Archive for the ‘Beer Drinking Adventures’ Category

Well, in case you don’t remember the Alamo, it is located in downtown San Antonio and quite the boring tourist attraction. I have always been a mild war history nut but the Alamo itself was kind of a let down as far as a tourist attraction went….and they didn’t even serve craft beer (now you can see my disappointment).  The building that you see before you was actually the Chapel of the entire Alamo compound and there isn’t much more beyond that, other than a small courtyard and a gift shop (which must have been built by Davey Crockett himself).

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The Alamo…..(in the basement!)

So my wife wanted to go someplace on vacation that was a heck of a lot warmer than sunny Buffalo (like such a place exists) but wasn’t really interested in going back to Florida, so we decided on taking the kid to Sea World in San Antonio TX.  What we didn’t realize that we came down to San Antonio during Fiesta…which someone described to me as their version of Mardi Gras….except with a lot less boobs being shown and more Mexicans to go around.

Fiesta goes for 18 days straight and is now loosely based around the annual Battle of the Roses, which started as a dedication parade for those that fought at the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto back in 1890.  When we went downtown on Monday night, we visited the Market Square where there were streets lined with vendors and several stages providing various styles of music.  We also visited the famed San Antonio Riverwalk where there was a boat parade going on.  But, by Wednesday afternoon, we had noticed that downtown was becoming crazier with half the roads being closed, bleachers being set up all over the parade route, the cost of parking doubling and every corner being crazy busy…not exactly ideal when towing around a four year old with you.

One of the highest rated and most famous restaurants in San Antonio is Mi Tierra .  Located in the famed Market Square area of downtown San Antonio, this place is know for its great food and 24 hour bakery that never closes.  The food was decent, the atmosphere was great and my daughter is a huge fan of table side Mariachi bands.  Since I was in a Mexican restaurant, it was only fitting that I had to get a Mexican beer that I had never had before…

While we were watching the boat parade on the Riverwalk, I found a kiosk nearby that was serving finger food and serving local craft beer, so I got to drink something while we watched the boat parade…

Later on Monday evening, after the wife and daughter called No Mas!, it was time to meet up with my local trader at his local watering hole for a small bottle share…or so I thought, at Big Hops Growler Station.  We managed to keep the employees up past their bed times and we’re able to crush bottles until 1am (even though they closed at 10pm).

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Big Hops Growler Station now has three locations around the San Antonio area and is a local watering hole for my TX trading partner Chris.  He managed to swindle the employees to allow us to have a bottle share there that night, for my arrival….and here is what we crushed:

Jester King Brewing RU55 ~ American Wild Ale ~ 7.3% ABV
Dark Horse Brewing 3 Pairs of Legs Maple Porter ~ American Porter ~ 7.0% ABV
Prairie Artisan Beers Bible Belt ~ American Double / Imperial Stout ~ 13.0% ABV
Grassroots Brewing Arctic Soiree ~ Saison / Farmhouse Ale ~ 6.0% ABV
Pisgah Brewing Hellbender ~ American Barleywine ~ 10.2% ABV
Bruery Griffon Bruxellois ~ American Wild Ale ~ 6.1% ABV
Bruery The Wanderer ~ American Wild Ale ~ 8.0% ABV
Freetail Brewing Ananke (2012) ~ American Wild Ale ~ 5.8% ABV
Freetail Brewing Ananke (2013) ~ American Wild Ale ~ 5.8% ABV
Lost Abbey Angel’s Share Brandy Barrel Aged (2008) ~ American Barleywine ~ 12.5% ABV
Karbach Brewing Series F.U.N. Series 008: Fra-Gee-Lay ~ Herbed / Spiced Beer ~ 8.0% ABV
Freetail Brewing La Muerta (2010) ~ American Double / Imperial Stout ~ 10.2% ABV
Cascade Brewing Elderberry ~ American Wild Ale ~ 8.1% ABV
Crooked Stave Artisan Beers Batch #60 ~ American Wild Ale ~ ABV Unknown
Ithaca Brewing Luminous ~ American Wild Ale ~ 6.0% ABV
Darkside Fermentation Flanders Red ~ Flanders Red Ale ~ 7.0% ABV
Grassroots Brewing Arctic Saison ~ Saison / Farmhouse Ale ~ 6.0% ABV
(512) Brewing Whiskey Barrel Aged Double Pecan Porter ~ American Porter ~ 8.2% ABV
Harpoon Brewery 100 Barrel Series #49: Brown IPA ~ American IPA ~ 5.7% ABV
Brewdog Paradox Springbank ~ American Double / Imperial Stout ~ 10.0% ABV
Buffalo Bayou Brewing Smoke on the Bayou ~ Scottish Ale ~ 9.0% ABV
Crooked Stave Artisan Beers Nightmare on Brett (aged in Leopold Bros Whiskey Barrels) ~ American Wild Ale ~ 9.67% ABV

 

On Tuesday, we took a bus tour around downtown San Antonio, a RiverWalk boat tour, then lunch at a downtown brewpub called The Granary ‘Cue & Brew.

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The Granary

The Granary ‘Cue & Brew has been open for several years now and feature Farm to Table proteins from several farms in Texas.  They strive to feature fresh foods while using only the best local quality ingredients, nothing off the back of a distributors food truck.  From what I can gather, he Granary has been brewing their own beers now for a little over one year now, in keeping with the same standards of ingredients that they utilize with their food too, Farm to Tap.  The interesting thing about their location is that is located in the vicinity of the Pearl Brewing Complex, which has been defunct now for many years.  It was only until recently that a company came along, purchased the entire canning complex and repurposed the property for loft apartments and retail shops but still maintain the Pearl identity.  My wife got the Beef Brisket, my daughter has the chicken and I destroyed a Pastrami Rib crusted with a cracked pepper rub…all of the food was excellent and their BBQ sauce was decent with a nice mildly smoked flavor to it.  At the time we went, they had 4 in-house beers on tap, 2 in-house pops (yes, Pop not Soda) and several guest taps…but since I wanted local beers, I grabbed these selections:

After getting blasted by 95 degree heat all day, we decided to hit the hotel and relax for a little while…and thankfully the Embassy Suites by the airport had a bar inside, so I decided to grab a happy hour turd.

