Beer on the Road: Reading & Lancaster

 

Business and personal travels took me to Pennsylvania, specifically Reading and Lancaster. I had been to Lancaster on other adventures but Reading was new. Providence had provided and I would have time to explore some of the local beer. I am glad to say I have some very favorable reports to log.

Beer Reconnoiter

This is the first time I've spent any time in Reading PA, at least enough to explore the local beer scene.  I use an iPhone app called BreweryMap (it also has a web version) to quickly learn the landscape for the local breweries.  I have found this application very useful when visiting a new location. Bring up the app and it will show you all the breweries in the vicinity. Move the search area around, touch the "search this area" tab at the top of the screen and pins will pop up showing you local breweries. Touch the information icon and up pops the list of useful information such as current beers, telephone number, website and even address useful for finding your way to the brewery. I also find the favorite beer-geek-tool — Untappd — very useful for this as well and did use it to find local venues and recent beers being served there. I'm assuming that if you're reading this you already know about Untappd.

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Spirits in Lancaster

This large room serves as tasting rooms for both Thistle Finch Distillery and Wacker Brewery in Lancaster PA

Reading PA

Chatty Monks

 Brian & Matt - ready for some beer at Chatty Monks

Brian & Matt - ready for some beer at Chatty Monks

Good fortune, Chatty Monks popped up at the top of the list, had excellent Beer Advocate ratings and was within an easy drive or healthy walk from my hotel. I engaged a couple colleagues to join me and we were off. While not a big place, the beer — as you would expect by the name — very much had a Belgian-style focus. They had a quite decent menu with a range of styles. Being it was my first time here, I chose a flight of three five-ounce pours — Revelation Dark Ale, Belgian Blonde, and Belgian Dubbel. All were quite good and true to style. So good, I ventured on for a full pint of the Endoplasmic Reticulum IPA at 7% ABV and 77 IBUs — venturing away from their solid Belgian-styles. Again very good with some very interesting hop notes on the finish. 

 Chatty Monk beer menu

Chatty Monk beer menu

Besides the beer, the other qualities that would bring me back to Chatty Monks was their staff. They were very engaging and friendly, quick to offer a sample when questioned about a particular beer. Not always do I go for the background music of a place (see Adroit Theory article), being a product of the Beatles era and nearly set in my ways, but it suited my boomer tastes just fine with eclectic selections ranging from Led Zeppelin to Gary Clark Jr. The food was definitely above average pub food and I would be quick to recommend the tuna tacos.

West Reading Tavern

After a full day of sitting and listening to a variety of presentations, my butt could stand little more. I had a couple of hours before the evening banquet and Untappd told me of two places nearby with excellent beer. I had time for just one and it was right next door to Chatty Monks. A brisk 20-minute walk later I was at West Reading Tavern. Untappd reported that they had Hardywood Gingerbread Stout on draft (94 pts on Beer Advocate). I knew this brewery, having had several of their beer at Savor 2016 and also picked up some bottles in Harrisonburg VA on another trip. The beer I'd once had was the bourbon barrel version and was obviously more complex than the regular edition, but it was a great beer in its own right. It was a nice neighborhood bar with locals bouncing in and out. With a friendly and engaging bar staff. I finished my 10-ounce tulip and I was soon trekking my way back to the hotel for the evening banquet. The other place I'd hoped to get to, but did not, was Mike's Tavern. Untappd informed me that they had Rodenback Alexander (98 pts on Beer Advocate), a Flanders red ale that has been on my wish list. A bar too far and one I will have to leave till my next time in Reading.

Lancaster

Lancaster Brewing

 Lancaster Brewing been menu

Lancaster Brewing been menu

I had visited the Lancaster Brewing brewery and restaurant a couple of years ago. At the time, their flagship beer was their milk stout — big, creamy and a touch sweet. This is fitting being that they are in the heart of Amish country. The brewery facility and the restaurant are located in the historic Edward McGovern Tobacco Warehouse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, in Lancaster, PA. A great place for a 21-century brewery.

This trip we had lunch and a beer at their tap room. Their beer selections seem to have grown and become more complex since I visited last. My tastes have become more complex since then as well, instead of having their signature milk stout I opted for their Imperial Jo Milk Stout, (I'd been in that mood lately) logging in at 8% ABV. It was a good beer, I enjoyed it, but unfortunately I only had time for one.

