Posts Tagged ‘brown’

Soused in SanFran – Part 5: SFO D2 City Beer, Blu, and the rest

This here is Part Five of the Grand Caliventure of November 2011.
For Part 1, make the clicking to here.

Yup. Still Friday.

So, we hit Magnolia for a delicious lunch and tasty beers, then the Alembic for a superb cocktail. With Ke$shia Ho joining in, we were off to the City Beer Store. It’s a beer store. In the city. BUT, (important detail) they also have a BAR, so you can drink while you shop. It also means you could sample something before deciding to buy a bottle. Or, you can enjoy your newly-purchased bottle right there. ! ! ! Why. Don’t we have this. In Boston. Question mark. I mean, besides the fact that they’re so puritanical and immature that they won’t even allow happy hour here. But, we were in SFO, and in a beer store, so there were no thoughts of Assachusetts except choosing what I was going to bring back with me. Good stuff on tap too… Dogfish Head 120, Stone Double Bastard, Russian River Pliny the Elder… things like THAT. ON TAP.

Part industrial basement, part craft beer wonderland.

So, while the Lady Friend and Ke$hia chatted and sipped on some Pliny the Elder (yes east coast… they had Pliny ON TAP) I was let loose in the store to browse the hundreds and hundreds of craft beer bombers. Apparently, City Beer had just completed a renovation, but as it’s kind of concrete-and-beam place to begin with, it didn’t make much difference to me. I guess they went through a much-needed expansion to make room for more beer. I spent about 20 minutes just browsing before enlisting the help of Stephanie, the clerk who was way too helpful. I pitched it to her as “Ok, pretend you’re from the east coast. You can’t get many of these beers there, so where should I start?” to which she replied, “Uh, I AM from the east coast, originally.” I forget where, but I want to say it was one of the Carolinas. So, we set about playing a beer scavenger hunt of sorts. They had tons of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, a legendary dIPA and a beer I was specifically going to obtain, as well as a selection of their Blind Pig IPA. I had never SEEN these beers before; I had only read about them. Joyous.

Among the other selections were beers from New Zealand (Epic Brewing) and Alaska (Midnight Sun Brewing), and some more familiar Ballast Point, though I had never seen their Sculpin IPA around Boston before. Stephanie suggested some beers from Alpine Beer Company outside of San Diego. She said they got several cases in the day before, and it was flying off the shelves, so grab some now. I grabbed some because I didn’t expect to ever see it again. The Nelson golden IPA was delish, and I have yet to try the bottle of Pure Hoppiness. They also had some IMMENSE bottles of beer, at 3+ quarts (96+ oz), which I didn’t know existed, with a Grolsch-style cap and a $90 price tag. For a sense of scale, that’s a normal 12oz Dogfish Head in between some Andre the Giant bottles of Duvel and Stone. I have no idea what the size of that bottle is called, but I’m going to call it “A Juggernaut,” as in “barkeep, bring me your finest Juggernaut of ale, post haste!”

Once the selections were finally made, Stephanie rang up the total, and I packed them for shipping, which was an adventure in itself, though all eventually arrived safe and intact. Precious cargo.

Precious cargo indeed.

With the grand beer acquisition completed, Ke$hia drove us downtown to her bar, Blu Restaurant,(apparently there’s one in Boston too) as she was starting her shift. Blu has a very open feeling, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Market Street. When we were there around 5, the sunlight was streaming in the windows with an orange glow, offsetting the dark, glossy, marble bar. We plunked down at the end of the bar and Ke$hia poured us a Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA. It had a slight hoppy nose, with an equally slight hoppy bitter taste up front, but then delved into a nutty, almost peanut flavor. Quite odd, but pretty good. From there, we actually squeezed in a Rule 37 cocktail, an original by Ke$hia, The French Blues.

The French Blues
– 2 oz gin (Bombay Sapphire)
– 1/2 oz lime juice
– 1/2 oz simple syrup
– small handful of fresh blueberries
– sink 1/2 oz blue curaçao
– flamed orange peel garnish
– fresh blueberry garnish
– champagne to top

Lightly muddle the blueberries in a mixing glass and pour in gin, lime juice and simple syrup. Shake and strain into a champagne flute. Sink (opposite of a float) blue curaçao to bottom of glass and top with champagne. Garnish with flamed orange peel and blueberries.

So, with the gin, lime, simple syrup and champagne, it’s a relative to the French 75, using lime instead of lemon. The blueberries add an interesting element, but not much flavor. Overall, I found it decently boozy from the amount of gin dumped in, but otherwise nice. I think the ratios could use a little tweaking to bring it into balance, and wind up with something interesting. The elements of the curaçao and flamed orange add even more citrus into the mix. You could even do a his & hers pairing by making a blue one as shown and a pink version using Chambord or other liqueur in place of the curaçao, and perhaps a raspberry garnish.

The drinks were tasty, but we had to run to meet JJ and her husband for dinner at a deep dish pizza restaurant called Paxti’s, apparently pronouced “Pah-chees” (yes, we went to SFO and had Chicago-style pizza). Here our troubles began. We got on the right bus, but in the wrong direction, which took us on a half hour sightseeing detour only to wind up exactly where we started. After another 20 or so minutes of travel in the correction direction, we speedwalked the two blocks from the bus stop to the restaurant. During all of this, the Lady Friend got increasingly distraught about being late, causing JJ to hate her forever, or something like that, and suffered a mini-meltdown on our quest. It would have been fun to yell “get a hold of yourself, soldier!” and pull a Patton, but I’m secretly a nice guy, despite what you read. After regrouping, we arrived at the restaurant, looking about in confusion, as JJ was nowhere to be found. Patxi’s? Yeah, they have several locations. We were at Hayes Street, JJ was at Fillmore, 2 miles away. The Lady Friend looked like she was going to curl up on the curb and stay there forever, but I could only laugh at the absurdity of the whole thing.

We hailed a cab and sped over to the correct Paxti’s encountering some of the steepest hills I’ve seen on the way. Seriously, who decided to put a city here? It’s no joke. Upon arriving, we found JJ and husband, who were no worse for wear, had ordered a couple pizzas while waiting for us so that it would come out of the oven promptly. The Lady Friend calmed down enough to order a Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA (on tap!) and I had a Lost Coast Downtown Brown, which was roasty-toasty and delicious. The pizza arrived and was A-MAZ-ING. Seriously, go there. It was everything deep dish should be, and really made me realize that there’s a distinct lack of decent deep dish in Boston.

After stuffing ourselves to the gills, we caught a (correct) bus back to the apartment. I thought we might rally and hit up another place, since it was only 8pm, but once JJ pulled the cork on a bottle of wine, the dread settled in that this was the end of the night. I should have struck out on my own to find some local establishments distributing intoxicating liquids, but instead sat there and listened to the two hens clucking about everything under the sun. Le sigh. Really really should have gone exploring. And by exploring I mean drinking. Because the next day was the dreaded wine day, and it would be a long one.