Since we were still very tired from the heat and long day, we decided to stay down for dinner that night and ended up at Freetail Brewing for some pizza and beers.

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Freetail Brewing Company

Freetail Brewing Company was started towards the end of 2008 and have since then grown very nicely with a goal of making quality beers, which they have done.  Some of their bottle selections have become some of the best beers made in TX in many different beer styles with options like La Muerta, Old Bat Rastard and Ananke.  Over the past 5 years, they have grown beyond their current locations capacity and are expanding to a new locations dubbed FT2, which will be their production brewery located in downtown San Antonio.  When we arrived, as if on queue, my daughter passed out in the car about 90 seconds before we arrived, so she was cranky and tired when we entered the place.  Unfortunately, I had enough time there to order a pizza, two quick pints and pay the bill…and all within 20 minutes.  The pizza was pretty good and the in-house beers were decent (tonight):

 

Wednesday morning rolled in and we were all still pretty tired from the previous day, plus my wife still had a touch of heat exhaustion.  We were kind of dragging our asses in the morning but had to power our way through the day because we had tickets for several things that we had to do.  After jumping back on the tour bus and looping almost all the way around downtown again, we stopped at the 750 foot Tower of the Americas.  The Tower of the Americas was the corner stone piece of the HemisFair Park, home of the 1968 World’s Fair, and it listed as the second highest free standing structure in the US, second only to the Stratosphere in Las Vegas.

We decided to head back down to the RiverWalk and hit one of the highest rated restaurants in San Antonio, Boudro’s.   Set along the riverwalk, we were able to grab a table right on the riverwalk where my daughter was amused by the birds swimming the riverwalk and waving at all the boats passing by.  While Boudro’s was supposed to be known for their great food, my wife and I left both disappointed in our meals…maybe they are well known for their dinner food.  Anyways, I couldn’t come down to Texas without slamming one of these ‘craft beers’:

After lunch, we headed over to the San Antonio Children’s Museum for a couple of hours to burn some energy off then down the street to San Antonio’s famed Buckhorn Saloon & Museum.  The Buckhorn Saloon & Museum is listed as the oldest running saloon in Texas, dating back to 1881.  It was originally established as a trading post originally for all of the cowboys to blow off steam but then turned into a saloon and house of ill repute.  The interior is loaded with a ton of taxidermy and the largest collection of antlers ever assembled.  For a tourist trap, they actually had a nice tap list of local Texas beers, so I grabbed this one:

After returning to the hotel and the family passing out early on me, I had a little under two hours to get for a couple…and since I was only 10 minutes from Freetail Brewing, I decided to head back there again.

While I was there, I was bullshitting with a couple of guys and it turned out that one guy was opening his brewery sometime by the end of this year.  San Antonio Brewing Company coming soon..plus the guy was really cool about wanting to hear an out of towners perspective on the craft beer scene.  Overall, a really good place to visit with some really good pizza but the house beers were rather disappointing.

 

Thursday morning came and we decided that instead of dragging the four year old all over downtown San Antonio with the craziness of Fiesta, we opted for a two hour drive down to Corpus Christie so that we could hit the beach for the day.  When we got to the shores of North Beach, to my surprise was this fucking beauty…the USS Lexington.

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USS Lexington – Corpus Christi TX

After being at the beach for roughly an hour, the sun broke through the overcast and it was time for a beer, but the only shit that the nearby bar would allow me to leave with was this nasty gem…

During this time, my wife had the realization that her father had served on the Lexington.  As much as I would have loved to tour an air craft carrier, we were nasty from swimming in the Gulf (see BP Oil Rig Spill for more details…), we didn’t think that our daughter would want to take the tour…plus we had to meet some friend out for dinner later that night.

After getting back to out hotel for much needed showers and some quick relaxation time, we headed over to meet up with my Texas trading partner, Chris and his new bride Amanda, at a real San Antonio gem, The Cove.  This place has to be the most diversified business plan in the history of the world…maybe a close second place behind General Electric.  The Cove is comprised of the following entities on the property…a Self Serve Car Wash, Coin Operated Laundry, Ice Cream Parlor, a walk up Food Counter, a music bar, playground, dog park and 50 tap Texas Craft Beer Bar.   Yeah, it was interesting but such a cool set up…after we ate dinner in the front bar (indoors), we headed outside to let the daughter play with the other kids at the playground while the adults drank from the Texas Beer Bar.

 

On Friday, it was my daughters reason for pestering me for the past month…Sea World.  Of course, I had to grab a beer for my theme park tick on Untappd.

Every night between the hours of 5pm-730pm, the hotel we were staying offered up a free happy hour…which included PBR and Killians. Gross indeed, but the hotel bar also had some bottles (that I didnt realize until our last night there) so I decided to grab another Texas turd from the bar…

With the kid and wife passed out and our last night in San Antonio, I decided that I had to sneak back to The Cove for a couple more beers..

Airplane beer, courtesy of Southwest Airlines…

 

I have to say that when we booked this trip, I told the wife to not book anything other than the day to Sea World because I wouldn’t to do things on the fly…after everything was said and done, we did a shit ton of things…and I got to drink a shit ton of good beer.  San Antonio was fun to say the least and a nice craft beer town on the rise.

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Texas Whalez Bro…

I am seriously going to start copying and pasting my intro for each entry going forward because it is the same thing, with the exception of the location. I should take that back because it seems like the locations are going to be the same for the time being too…now comes the challenge of finding new breweries/beers to drink.