The room was bright and clean as were the faces that served us. If in Lancaster, this deserves a stop and a beer.

Wacker Brewing & Thistle Finch Distillery

 A Wacker Brewing flight

A Wacker Brewing flight

Again, going to the trusty BreweryMap app, I discovered that Wacker Brewing was within easy walking distance from our venue. We had some time and the desire to explore the town, so off we were toward Wacker. An interesting note, for me anyway, is that my paternal grandfather's nickname was Wacker. I don't any more than that, it just was. I didn't know it until we later did a tour of the building, but this was once a tobacco warehouse, too — like the Lancaster Brewing building. Sturdy of build and character. As usual, I did the flight which was comprised of all six of their offerings (see beer menu pic below).

In the same building as Wacker Brewing was Thistle Finch Distillery.  A somewhat symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, they even shared the tasting room with separate bars across from each other. We were about to leave when we noticed the distillery tour about to start. We walked all of twenty feet and joined the tour. It was during the tour we learned that Lancaster at one time had a bustling tobacco industry. As smoking preferences shifted from cigars to cigarettes, the Lancaster tobacco business fell out of favor, too. Now, many of the those fine warehouses have been converted to other uses, such as breweries. They offer a variety of rye whiskies, a gin and vodka. Well, we didn't pick up any other fine spirits, I did grab a couple of the Bittermilk Bitters that were offered for sale there. I'm experimenting with the addition of bitters to certain beers and found these had some interesting ingredients such wormwood and being aged in bourbon barrels. I knew these were unique to the area so I didn't want to pass up the opportunity.

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Wacker Brewing

The beer tasting flight is composed of all six of these beers on tap

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Thistle Finch

Rye whiskey is their signature spirit but they also produce gin and vodka

Checkers Bistro

 Checkers Bistro and Avery Vanilla Bean Bourbon Barrel Stout

Checkers Bistro and Avery Vanilla Bean Bourbon Barrel Stout

While walking around Lancaster, enjoying the beautiful day and town, it came time to think about lunch. We passed by Checkers Bistro, walked in to check the menu and atmosphere. We were impressed. The menu was upscale, both food and drink. We opted for the Checkers Apple Salad, which must be one of their signature menu items, and I had the Peking Duck Tacos with Chinese Barbecue Duck, Wonton Taco, Guacamole. I mention this because the food was excellent.

The beer menu was not extensive, but balanced in styles, chosen to pair with their foods, and offered choices from local breweries and across the country. Being attracted to big beers, I asked for the Bourbon Barrel-aged Vanilla Bean Stout by Avery Brewing Co. Bottom line, excellent food, beer, staff and decor.

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant

 Iron Hill Brewing

Iron Hill Brewing

Next was lunch at Iron Hill Brewery in Lancaster. My first visit to an Iron Hill Brewery was in 2014. Little did I realize at the time, but there are a series of these scattered across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and one in Delaware. I counted 12. There were several sporting events taking place in Lancaster during our stay and when we were looking for lunch, so were they all. The place was packed, but amazingly it didn't take long to be served. 

Still on a stout rampage, I asked for the Iron Hill Brewing Russian Imperial Stout. Really exceptional. According to their poster near the entrance, this is their most awarded beer. The food was very good, all around. As I'd mentioned, we had visited another Iron Hill venue three years ago and I don't remember being as impressed by their beer then. I was this time.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, I had an wonderful beer and spirit laden adventure in a couple of beautiful Pennsylvania towns. Beer has come a long way, with craft breweries and artisanal distilleries popping up in many towns across the country. And the liquids are good and getting better as these shops mature and get better at their craft. Hand crafted beer, spirits, even bitters — life is good.

Beer on the Road: Adroit Theory

 

Holiday Get-Away

During the Christmas holiday, my wife and I took a couple of hikes near Harpers Ferry WV. We usually like to plan a First-Day Hike on New Years Day and have been doing this for the past three years. After the Holiday bustle and too many cookies, we need to get out for some intentional moving. Taking-in nature and working our legs is always good therapy. As usual, it often includes a good meal and a beer or two.