The Monday Hangover: Oct 8-9

The Monday Hangover:
Other drink adventures of note from the weekend.

Following a trip to Curtis Liquors, I returned home with a sample pack of Mercury Brewing Ipswich Ales, including their Original Ale, Summer Ale, and IPA. I cracked an IPA (very nice, decently hoppy, but not out of control) before cocktail time. I finished the evening with an impulse buy, a Baltika Batch 9 lager.

Ok, the story here is that I saw what I swear was a plastic two litre bottle of this beer on the shelf. (UPDATE: Apparently it’s a 1.5l plastic bottle) For about $4. I almost bought it, because a) it’s 2l of beer for $4 and b) it was probably FANTASTICALLY horrifying. Then I noticed a pint bottle (this one was actually glass) on the shelf below for about $2, and decided that was a better idea. I took a closer look at the label and found that it was from St. Petersburg, Russia (awesome potential for a horror show) and that it was an 8% abv lager. Yikes. Bring it on. It smelled quite fruity, with a hint of alcohol to it, but tasted surprisingly pleasant. I was expecting much much worse, and was actually a bit disappointed that it was so drinkable. Best comparison? A malt liquor forty. It’s got that fruity, over-boozed taste to it, like they took a cheap lager and upped the abv with some grain spirit. I might very well go back for that giant plastic bottle.

Saturday began with a recon trip to Bin Ends, a new-ish liquor store in Braintree, near the South Shore Plaza mall. They deal mainly in wine, but also have a very nice craft beer selection (including the entire lineup of Clown Shoes brews) and an interesting offering of spirits. The staff was very nice and knowledgeable, and I snagged a Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp, and their new release, Muffin Top. I was also intrigued by something that caught my eye right at the front register; several bottles by Meletti, including a sambuca, and anisette, and an amaro. As I was explaining to the Lady Friend what an amaro is (a bitter Italian liqueur, used as an aperitif, or digestif), the clerk seemed impressed that I knew what I was talking about. I wound up buying the bottle of amaro as my bottle of the month (the way I build my bar is to budget myself to one new bottle of liquor per month). I usually aim for under $30, and the amaro clocked in at a very reasonable $18 (a 750mL bottle of Campari, a very well-known amaro, will run around $30 in MA). The Lady Friend wound up with a bomber of Unibroue’s Trois Pistoles, a Belgian strong dark ale she had enjoyed at one of Irish Lad & Wifey’s gatherings, some bottle of Malbec wine, and an inexpensive sparkling for further sabering adventures. Bin Ends was a score… great product, knowledgeable and friendly staff.

Following lunch, (with an Ipswich Summer Ale) we ventured into the city to feed the squirrels on Boston Common. Lady Friend was meeting a friend for dinner and a concert near Fenway, so we decided to lounge around the city for the afternoon, weather permitting. It wound up being above 80°, strange even for a New England October weekend. We packed a few travelers, the Clown Shoes Tramp Stamp, and a Bear Republic Racer 5, storing the amber nectar into some Nestea bottles for inconspicuous consumption in the park. Apparently, the police had their hands full dealing with some other dbags that day, so we sipped our cold tea in peace among the bucolic splendor of the Land of Squirrels.

Once Lady Friend departed for her rendezvous, I spent some more time among the bushy-tailed rodents enjoying my buzz until I hopped the T up to Somerville to visit the Irish Lad and Wifey. She picked me up from Davis Sq. and we opened a bottle of prosecco back at the homestead. Did I say opened? Rather, we sabered it off. Tee hee. A glass of bubbly was enjoyed before the Irish Lad joined, and I suggested he try a Black Velvet. We mixed the prosecco with a can of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout with very pleasant results. Better than Guinness, as there is an added element of the dark chocolate taste, nicely cut by the fruity wine. Irish Lad was a bit apprehensive at first, but then agreed that it was indeed a tasty tipple.

From there, we moved to a bottle of his recent homebrew, a hoppy brown ale. It nosed with a lot of hop, and tasted the same. There was a slight element of malty brown ale in the finish, but not quite enough, in my opinion. Since the brew has been bottle conditioning for about two weeks, we decided that with further conditioning, the overpowering hop would likely mellow, leaving a better balance in the taste. I got two bottles to bring home, which are currently fermenting further in the cabinet under my kitchen counter.

Lastly, he broke out a bottle of Harpoon 100 Barrel Series, #38 Dôcesná, which I found to be somewhat unpleasant. This seems to be a trend with the 100 Barrel Series, as we intensely disliked the Rye IPA. The Oyster Stout, however, is excellent. This Dôcesná creature poured medium dark, almost like a German dunkel, and smelled of Czech pils staleness. The taste was right in there as well, with a pils rubbery cardboard presence, and a slight dark maltiness to the finish. Ugh.

The Lady Friend and I reconvened the next day for lunch at the Union Brewhouse. We did some more work on our 99 beer lists, and she opted for an Opa Opa Pumpkin (Cask) Ale, while I started with a Hoegaarden Wit-Blanch, a very popular Belgian white ale. Second was a Lexington Brewing Kentucky Ale, tasty, though a bit forgettable, and lastly a Coastal Extreme Newport Storm Summer Ale, which is nicely hopped for a summer, and some call it an IPA.

Being Columbus Day, I had Monday off, and spent a good deal of it watching Ken Burns’ documentary “Prohibition,” while tasting an Ipswich Original Ale with lunch, finishing out the trio from Mercury Brewing. Dinner brought forth a Williams Brothers Joker IPA, and a post-meal tasting of the Meletti Amaro. More on that to come. Another drinktastic weekend drowned in intoxicants. Excellent.

The Homecoming: Throwback Brewery

There’s a brewery in my hometown.

If you live in Portland, Boston, Burlington, or even Syracuse, that may not be such a big deal. However, I’m from a small town in the seacoast area of New Hampshire called North Hampton. If you’ve ever heard of Hampton Beach, it’s just north of that. It officially separated from Hampton in 1742, and only has about 4,300 people living there. At least we don’t have any witches.

Anyway, I was flipping through the Yankee Brew News (Aug/Sept 2011 Issue, Vol 22, No 4) several weeks ago, and there was a list of breweries attempting to use all (or mostly) locally-sourced ingredients. For example, Allagash (Portland, ME) uses Maine-grown barley, Just Beer (Westport, MA) uses local cranberries, hops and pumpkins, and The Vermont Pub and Brewery (Burlington, VT) puts Lake Champlain chocolate into their Imperial Double Chocolate Stout. Then there was “Throwback Brewery, North Hampton, N.H.” with probably the longest list of local ingredients.

Wait… what?

So I did a bit of digging.