This installment of the Wandering Idiot lead me to Maryland, Delaware and Eastern Pennsylvania for another beer soaked adventure starting with a nice 620am flight to Baltimore MD. After a long day of work where it seemed like I was spinning my wheels, I was hoping that I would have made it through Philadelphia before the traffic picked up but that was not the case. Instead of trying to force my way through the city, I decided to just hang back for a while, grab some dinner and a couple of beers at Stewarts Brewing Company.

Stewarts Brewing Company is located in Bear DE, not to far from the Maryland border and the University of Delaware.  Unfortunately I could not find much history about the place other than that they have been open for almost 15 years now and have won plenty of medals at the World Beer Cup and GABF, including their most recent Gold Medal in 2013 for their Belgian tripel Stumbling Monk.

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Exterior of Stewarts Brewing Company

Stewarts Brewing company from the interior looks like a family dinner place where the daily special is meatloaf and your waitress is named Flo.  Other than the back corner room with the brewing equipment, the rest of the place just was boring and unimpressive.  Unfortunately, the beer quality was a direct resemblance of the interior…boring and unimpressive.  I would end up coming back here later in the week, drinking different selections and feeling even less impressed the second time around.

While I was there for the first time, I was sort of hungry and settle on some chicken wings and a salad.  I have to be honest that I have only had a bad salad once, to the point where I had to send it back…this time was borderline becoming my second time.  Although my food sucked, I did enjoy my final beer of the night but consumed these beers while there…

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Exterior of Allentown Brew Works

After leaving Stewarts and making the 2 hour drive up to my hotel, I decided to make a quick stop at Allentown Brew Works (home to Fegleys Brew Works).  Fegleys Brew Works was created in 1998 and home to their main brewing equipment and bottling line.  Along with many of their flagship bottled beers, they also offer in house seasonals and one offs.  The exterior as you can see looks to have been revamped at some point to open up the place to lots of natural light.  The interior is great half of the buildings West wall covered in brewing tanks and a long bar that can seat about 25-30 patrons.  In addition to tables covering most of the place, there is a second level for additional dining.  As per my typical agenda, I try to avoid the flagship beers and go for the in-house or seasonal beers but ended up drinking a decent flagship beer…on top of several in house beers too.

 

After another 12 hours plus day of work (as it seems to be going lately), I decided that I wanted to get out early for dinner so that I could crash earlier than normal (normal being midnight).  Thankfully, Bethlehem Brew Works was only minutes away from the hotel in downtown Bethlehem.   Bethlehem Brew Works is the newer of the two ‘brew works’ operated by Fegleys.  Bethlehem Brew Works was opened several years later and houses in-house beer production only.  One of the nice things about both locations is that they brew their own in-house and seasonal beers.  Unfortunately, I was not impressed by any of the beers that I had at the Bethlehem location, compared to those had at the Allentown Location.

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Bethlehem Brew Works is a decent sized building with their brewing equipment up by the front windows and between the two levels of the facility.  It featured a long beer that could hold 20-25 patrons with tables running down the other side of the building, on top of a secondary level that is wide open with more tables.  For a Tuesday night, the place was jam packed with people at 630pm…and the menu was very impressive.  I purchased a buffalo meat burger which was cooked perfectly, topped with sautéed onions and mushrooms and a spicy mayo.  Its too bad that the beers that I drank that night didn’t match the quality of the food…

After leaving Bethlehem Brew Works, I had to crack open a bomber that I purchased the previous night at Allentown Brew Works to ‘earn’ my Untappd Hotel Hopper badge…

 

After another long 12+ hour day of work, I found myself just on the outskirts of Philadelphia with some work in the immediate area for the following day.  Since I was in the area, I had to get down to a new place that is supposed to be killing it with their beers…Forest & Main Brewing Company.

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Exterior of Forest & Main Brewing

Forest & Main Brewing Company is located in the small town of Ambler PA, roughly 15 miles Northwest of Philadelphia.  They have been open for roughly two years now with the notion of being ‘that small town brewpub’ and they have maintained it well.  As you can see by the photo above, Forest & Main is situated in a small ranch style house, located in a town with a history well over 200 years old.  The interior of the house is extremely old school with old plank style floor that is so old, you can literally see through the slats into the cellar area.  The bar area is a small 8×12 room in the front of the house with a small 5 stool bar against the back wall with a small bartenders cove in what was probably a former closet.  For dinner I decided on another buffalo burger (love that lean meat…) with home made potato chips which were actually very tasty.  Here is what I had for dessert…

Since I was only ten minutes away from Tired Hands Brewing Company, I decided to give it another try.  My first experience there was less than impressive as far as the beer quality was.  I am sure that their bottle offerings are outstanding but the beers that I have had from them are nothing better than average as a whole.  So here is what I had this time…

Revisiting Hop Hands was a pleasant touch this time along with my pickle plate accompanied with a nice stick of cave aged blue cheese and thinly sliced proschuitto.

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On Wednesday, I had a really weird day which started out with having a Semi Tractor Trailer blowing his engine right in front of me on I-76, thus blowing out a huge cloud of white smoke and covering my rental car in engine oil.  The smoke from the blow out was so bad that when I was finally able to pass the truck, I had to roll down the window of the car because the smoke was very toxic and causing me to violently cough…had to get some ‘fresh’ Philly air in the car before I got really sick.  Work sucked as it typically does when I am on the road but was able to finish up at a decent time, which allowed me to grab an early dinner at Iron Hill Brewery in Wilmington DE.

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant is a regional chain of brewpubs that is based in the PA/DE/NJ with nine locations in the tri-state area.  My sister used to live in Wilmington about a decade ago and Iron Hill was a typical stop for me…again, if I had only started reviewing beers back then instead of waiting until 2011.  Ugh.  Anyways, I remember their beers being average but the place having really good food…and it didn’t disappoint this time either, at least food wise.  I had a really solid Chicken Fajita chopped salad that was huge and tasty, properly seasoned and with solid portions of toppings and chicken.  Unfortunately, the beer quality did not match the food quality this time…

After a disappointing beer selection at Iron Hill, I had to eject early because I was meeting up with a former co-worker for a couple of beers…unfortunately, she wanted to go to Stewarts because she is a mug club member there.  Thankfully for me, they still had their 2011 Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine on tap which was actually pretty solid…but then I saw a new beer on tap that always gets my attention…it is just too bad that it didn’t even come close to what I was hoping it would be.

