe. The bar is also pretty impressive and sprawled all the way along the far wall opposite of the main entrance. Outside the tasting room, I was surprised to learn that they distribute throughout Massachusetts as well as into Rhode Island and Connecticut. Good for them!

Trippin' balls... PINballs, that is!

I wasn't sure what to expect, so we opted for flights. Sometimes you just don't want to get stuck with a sub par beer and have to force it down your gullet. Here's the run-down on my sampler flight:
  • Seventh Star IPA - fruity IPA brewed with Idaho Experimental #7 hops. This new experimental hop variety elicits melon, grape and strawberry. The addition of Azacca hops add a splash of tropical fruit. The beer takes its name from the Seventh Sister of the Pleiades. Gotta keep that cosmic theme intact, right?
  • Mariah Cherry - I see what you're doing there, guys! This beer is a spring wheat ale brewed with cherries. But can it hit all the high notes? 
  • Feyborn Berliner Weisse - traditional kettle-soured wheat beer featuring blackberries. This one opens with a bit of pucker and segues into an earthy blackberry vibe with a hint of wheat bread in the finish. 
  • Folktour - "Hot Cocoa Porter" brewed in collaboration with City Brew Tours. Dark malts and sweet chocolate meld into a cocoa-esque flavor with a hint of vanilla.
Our vantage point from the bar at Down the Road.

Nothing really jumped out to me and beckoned me to stick around for seconds, although nothing was really flawed either. I did, however, appreciate the brewery's outside-the-box thinking and willingness to experiment. The execution was just a little off-kilter, perhaps. Still, the place is cool and worth a stop. Pleeps seemed to be having a gay old time, though.

"What's in here?!"

Pleeps is gettin' a little lopsided...

Pleeps is hurtin'!

Our next stop, Trillium, was a hard sell for Brewslut. To be honest, I kind of jumped off the Trillium train a while back after it seemed like every IPA I tried from this super-hyped brewery tasted the same or at least very similar with only slight flavor nuances. Brewslut was always pretty vocal with her disdain for its hoppy beers, while I was typically on the fence, always willing to give the benefit of the doubt. So I drug her to Trillium with the intention of at the very least "crossing it off our brewery list." Another notch in my lipstick case, as it were.

Turns out we had a splendid time. Joey finished his session and joined us for dinner and drinks, all of which was awesome. I must admit that I had preconceived notions of rampant elitism likely to occur in the form of douchebaggery or hipster-ish behavior during our visit, but that wasn't the case. As a matter of fact, our server was friendly, extremely polite, and on the ball! And you know what? The beers were great. Expensive as all hell, but great nonetheless. It turned out to be a fantastic experience.

Outside Trillium.

Beer-wise, I opted for Day & Night, a blonde barleywine infused with Barrington cold brewed coffee. Nuanced floral, fruity, and spicy due to the nature of the lighter roasted coffee blend, this complex beer boasts notes of almond toffee, graham crackers, coffee, berries, and a pinch of vanilla.

Brewslut went with a cherry gose called Double Seesaw. The Seesaw Series allows the brewers at Trillium to experiment with different fruit and brewing techniques within the structure of the Gose style. Each Seesaw has a unique fruit addition to pair with balanced tartness, a touch of salt, and refreshing drinkability. Surprisingly, she loved it. This variant is generously fruited with sour and tart cherries to bring to life aromas of stone fruit, berry preserves, and cherry pie.

After two non-hoppy beers, we had to delve into a bit of humulus lupulus. Enter Sunrise Valley, a double IPA brewed in collaboration with Garage Project and featuring Rakau and Nelson Sauvin from Freestyle Hop Farms in New Zealand. The beer's moniker pays homage to the part of the world where these hops were grown. Dank and citrusy with aromas of grapefruit rind and bright tropical fruit, this beer was actually quite clean and balanced compared to some of the muddled, hazy offerings we've had in the past.