Savor 2016

Adroit Theory Brewing has been on my beer-travels list for a few months after experiencing some of their beer at Savor 2016, in Washington DC. I later listened to Mark Osborne (owner) and Greg Skotzko's SAVOR 2016 Seminars talk on Advanced Beer and Cheese Pairings. SAVOR is an excellent evening of tasting beer from around the country but nearly as valuable are the salons where experts talk and even demonstrate (see Cooper's Dance: Wood and Beer) topics on beer. If you've missed the event, you can go to the SAVOR website and listen to any of these salon presentations.

Adroit Theory is tucked away in a small northern Virginia town of Purcellville VA. The ride from Harpers Ferry WV to Purcellville is a beautiful experience. Two lane country roads, large spreading wineries — one after another — small towns and incredible views.

After becoming initially aware of them at SAVOR, they had my attention. I later discovered some of their beer at the Midtowne bottle shop in Harrisonburg VA.

Time at the Taproom

After listening to their seminar and seeing the art work on the bottle labeling, a couple of things become clear — these guys come from the dark side. Their entire brand has an intentional occult flare. To be honest, that bothers me a bit. Beer names include: Black Celebration, Black As Your Soul and Love of the Damned. So, I had to get past the branding to enjoy their incredible beers. I've talked with some beer-geek friends who can't get past the gargoyles on Stone Brewing packaging to try their beer. He will have a real difficult time with Adroit Theory. And the beer is the second point. They really take their beer seriously. All of them are just a bit different. As they say out loud, "We make esoteric beers with an emphasis on barrel aging."

They offer 3 ounce tasters and 10 ounce tulips of all their beers on tap, plus they can fill growlers (yours or theirs — nice touch). While there, I had a taster of Love of the Damned, an old ale brewed with port must and Lux Bourbon, a wheat wine aged in bourbon barrels (I still had a two-hour drive home), plus I purchased a couple 750 ml bottles to take home. Any of their beers I've tasted have been exceptional.

Closing

 If Dogfish Head is off-centered, I'm not sure how you would describe Adroit Theory. They are a small brewery, doing big beers with a unique touch. They are a bit out-of-the-way but worth the detour (or intentional journey) if you're in the area. I will be on the look out for their beer when I get back to Harrisburg or near Purcellville. 

Adroit Theory Brewing Company is a new nano brewery specializing in esoteric brews with an emphasis on Barrel Aging. Located in Purcellville Virginia in Loudoun County. Industrial-chic taproom (open Thursday-Sunday) with craft beers at the bar & growlers for takeout.

Beer on the Road: New Orleans

New Orleans Beer Notes

In August 2015, I was able to tag along with my wife during a business trip to New Orleans, LA. NOLA is one of those special places with a legend, a reputation and mystery. Talking with friends about the upcoming trip I was told there are three things that characterize NOLA: great food, great music and debauchery. Hum, sounds about right. But I learned there was so much more.

I got my first glimpse of NOLA beer scene at the Brewers Association SAVOR event in Washington DC. SAVOR: an American Craft Beer and Food Event, is the most classy beer event I've ever attended. It attracts some of the best beers in the country, all coming together to showcase there beers paired with foods. Plus, the salons (themed talks) it is a night to cherish and remember. You can later download the talks for later learning. This is where I was first introduced to NOLA beers.

 NOLA Brewing Co at SAVOR 2015

NOLA Brewing Co at SAVOR 2015

Getting Around the Big Easy

I arrived in New Orleans with a general idea of some beer places I wanted to experience. Really for the most part, my calendar was fluid. Our hotel was within easy walking distance to the French Quarter, but the August weather of NOLA is brutal, with temps near 95°F everyday with about the same degree of humidity. I've wanted to try out Uber for some time and the program had just come to NO a few months earlier. Some may have had issues with this private-driver taxi service, but every ride I had during my time there was only an excellent, comfortable and convenient experience. On one day I had taken four Uber rides to get from one beer establishment to another and then on to dinner that evening.

Crescent City Brewhouse

New Orleans has many nicknames, one of which is the Crescent City. This moniker alludes to the course of the Lower Mississippi River as it moves around and through the city. And thus, this oldest of NO brewers takes its name from this.