 

Good Ol’ Friday…it is very unusual that I ever work on a Friday, it is not because I am lazy but more of the fact that I usually don’t have any work leftover from the week but this week I was slammed.  After another long 10 hour day of work, I had three hours to kill before my flight back to Buffalo, so I made another stop at Frisco Tap & Brewhouse.  This was my second trip to this place and loved it the first time, so I was more than happy to make a stop here on my way to the airport.

When I arrived at Frisco Tap & Brewhouse, it was roughly around 530pm and there was not a parking spot to be had.  Thankfully, this must have been a (good) problem that they run into and started offering Valet Parking free of charge.  Yes, a brewpub that offers Valet Parking…very posh. The place was jam packed with about 90% of the tables filled but thankfully, I was able to get the last open spot at the bar. For dinner, I ordered a solid Buffalo Meat burger topped with a local sliced pickle and a chipotle mayo.  Solid as hell food along with some interesting beers.

I will probably make a stop to Frisco Tap every time I have to fly out of Baltimore airport because of its great tap selection and close proximity to the airport.  I really got to say that I was severely disappointed in the barrel aged Monks Revenge.  This was one of the first beers that I ever had from Terrapin and still like it to this day but the  Cabernet barrel really cut out of the original flavor and actually made the beer taste like a tequila barrel aged beer….I like tequila and tequila barrel beers but this one was no where even close to the quality of the original base beer.

 

 

As the running intro for almost all of my entries lately begin….work…blah blah blah….travel….blah blah blah…..and Beer!  This week it took me back to the lovely area of Central Pennsylvania…Chambersburg, Harrisburg, State College and the sweetest place on earth, Hershey.

On my first night in the area, I ended up in Chambersburg PA, which is just a couple miles north of the PA/MD border.  In my previous trip to this particular area, I had hooked up with a Beer Advocate user that I had previously traded with, for a beer or two.  Well, sometimes when you are having fun, you don’t realize that it is past midnight and you have cracked more than a couple beers.  My friend Travis had invited several of his friends over to sample beers and the night took off from there…until the next day actually.  Here was a list of the cracks from that night…

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Although it was awesome to get to stack up a three year vertical of Bourbon County Fruit Stouts, it also did all of his in for the night too.  Thankfully, my hotel was less than a mile away from where we were or it would have been a long ride back that night.

On Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to meet up with a now former coworker for dinner.  The only problem was that I wanted to go to different breweries that night and both of them were 25 minutes in each direction…not to mention hat my hotel was 20 minutes in a completely different direction.  Making an executive decision (because this determined the fate of the world, obviously), I decided to head East and go to Spring House Brewery.
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Spring House Brewery opened up in 2006 by head brewer Matt Kearsy.  He has a very familiar story where he hated his job, was an avid home brewer and finally said ‘Fuck It’, I’m opening a brewery’.  His original location was done right at his home, which was built in the 1790s and had a functioning natural spring (until the 1970s) in the basement, hence the name Spring House Brewery.  Unfortunately, when you base a brewery out of your house, things could get a little hectic and congested, so he decided to open The Taproom in downtown Lancaster in early 2011.

I had first discovered Spring House Brewery at the GABF in 2012.  During the first session (Thursday Night), it was one of those fluke things where you are walking around, happen to see a long line to a brewery, see some catchy names and say, ‘Why Not’.  Holy Shit, now I knew why there was such a long line, the beer was fantastic as I got to taste Braaaiins! (their pumpkin beer) and was blown away.  My best friends had tried Satan’s Bake Sale (mint chocolate chip stout) and had the same reaction…well, two more times through the line that night and we were hooked.   We had gone back to their booth during the third session (Saturday Afternoon) and they were almost wiped out of beer completely…which by the end of the session, they had vacated their booth because they were sold out.  Fast forward one full year, when I return back to the GABF Saturday afternoon sessions, with my buddy Matt and his friend Aaron, I had pointed out that we needed to get to Spring House but when we finally made our way over there, again, they were down to their last beer and sold out by the end of the session.

Given the fact that I was only about 20 minutes away from Lancaster, PA, its just made sense to get out while I could.  When I arrived, the place was about a quarter filled, had some dim lighting to go with the mildly macabre décor, but had a nice feel to it.  The service was decent, they had 9 beers on tap at the time that I went, along with 3 bottles for sale to go as well.  Here is what I consumed while on premises…

For the most part, Spring House Brewing met my expectations for the evening.  While not every beer was a complete success in my eyes, there were more hits than misses.  Spring House would definitely make a nice watering hole if it were located in my backyard…unfortunately, it is not.  Until next time Spring House…

It is amazing how things chance in such a short period of time when it comes to the weather.  As in most places, we have a saying in Buffalo…if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.  Such seemed to be the case for me on Wednesday too when the previous day had a high of 65 degrees, Wednesday was in the lower 20’s.  It just made for another miserable 12 hour work day with constant bands of rain/snow.  After arriving at the hotel in Hershey, I made a quick turnaround and headed to the closest brewery near my hotel, Troegs Brewing Company.

Troegs Brewing Company was created in 1997 by a pair of brothers who became overwhelmed by the craft beer scene in Colorado.  While they enjoyed their several years in Colorado, they wanted to get a full blown production brewery up and running back in the mid-atlantic area where there was less competition and less pressure.  Troegs had out grown their previous brewery and moved into a new facility in 2011, where they could meet the demand for their beers.  My first trip to Troegs was about 6 months after they had moved into their new facility.  To this day, I still stick to the fact that Troegs has the largest tasting room that I have ever been in (and I am over 120+ breweries visited).