The food was solid as well. I had a Brewer's Bowl (been loving these recently at local places like Millworks and EverGrain), which featured an assortment of barley, farro, seeds, greens, and seasonal veggies. I most likely added tofu into the mix, but I'm uncertain. Either way, just pile my food into a single bowl. Right Patton? 'Cuz that's how I want my luuuuuunch... or dinner, in this particular instance.

As we were looking for the car following our visit to Trillium, I'd noticed another brewery just down the street that looked interesting. However, it seemed as though there was some discrepancy with where we parked. This happens from time to time in congested metropolitan areas where you have to drive around in circles and take side streets to find suitable parking. Add alcohol to the equation, and sometimes you just get turned around. It doesn't happen to Brewslut too often, but me? I'm definitely what you'd call "directionally challenged." I can read a map just fine, but I have absolutely no sense of direction whatsoever. I get lost in hotels, parking garages... just about anywhere for that matter.

After we found the car, we popped into the brewery in question: Hopsters. Turns out is was pretty much a waste of time. Still, we crossed another one off our list, right? This place looked like a legit place. The beers sounded amazing on the chalkboard. The decor was interesting. The chalk art was quality. The beer? Let's find out.

Beer selection at Hopsters.

The pair of beers we tried - The Yard and Newtonian - sounded great on paper but were uninspired and lacking depth of character. The Yard, a milkshake IPA brewed with lactose and vanilla and double dry-hopped with Denali and Mosaic missed the mark of the style and was kind of thin. Honestly, it came across as a sweet, fruity IPA with a thin body. Certainly not up to "milkshake" snuff. Newtonian, a NE-style DIPA was described as a "double dry-hopped juice bomb" promising a burst of mango pineapple. Eh? With this place setting up shop in such close proximity to Trillium, one can't help but wonder if they are trying to cash in on the popularity of their neighbors. Plus their prices were out of control... $18 for two beers. Fuckin' Boston. One and done. See ya!

Inside Hopsters.

We closed out the night at a local spot near Joey's apartment called The Bebop, an apt name for a drinking establishment on the campus of a renowned music school. This place features live music 7 nights a week, which is something any working musician should likely appreciate. There was a jazz combo playing there the night we stopped by. We were joined by Joey and four of his Berklee friends: Connor (who you may remember from Part 1), two female vocal majors (one from London and the other from South Africa), and a drummer dude from France. Since tuition at Berklee is ri-God-damn-diculous, I decided to buy a round for the youngsters. Having just learned about our love for beer, each of the group allowed me to choose his or her beer. As for me, I went with Nite Lite from Night Shift, an unfiltered, unpasteurized, all natural, craft light lager. Brewslut had just purchased a tank top during our visit to Night Shift, the front of which depicts this beer's logo, a throw-back to Lite-Brite. Remember that, nostalgic children of the 80s? I had one! Speaking of the 80s, sometimes I love being the "old guy" of the group. I like to impart some worldly wisdom on the younglings. They probably thought I was an old dickhead. That's why I bought them a round. You always seem cooler when you buy a round of drinks. 

I also enjoyed a pour of Road 2 Ruin from Two Roads, which I'd had back when we visited the brewery on the way home from Drinksgiving 2016. This is a moderately hoppy IPA brewed with seven American hop varieties for an array of pine, citrus, and floral notes. Meanwhile, the French drummer dude bought a round of tequila shots for the group. Ouch! I'd gone on record in the past during my more youthful days and called tequila "liquid ass." Well, I'm afraid not much has changed since then. Even with my refined palate, I had trouble enjoying this shot. I think I'll stick with bourbon as my new liquor of choice when not drinking beer. 

Well folks, that's about it! Since 99% of breweries are closed on Mondays, we decided to get up early and just punch in the coordinates for the homestead. We headed home from Boston, which is about six-and-a-half hours. Not bad! So that's a wrap. Tune in next time as we travel southward to Virginia for my annual beer-soaked birthday weekend jaunt to a random cabin with Deuane and Carolyn. Until next time...