In 1991, the Crescent City Brewhouse opened on the site, bringing New Orleans and Louisiana its first brewpub. This represented a revival of the brewing industry that once flourished in the immediate area, and the first brewery to open in more than 72 years.
— http://www.crescentcitybrewhouse.com/history.html

Crescent City Brewhouse is located in the heart of the French Quarter at 527 Decatur St, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130-1027. Decatur Street is a-buzz of activity that demands your attention. Music, street performers, shops, food and the river close by. This is where you find the legendary Cafe Du Monde, the iconic New Orleans cafe known for café au laits, chicory coffee & beignets. As you walk in front of the Crescent City Brewhouse, its the jazz that first gets your attention. Its when you get close enough you realize their is a band playing.  

The setting is irresistible and I must go inside. I need a cool beer and some lunch. The cool jazz band is playing comfortably in the front, friendly inviting in those off the street as they did me. This is an excellent cool background to a cool brew. The Creole Queen paddlewheel sits in the distance view.  The Mississippi River is right there.

I ordered the grilled oysters for lunch. Being from the Chesapeake Bay area, I always try the local oyster fare to test against ours. To get the most of the CCB beers i ordered their monthly special brown ale. Everything was poured into the Hefeweizen-style vase glass, which I've always found to be a very sexy glass. It paired well with the grilled oysters which I found very nice. 

To get the best range of their beers I ordered a four-sample paddle. I found the Pilsner pleasant and refreshing. The Hefeweizen, as I've come to expect is a great summer drink but not as characteristically full as German offerings. The Red Stallion is their signature beer. Its a Vienna lager in style, malty sweet. The last brew was the Black Forest, a black lager which I found to be a bit thin but tasty. 

NOLA Brewing

I leave Crescent City Brewing quite satisfied but yet very hungry, wanting to take in as much of this city as I can with the time I have here. My wife is at her conference and I get to play beer geek for the day. I must not squander this opportunity been given to me. Uber please!

NOLA Brewing is a bit of a ride from downtown, really only about a 13 minute ride but too far to walk on a sultry NO summer day. As usual, my Uber is quick to arrive and quick to get me there. He pulls up, I get out in front of the taproom, and zoom he is gone. NO beer, round two.

The taproom is nice but unassuming. People are enjoying their beer and the place is busy. Another paddle was in order and they had a lot of great sounding beers to choose from. 

 NOLA Brewing taproom

NOLA Brewing taproom

The Coffee Birth sounded interesting—a coffee infused IPA. It certainly lived up to expectations, full of coffee notes which made drinking this light amber-colored beer a bit confusing.  Of course, who could pass up a Buffalo Stout, a buffalo trace barrel aged. Full of bourbon and as black as night. Real nice! Hopitoulas IPA, their mainstream IPA. Lower Line Sour was tart and refreshing without being overpoweringly sour. A great beer for this place and time.

 NOLA sampler

NOLA sampler

Rouses Market

I enjoy trying local beers when traveling. Sometimes is may be difficult to find the right bottle shop to be able to bring back local beer prizes. Rouses Market on Poydras St, was an easy walk from our hotel and has a good selection of local beers. NOLA, Parish Brewing, Abita, Bayou Tech (another brewery discovered at SAVOR). Not only did they have great foods to order but was a nice grocery store, too. They are located at 701 Baronne St, New Orleans, LA  70113-1005. Definitely recommended for beers to drink while staying in NO or for taking home.

The Trillist

A good source for information on the NO beer scene was the iPhone app and local resource website, The Trillist, they had many good New Orleans recommendations for local food and drink.

Final Thoughts

There are so many great beer places in New Orleans it is humanly impossible to drink your way through the city in a week. So, therefore I have an excellent reason to come back. Besides all that is Bourbon St and the Red Dress Run, I loved the food, the drink, the culture very much. I will be back!