I ran into Troegs really because I was curious to see what new or interesting beers that they might have on tap.  In my previous trip to Troegs, they had 4 different Scratch series beers on tap but unfortunately, it was not as abundant this day.  Actually, when I walked in and saw the draft board, it literally became…’well, I should have one beer while I am here’, as there wasn’t a single scratch beer on tap, and the only ‘special’ beers was Nugget Nectar and…

…but then I also saw this little nugget on the board too.
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Now the quick story behind this beer being an In House Only bottle was because of issues with the carbonation inside the bottle.  The brewers were concerned about the carbonation pressure of the bottles and didn’t feel safe with releasing it to the public with corks that could crush someones eye, so they kept the entire release In House Only, to be opened by Troegs Certified Serving Professionals.

After leaving Troegs, I headed to the other side of the capital city of PA to a small town called Enola, where Al’s of Hampden is located…home of Pizza Boy Brewing Company.
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Al’s of Hampden/Pizza Boy Brewing was started several years ago as a pizza parlor but then the owner Al got into serving local craft beer.  Within the past 18 months, they have since moved into a bigger facility now offering 102 taps of liquid goodness but still offering many taps of local craft beer, in paying homage to their craft beer roots.  With 102 taps staring me down, I did the only thing I thought was safe…head for the rarer bottles :)…

All I can say about Pizza Boy is that make sure that you eat before you arrive, as I thought the pizza was shit…but their beer list is amazing, especially for someone who is not local to the area or state for that matter.
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Thursday was just another shitty work day where the weather sucked, people wasted my time and things didn’t go according to plan…thankfully, my last stop of the day was 20 minutes away from Selin’s Grove Brewing Company located in Selinsgrove, PA.  While this brewery may not be known to a lot of people, but to the trained palate (and beer geek), Selin’s Grove is known for making some of the best fruit beers in the world (literally).

Selins Grove Brewing Company opened up in 1996 by a husband and wife team that were striking out in their craft brewing adventure after both were working at New Belgium Brewing for several years, in various positions.  They really became real brewers when they replaced their 3 barrel system in 2004 with some second hand equipment purchased from Avery Brewing.  Since their real brewing expansion in 2004, they have since upgraded their system several more times in the past decade to keep up with demand with their beers, especially with their Kriek, Framboise, and Pumpkin beers which are some of the highest rate in the world.

Although this was not my first time stopping here, I was still excited when I arrived because I was hoping to have a chance to get to try another fruit beer…and I was so fortunate to get these beers while I was here…

Although the place is small and dark on the inside, always worth the stop if you can snag one of their famed fruit beers.

From Selins Grove Brewing, I made the half hour drive north up into Williamsport, PA (home of the Little League World Series).  Thankfully, I have never had the pleasure of working in the area during said Little League World Series, I have been to this town many times and have hit up this place on many occasions.
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Bullfrog Brewery opened up in 1996 in downtown Williamsport and maintains the same location, brewing system that they started with since the beginning.  In early 2013, they opened a small secondary location for which they use to brew additional beer, fill kegs and sixtels.  Bullfrog was known to have brewed some ‘White Whale’ sours but that seemed to end when their head brewer left Bullfrog in 2012 for Pizza Boy Brewing.  While the Jazz Night was annoyingly loud and some of the locals I could have done without, I still managed to put down several more selections from Bullfrog…

Another week is in the books…just another travel adventure for a Wandering Idiot.  And Yes, I am still standing…

The reason why I referred to this post as a return to my roots, it would have to go back to my earlier Craft Beer years.  In 2003, my sister had to Wilmington DE from middle of nowhere GA and while I was drinking better beer at this point in my life, I never really took it seriously.  So, like most people, I got my first real hacks on Dogfish Head.  When my sister moved to Delaware, one of my first stops in the state was to Dogfish Head.  I became a fan instantly because like their slogan is…Off Centers Ales for Off Centered People.  I truly took that statement to heart because I went all in on their crazy beer styles.  It was something new, something different, something decent to drink finally…and that’s the beginnings of the monster that I am today.  But before we jump into Dogfish Head, lets get back to the real time beginning of this trip.

To regurgitate the same opening line….work…travel…and I ended up in (Insert Location Here).  This time the location was Maryland and Delaware.  Unlike my previous destination, this week actually quite a few locations for me to belly up for some craft beer goodness.  On Monday, my flight getting into Baltimore arrived just before 10am, but after a rough day of work, I wasn’t able to complete as much as I had hoped…thankfully, since my last stop of the day was less than one mile from a location of DuClaw Brewing, that’s where my first stop of the week was.

DuClaw Brewing was started in 1995 (in Craft Beer Years, that’s like a long long long time ago) before anyone really knew what a brewpub was.  Since they opened their doors, they have since expanded to several locations and a full time small production brewery location.  I happened to be near their Bel Air, MD location (which is north of Baltimore) and I believe their original location.  Upon entering, it is a wide open floorplan with high ceilings and pretty cool brewiana of their beers along the high part of the walls.  It had a ton of seating along to compliment a long bar with an island, which probably could seat at least 50+ patrons at any given time.  If this were a local place for me, I definitely could see coming here for a game or just popping in for a pint anytime.  For those that do not know, my philosophy when going to a brewpub is ‘go for the goodies’ meaning one-offs, rarities or exclusives.  In keep with said philosophy, here is what I bellied up (or down really) to:

(Note: someone asked me why I didn’t give a little background on the beers…I was posting links of the beer but apparently that wasn’t what they were looking for, so enjoy)

I really liked DuClaw and if I am ever stuck in the Baltimore area again for work, would definitely hit up again.  I didn’t get anything to eat while I was there but they had a full menu and the food didn’t look bad as the bartenders were walking it out to patrons in front of me.

