Friday, May 23, 2014

The Brew Tour, Part 2

September 14-September 29, 2013.  Bar Harbor, Maine.
From the beginning of planning for the Caravan of Wonder, we knew that an abiding concern for Waller Grant, or at least for Major Dude, would be local craft beer.  I have reported on the allure of the grain for the first 6 weeks of the trip in the post “The Beer Tour.”  However helpful or entertaining that post may have been for the general, random thirsty reader, it was a dangerous precedent and set Major Dude, with the oddly encouraging enable-ment from Knightsmama, into constant search for even more tasty brewskies,  Most likely it was Ommegang and its kitchen, which matches their amazing beers with delightful morsels, that propelled Mr and Mrs Dude into their desperate search.  Sadly, the Dude has found few beers that equal Ommegang’s, yet.  I’ll leave it to Knightsmama to report on the culinary aspects of the journey. 
A Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale
            at Little Anthony's
I began this particular blog post sometime in the fall, but the process of double checking facts, consulting web pages, and such matters just kind of stopped me as we continued moving from one state to the other.  The other problem was that I just didn’t want to make it seem like I was merely drinking my way across America.  So today, here in May in California, the kids have requested a rest day.  And for some reason, I decided to return to this unfinished blog.  I remember now what a pain it is.  I had almost rather write the research papers for the classes I am taking. 
Mid-September the Caravan headed out of from Salisbury, Massachusetts, and travelled north toward Bar Harbor, Maine, with a brief afternoon tangent in Freeport and the Mecca that is L.L. Bean.   I believe it was the second day in Bar Harbor, that Dr. J. and I celebrated a not-warm-and-really-kind-of chilly day by riding our bikes in Acadia National Park.  We completed our 16-mile ride earlier than expected.  Knightsmama and Captain Crunch were still exploring other parts of the park, so Dr.J and I headed into Bar Harbor.  Once we survived the frightening automotive assaults by New Jersey drivers—Dr. J.’s assessment, as I was too nervous to look at license plates—we settled in Little Anthony’s, a sports bar, just as the Patriots game was ending.  We ordered some fries and soda for Dr. J.  I scoped out the beer selection and noticed a pumpkin ale.  Remembering how much I enjoyed Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale, I gave Shipyard’s a try.  I was not impressed.

Shipyard Brewing (Portland, Maine).  Pumpkinhead Ale.        2 Bunnies.  I am glad they tried.  But this one was just too watery.  Pumpkins deserve better.  (If you have forgotten The Major Dude’s rating system, please see the end of this post for a refresher (pun intended.).

A couple of days later, Knightsmama was ready to repeat our lovely afternoon in Newburyport—a happy married couple out for some happy hour snacks.  First, we hit Finback Alehouse where Knightsmama and I shared some crabcakes , and I tried a Porter without much enthusiasm.  I thought I would remember the name, but the beer was not memorable, it would seem.
Atlantic Brewing's Real Ale

It was still early.  The boys were, no doubt glad that mom and dad had left the ship and were joyfully satisfying their addiction to xbox.  So we wandered a few blocks and reluctantly decided to join the tourists at the Cherrystone Bar in last 30 minutes of happy hour:  flatbreads and draft beers half-priced.  In another of those lessons about not judging a bar by its awnings, we thoroughly enjoyed two flatbreads, a glass of Malbec and AtlanticBrewing Company’s Real Ale.  Of course, wait staff always makes or breaks an experience.  Our waiter was a wonderfully charming man who was handling a very busy bar by himself with grace and aplomb.

Atlantic Brewing Co.  Real Ale.  5.2% ABV.  An English Brown Ale Style. 4 Walters/3 Dudes.  I began this year on the road thinking I did not like this style.  Maybe it is the cooler weather, but the English Brown Ales are growing on me.  This one had a bit more carbonation than some others. 