Throwback Brewery was started in 2010 by two women, Annette and Nicole. Annette, the head brewer, was an environmental engineer and consultant in her previous, non-brewer, life, but has been home brewing for ten years, including an internship at Smuttynose Brewing in Portsmouth, NH. Nicole has also been homebrewing for about a decade, and the two of them started the brewery with the intent of creating an environmentally friendly, local ingredient-sourced product. My knee-jerk reaction was that it was a bit on the hippie tree-hugger side for me, but I would withhold judgment until checking out the place, the space, and the beers.

Saturday was the day. The Lady Friend and I hopped into Elsa, who was due for a wash and wax at the parental homestead. The Irish Lad and Wifey were coincidentally also in NH for the weekend (her parents live in Hampton) so we made plans to meet at the brewery. My brother and father were also intrigued, so they came along to check it out. Then Wifey’s dad drove her and Irish Lad over (he’s a beer fan as well; he joined us for the Craft Beer Fest in Boston earlier this year). Finally, Lady Friend’s Friend (she made that name up) joined in. Good lord. I have trouble getting this many people together on purpose for a brewery tour. I’m surprised they didn’t bring Zero along as well.

Yet another in a series of glamorous, decadent, brewery façades.

Throwback is in a small, tucked-away industrial park of sorts off of Route 1 (Lafayette Road) in North Hampton. If you’re heading north, it’s just past the Shel-Al Campground (trailer park) and almost (but not quite) across the street from the gray plaza where Callahan Motors is. I highly recommend using Google Maps street view to see exactly where it is before you go. Why so much detail? Because I grew up in this town and even I would have blown right past it. There is a small sign, and it’s in the middle of the second building in the industrial park. Don’t worry; you probably won’t get assaulted. North Hampton isn’t that exciting. Usually.

So, at about 3:20pm, everyone else finally started showing up for our 3pm meet time (don’t ask) and we began the tasting. There are three options: a free plastic tasting cup, a $5 tasting glass or a $7 pint glass. They’ll give you a pour in any of these, but I recommend going with the 5 oz tasting glass or 21.5 oz pub glass, which not only usually gets you a better (more generous) pour, but gives you a souvenir to keep. So I added another glass to the ever-growing collection. They had five beers on tap at the time, and I squeezed through the crowd (mainly composed of Squirrel Farts readers). Nicole, decked out in an Animal tshirt, started pouring.

One of each should do quite nicely.

Hog Happy Hefeweizen
Nose: Wheaty, banana/ clove.
Pretty typical for a hefe.
Taste: Light, clean taste. No cloying or sticky unfiltered wheat/yeast taste or mouthfeel. Genuinely tasty, clean, and refresing. I was surprised. Even Wifey (who HATES beer) liked this one. At least, I think that’s what she attempted to scrawl on my notepad.

Dippity-Do Brown Ale

Nose: Sugary, like brown sugar or slight molasses. Malt.
Taste: Very roasty and bitter. Smooth. A lot of coffee-roast type bitterness, but very nice and tasty.

Hopstruck Red IPA

Nose: Sweet hop. Yeah, that’s all I put.
Taste: Sweet initial, then slight hop bitter. Malty smooth finish with the hop bitter lingering. Very nice. Green tree fruit, like an unripe peach. Green, but not grassy. Yum.

Maple-Kissed Wheat Porter

Nose: Brown sugar again. Maple detected, but not out of control. It smells syrupy, if that makes any sense.
Taste: A touch of smoke. Tree bark. Grassy/ wooden. Not overwhelmingly maple-flavored, which deserves mention. Unusual, but nice.

Campfire Smoked Robust Porter

Nose: Slight smoke (the others seemed to smell much more smokiness than I did). Smells like a German dark beer… bock?
Taste: Starts very malty, then smoke. Rauchbier. Not charcoal, but ash. Burnt. Again, flavored, but not overwhelming. Balanced.

Fun fact: Those illustrations are by Nate Walker, an artist who grew up in nearby Stratham, NH. He’s the one who did the Giant Ant sculpture in Market Square in Portsmouth, which was then vandalized. Naturally. Apparently Lady Friend’s Friend’s sister dated him in high school. Can’t escape the vortex of NH.

After finishing up our tastings (and pretty much chasing everyone else out of the place), Irish Lad purchased some merch and started chatting with Annette, the head brewer. I joined in as well, and eventually she offered to show us around, which we gladly accepted. Their main focus is to have locally-sourced ingredients, and the goal is to have everything come from a 200-mile radius. Right now, they’re achieving about half of that, but it’s a start. Wheat is coming from a farm in Rollinsford, NH, hops from Maine, and two-row barley from Valley Malt in Hadley, MA. Some other ingredients, such as adjunct chocolate malts for the porters, are coming from Wisconsin, but will hopefully be found in New England soon. Throwback is grinding their own malt, and it travels up some pvc piping to the hopper like an oversized hamster tube.

Throwback runs a three barrel brew system. Their tanks are recovered from a single malt flavoring plant, and were custom-adapted by a welder friend for use in brewing. It’s an open flame system, not steam jacketed, using a pair of 320,000 btu propane burners. The kettle has a 175 gallon capacity, and is wide and short, allowing for a good boil, and making it easier for Annette (she’s pint-sized… see what I did there?) to gain access. Being a small operation, they couldn’t afford a powerful enough pump for the whirlpool, so Annette manually paddles it. Gotta really love brewing to stand over a boiling wort and paddle your own whirlpool.

There are no big shiny fermentation tanks here. The brews go into the “fermentation barn,” essentially four, temperature-controlled closets with giant plastic tubs to let the beer bubble away. A CoolBot hacks and overrides the normal air conditioner settings and keeps the temperature much colder, and stable. I totally need one of those for my apartment. At this point, Wifey suddenly got interested, because the fermenters all have pictures of Muppets on them. Government requirements state that each fermenter have a unique ID name/number, so a Muppet naming convention was established (it’s easier to remember). Of course, Wifey piped up with the suggestion to rename the grain hopper to “Doc Hopper,” a character from The Muppet Movie. Le sigh.

So, right now the challenge for Throwback is keeping up with demand. They started putting the works together in 2010, but then had to wait for stacks of government paperwork and forms to be issued, filed, and approved. Demand has been overwhelming, but this might be because they’re the new kid in town. They just had their first official tasting in mid-August, and it’ll take time to let the intial response die down and see what the real, steady numbers are. In the meantime, Throwback is busy brewing. They self-distribute (in snazzy red 5.4 gal kegs), and also have a couple bombers available. At the brewery, they’ll fill your growler or growlette with happy beer wonderfulness. There’s merch available, including their “beer-oir” shirts, referencing the ponciest term in all alcohol, “terroir.” They’re really striving towards the whole local-ingredient goal, but making some very tasty beers in the process, which is what it’s all about. As with all new businesses, there’s still a long way to go but Annette seemed to be ready to go, commenting towards the end of our tour:

“I have enough confidence in what I do to keep going as long as I can.”