Like most of my craft beer brothers, I too am guilty of something…..being an Untappd whore.  While most of them state they are not, it is crap because it is a great tool to see what your friends are drinking.  I have been called Eliteist by several of friends because I don’t Accept every Untappd invitation but then again, if I have never met you before, then why do I care what you are drinking.  I really do reserve my friends list for drinking buddies and trading partners only.  But, with that being said, none of them have ever reached the Level Two badge for Hotel Hopper.  Since I am in a perfect position to reach Level Ten potentially, I started bringing beer with me on the road (sometimes out of necessity) to get those hotel ticks.  After leaving DuClaw, I headed to the hotel for some work clean up activity and to relax…while there, I sampled this suitcase whale:

After bullshiting in the hotel room, I had to get out, even if for a little while because I was hungry and was sick of being in the hotel room (did enough of that the previous week), so I looked up several highly rated places and decided to settle on Frisco Taphouse and Brewery.  To my surprise when I arrived was that it was an actual brewery too….although the name I listed does say AND BREWERY, every place I looked at reviews only had listed as Frisco Taphouse.  Surprise!!!

From what I could gather about Frisco Taphouse AND BREWERY was that it opened sometime in 2005 and recently moved to this new location within the last 12 months and opened up Push Brewing along with the new location.  The place is great with some really high spacious ceilings, brewiana all over the walls, a nice sized bar that can hold about 25 patrons, tables all around and couches along several walls.  Huge TVs behind the bar area and a small, enclosed brewing facility up by the front windows.  I ordered a Buffalo Meat burger with rice and it was cooked very well but the rice was bland (like rice….go figure).  Frisco offered 50 taps which included several selections from Push Brewing, along with a nice sized bottle collection to pull form too.  Here is what I pulled…

Again, another solid find and a place that I would definitely revisit again the next time I was back in the area, close to BWI airport.

The next day, after another very long day of work, it was time to revisit the beginning of where craft beer really began to blossom for me.  Thankfully my next stop was on my way towards my hotel for the evening, in a small town in lower Delaware…Dogfish Head.  It has literally been a full decade since the last time I stepped through the front door of Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats (their brewpub, not to be confused with the production brewery in Milton DE)…and the place hasn’t changed once bit.  It still had the tight, comfortable feel to it, brewiana all over the walls, small bar that hold 15-16 patrons, nothing flashy…just traditional old time brewpub.  As Dogfish Heads slogan is…Off Centered Ales for Off Centered People, that is exactly what their brewpub exclusive beers have always been it seems (and still is to this day…)

  • Dogfish Head (Province Ales) Wild Carrot Seed Ale ~ Spiced / Herb Ale ~ 5.2% ABV ~ 3.4 /5 Rating (um…it tasted like dirty carrots and seeds, not much more to say)
  • Dogfish Head Raw Creation ~ Spiced / Herb Ale ~ 9.1% ABV ~ 3.2 /5 Rating (collaborative effort between Dogfish Head and D.C. based Gouter, producer of raw, organic tonics and cleanses.  For this beer we decided to go with a Midas Touch recipe base sans saffron (same grain bill, honey, and white Muscat grape juice) combined with Gouter’s Hydrate Tonic, made from Lemon, Cayenne Pepper, Coconut Nectar, Cucumber, and Lemongrass)
  • Dogfish Head Just Richard ~ Old Ale ~ 7.9% ABV ~ 3.6 /5 Rating (Spotted Dick is actually a traditional English dessert, not terribly common here across The Pond.  A spiced bread pudding with raisins, the dessert actually compliments the malty stone fruit flavors of the pale ale and caramel malts, as well as the roasty nutty character added by the roasted Chestnuts.  Originally this beer had a much more suggestive name for fun with our co-workers, but for the sake of staying light hearted, we decided we’d go with Just Richard for the wide release)

While it was great to revisit this place again, especially with the large gap in time between visits, it is more of a tourist trap now.  Other than the three beers I drank this evening, it is all offerings that you can pick up at most corner grocery stores now.  Enough Said.

Again, another hotel, another hotel tick for Untappd…

So while I was stuck in a heavy tourist town for the night, it is quite dead on a Tuesday Night…in February.  I am sure that every night during the summer, it is slamming with people up and down the main drag…but when the snow is falling and the beaches are a little cold, dead as a doornail.  While this next place wasn’t the closest to me, it seemed to have had the most solid line up of all the breweries in the Delmarva region (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia peninsula).

Burley Oak Brewery was opened several years ago with the premise of using local ingredients, coupled with traditional and new brewing practices.  The name of the brewery was interesting enough with BURLEY coming from the land originally named BURLEY PLANTATION back from the 1790s and OAK coming the building itself, originally built as a Cooperage – oak barrel maker.  If they are taking that kind of care with just the name of the place, you can only imagine what they were doing with their beers…and they did not disappoint me one bit…

I was really happy to have found this place and was kind of saddened that I didn’t have more time to spend here.  If I ever get back to this side of the state of Maryland again, definitely a must stop.

So I was able to draw some contract work in the lovely and tropical isle of Newfoundland last week. Yes, I say tropical because aren’t all islands usually tropical??? Seriously, although the temperatures didn’t represent the tropical island that I was speaking of but it did have the same temperature effect as Newfoundland is more of a craft beer desert. Let me explain my craft beer experiences while there…

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…and that pretty much explained it in a nutshell.

Newfoundland only has three craft beer breweries and all of them are based out of St Johns (which is in the Southeast corner of the island) and unfortunately for me, the closest that I got was about 300 Kilometers to St Johns. My first nights stay was all the way up in the St Anthony but I didn’t arrive until 8pm and the entire town was completely shut down by then (literally). The second and third nights were spent down in Deer Lake and the best I could find was a bar with zero patrons, one tap (Bud Light)(which was kicked), and had all of the Budweiser, Labatt and Molson products that I could enjoy. I did use this opportunity to drink a couple of beers that were made for Newfoundland and Labrador only which were Molson Black Horse and Labatt Blue Star. Both beers were similar to Molson Golden and Labatt Blue respectively but slightly sweeter and watered down. Thank God I was smart enough to pack my bag with enough bottles and cans to keep my company while on my trip. Newfoundland = Bring Beer With You.