A few afternoons later, Knightsmama and I returned to Bar Harbor and again left the boys at the campground for a little time without parental supervision.  Just a bit up the block from Cherrystones is the Bar Harbor Brewing Tasting Room.  We wondered around the store a bit, slightly off put by all the merchandise, and finally made it into the tasting room where a young man and woman stood behind the bar.  The woman was occupied with a couple—he in a muscle shirt and she in a pink halter top.  Knightsmama will probably correct me about their attire, but I have given you the tone of my impression.  The young man behind the bar gave me the perfunctory nod and “Would you like to taste some of our beer?” come on.  My feeling is that he had placed Knightsmama and me in the same category as the other couple.  Bar Harbor Brewery is a small outfit, one of the first in the area.  I think Atlantic Brewing has bought it or something.  The tasting includes four brews.

Bar Harbor Brewing. (Bar Harbor, Maine).    True Blue. Blueberry Wheat Ale 5.2% ABV.   1 Donnie.  I guess I drank this.  I wasn’t interested.  The guy talked.  I wanted to get to something that was not a tourist trick.
Lighthouse Ale.  2 Donnies.  The guy asked me how well I liked it and I didn’t.  I could quite put into words what it was.  It just seemed dull.  The aftertaste just disappeared.  The something in the beer needed more presence—the malt, the hops, something.  He said that he agreed.  And after that, I guess seeing that I just wasn’t in there for light beer, we began to chat and enjoy the afternoon.
Thunder Hole Ale 4.8% ABV.  An English Brown Ale style.  Here is where the server and I began enjoying talking.  Here we had a tasty, malty brew.  It felt good and full in the mouth.  Some caramel flavor. 4 Walters.
Cadillac Mountain Stout 6.8%.  This is an Irish Dry Stout.  Good, dark, rich.  Full creamy chocolate flavor.  4 Dudes.  I would like to have some of this around the house.
Atlantic Brewery's Scottish Ale
The Buckaroo Standing Guard

At the tasting room, I also purchased Atlantic Brewing Company’s Scottish Ale with heather tops.  I drank it a few days later while barbecuing some chicken. It was a slightly chilly day with a threat of rain that never developed.  I enjoyed it.  It rested on the tongue pretty well.  I could taste heather tops, but then I wouldn’t know what heather tops taste like.   There was a kind of sweet earthy taste with fruity or flowery tastes on top.

Atlantic Brewing Company:  Scottish Ale.  7.1%  4 Dudes

Colleen’s dad, The Buckaroo, flew up from Texas to visit us for a week.  We did all sorts of fun and exciting things, including playing putt putt.  And, although he does not drink, Knightsmama and I took him to Cherrystone’s for happy hour.  Again, the place was very busy, and the waitress was a bit brusk and off-putting as she took our orders.  Knightsmama was craving the flatbreads.  Six months later she will remember the one with white sauce and clams.  She had her Malbac and I enjoyed Atlantic Brewing Real Ale again. The other beers on draft included a couple of Longtrail, but that was a Vermont brewer and I decided to remain loyal to Maine.  Then, since the waitress began warming up to us as we stayed longer and spent more money, I asked her what she would recommend of those they had in bottles.  She made a special Shipyard Pumpkin, in a pint glass rimmed with honey and a cinnamon and sugar mixture.  It was her mother’s favorite.  It was fine, a lovely drink on an sunny, early fall day.  She was so kind to go to the trouble.   And to my taste it vastly improved the experience of the rather light beer.
My Special Pumkinhead Ale
We are in Maine and in Bar Harbor so we had to experience a Lobster.  I had somewhat enjoyed a couple of lobster rolls at road side establishments.  I had not been particularly over-whelmed by them.  But, you know, everyone talks about what great lobster is to be had in Maine, so I tried again.  There is a friendly service that delivered.  A nice fellow showed up at the door of The Monster with a thick brown paper bag all steaming and such.  We paid him, tipped him, said good-bye and prepared for our family the lobster experience.  The Buckaroo was still with us, so he helped.  The problem was that nobody knew how to break open a lobster.  So we got on the internet, viewed a couple of videos, and began pinching and whacking.  Juice squirted as I tackled the two lobsters.  Juice squirted again as The Buckaroo twisted and disjointed the crablegs from the two crabs included.  Knightsmama and the boys tasted the corn and potatoes.  All was fine until, we noticed Captain Crunch in the corner of the couch, bent over crying lightly and almost silently.  While we had all been glorying in our new found savage enjoyment of ripping once living creatures to pieces, he had been remaining true to his compassion and tenderness.  When it was all said and done, The Buckaroo and I enjoyed the lobster and crab. But I remained unenthusiastic about this supposedly wonderful delicacy.  By the way, I drank a 22 ounce bottle of Slumbrew’s Lobstah Killah.