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Cradle of LiBEERty: Baahston - Part 2

Our first full day in Boston began with a visit to a familiar brewery: Aeronaut. We arrived fairly early, and the place was only just starting to fill up in the front area where the bar is situated. With a floor plan that seems to sprawl the distance of a city block, the brewery is quite spacious. We set up shop in the back room, which coincidentally houses a few "free-play" (no quarters needed!) classic arcade games. I'm always good for a game of Ms. Pac-Man or Dig Dug. Thankfully, there was no hipster douchebag serenading his special lady-friend with an acoustic guitar this time.

Hello Aeronaut.

Keeping things light and airy, I began the day with a pour of Citra Galaxy, a soft session IPA with notes of tangerine, orange and peach. At 4.6% ABV, this seemed like a pretty good place to start. The mouthfeel was pretty solid for a lighter beer, and the fruity, citrusy hops came through enough for this to be enjoyable overall.

Hops dominate the charts at Aeronaut.

As we sipped our beers and partook in some people watching, the place was starting to fill up with St. Patty's people (I need to create a name for these fair weather drinkers). Fortunately, it was too early for anyone to start acting like a dick bag. I decided to take a quick stroll around the premises to take some photos. Since the brewery is situated in an old warehouse, there's lots of antiquated devices strewn about in a decorative fashion to provide some eclectic ambiance. Case in point:

What can this strange device be?

I hadn't seen one of those in quite some time. It's kind of like stumbling across an old pay phone booth in a random part of a big city. I returned to my seat and it was time to select another beer. This time, I went to the other side of the spectrum with 4 Years with Dr. Nandu, Aeronaut's 4th anniversary DIPA hopped with Citra and Galaxy.

This beer looked identical to the Citra Galaxy I'd just drank. It did, however, have a more viscous body and pronounced hop character albeit a tad muddled. I wasn't as wowed with Aeronaut this time around; that's not to say that I didn't enjoy our beers, though. They were pretty solid. I just didn't experience any depth of character with my beer choices this time. Perhaps I should have strayed from the hazy IPAs, which was tough considering 9 of the 13 available beers could be considered "hoppy." I should have tried the Smoked Porter. Fail. Maybe next time.

Adios, Aeronaut!

When we arrived at our next destination, Remnant, we had stumbled into a block party of sorts out in the courtyard of the small shopping plaza where the brewery was situated. Turns out this is called the Bow Market community. The weather was cooperating nicely and the temperature was warmer than usual for mid-March, especially in New England. All of the shops and eateries had their doors and windows open, allowing patrons to browse freely among the plaza. Unique beers and craft coffee served daily.There was actually a guy manning a greeter stand near the entrance to the courtyard, so I asked if we could walk around with beer. Of course the answer was yes; I was just being responsible. Go figure! He also happened to mention there was a record store up on the second level, so naturally I had to check that out. It was mostly new indie music, so I didn't leave with anything to add to the collection. Still, it's always fun to browse for a bit.

We headed back down to Remnant and ventured into the crowded tasting room. The main room (where the bar and adjacent coffee bar was located) was pretty full, so we dipped in the back room to check it out. I was able to snag two seats overlooking the brewhouse, which was down below ground level. This served as a pretty cool view during our visit. Turns out there was a back bar as well; we just couldn't see it because the narrow back room was jam-packed with people.

Pleeps like wheezin' the juu-uice!

After a quick look at the beer list, I decided to go with Dream Pop, a soft, smooth pale ale brewed with juicy Mandarina and Mosaic hops. The silky mouthfeel comes from the use of oats in the grain bill. As the name implies, Mandarina hops impart a Mandarin orange flavor, while Mosaic shakes things up a bit due to the complex nature of the hop. Think bright summer melon and summer fruit salad.

The other beer we tried, Lightform, is a farmhouse style gose. This tart wheat ale features coriander, sea salt, and - wait for it! - peach purée fermented with a saison yeast blend for a hint of funk. Another peach beer for the win! The beers here were solid, although we just couldn't get comfortable on the small barstools amid dozens of people constantly wading through the brewery. We did grab a pair of coffees on the way out, which kept us company on our quarter-mile walk back to the car.