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My Travel Map (1400+ miles in 4 days)

On a side note, anything north of Deer Lake (Location E) is mostly mountains and national park area.  There is only one road that goes north up to St Anthony (Location C).  It is a two land road that runs through about 50 miles of heavy mountain driving then runs along the coast of the Labrador Sea for the remainder of 300+miles.   Along the way, there are about 5-6 random fishing villages which contained about 25-40 houses, a gas station and a snowmobile dealer.

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This sign was posted every 2 KM

Yes, I did see a Moose.  He was roughly about 8-9 feet tall, crossed the road ahead of me about 100 yards and when I slowed down to take a picture of him, he belted out at me and start moving towards the car….needless to say, I didn’t want to have to explain to the rental car company why the side of my car had dents in it.

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Nasty Snow Storm next to the Labrador Sea (notice no guard rails)

After I finished my last dealer on Tuesday, I had a 280 mile drive back down Route 430 (Viking Trail) and caught a nasty snowstorm which led to whiteout conditions, which isn’t safe when driving down a slick road with no guard rails right next to the Labrador Sea.  On the picture above was a familiar sight for most of the way…slide off this road and you got about ten foot cushion before you plunge into the sea.  The weather that day was the worst as it was -10F for most of the day with 20-30mph winds blowing.

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Random Scenery Picture

If you notice that there aren’t any tall trees, then you would be correct.  The northern peninsula gets an extremely high amount of wind and most the trees once they get to a certain height just fall over.

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Mountains in the Northern Pennisula

The speed limit along the Viking Trail was 90 kilometers per hour (which roughly translates to 53-54 MPH) but since there is zero police presence in the northern peninsula, it was more of a recommendation than a limit.

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One of about 6 random fishing villages in the Northern Pennisula

This was just a random fishing village…and yes, that is the entire village in one picture.  Those people are hardened as fuck, in my opinion.  The natives of Newfoundland all speak with a mixed accent of Norwegian and Thick Irish but with a Canadian dialect.  It was pretty hard to cut through if you weren’t used to it…and the accent was even thicker in the northern peninsula.  For anyone that watches the show Gold Rush, it was like dealing with a bunch of Tony Beekes for the entire week.

So it seems that I start off almost every one of my posts lately about getting laid off and now working as an independent contractor…blah blah blah.   So I took two days worth of in Vermont for a fair price but really formed it around specific areas of Vermont…those containing good beer.

After leaving my house at 4am in the morning, driving all the way across New York State in a snowstorm and arriving in Southern Vermont, I had to stop for gas and stretch the legs.  At the small town gas station that I went to, it was the typical ‘Vermont Products Sold Here’ place like every other tourist place in Vermont.  As I went inside to pay for gas (because the pump didn’t take credit cards…yup, rustic), I noticed that the display case had baked goods and one thing caught my eye…the ever so popular Cronut.  Oh Yes, the Cronut…the cross of the Croissant and the Donut.   When I asked for one, the woman had to remind me that it was 4.50 each.   Okay…Ill bite.   Let me tell you about this money suck creation…it basically looked like some smashed 10 croissants on top of each other, carved out the inside hole to make it look like a donut then drizzled it with maple icing.  Fucking Rip Off.

After working all day, the quest was on…the hunt for Heady Topper.  Before Hurricane Sandy rolled through and remodeled the Northeast, Heady Topper was easily available all over the state of Vermont, including distro in the southern part of the state about 45 minutes outside of Albany NY.  After Sandy, distro was shut down and limited to only the northern part of the state.  My goal was to find two places where I could scoop up a case from each.  Thankfully, my last stop for work of the day was on the exact same road as one of the places that got cases of it on Mondays.

After a 15 minute ride up into South Burlington, I made a stop Route 7 Liquors for a hopeful case of Heady Topper.  When I arrived, I asked the guy at the counter if they had Heady and what was the case limit.   Unfortunately, it was only a one case per person limit.   Well, after some solid Merc charm (yup, I am known for my charm), I was able to work in a second case for purchase.  🙂

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After a quick stop at the hotel to drop off said beer, I then made the 25 mile drive down into Waterbury VT for ‘dinner’.  First stop of the night was at Prohibition Pig.  It was my understanding that the location where Prohibition Pig currently resides use to be the former home of The Alchemist, maker of Heady Topper.   After Hurricane Sandy came in and ravaged the town of Waterbury, the Alchemist was forced to move because the building was heavily damaged.

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Prohibition Pig

Upon the arrival to Pro Pig, I grabbed a seat in the middle of the bar.  The place itself is a little tight but has a solid long bar made of nice wood.  The side wall has a solid collection of various whisky from all over the world that ranges from the cheap stuff to the most expensive.   For dinner, I decided to go with the pulled pork sandwich with a side of potato salad.  Unfortunately, for the 12.50 that I spent on it, the sandwich was no bigger than a McDonalds Cheeseburger but the potato salad was pretty solid.  Also, the nice thing about visiting in Northern Vermont was that there is plenty of ‘local’ beer on tap…and imbibe I did.

Hill Farmstead Motueka Single Hop Pale Ale ~ American Pale Ale ~ 5.2% ABV

The Alchemist Oursboros ~ American / Imperial IPA ~ 8.8% ABV

Lost Nation Brewing Gose ~ Gose  ~ 4.5% ABV

The Alchemist El Jefe – Black IPA – 7.0% ABV

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Interior of Prohibition Pig

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Blackback Pub

From there it was just a short walk over to Blackback Pub, which is a solid little basement bar.  The bar area is split into two small rooms with a full wrap around wood bar, as you can see in the picture below.  The town was pretty dead that night as it was extremely cold that evening, so the bar itself was almost empty except for the bartender and a single patron.  Something interesting happened while I was there, after bullshitting with the bartender for about 10 minutes, another patron walked into the bar.  He sat down right next to me (weird…) and started bullshitting with the two of us.  Upon learning that I was from the Buffalo area, the other patron informed the bartender to get me a Heady Topper on him…gee, thanks Mister.   But, as with everything…it came with a catch…I wasn’t allowed to check in on Untappd.   I have zero ideas why this had happened or why I wasn’t allowed to tick it but got the impression that the guy was an employee or someone important from The Alchemist.  Don’t know why the secrecy given the fact that it was on tap Heady Topper so I did the only thing I know most people would do…drink it and tick it.  Along with these beers too…

