Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Brew Tour August 3-September 15

My son, The Philosopher, back home in Austin, has pointed out the glaring contradiction that I write about riding my bicycle and getting healthier while posting photos on Facebook of the beer I am drinking.  ACC friend and beer enthusiast Richard Smith has commented on a greater problem—the photos are merely records of self-indulgence and don’t really contribute to the betterment of humankind by indicating some sort of measure of the brewers’ art.  What my son, The Philosopher and Connoisseur, would be able to tell Richard is that I famously lack discernment.  While I can accurately report what others have said—I am a scholar, after all—and while I am a pretty good judge of literature, no one should trust anything I say about the relative quality of a beverage or foodstuff.  On my gravestone will be inscribed my most accurate moment of self knowledge:  “He was blessed by indiscriminate tastes.”

Still, since much of this blog is an exercise in hubris anyway, I will, therefore, report on my adventures in quaffing, and not only that, I will rate the beers of which I have been partaking.  This will be my scale, based on the Guardian Saints of this journey, characters from the Cohen brothers’ classic movie, The Big Lebowski.   
Dudes:  This is what I really like.  I have no idea what others say about it, and I don’t care.  Be careful.  I am holding a beverage here. A beer can get 3, 4, or 5 dudes. 
Walters: Good stuff.  I like it. You should like it, too.  But it ain’t fancy.  Back in Nam . . . .  A beer can get 2-4 Walters. 
Donnies:  Look, you can drink this if you like.  Others do.  If you love craft beer, these might be out of your league. 2-3. 
Nihilists:  Nobody cares. Drink it, if you don’t care either. 1-2.  
Special Lady Friends:  Somebody’s getting artsy and it might work. 2-5. 
Bunnies:  Dangerous stuff. Could be fun if there is an ATM around. 1-5. 

This may seem complicated, and may confuse some of you.  But it is fairly simple, I promise.  Basically this is a 1-5 rating system.  Dudes are best and Nihilists are worst.   But the categories overlap.  Sometimes the Major Dude likes what he knows is average (3 Dudes); and sometimes the Major Dude knows discriminating folks will like this beer, but it’s not my cup of malt (4 Walters). A decent, drinkable beer, nothing special, comes in at 3 Donnies or 3 WaltersSpecial Lady Friends and Bunnies are brews of individual distinction.  No rulings are final.  Your comments are appreciated. 

Fayetteville, Arkansas: 
My friend Tim Grear took me to this brewery to buy a growler that we all shared over a wonderful pizza dinner that Dana, his wife, prepared.  (The pizza gets 5 Dudes, by the way.)
Saddlebock Brewery. Arkansas Farmhouse. 4 Dudes.  I ordered this at the brewery to enjoy while the growler was prepared.  As time goes on, you will see I am a big fan of farmhouse/saison style.
Dirty Blonde3 Walters  ABV 5%.  A good, everyday beer.

St. Louis, Missouri: 
Colleen and I snuck away for a date and left the boys in the trailer.  We ran some errands (The folks at the Apple store were angels.) and tried the restaurant in the suburbs but couldn’t find a parking space for the big-ass pick-up, so ventured to the original site downtown.  The food was really tasty. Highly recommended.

Schafly Brewing Company. Pumpkin Ale.  4.5 Dudes  ABV 8.0%.  IBU 16.  I was blown away by this beer at the restaurant and would have rated it 5 Dudes.  But I bought a six pack to go and drank one ever so often for a couple of weeks.  I admit I grew a little tired of it.
Oatmeal Stout.  4 Dudes.  ABV 5.7%  IBU 40.  This one is really solid and tasty.  This was my dessert while Colleen had something chocolate.

Springfield, Illinois:
Waller Grant made a long trip to Springfield.  There, we visited the Lincoln Presidential Library, the Lincoln memorial, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana Thomas house, and Vachel Lindsey’s home.  Before heading back to our campground outside Charleston, Illinois, we found a newish brew pub named Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery.  I think that we have here are the ambitions of a young couple to build upon their family connections to Springfield, but to contribute in a new, current way.  Waller Grant enjoyed their attempts, even if it was a bit typical for the brew pub culture:  sandwiches, fish and chips, pastas.  At first, I order a sampler of four brews.  All were fine; none were world class.

Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery Ditzy Blonde.  ABV 4.6%   3 Donnies
Mother Road APA  5.6%   3 Walters
Belgian Style IPA  7.4%  3.5 Walters 
Upside Brown Ale 5.5%   3 Dudes   I usually don’t get excited about British Style Brown Ales, but this one was pretty tasty.  So I ordered a full pint after the sampler.  Dr. J. drove us home.

Bloomington, Indiana: 
Knightmama and I had another sneak away dinner.  We went to a farmer’s market downtown, visited their co-op grocery store.  On recommendation from friends in Austin, we ate at The Trojan Horse, a family Greek kind of place.  The restaurant served beers from two local breweries.  On recommendation of the waitress, I chose:

Bloomington Brewing Co.  Ruby Bloom Amber3 Donnies.  ABV 6.0%  IBU  11.  Look, it was fine.  I don’t think beer connoisseurs will rave about it.  I drank it, didn’t I?
At the grocery store, I bought two bottles of local beers with great labels.  One of the pleasures of the craft brewing culture is the attitudes that the brewers bring to their beers and to their marketing.  My favorite Brewery in Austin is probably Jester King.  I love their beers and their style.