There's a Tree in My Beer

 Dogfish Head's Pennsylvania Tuxedo brewed with spruce tips

Dogfish Head's Pennsylvania Tuxedo brewed with spruce tips

When you think of winter beers several things may come to mind. For me, its the special seasonal releases like the Anchor Steam Christmas Ale (a 41-year tradition this year) or Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome — always a seasonal favorite. Of course there are many others that likely bring back memories or invoke pleasant sensations. And then there are the traditional seasonal ingredients added to many winter beers — fruits, spices, honey. And the ABV often gets a bump, too. Like all beer seasonal releases, it brings a beery anticipation. Now, there are countless reviews available on winter releases—I particularly enjoyed Tom Bedell's 12 Beers of Christmas, where for the last three years he has "taken on the agreeable task of writing about a dozen holiday beers or winter warmers, one a day (or late into the night)".  But I want to take you to another place. Let's take an unfamiliar path through the forest and see what is waiting for us there.

I want to discuss just one beer and probably not one you think of as a Winter beer. But wait! What is more Winter-like than the Christmas tree. And for many of us the tree of choice is a spruce tree. See where I'm going with this?

I've read about the American colonists using spruce tips in brewing their beer. As someone within an interest in tree things, this caught my fancy. Then in December 2014, I found a local beer in Madison WI that was a spruce tip beer. I tried it to satisfy my curiosity. Yup, no doubt, it had a tree quality about it. Done! It was interesting but I didn't need another one. Then a few months later I saw the Yards’ Tavern Spruce on the bottle shop shelf. Again, tried it, curiosity was satisfied but I didn't need another.  

Then I saw the Dogfish Head Pennsylvania Tuxedo. Anyone that has had more than one of DFH beers knows that they live up to their motto of "Off-Centered-Beers-For-Off-Centered-People". You are use to getting wild and crazy ingredients from the four corners of the world in you beer. Hey, its DFH, sometimes its great and sometimes — well lets say its just not my style. So, another spruce tip beer? Why not?

"It's like biting into a Christmas tree!"

I grabbed a four-pack, got home and poured one. Oooh, this is interesting. It's like biting into a Christmas tree, but without the tinsel. I loved the flash of tree-like quality, but this time it was well balanced and quite enjoyable. One is not enough, I want another. I raved to my beer geek buddies about this and they (mostly) had the same reaction. This was the first beer in some time that my reaction was "one is not enough,"

The DFH Background

Here is what the Dogfish has to say about their beer. "A spruce-infused 8.5% ABV Pale Ale. Brewed in collaboration with Family Run outerwear company in Woolrich, our two like-mined companies came together to make this beer with Pacific Northwest hop varieties to make a sessionable concoction with a grassy citrus kick complimented by the resinous conifer qualities of fresh green Spruce Tips.

"Brewed in collaboration with family-run outdoor clothing company Woolrich, Pennsylvania Tuxedo is a sessionable concoction with a grassy citrus kick complemented by the resinous conifer notes of fresh green spruce tips. We went into the forests of north-central Pennsylvania and Georgetown, Del., to pick these fresh tips ourselves. A dry yet doughy malt backbone lets the hops and spruce shine while still balancing out the bitterness, making this one an easy sipper."

Expert Opinion

For some reason I expected the beer boards at BeerAdvocate and Untappd to be as crazy about this beer as much as I was. I guess I'm old enough and just wise enough to really know better. If you pay any attention to the beer rating sites, you know reviews can be all over the place and often coming from (frankly) unqualified tasters. If you realize that these are merely someones opinion and thats all, then you can relax and enjoy your beer. Beer reviews are a mixed lot as mentioned in the All About Beer article of July 2015, Beer Reviews All About Beer The Agony and Ecstasy of Beer Reviews.

Someone with an educated opinion will try a beer and ask “does it taste how it’s supposed to” before reviewing. A novice drinker will rate solely based on how they like it. I see a lot of reviews on Untappd where people will give a beer a low rating and in the comment say it’s because they don’t like the style.

There are no beer experts, just beer drinkers with opinions
— Jason Alstrom, a founder of BeerAdvocate.com

The collective gave it 84 pts at BeerAdvocate while The Bros gave it a 90pt rating. I agree with The Bros. Untappd has is posted at 4-Stars, which is higher than when I first posted my review there. I was a bit concerned but it seems this beer has caught on. I attributed the early lower scores to the fact that spruce was not the taste for many of the hop-heads.