Well said. Keep brewing, Throwback.
Welcome to the neighborhood.

‘CuseQuest Bonus Round: Albany Pump Station

Ok, I’ve got to get this out of the way right now.

That song goes through my head every time I think of the name “Albany Pump Station.”

Pump it up
A little more
Get your body moving on the dance floor

Have I started yet?
I have?

The Lady Friend and I departed Beeracuse and headed to the wondrous Capital Region to meet up with some friends of mine just outside of Albany (actually outside of Schenectady, a town with the most ridiculous name… Niskayuna, not easy to type into a gps while on the Thruway). We got to see the newly-relocated Casey Sage, a golden retriever who loses her furry little mind every time she sees me, and the resident pooch, Rosie, a black lab. Critter Count: 12! Five of us (humans) went to the Albany Pump Station for some grub, and a beer tasting for me. Sadly, the pups stayed home (in separate rooms; they get into mischief together).

The Albany Pump Station, formerly the Quackenbush Pumping Station, was used to pump Albany municipal water from the Hudson River. A guy named Neil Evans bought the building in 1999 to build a brewhouse, bringing his family back into the brewing world. The Evanseseses had started a brewery way way back in 1786 in Hudson, NY, but, like everybody else, got closed down by Prohibition in 1920. According to their website, they were quite popular, even exporting to England and France. They also boast one of the country’s first bottling facilities in 1889, and even malted their own grain. The Pump Station is a solid two story brick building; very cool and industrial looking. Two giant cranes still hang inside and were used to haul the brew tanks up to the second floor, where they now sit making gallons of bubbling happiness.

It was certainly a cool place, and hopefully the beers would hold up. I’ve been let down before, but Albany Pump Station (C.H. Evans Brewing Company) more than rose to the challenge. I was the only one in our group to tackle the eight (8!) beer sampler for a very reasonable $7, though the other male with us stepped up and had a hefeweizen. Before the food came, I got to wander around and take a few shots. They opened up the main dining area by cutting away most of the second story, and you can look down on the whole place from the upper mezzanine.

Hi, BBack!

The group consisted of my friend from Maine, BBack, who had just moved to the area for a teaching job. Her twin sister, and the twin’s husband had been living in Cambridge for awhile before moving to Albany a couple years ago. BBack’s husband is the owner/operator of previously mentioned Blue Line Apiary in Maine, and he’s due to follow to NYState soon. Naturally, the Lady Friend was present as well.

When the beers came I scuttled back downstairs to start the sampling. The group was somewhat intrigued that I go to the trouble of taking notes, though Lady Friend was all too used to my nonsense and wasn’t fazed in the slightest.

Scottish Light
Described on the beer list as “an amber hue and short finish.”
Just like me!
…wait, what?
Nose: Sweet cereal, barley, with a slight cherry fruit
Taste: Cereal. Barley. Very refreshing.

Quackenbush Blonde
…I knew a Quackenbush blonde once…
Nose: No discernible aroma
Taste: Cheerios! Also had a light, floral hop flavor.

Smoked Hefeweizen
Nose: Banana wheat hefe smell. Slight smokiness. Everyone else smelled much more smoke than I did.
Taste: Cinnamon/ clove with a slight smoke finish. Not bad for a hefe.

Doc’s Pear Cider
They were out of the Belgian-style strong ale, and BBack wanted to try the pear cider, so I requested this as a substitute. A good choice.
Nose: Um. It smells exactly how you would expect pear cider to smell. Sweet and pear-y.
Taste: Light and crispy. Nice pear flavor with a touch of tart sweetness. Lip smacking. Very tasty. I am not generally a fan of pear flavors, or cider in general, but this was really good. After my taste, BBack drank the rest and I was sorry to see it go.

Belgian-style Dubble with Cherries
Nose: Mild, dark cherry aroma
Taste: Belgian wheaty texture, though no banana flavor. A tart, cherry syrup sensation with a malty roast.

Oatmeal Stout
Nose: Roasted malt. Slight sweetness detected.
Taste: Nice bitter roasted flavor. Dark and malty. Delicious.

Kick-Ass Brown
Nose: Sweet, with a hint of lemon fruit.
Taste: Malty with some lemon. Smooth. Low carbonated mouthfeel. VERY nice flavors. More going on here than a regular brown.

Pump Station Pale
(Amarillo Hop)
Nose: Piney hop aroma, though not overpowering. Some tree fruit juiciness.
Taste: Very nice. Bitter hop balanced well with the malt sweet. Yum.

Our food came as I was finishing up the tastings, and everyone was impressed with the size of the sandwiches. Very tasty, and good fries. The New Yorkers picked up the check for my birthday (thanks!) and Lady Friend and I hit the Thruway back to Boston, battling traffic and downpours the whole way back turning an easy cruise into a demolition derby. We made it back unscathed, unloaded our precious cargo, and I finally got to sleep in my own bed of awesomeness. I declare the ‘CuseQuest completed!

Treasures from the journey!

‘CuseQuest! Part 3: Beer Day Cont’d – EMPIRE

Whew. Way too much in the last post to try to squeeze in Empire, which deserves a little space. Empire Brewing Company is down on Walton Street in Armory Square, a historical part of downtown Syracuse. The armory (now the Museum of Science and Technology, or M.O.S.T.) was built in 1859 and was part of the industrial bustle of old Syracuse. Its proximity to the Erie Canal, and subsequent railroads, created an economic boom in the area, and large hotels and businesses flourished until the 1930s when the railroads were removed from Syracuse city streets and the area gradually declined. Which is a nice way of saying it fell apart. It joined the rest of Syracuse in the condition of “urban renewal” without the “renewal,” a motif which lingers throughout the city to this day. However, in the 1970s, bunches of yuppies and artists started buying and fixing up the old buildings, and now Armory Square (there is no actual “square” unlike Clinton Square) has a lot of the trendier places in town and is on the National Register of Historic Places. As a student, I never really ventured into the city, as most of us stayed in our university bubble on top of The Hill. I had always heard about it, but only went down there maybe once or twice. This was another area of the city I’d have liked to explore further, but just didn’t have time on this trip. We did, however, manage to get to Empire, the exterior of which is reminiscent of a subway entrance, as you descend the covered stairs into the depths of the brewpub.

The belly of the beast.

We sweatily plunked down at the bar, grateful for it’s dark, subterranean climate, embellished greatly by the steady air conditioning, one of America’s greatest inventions, and the namesake of the Carrier Dome. See how I tied that up all nice and neat? Yeah, I was proud of that too. Anyway, the point is, it was as hot as hornets on a hound dog, and I was in desperate need of cold air and colder beer. The bartender, Cinthia, (all “i’s” as she was quick to point out, though the “y” or “i” question was on the tip of my tongue) set to work pouring our six-beer flights, though she glanced warily when we requested a flight for each of us, not to share. “It’s two and a half pints of beer,” she added in her Rah-chester styled upstate accent, a dialect that almost sounds Chicagoan in influence. I let it slide, though my internal arrogance wanted to boast “Silly hu-man female! No mortal pint can drown the likes of SquirrelFarts McAwesome! Now fetch my flagons of ale, post haste!” Instead, I set to tasting.