Figure Eight Brewing (Valparaiso, IN).   Offwidth Double Pale Ale.  3 Special Lady Friends.  ABV 8.8%  IBU 100.  This seems to be an ambitious ale.  It was good, almost unique. 

Three Floyds Brewing (Munster, IN).  Apocalypse Cow4 Bunnies.  ABV 11%.  IBU  100.  Go for it.  I think I got too drunk to remember it well.

Portsmouth, Ohio: 
Another venture into town.  We left the boys in the trailer in the campground with their xbox.  Colleen and I drove into town for a little dinner and grocery shopping.  Dinner at the Portsmouth Brewing Company, billed as the oldest brewery in Ohio, dating back to 1843.  I got the sampler of six beers.  My feeling is that this brewery is not attempting to do anything fancy or to compete with ambitious craft brewers.  They are just trying to make some beer that people in their home town will like.  I don’t know why, but I bought a six pack with three Red Birds and three Peerless Pale Ales.  I still have one of the Pale Ales.  Does the fact that they don’t publish the ABV and the IBU tell us anything?

The Portsmouth Brewing Company.  Crystal Gold Light Lager.  1 Nihilist.
Crystal Gold Lager.  2 Nihilists.
Portsmouth Pilsner.  3 Donnies.
Red Bird Ale. 3 Walters.
Peerless Pale Ale.  3 Walters.
Raven Rock Dopplebock.  3 Special Lady Friends.

Cleveland, Ohio:
We parked the Caravan in a RV Camp in Brimfield, so we were a little out of the flow of urban life.  Our goal there was to bike the Erie Canal Tow Path, which we did, and had only one day in Cleveland.  I drank a Yuenglings waiting for the remaining Waller Grants to pick me up and listening to bands in front of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I couldn’t let myself get out of town without trying one things so I stopped in liquor store and bought one six pack.

Great Lakes Brewery. (Cleveland, OH)  Edmund Fitzgerald.  Porter.  ABV 5.8%  IBU  37.  3.5 Dudes

Niagara Falls, Ontario. Canada:
Waller Grant had a great day on the American side of the Falls, then headed over the international bridge because everyone says you need to see the Falls from the Canadian side.  We asked the nice, young, Canadian official where to eat that wasn’t too touristy—not the Planet Hollywood or Hard Rock Cafe.  He gave us directions, direct to the crazy Clinton Hill, the gaudiest tourist circus I have seen in years.  I guess it was good for the boys to see it.  Theo’s eyes were as large as plates taking it all in.  We finally found the very pleasant family owned Antica Pizzaria and Ristorante where everyone had wood fired pizza, while I enjoyed a Greek salad and a beer.  Food was good, but the beer was nothing special, I don’t think, but it hit the spot after walking all day.

Alexander Keith’s.  (Torondo, Ontario, Canada)  Red Amber Ale ABV 5%     3 Donnies.  

Cooperstown, New York:
We changed up our itinerary some, skipping Burlington and Northern Vermont and headed across Central New York, so we could take the Southern route to Acadia Maine, always our main destination.   We had always planned on visiting Cooperstown but later in the trip.  We spent two nights at Glimmerglass State Park; Knightsmama found a coffee house to hang out in, and I visited the Baseball Hall of Fame.  When Knightsmama picked me up with the boys,  she said, let’s go to Ommegang!  It’s why I love her.  We made it to Ommegang too late for a tour but just in time for the last seating in the restaurant.  This, folks, in one of the sacred locations for the Church of Malt and Hops.

Ommegang.  Hennepin Farmhouse Saison:  ABV 7.7%  IBU 24  5 Dudes
Abbey Ale.   Dubbel Ale.  ABV 8.2%  IBU 20     5 Special Lady Friends/4.5 Dudes
I was giddy after my pilgrimage to Ommagang, so when Waller Grant stopped at the grocery store for basics:  milk, cereal, and snack foods, I bought a six pack from another Cooperstown brewery.  It’s fine.  Nothing special.

Cooperstown Brewing Company.  Old Slugger  American Pale Ale  ABV 5.5%   3 Donnies

Newburyport, Massachusetts:
We really had no plans at all to visit this part of Massachusetts, but we needed a stopover and Knightsmama found Beach Rose RV Park, a pleasant park at a reasonable price in Salisbury.  Rain was forecast but it arrived about 24 hours late, so we had a little time for wondering around nearby Newburyport.  The boys got to stay in the RV with their electronics, while Knightsmama and grabbed calamari and sweet potato fries at a new little restaurant called The Deck overlooking the Merrimack River. 

Cape Ann Brewing Co.  (Gloucester, Mass.)  Fisherman’s Brew, American Amber Lager.        ABV 5.5%  IBU  30   3 Dudes

In the afternoon, the entire Waller Grant Clan wandered around Newburyport, admired the sail boats, saw where the Witch of Newburyport has held captive by her husband, found a lovely bookstore, and specialty grocer, Grand Trunk Old World Market, where Knightsmama acquired some wine and a baguette, and I grabbed two featured beers.

Field Guide (Havermill, MA.)  Latitude Adjustment.  Farmhouse Ale.  ABV  6.8%  3 Donnies.  Sorry, guys, Ommegang has spoiled me.

Narragansett, Private Stock.  (Brewed and bottled by Buzzards Bay Brewing, Westport, MA, for Narragansett Brewing Co, Providence, RI) Imperial Black Steam.  ABV 9%   Other reviews identify raisins; I taste dark chocolate and coffee. Pretty good. I would drink another.  4 Walters.

Soundtrack.  Texas Tornados:  "In Heaven There Is No Beer."

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