The beer rating article mentioned early may explain some of this thinking, "Someone with an educated opinion will try a beer and ask “does it taste how it’s supposed to” before reviewing. A novice drinker will rate solely based on how they like it. I see a lot of reviews on Untappd where people will give a beer a low rating and in the comment say it’s because they don’t like the style."

As for tasting an unusual ingredient such as hops, it says, "we’re seeing more and more brewers color outside of the lines — my feeling is that they should be as free as chefs to do so." Now isn't that the reason we are enjoying so many excellent beers today, brewers are taking some chances and getting excellent responses and kudos from the craft beer community.

Spruce As A Beer Ingredient

If you'd like to learn more about spruce as an ingredient in beer, here are two excellent sources.

The Oxford Companion to Beer is always an great source for information on beer history, styles and ingredients. About spruce in beer from Garrett Oliver's beer compendium... 

"The green shoots at the tips of the branches of evergreens, can be harvested in spring and used as a flavoring in beer. To the taste they are far less resinous than the more mature needles and twigs (although these can be used as well, to harsher effect) and even somewhat citrusy. When boiled in water they can provide either simple flavoring to the brewing liquor or, if further concentrated, an essence to be added to the ferment, as appears in recipes for spruce and pine ales dating as far back as the 17th century. It is reported that in 1769 when Captain James Cook landed in New Zealand, it was with beer on board made with a mash of spruce tips, a beverage with an added antiscorbutic element. Like many beers brewed with ingredients alternative to imported British malt and hops, evergreen-flavored beers were common in colonial American brewing, often combining with molasses as the primary fermentable."  Oliver, Garrett; Colicchio, Tom (2011-09-09). The Oxford Companion to Beer (Oxford University Press.

The Drunken Botanist is another fun information source on where our the ingredients for all kinds of "spiritual" drinks. If you are the person that likes to get a bit deeper on topics of your passion, then this is a handy reference to keep close. Ben Franklin has been associated with this special beer ingredient and the Yard's Spruce Tavern does have his face on its packaging. 

"Recipes for spruce beer were abundant in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century journals. Benjamin Franklin is widely credited with creating a recipe for the beer— but it wasn’t his invention. While he was ambassador to France, he copied several recipes from a cookbook called The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, written by a woman named Hannah Glasse in 1747. He never meant to take credit for her recipe; he simply copied it for his personal use. Nonetheless, it was found among his papers, and the story that one of the Founding Fathers created a recipe for spruce beer was too good to resist. Modern re-creations of the recipe credit him alone, not Hannah Glasse." Stewart, Amy (2013-03-19). The Drunken Botanist. Algonquin Books.

Summary

While the DFH Pennsylvania Tuxedo may not be the first beer you think of as a winter seasonal beer, its special ingredient of spruce tips does make a compelling connection. I think, and hope, this becomes a regular seasonal release for Dogfish Head. While I still have a couple in my fridge, I know they won't last long.

Beer on the Road: Albany

Beer Reconnoitering

When I travel to a new town I try to do some research ahead so I have at least a few places I want to visit. One of the best sources is BeerAdvocate website, searching "Places" by city. I typically have a few goals, one is to bring back some bottles of beers that don't ship to my area. BA says that the best places in Albany to solve this issue was Oliver's Beverage Center.

Oliver's Beverage Center

By the time I arrived at Oliver's I had only 15 minutes before closing, so I needed to be efficient. I was not disappointed, they had all the good stuff on display as I walked in, but I was looking deeper. Having been reading about aging beers I focused on some barleywines and imperial stouts by recognized great breweries such as Sierra Nevada. I also was able to pick up a few from local breweries I didn't know but styles I've enjoyed. Plus, the bottles just looked good with the cork-and-cage. Stay tuned for a future writing on the success of my choices.

The Merry Monk

 The Merry Monk, Albany NY

The Merry Monk, Albany NY

An establishment with the name of all-things-Belgian-beer it has to be good. Plus, the BA for The Merry Monk told me it was a place to have my first meal and beer. The pub food was beyond the classic choices. I ordered the hand-made salmon burger with roasted brussels sprouts and was not disappointed. 