Slumbrew (Somerville, Massachusetts)  Lobstah Killah.  Imperial Red Ale.  8.0% ABV.  3 Walters.  I am living and learning.  A wonderful alcohol content to the beer.  A good punch.  More or less smooth.  But I am learning I am not a huge fan of Red Ales either.
Lobstah Killah!

We stayed in Bar Harbor for two weeks, so we had a lot of time to explore and wander.  One last thing we accomplished was a wine tasting and another Brewery Tour. First, we hit Bar Harbor Cellars and enjoyed the wines they bottled.  They purchase grapes from Europe and California and then work their magic in Maine.  Knightsmama greatly enjoyed their wines and bought several bottles to share with our hosts on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Next, we headed off on one of the smaller roads and found Atlantic Brewing Company.  Atlantic pretty much has the Bar Harbor region sewn up.  It tends to be the beer in the various restaurants.  So we went to the center of the action.  The entire family enjoyed the short but informative tour of the facilities.  The tour guide was a lovely young lady with obvious high regard for the founders.  We caught them on a day when they were not bottling.  But one thing stood out.  What we love about craft brewers is that they are in it for the love of brewing.  These are small operations with very smart and dedicated people.  Let’s raise a class to all the craft brewers across America.  After the tour, about twenty of us stood in the gift shop and tasting room and drank our little ounces in plastic cups.  The tour group included folks of all ages—my sons received tastes of their craft sodas and gave them thumbs up.  After the tasting, we walked to the adjoining building and ate a late lunch at Mainely Meats.  Knightsmama and I shared a combo plate of ribs, brisket, chicken, potato salad.  I ordered an Atlantic Brewing Company beer I had not tasted, their Ellen Coffee Stout.
Thunder Hole Ale

Mount Desert Island Ginger, 5.7% ABV.  A wheat beer.  Sure, pretty good. Unique.  Has a punch of alcohol.  2.5 Bunnies
Blueberry Ale 5.1%.  In our group, the middle-aged women liked it.  I know I am here in Maine and it’s blueberry country, etc. etc.  Call me a spoil sport.  I just can’t get into the fruit beers.  2 Special Lady Friends.
New Guy IPA.  6.0% I am not remembering much about this one, except that as the group tasted it you could sure see the difference between the hop lovers and the malt lovers.  As I remember it, the hops stood out, but not in a really big way.  It was fine, but not special.  2 Walters.
Real Ale 4.8% ABV.   A repeat tasting from evenings at Cherrystone’s. This is a beer I would by in six packs and drink on a regular basis.  It would not be my only and every beer, but I would like having it around.  4 Walters/3 Dudes.
Coal Porter. 5.6% ABV.  A nice rich dark color.  Chocololate notes.  Very tasty.  And my favorite of the Atlantic regular line-up.  4 Walters.
Ellen’s Coffee Stout 5.4% ABV.  Yuck.  I will like the occasional coffee stout.  This is not one of them.  To me, it tasted like scoops of instant coffee mixed into a dark beer.  If you look on Beer Advocate, people tend to like this one.  Brave try to be arty, but on my tongue a bust.  2 Special Lady Friends.
Ellen's Coffee Stout at Mainely Meats

The rating system:
I rate the beers with a scale of my own creation,  based on the Guardian Saints of this journey, characters from the Cohen brothers’ classic movie, The Big Lebowski.   The basic idea is 1 to 5.  One being a beverage I would prefer not to drink, and five being one I really, really enjoy.  But there are different kinds of ones and twos and so forth based on the brewers goals and the mood I would be in to have to drink it. 
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 (below) 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

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