Flagon fetching!

Skinny Atlas Light
The name plays on “Skaneateles Lake,” the nearby finger lake that is Syracuse’s water supply, and is so pure and clean, the city uses the water unfiltered. Not to be confused with Lake Onondaga, one of the most polluted lakes in the country. Apparently this beer won a gold medal in 1999 at the Great American Beer Fest. There are other such medals framed around the brewpub, so these beers come with some credentials.
Nose: “Beer.” Light, not much to smell.
Taste: Apricot-like fruit. Apparently everything was tasting of apricots to me… I was getting a lot of it at Middle Ages. Plenty of flavor for a light beer. Nice and refreshing. I could drink it all day and enjoy it.

Empire Amber Ale 5.2% abv

Nose: Weak aroma. Hint of malt.

Taste: Buttery. Popcorn. Malty with cereal grain. Sweet and tasty. I know a buttery flavor can be the result of some renegade yeast, (UPDATE: It’s called diacetyl) so I’m not sure if this is how the batch was SUPPOSED to taste, but either way it was delicious. Sweet, but not in a sickly sugary manner. Yum.

Black Magic Stout
This used a nitrogen backing instead of carbon dioxide, as does Guinness.
Nose: Coffee. Roast. Some sweetness. Smells excellent.
Taste: Creamy. Milky. Lactose? I asked Cinthia, and she said it wasn’t a milk stout; it was just the nitrogen (smaller bubbles) that gave it a smoother mouthfeel. She gave us a bonus taste of their nitrogen-backed blonde ale as well to see another example of the creamy smoothness. The stout also tasted with a chocolate finish, but of a high-cacao dark chocolate. Semi-sweet chocolate chips or other bitter cocoa. Very nice. Black magic indeed.

Downtown Brown (seasonal)
Anyone else immediately think Downtown Julie Brown? No? Just me? I’m old. This seasonal was described by Cinthia as an English style brown ale but with American hops. She didn’t know specifically which hops. I asked.
Nose: Roasted barley, much like a stout.
Taste: Syrup mouthfeel, though not too overwhelming. Flavors of roast coffee (from the roasted malt) and maltiness. Very tasty. Four out of four have been good so far, Empire.

Empire State Pale Ale IPA 6.8% abv
This was served to us as the pale ale, but later on Cinthia decided we were the real deal, since I was taking pictures and writing tasting notes, so she came back over to chat a bit and let us know that they were out of the pale ale, so this was actually the IPA instead. I had initially thought it was quite hoppy for a pale ale, so it’s good to know that I’m not crazy. Well. Debatable.
Nose: Excellent fruity hop, floral. Lady Friend described it as “Cat pee?” quickly adding “…but not in a bad way.” Um. Ok then.
Taste: Citrus. Nectarine/ peach/ tree fruit, as a Citra hop, but not quite to that level of flavor. Similar however. YUM. Lady Friend described it as tasting of Sauvignon Blanc, but I have no idea what that means.

Empire Summer Ale (seasonal) (duh)

Nose: Weak, but with a hint of lemon. Summery in color and aroma.

Taste: Grain sweet. Lemon/ citrus. A slight stale finish, but light and refreshing. Tasty, with lots of flavor, almost in defiance of its pale aroma and color. Nice.

That takes care of my six samples. However, two of the spots are reserved for seasonals, and they had a number of rotating brews available. I had the summer and brown while Lady Friend got two others. Somewhere along the way with our beer tastings we figured out that to cover the whole range, we should each order as many different ones as possible and then share. We didn’t specifically set out to do it this time, but it happened to work out nicely, thanks to Cinthia’s proficient pouring prowess.

White Aphro (seasonal)
This was a Belgian-style white ale. Not my chosen style, but I give everything a fair chance. However…
Nose: Spice. Winter ale-like. Wheaty/ banana aromas typical of a Belgian white. Hint of orange peel?
Taste: Urinal cake. Yup. That’s exactly it. It tastes the way a urinal cake smells. Fake “citrus” chemical grossness. Ewwww. Big swing and a miss on THAT one.

Deep Purple (seasonal) 8% abv!
Apparently this fruity beer is made from organic Concord grape concentrate sourced from Geneva (Geneva, NY, I’m assuming.) Deceptively sweet, clocking in at eight percent alcohol by volume.
Nose: Sour wine. Grapey. Grape off the vine, not “grape flavor.”
Taste: Um, grapey. Winey. Juice-box. Too much flavor to want to finish it. Meh. Couldn’t imagine an entire pint of this. Yowza.

Blonde Cream Ale

This was the nitrogen cream ale that Cinthia and I were discussing earlier along with the nitro stout. I’ve found that in bars/ breweries/ brewpubs, if you simply talk the talk, bartenders recognize that you know what you’re doing and will often slip you something extra to try or discuss. It’s not my intention to score free tastes, but a) bartending can be very boring, especially an afternoon shift b) product is cheap. Sure, everything has a cost associated with it, but for a manufacturer, product is worthless until someone is willing to pay for it. Not that a 5oz pour from the tap will bankrupt anybody, but it’s always appreciated on my end. The best tasting booze is FREE booze.
Nose: Slight hop, but it was a struggle to get any aroma off of it.
Taste: Creamy mouthfeel. A nice, mild hop. Very tasty. Lady Friend’s take: “You could drink a LOT of that.” The nitrogen really does make for a very smooth drink.

Off and on, I had been wandering around the place taking some pics. It was a quiet, Saturday afternoon, so it was pretty empty and didn’t get many stares. Yes, I take pictures of bars people. I’m not trying to take a picture of YOU, so quit staring at me like I’m a stalker. I love the look of this place. It may not have the “proper” pub atmosphere of dark wood, but the brick walls make a nice alternative. Low ambient light (as it should be) with plenty of accents highlighting various art pieces and awards. Around the corner, next to the bathroom, I stumbled upon a cool piece: a mixed-media mural (hey, I’m an art kid. I get to use terms like “mixed-media”) of the Empire “e” logo in copper, with the “e” composed of bottle caps. The background? A star stylized with, of all things, Genesee beer labels.