And we were off to another familiar destination. Since our last visit a few years ago, it seems that Lamplighter has become one of the hip craft breweries in Boston. The previous night's wait in line outside of Cheeky Monkey primed me for another equal wait outside Lamplighter. The main different, though, was that I already knew the beer was good here, so waiting in line didn't really phase me this time. They have since added a back room area, likely for overflow caused by their recent explosion. Based on our previous visit, we knew what to expect: wild ales, sour beers, and plenty of funk. The back room was packed to the gills, but we found a quiet corner where we hung out for the duration of our visit.

...oh my!

After scoping out the beer list, one concoction jumped out at me immediately: Princesa Peach. There goes me and my infatuation with peaches again! A collaboration with UX Brew based out of São Paulo, Brazil, this effervescent Brut IPA is brewed with peaches and treated with an amylase enzyme to eliminate residual sugar. Brewed to mimic a Bellini cocktail, this semi-dry IPA boasts hints of nectarine, juicy peach, and mango.

Pleeps loves two-pawing it.

Brewslut settled on Black Pearl, a dense oyster Stout brewed in collaboration with MA-based Medusa Brewing Co. and Island Creek Oysters. Steeped in the hot wort before fermentation, oyster shells impart a mineral-like, briny quality amid more traditional notes of espresso and cocoa. I wasn't a huge fan of the flavor, although the texture was spot-on.

Pleeps is lit up at Lamplighter!

We didn't feel like standing all day, so we decided it was time to move on to the next attraction. Besides, it was fast approaching dinner time, and we craved sustenance. Luckily, our next stop has excellent food to match its world-class beers.

When we visited Minnesota last summer, I was surprised that two of the "old guard" breweries still produced what I'd call the best beers I drank during our two-day visit to the Twin Cities. The first was Masala Mama from Minneapolis Town Hall, and the other was a 2017 vintage of Surly Darkness. While there was plenty of great beer to be had by all the hipster magnet breweries and up-and-comers, the fact these two old school breweries - in my humble opinion - provide the benchmark for all others to follow. And let me tell you, people... these dinosaurs can still hang with the fresh-faced new kids on the block. The same can be said of Cambridge, the oldest brewpub in the greater Boston area. It's always a pleasure to visit this world-class place, and this time would be no different.

When we arrived, I was beyond giddy (i.e. at half-mast) to see one of my favorite barleywines of all time on tap: Blunderbuss! It had been several years since I had enjoyed a pour of this masterpiece, but its flavor was still fresh in my mind. The fact that I still regarded this as a favorite of the style says a lot to me, because I've had beers on a Friday that I have no recollection of having drunk by the time it's Sunday. Yeah, this is beer is that good. But more on Blunderbuss in a bit.

We kicked off with a pair of delicious beers. The first was Silly Hats Only, a light, refreshing tart Berliner Weisse kettle-soured with Lactobacillus. A process that seems pretty run-of-the-mill these days, CBC was actually one of a small handful of breweries involved in the development of this type of sour beer production almost 15 years ago. This sucker was bone dry with a pleasant amount of pucker on the palate.

The other beer, Dance Band on the Titanic, was pretty f'n epic! Described as a "wild sour ale with mangoes and peaches," this mouthwatering wild ale spent eighteen months in neutral oak wine barrels and was initially fermented with a wild yeast culture already residing in the barrels. The base beer provided plenty of tartness and funk (courtesy of the Brett), but the true magic didn't happen until they blended in mango and peach juice. The result is an intense yet insanely drinkable balance of sweet fruit and funky Brett. To quote the beer description: "Like a dance band on a sinking ship, this beer goes down easy while playing pleasantly on your palate." This beer was unbelievably good and a highlight of the trip.

Which brings me to Blunderbuss! People, this beer is special. It's a rare breed. You simply can't fathom how excited I was to see this beer on the board. Double-mashed with nearly a ton of malt, five different hops, and cold-aged several months with French Limousine* oak, Blunderbuss boasts a complex array of caramel, dried fruit, vanilla, oak, toffee, and spicy hops with a pleasant alcohol warmth in the finish.