The beer was excellent, many local belgian-styles like Ommegang. Oh I'll have a Ghent Bhent from Chatham Brewing from Chatham NY. A flight is always a favorite method to maximize tasting opportunities. Ommegang Rare Vos and Abbey Ale, Burly Monk by another local Common Roots Brewing in Glenn Falls NY and finally the night cap was a Vicaris Winter Ale by Brouwerji Dielewyns in Belgium. Simply beautiful. And to boot, my hotel was within a fine-minute walk.

Olde English Pub

 Olde English Pub, Albany NY

Olde English Pub, Albany NY

Of course the best way to find great beer in an unfamiliar town is from a trusted fellow beer geek living in the area. 

So at our hosts recommendation we went to the Olde English pub, which is nicely tucked away into an old house that's been converted to an English style pub. Dark and warm, a friendly old pub with a painting of Churchill over the mantle watching your every move kind of charming. They had wonderful array of English beers, many that I've not had before, and some old favorites such as the Samuel Smith collection. I had a new beer that I knew of but not tried, Morland's Old Speckled Hen. The beer of the evening was Fuller's London Porter. Deep, roasty, full of malt-forward flavors. I'm too use to the American hoppy versions of the style, but the English varieties are a welcome diversion that I want to try more of.

The Albany Pump Station & Evans Brewing

 Albany Pump Station & Evans Brewing Co, Albany NY

Albany Pump Station & Evans Brewing Co, Albany NY

Then we walker around the corner to Evans Brewing and Albany Pumping Station. This was a huge old warehouse brick building that was once the old pump house that would pump water from the Hudson River to the top of the hill where it could be distributed for use in the city of Albany. It now serves as the location for Evans Brewing and have done an incredible job turning into a beautiful eatery and brewpub. The group settled on the Kick-ass Brown which according to the banners draped on the walls had won a Gold metal at the Great American Beer Festival.

The Ruck in Troy

 The Ruck, Troy NY

The Ruck, Troy NY

The thing about being a beer geek is that we have a way of finding each other. It's perhaps a bird-of-a-feather kinda thing. But its a beautiful thing with much merit. Life lesson: if you have not declared your beer geek status, go now, shout it out loud where ever you are. So I'd mentioned to a colleague with family in Vermont that I was hoping to find some Hill Farmstead beer, but understand that they don't leave the state. The night before he had dinner with his sister living in Albany and she knew of this place — well you can guess the rest. The Ruck in Troy NY, was just ten minutes up the road was serving Hill's plus they had vertical tastings of both 2013 and 2015 Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot barleywine 2014 and 2015. Yes!

It was all I'd hoped for. If I lived in Troy we would be best friends. They were pouring the Hill's Double Galaxy DIPA plus the Conduct of Life pale ale. I had to experience both Hill's and the BCS vertical, but the Bigfoot samples were a bridge too far. Hey, I have a liver to think about. I wish I had more time to spend here and take in more of their incredible beer selections. It was obvious they take beer seriously. But alas, I had to meet friends for dinner and I was already late. If I'm ever back in their neighborhood, I will be sure that there is more time for The Ruck.

The Pearl St Pub

 Pearl St Pub, Albany NY

Pearl St Pub, Albany NY

Dinner was a capricious decision and as we walked down Pearl St the Pearl St Pub caught our fancy. Well the salmon BLT was thick but the beer choices was thin. The Davidson Brothers brown ale was a good beer, but to be fair, it didn't have a chance just having the Bourbon County Stouts. 

So I left Albany with many great beer memories but still so many beery places that must be left until next time.

Washington State Beer Adventures

In July 2015, I had the good fortune to take a family trip to Washington State, first to Seattle and then on to the San Juan Islands. I was really looking forward to this trip since it has been ten years since I've been there, and my appreciation of beer has grown a good bit since then. Now knowing how to appreciate the big hopped beers and that Yakima Valley is just to the East of where I will be, I was excited to go back.

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Beer on the Road

I recently read an article Beer Tourism and actually contacted the authors about some of their thoughts. So while recently traveling to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan I decided to take this thought into practice. I would be spending four days in Marquette, a beautiful town on the banks of Lake Superior.

So doing a some pre-trip recon I learning there were three local breweries within walking distance of my hotel. Score!

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