Genesee Brewing, or “Genny” as it is known, is famous for making an, um, economically-priced, cream ale. The brewery began way way back in the early 1800s as the first brewery in Rochester, NY. They started making their creme ale in the 1960s, and it is both revered and reviled throughout the Northeast, particularly in NY State. Seriously, ask any baby-boomer who grew up in the Northeast if they remember Genny and you’ll get either a grin or a gag. Maybe both. Currently, Genny is part of a corporation called simply “North American Breweries” that includes Magic Hat, Dundee (they make a Honey Brown beer), and Labatt’s USA division. Whether the Empire poster was created as homage or satire, I don’t know. Empire is all about local, fresh ingredients, so my guess is that it’s more of a reaction to the mass-produced Genny gems.

So, Empire was great. A lot of tasty beers. Well above average. After Empire, we made a stop at Liquor World in Dewitt, right next to Wegmans. They boasted low prices and delivered on that promise: I scored a 1 litre-sized bottle of Campari to replenish my dwindling supply for about $26, at least $4 less than the smaller 750ml counterpart costs in MA. Same for a bottle of Old Overholt Rye… the 1 litre size was cheaper than the 750ml equivalent. Score. The Lady Friend bought a couple of bottles of wine as a thank you to funcle and his female companion for letting us crash with them, and the whole family clan converged at his home for a cookout that evening, some of which I hadn’t seen since my graduation from SU. I helped myself to some Saranac in funcle’s fridge; a black and tan, and a vanilla stout, both of which were tasty, unlike most of Saranac’s offerings which I find uninspiring. Lady Friend and I cracked the Stone IPA bomber to sip with dinner, and after the family left, she and I relaxed on the porch with the Peak Organic Hop Noir black IPA, though I was sleepy at that point. Time to rest up: Sunday was *shudder* WINE DAY.

<- Click that picture!
This is it! We're down to the wire!
The last day of voting for me is Sept 9th, so DO IT.

Don’t make me angry.
You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.


Upta Potlind, Paht 7: Bray’s Brew Pub

This is Part Seven of an ongoing series chronicling the Maine Beercation of late July, 2011. To start at Part One, click here.


Following a day of tours and tastings including Gritty McDuff’s, Allagash, The Maine Beer Company, the Great Lost Bear, Sebago Brewpub, and Novare Res, I awoke rather reluctantly Saturday morning with a case of the beer flu. Bacchus’s revenge. Morning fog, cropsick, crapulence. Suffering from intemperance. Not eager to start the day.

Eventually, I rallied enough to gingerly coax some Hatorade, that Lady Friend had graciously procured from the nearby Shaw’s, into the depths of my gullet. Baby steps, baby steps. But, we had an itinerary to keep, and after passing a rather interesting sign proclaiming an imminent invasion of little people, the first stop of the day was Bray’s Brew Pub in Naples, up Route 302, next to Sebago Lake (apparently there is a “Lake Sebago” in New York State).

Sebago looks like this.

Bray’s Brew Pub claims to be only about 30 minutes from Portland, but if you’re heading up Rt 302 in the summah be aware that it’s the ONE road to the lakes region, and every yahoo in Cumberland County is going boating. Bray’s is located at the intersection where Rt 35 forks off of Roosevelt Trail/Rt 302/Rt 35/Rt 11. Seriously, Maine? Anyway, if you’re goin’ up dere from Potlind, it’ll be on the left, and it looks nothing like a brewpub. It looks like an old farmhouse, mostly because it IS an old farmhouse.

Not pictured: helpful exterior shot.
I wasn’t really functioning at peak efficiency at the time.

This place was pretty cool. Seriously… picture an old-timey farmhouse, and put a bar in it.

Little Alehouse on the Prairie.

We sat down to lunch, and ordered a flight of beers to share. I was able to keep down some Pepsi (gotta get that caffeine and sugar boost going), water, and a taste of each beer. Lady Friend took up the duty of finishing off the wounded soldiers. I managed to eat one (1) french fry, and that was enough. When I get hungover, the LAST thing in the world I want is food. Others go the opposite way, like my Milwaukee mate ‘Tastic, who demolished a breakfast burrito the size of a terrier after a night of drinking, along with a Bloody Mary that was more garnish than drink.

Seriously. It’s not a “drink” if it’s mostly solid foods.

When I’m hungover, my stomach and I need some time apart. We go our separate ways and meet up after about 10 hours when my appetite returns, and we reacquaint, stronger than before. Sometimes in a relationship, you have to know when to just back off, and spend some quality time away from each other. As such, I have never been able to follow the “hair of the dog” technique, but was able to do some mild tastings of the brews that Bray’s produced. They had five pours of roughly 4-5oz, and we started sipping, one of us with much less enthusiasm than usual (this guy).

Taste order was right-to-left.

Irish Red Ale
Nose: Malty, slight copper.
Taste: Smooth & creamy. Malty, grain. Slight bitter finish, but not metallic. Very nice.

440 Blues Brew (blueberry)
Nose: Slight farmy aroma, with fruit.
Taste: Fruity, then malt, then slight bitter. Fine, but not a ton of flavor.

Old Church Pale Ale
Nose: Hoppy floral.
Taste: Hop start with malty sweetness. Well-balance. Nice.

Baa Baa Black Wheat (stout?)
Nose: Bitter coffee roast
Taste: Bitter coffee roast. Not much sweetness.

Muddy River Bog Brown (brown ale)
Nose: Weak, malt aroma
Taste: Malty, but cereal sweet.

Nothing was bad, but nothing jumped out at me. I suspect my palate was also not entirely up to snuff, but there really weren’t any surprises in this batch. However, they also do offer a 50+ bottle list, which was very nice. Sadly, the family behind us (apparently from central NH, as overheard from the patriarch’s vociferous boasting of the infinite differences between the superior glory of the NH lakes region versus the squalor of ME) did not partake of the wonders offered, choosing a Bud Light and a Michelob. At a brewpub. Sigh.

Hmm… bring me your finest, coldest, low-calorie, pasteurized, cut-with-30% rice,
St. Louis pale lager, and be quick about it, my good man.

Yes, Budweiser is brewed with up to 30% rice, taking the place of things like barley. You know, to get rid of that pesky “beer” flavor. Ick.

Bray’s also has an outdoor Bier Garden section, with tented seating, an outdoor bar, and a stage, which was put to use shortly after we arrived. A large group of bikers began walking in, including a number of police bike units. Their department patches gave away their origins, with several from Portland, Lewiston and one from Old Orchard Beach, some 50 miles away. As near as I can tell, it was some sort of memorial ride, and the bikers mostly wandered out to the bier garden where a classic rock band had started dishing out the best ear poison from BÖC, BTO and REO (Speedwagon, in case there was some confusion). It was time to go.

Don’t fear the Reaper.

This was our last beer stop in Maine. The next destination was a winery called Blacksmith’s, where Lady Friend did a tasting, and was quite impressed. I tried some local cream soda (lovely) and a very nice hard cider, made in the British style: not too sweet. We were the only ones in the place, and chatted with the bartender, Brandon (Brendon?). He sympathized with my plight, and offered his own remedy: chug a bottle of chocolate milk. He insisted that the milk gives your stomach a nice, creamy coating and helps you feel better. I retorted that everything in a radius around me would be quickly and violently coated with said milk if I attempted that cure. But it was another interesting tidbit to file away.