*NERD ALERT: Woods from the following regions in western France are usually called Limousin: Deux-Sevres, Vienne, Hautes de Vienne,the northern part of the Correze,the Creuze,the eastern part of the Charente and the southern part of the Indre. These regions tends to produce oak with wide grains. These woods are more tannic than the tight-grained woods and are most popular with brandy makers.

Pleeps' first Blunderbuss did not disappoint!

Afterward, we went to check out Lord Hobo, but it was pretty packed there, and the beer prices were ri-god-damn-diculous! I think the cheapest pour was $8.50 but most beers were between $9 and $12... and not even pints! Fuck that hoodwink! So we went back to Cambridge and pretty much polished off the rest of the line-up.

Upon our return, we enjoyed Non Stop Ecstatic Screaming. What an evocative name for a beer brewed with cinnamon, vanilla, Pasilla Negro chili peppers, candy cap mushrooms, cacao, and coffee from Lighthouse Roasters (an iconic old-school Seattle company employing an antique cast-iron roaster). Its initial ecstatic energy of “pastry” goodness – notes of coffee, chocolate, and maple, hints of spice from chiles and cinnamon - blends into the fuzz/background noise and the insistent bumping beat of its classic base beer style - soft, lingering roasted malts and fruity English yeast.

I decided on something more straight-forward for my next beer: Can I Buy a Vowel, a straight-up, no frills Czech-style pilsner. I always enjoy a crisp, refreshing, mildly hoppy Bohemian pilsner, and this one hit the mark. Czech-style pilsners differ from its German counterpart in that the malt character is more toasty and biscuity. German pilsners tend to have more of a mineral-like finish and livelier hop bite. Overall, this was a fine interpretation of the style. Well done!

We closed out with a pair of NE-style IPAs - Ella Sings the Brews and The Fog that Surrounds - the latter actually DIPA (and with a name derived from Phish lyrics to boot!) that were tasty, although I think I enjoyed all of the other beers more than these.

And the old guard takes the trophy again! I was so glad to experience Blunderbuss again. I've often cited this as one of my top three barleywines of all time, which is quite a feat because I hadn't had it in several years. Here's another photo just because it's so awesome:

After finishing up at Cambridge, we decided to head over to Meadhall, one of Cambridge's beer drinking institutions. Surprisingly, the crowd was light compared to the shit show that was Lord Hobo. Fine by me. We were able to grab seats and the large, wrap-around bar and just chill for the rest of the night and reflect back on our favorite beers of the trip thus far. Speaking of beers, here's what we enjoyed at Meadhall:

Charms & Hexes - Banded Brewing - sour ale with blood oranges

We'd visited Banded Brewing once before (known as Banded Horn) during my birthday trip back in 2016, which happened during my blog hiatus. I didn't make the connection when I ordered the beer because I remembered the "horn" part of the name rather than the "banded" part. Still, this was a nice effervescent sour ale with a juicy citrusy backbone.

Night Fever - Night Shift - stout with coffee and chocolate

Brewslut fell in love with this beer, and for good reason: it's pretty damn delicious! Even though we'd be visiting there the following day, she wanted this beer. Fair enough. More on Night Shift coming up in the third and final installment of this blog series.

Cultivé - Allagash - wheat beer aged on peaches

Yup, more peaches! Over the years, I've come to adore this brewery. I love everything about it: the beer, the people, the brewery itself. It's also one of only a handful of breweries I follow on Instagram. Every time I visit, it's an amazing experience. So I felt inclined to try this beer I'd never had; a wheat beer aged on peaches that had previously spent time with Farm to Face, another tart peach beer from Allagash. This delicate beer presents notes of ripe peach, nectarine, tangy lemon, and spicy tropical notes.

And with that, the evening had concluded. Join us next time for the wrap-up of our Boston Blitz. Until next time...