Grassroots/Mikkeller Limoncello IPA ~ American IPA ~ 9.0% ABV

Hill Farmstead Edward ~ American Pale Ale ~ 5.2% ABV

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Interior of Blackback Pub

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The Reservoir

Finally, just hopped across the street to the Reservoir.  Again, another dead place in the freezing cold of a Monday night too.  The Reservoir was a nice wide open space with high ceilings but a very small bar that only fit 5 patrons.  It had much more of a pub fitting to it rather than a bar.  One thing that I noticed between all three places was that there was a lot of carryover of the same beers on tap from place to place.  I know…poor me to go to three places with Heady Topper, Ourosboros and HF Edward on tap…was simply pointing out a fact.  Here is what I slugged down before I made my trip back to my hotel.

Bruery Humulus Lager ~ Imperial Lager ~7.2% ABV

Lawsons Finest Liquids Red Spruce Bitter ~ Spiced/Herb Beer ~ 4.9% ABV

Mystic Brewing Vinland Two ~ Saison / Farmhouse Ale ~ 7.3% ABV

It was kind of funny to me that the second time that I ever got to have a Bruery beer on tap was in a small town in Northern Vermont.  For the record, the first time was Bruery Bois (5th Anniversary beer) in Manhattan about 6 months earlier.

Overall, it was a pretty solid trip even though this time, it was on my own dime as opposed to a company credit card (damn, I miss those days…)  Another thing was that it was actually a smart decision on my part to bring my beer purchases into my hotel room that night…normally I would just leave the shit in my car overnight and never worry about it but it started to get very cold when I returned back to my hotel room.  When I woke up in the morning to warm up my car, it was -14 degrees outside and for the thirty seconds I was outside, the hair on my head froze.

In my travels for work, I manage to cover the same areas of New York State for long periods of time.  During those travels, I have met many beer drinking characters that I consider friends now.  One such of those characters is my buddy Booch….err Fuj.   In the two plus years that Fuj and I have hung out, I will gladly take credit from turning him from a Dogfish Head chasing noob into a full fledged craft beer elitist.   During those times, I have also had the pleasure (and displeasure) to meet some of his friends and one such friend was his buddy Dave Gibson.  Dave is a good dude and also an executive chef at a place called Creo’.  When it turned out that I was going to be in the capital district during the same period of time as a beer dinner at Creo’, I was all about it, especially given that I finally had a chance to finally see Chef Dave perform his craft with Jacks Abby beers.

Jacks Abby Brewing is a small family owned brewery based out of Massachusetts where their primary focus is Lager Based beers.  Every beer that they make is a lager but with a twist.  New York State is the first state to receive distribution of their beers outside of their home state.

Please do not confuse me as a ‘foodie’ by any means, I have tasted some exquisite cuisine from many different cultures but I am more of laid back kind of guy.  Although, I wont throw a perfectly prepared confit off of my plate either.

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One thing that Chef Gibson wanted to point out was that he was trying to set up the courses similar to a full day of meals with a breakfast course, lunch course, appetizer, dinner course, cheese course and a dessert course.

The first course served up was the Amuse Bouche which was a Sweet Corn Fritter with Tabasco Honey served over a glass of fresh full cone hops and grains.  The sweet corn fritter was a nice starter but the tabasco honey was just awesome as it the heat and sweetness complimented each other very well.  Also, interesting enough was this course was served with Jacks Abby Jabby Brau…. which tastes amazing when the fresh hops were added straight into the beer.

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The next course served up was the lunch course which featured a Duck Confit Hash which featured caramelized fennel, apples, truffled sea salt and a quail egg.  The Duck Confit Hash was amazing…I could make a lifetime eating that blend of delicious fowl.  This course was also being served with the Jacks Abby Jabby Brau as well.

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The Third Course was a Crispy Pork Belly soup served with Spicy Tom Yum broth, soba noodles, straw mushroom and cilantro.  The pork was served to a perfect crisp and the broth had just enough heat on the back end that complemented the beer very well, which was Jacks Abby Hoponius Union.  I have always been a huge fan of drinking a very solid hoppy beer with spicy food, this just confirmed that belief.

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The Dinner Course was the next one up on the docket which was a Bison Short Rib served over a parsnip puree, garlic rapini and smoked paprika onions.  OMFG, the meat was literally falling off the bone…soft, juicy, tender and paired very well with Jacks Abby Smoke and Dagger.  The full on smoked malts of the beer went very well with the short rib even though I am not a fan of the beer itself.

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The next course was a cheese course which featured three local cheeses paired with Jacks Abby Saxonator Dopplebock.  The cheeses served were R&G Eclipse, an Ash Ripened Goat Cheese, Ewe’s Blue, a local bleu cheese from Old Chatham Sheepherding Farm and finally Hop Tilset from Harpersville Cheese.

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The Dessert Course, which was not listed on the menu was a Maple Bacon Ice Cream, served with small slice of crispy bacon dipped in chocolate.  Yup….money!   The maple was enough sweet but not over powering and the bits of chewy bacon were a fine compliment to the sweet creation.  Another treat (other than bacon in ice cream) was that Jacks Abby donated a case of one day old Jacks Abby Baby Maker, which is their version of a barleywine but in reality, a lager wine.

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After everything was said and done, it turned out to be an awesome evening.  While I am not a huge fan of Jacks Abby beers (primarily because I am not a lager guy), the food and beer pairings were dead nuts on.  Chef David fucking killed it and now I ham going to have get back to Albany for their next scheduled dinner in March featuring beers from Allagash.

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Special Thanks to Fuj for the awesome pictures.