We had intended to drive up to Lewiston and tour Baxter Brewing Company, a canned craft brewery, (apparently New England’s first all-canned), but the distance and the enthusiasm level led us to abandon that plan and head south to visit friends in North Berwick for dinner. On the way, we pulled off at a small beach on the lake to dip our feet. Brandon had suggested diving in to help clear my head, but given the lack of appropriate swim attire, and the long car ride home, wading would have to do. It was quite nice, and was another checkmark on our Maine-approved activities, followed up by blueberry picking with the Maine friends, a lovely dinner of grilled chicken, corn on the cob and potatos (my appetite had returned by then), and a post-meal walk with Casey Sage, the golden retriever. Back into the car as night fell for the drive back to Boston, my own lovely bed, and a refrigerator now stocked with a plethora of souvenir brews, waiting to be tasted.

Upta Potlind, Paht 6: Novare Res Bier Cafe

This is Part Six of an ongoing series chronicling the Maine Beercation of late July, 2011. To start at Part One, click here.

The Old Port section of Portland is great and all, but I grew up in a coastal New England town. I get it. I’ve seen it. It’s lovely, but only when the tourists migrate back to their homes in the winter. Sure, tourism sustains the economy and triples the summer population of a lot of New England destinations, but some of us have to live here, and get really tired of the word “quaint.” Ironically, having moved to Massachusetts, I’m now an embodiment of the dreaded Masshole that invades such scenic little Yankee locales. My mission isn’t the beach, or trinket shops, or “lobstah,” “chowdah,” or “outlet shopping.” I’m on a mission for drinkables.

What’s interesting about our Maine Beercation, is that Maine has a history of an anti-imbibing nature. The State of Maine was one of the first states in the country to pass a law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol in 1851. Some assclown named Neal Dow decided that because HE thought alcohol was bad, that NO ONE should have it. (Actually, at the time people drank 3-5 times more liquor than they do today, and it was a bit of a problem). He got his way and Maine went dry. People finally got fed up and mobbed Portland City Hall where Dow had stashed a supply of “medicinal” rum. The militia was called out and fired two broadsides into the crowd, wounding seven and killing one man. For reference, only 11 people were hit during the Boston “Massacre.”

This basically started to turn public opinion against Dow, and the law was eventually repealed the next year. In an M. Night Shyamalan style twist, Dow himself was charged with illegally procuring the rum in the first place, though he was eventually acquitted.

Anyway, following dinner, and more importantly, a sampling of beers at the Sebago Brewpub, as is our 21st Amendment right, the Lady Friend and I sauntered down Fore Street in the heart of the Old Port. It had been raining, so the other pedestrians were scarce. Passing cobblestones and Customs Houses, we searched for our next target: Novare Res Bier Cafe. Unfortunately, it lies off the beaten path, behind a fence in a pseudo-alley/courtyard area just off of Exchange Street, between Fore and Middle. We walked right past it, until, not unlike Ace of Base, we saw the sign.

Life IS demanding (without understanding).

If you’re looking for Novare Res, on a rainy night, keep an eye out for that sign. Once past the fence, you’ll see the building.

We went in and took a look around. The main tables are long, with benches creating a more communal style seating arrangement. We scored some seats next to an older group of two couples, and started the impossible task of choosing a beer. I know I’ve said that before, but this was really a challenge; Novare Res comes from the Latin “to start a revolution,” which is apparently what they’re trying to do. They had roughly 24 draughs and 500 bottles available. The beer list was 13 pages long.

Pick one.

Our waitress, Sarah, was patient, and came back several times to see if I had finally made up my damn mind. Lady Friend went with a Dogfish Head Sah-tea on tap, and I got a North Coast Acme IPA from CA, clocking in at 7.1 abv. It had a stale, earthy nose with a very slight essence of floral hop. Bitter taste, very hop forward, but smoothed out to a nice finish. Delish. Lady’s Sah-tea was a 9% abv in an 8oz pour described as a “Finnish beer with rye, juniper, ginger, cloves, and tea.” Ok then. It nosed as a Belgian, with wheaty banana fruit and a touch of spice. The taste was Belgian sweet and a slight ginger start. Banana certainly, but Lady Friend was hoping for something with a bit more punch, and wanted more of the ginger to come through. She moved on to an Einbecker Schwarzbier at 4.9%, with a malty nose, and slightly pils taste above malty sweetness. She enjoyed it.

I unintentionally stuck with North Coast for my second drink, an Old Stock Ale, which was a 12.5% abv barleywine. MALT nose. Nothin’ but malt brotha. And the taste… well in my notes I just wrote “wowsers.” Syrup MALT. Very tasty, like liquefied caramel. I nursed that for the rest of the evening, and Lady Friend moved onto her third, a Southern Tier Southern Hemisphere, which was supposed to be a brown ale. I’m suspicious now, because I’ve seen Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere, and wonder if someone mixed up the names. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a brown ale. It had a HOPPY nose, and tasted like a pale ale, with no roast, and a hoppy/malty finish. It was good, but I’d like to know what it was for sure.

As the evening went on, the crowd got a bit more… granola. Dreadlocks started appearing, and the Burlington vibe started wafting in, along with the bouquet of bud, patchouli and underachievement. Like a live band setting up, we took this as our cue to skedaddle, and prepared to leave. It was, however, a Maine Monsoon outside, and while I had brought along a raincoat, Lady Friend had to make do with a copy of the Yankee Brew News paper to ward off the rain, with little success. We ducked into Gritty’s with the thought of having a last beer, but the place was PACKED with plaid shorts, popped collars and bootleg Prada sunglasses, so we ventured back into the typhoon. We dashed to another bar, whose name I forget, and the bouncer had a stick up his ass about my camera bag, and wanted to store it “in a closet.” Yeah, my gear stays with me, thanks. I don’t want your Corona that badly. Grabbed a cab and went back to the hotel to wring ourselves out, and get some sleep before the next day’s travels.

Upta Potlind, Paht 5: Sebago Brewpub

This is Part Five of an ongoing series chronicling the Maine Beercation of late July, 2011. To start at Part One, click here.

I say See-bay-go, you say See-bah-go

I had stopped by Sebago Brewpub a couple years ago while interviewing for a job in Portland. It was on the corner of Market and Middle streets right in the middle of downtown/Old Port, and looked the way a brewpub should… dark wood, a proper bar, fermenting tanks lurking behind glass along the side of the dining area. However, as Lady Friend and I discovered, they had moved to a new location, on Fore Street, several months ago. This… was a bit disappointing.

Um. Not very brewpubby.

Their new location is all shiny and new, with lighter wood, brightly painted walls, and silly track lighting. The dining sections take up the majority of the space, but there is a decently long bar. I’m guessing they were doing well enough to abandon the old location in favor of this space. Good for them. I’m not saying more business is bad; I’m just of the opinion that the old location had a lot more character, and this one looks too new and manufactured, like a Boston Beer Works. I know that Sebago has several locations, but this new space LOOKS like it’s part of a chain.

Is there a bar back there somewhere?

This was a bit disappointing, but I’ll get over it. At least it means that business is good, and people are buying decent, local, craft beers, so I’ll let it slide. We asked the hostess for a table for two, and she said it’d be an hour wait. Yikes. I mean, it was Friday night, and the place was hopping, as evidenced by the interior photos above. We put our names in and headed to the bar with the idea of having at least one beer, and bouncing to another place for food if we didn’t feel like waiting. I spotted a breech in the wall of bodies at the bar and sent Lady Friend scooting over to secure a beachhead. I was staring at the taps, trying to decide what to order, when someone tapped me on the shoulder: it was Rob, the brewer from Gritty’s I had met at lunchtime. We chatted a bit about who works where, and how everybody has worked for Shipyard Brewing at some point, and I ordered a Citra Hop IPA that was on tap, not part of the normal lineup. Lady Friend snagged a blueberry ale, and as we were paying for the drinks, the hostess came up and said a table was ready. It had been about five minutes of the original hour wait estimate. Cool. We hadn’t understood why the wait was an hour in the first place, when we could see several empty tables.

We sat and started to taste our drinks. My Citra Hop IPA nosed with floral hop and a citrus aroma. The taste smacked of apple/tree fruit, a bit more sharp and/or tart than Irish Lad’s homebrew version, and drier. There was a smooth, malty undertone that didn’t so much counteract the hop, but added a counter-melody, playing along with the predominately fruit/hop flavor. It was good. Her blueberry was tasty, without being too sweet. A lot of fruit-flavored beers tend to wind up tasting like a mild ale with fruit syrup flavoring dumped in. Sebago’s version didn’t seem to have that problem. Lady Friend really enjoyed it, saying it was her favorite blueberry beer that she’s encountered so far.

We ordered dinner, and it was perfectly tasty. More importantly, we had to get a flight of beers for a tasting. There were five in a flight, decently sized at about 4 oz, and 10 varieties to choose from. Ours consisted of the five standard offerings: ale, IPA, brown ale, red ale and stout.

Saddleback Ale
Nose: Faint fruit/wheat. Faint.
Taste: Malt. Cereal grain with a touch of bitter.

Boathouse Brown Ale
Nose: Roasted and malty
Taste: Roasted and malty. (I know, very original). Sweet. Slight copper tang, but then finishes malt sweet.

Lake Trout Stout
Nose: Roast. Coffee beans.
Taste: Creamy mouthfeel. Bitter roast, but not unpleasant. Hint of vanilla sweetness. VERY good.

Runabout Red Ale
Nose: Very faint. Slight fruity malt, but hard to tell.
Taste: Starts fruity sweet, changes over to copper/metallic. Finishes copper bitter, but there is an interesting point in the middle of the taste when the sweetness starts to mix with the copper bitter. Unfortunately, the copper keeps going and leaves a sour taste after a nice transition.

Frye’s Leap IPA
Nose: Floral hop with a sweetness behind it
Taste: Syrupy mouthfeel. Starts with hop bitter, finishes medicinal. Alcohol. Middle has tart apple, and a bit of earthy flavor. Terrible finish. Too harsh. Like the red ale, there’s a lot of interest in the middle transitional flavors, but then gets ruined by a bad finish.

So, Sebago was a mixed bag. I miss the character of the old location, but if they’re doing business well enough to open this new space, good for them. The food was good, standard burgers-and-fries type pub grub. The beers were tasty overall, with a few disappointing finishes. However, the Lake Trout Stout stood out as the clear winner in the batch we had… a nice roast, smooth mouthfeel and pleasant experience start to finish. Lady Friend saved half for an after dinner treat. I was horrified to see a table of four behind us with only one member drinking beer. There was actually some dbag drinking a martini. In a brewpub. I bet it was vodka.

Next up: Novare Res Bier Cafe

Upta Potlind, Paht 4: Rising Tide Fail and Great Lost Bear

This is Part Four of an ongoing series chronicling the Maine Beercation of late July, 2011. To start at Part One, click here.

This is where I’m supposed to tell you how awesome the tour of Rising Tide Brewing Company was. The Lady Friend had been in contact with the brewer/owner several days prior to our visit. It’s located in the same building as the Maine Beer Company, around the back. Though they don’t have regular tours, you can schedule one by appointment. Our tour was supposed to be at 3:30.

This was at 3:45.

The dude never showed up. Door locked, lights out, not answering phone. Great.

I was pissed. I really love small, up-and-coming breweries making great products, going up against the big macrobreweries. I’m a big fan of the beer underdogs, who need all the support they can get. Supposedly, Rising Tide makes great beers. I wouldn’t know.

After sending an email the following Monday morning, we got a reply that said he had some issue with child care and had to leave early. That’s completely understandable. What I can’t stand is not being notified. As a photographer, I know plans can change at the drop of a hat, and have had to deal with flaky models who simply don’t show up for a shoot. No call/no show is one of my biggest pet peeves. If you can’t make it for whatever reason, I’ll probably be disappointed, but I’ll understand. If you simply don’t show up and leave me hanging, then we have a problem. Rising Tide flaked out.

So we went to a bar instead.

On the way to the bar, we made a quick stop at a liquor store to pick up a bottle of Maine Beer Co.’s IPA, and saw a display of Rising Tide. We declined to purchase any.

Anyway. Back to beer!

How come that bear is so great?

Well, the Great Lost Bear taproom came up on the list of great Portland beer destinations. They boast something silly like 60+ taps at any given time. It’s a couple miles away from the hubbub of the Old Port, so it’s not really walkable if you’re hanging around downtown. It is totally worth taking a detour to check out. Tons of bumper stickers on the walls, led lights, and bears everywhere.


So we hunkered down at the bar and started the endless task of choosing a beer. Lady Friend wanted something Mainey, and got an Atlantic Bar Harbor Real Ale (brown ale). She seems to be developing a taste for browns, and likes the malty sweet flavors, just not to the barleywine level. Yet.

I went with a Geary’s Cask Conditioned IPA.
Nose: Light “beer” aroma with a thick, foamy head. No particular scent.
Taste: Very malty. No carbonated bite. A touch sour. Woody.

Not bad, but I wouldn’t want more than one at a time. The cask-conditioned ales are much smoother than their non-aged siblings, but usually seem much more filling.

Despite the myriad of options available, we just stayed for one beer at GLB. They gave me some free bumper stickers, and apparently, they’ll give you some too. It was a great place, but we had other destinations: Sebago Brew Pub.

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