Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Beer Trip 4.5

Beer Trip 4.5 would take us south again, this time to Oklahoma and southern Kansas. The crew this time consisted of Dan, Andy, Kelly, Rob, Ed, Tim, and for the first time a seventh member, our pal Adam. We set out Friday morning with the first stop being Tulsa, OK, about a four-hour trip, where we met up with our beer friends Brett and Hannah. The first place we hit was McNellie’s Sidebar downtown, probably the most well-known place for good beers in Tulsa. The best part about McNellie’s was that they had a cask version of Marshall Brewing Company’s McNellie’s Pub Ale, which was pretty tasty. We had a great meal and met some of Brett and Hannah’s friends there, including a generous guy named Chris.
After McNellie’s, we went to the first brewery of the trip, Marshall Brewing Company ( There we met up with the owner, Eric, and he led us on a tour of the brewery. Marshall’s is a fairly new brewery, so it was pretty cool to have the main guy show us around and here all about his history (including a stint at Pennsylvania’s Victory Brewing Company). After the tour Eric poured us some samples, which I think is one of the coolest parts of the beer world, where owners or head brewers rarely act like they’re above doing things like that. Marshall’s beers were great, with my particular favorite being Atlas IPA. We left Hannah and Chris there, as Hannah went to meet some friends and Chris stayed in Tulsa where he lives. Before saying by to him, Chris gave us a rare bottle of a cave aged Ommegang, which we cracked open during Beer Trip V. We gave him a jug of Free State beer in return, which was the least we could do.
After Marshall we headed out to Krebs for beers and dinner. Choc Brewery and Pete’s Place Restaurant and two separate entities, technically, but located at the same place ( ). First up was a tour at Choc where head brewer Michael Lalli took us on a private tour of the brewery. It was one of the best tours we ever had on any beer trip, to say the least. We thought it would take about an hour or so, but ended up hanging out with Michael and some of his friends for a few hours, as we all talked about beer and he shared beers with us from his private stash in the brewery. Some of the beers shared were his friend’s hombrewed Helles, some Choc seasonals, or just experimental beers Choc is considering releasing. We probably could have stayed and talked to Michael and his friends the rest of the night, but we were in desperate need of something in our stomachs besides beer. We went over to Pete’s Place, which is an Italian restaurant that serves Choc’s brews. It’s an interesting set up, where you basically get your own private room to eat. The waiter came in to our private room and asked us what beers we wanted because all beers were on the house, courtesy of Michael. When they started bringing out the food, we realized that it was an insane amount of food, even with Brett’s warnings that that would be the case. It was all excellent, as we gorged ourselves on it. And the beers kept coming. We felt like royalty the way they were treating us. Choc and Pete’s Place could not have treated us better.
Eventually and unfortunately, we had to leave Pete’s, so we headed over to Brett and Hannah’s house which was pretty close. Brett and Hannah had generously offered their house for us to crash at, saving us money as we didn’t need a hotel. After a quick stop for ice and some Teen Wolfing by Dan and Kelly, we finally made it to their home. We had brought some beers down to share with them as we knew Brett, being the great home brewer he is, had some of his own to share with us. I brought a sixer of Hopslam from Bell’s Brewery for Brett and Hannah because they weren’t able to try it before. Having enjoyed a few too many of Marshall’s and Choc’s beer and being who I am, I didn’t think to hold the bottom of the six pack holder. The cooler had some water at the bottom that went unnoticed. Next thing I know, the bottom had fallen out of the holder and the wonderful aroma of fresh Hopslam hung heavy in the air. Unfortunately, all six were shattered on the marble floor. Besides that buzz kill, the rest of the night was a blast and we all had a great time with them playing cards, talking beer, and enjoying their hospitality.
The next morning we went on to Oklahoma City for lunch, which wasn’t the original plan. A Beer Trip first occurred that day, as for the first time ever, a scheduled stop on the agenda was missed. We were supposed to go to Coach’s in Norman, but due to the heavy drinking the night before, the group was not feeling tip-top and we left Brett and Hannah’s about two hours later than we had intended.
The first stop of Day Two, we decided to try out Belle Isle Brewpub, which was located in a mall. Belle Isle had some decent brews, but nothing that stood out. The collective condition of the group might have played a part of it, but because of the time we didn’t hang out long as we were excited to get to Cheney, KS and Hank Is Wiser ( .
Hank is Wiser is one of my favorite places. Located in a stereotypical Midwestern small town, it’s owned by Hank Sanford, and his son Steve is the head brewer. We sat at the bar drinking beers and talking to Hank and Steve. Hank’s wife showed up at one point and talked to us as well. It is a great family-owned and family-run establishment that makes some phenomenal beers, with Krippled Kangaroo IPA and Porter Potty Porter being the two year-round offerings that I recommend. They also have a shuffleboard table, which we love, and a large selection of bottled beers too. Plus Rob and Dan really enjoyed the pulled-pork sandwich. The Sanfords treated us very well (as they always have), and if it wasn’t so far from where we live, we’d be there all the time.
After Hank Is Wiser, it was time to head over to Wichita for our final stop of the trip, River City Brewing Company ( River City is located in the Old Town area of Wichita, and they make some phenomenal beers. There we met up with Andy and Ed’s dad, Bill, who sat down with us and enjoyed some beers and a late dinner. We were treated rather well there, even if some of the boys couldn’t sneak by the bouncers to check out the night club area upstairs. For free, that is. We probably could have paid to go up there, but it was getting late and we still had a three hour drive to get back. We finished up our beers, said bye to Bill, and drove home.
The “Point-Five” Beer Trips are always a good time, as we usually have a pretty good experience. For BT 4.5, we had three memorable stops, with Eric at Marshall, Michael at Choc’s, and the Sanfords at Hank Is Wiser all treating us great. Not to mention Brett and Hannah, some of our favorite people, and Chris, who was a really cool guy, especially for only having met him for a couple of hours. While Beer Trip 5.5 might take us to the Chicagoland area, in the back of our minds a return trip to the stops on 4.5 would all get us pumped up come February. Possibly for 6.5.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Surly's Darkness Day Experience

Rob and I start our day out at 7am on Friday on our way to Brooklyn Center, Mn just north of Minneapolis. We get about 20 minutes out where I make a phone call to the brewery like I was told to do the day before. We were hoping that we would make it up in time to dip some of the beloved Darkness bottles. The tops of the bottles are dipped in wax because it looks cool and to keep any possible air from getting into the bottle. At first the person who answered the phone said they didn't really need us which bummed me out. I ask if it was Omar or Todd, and luckily it was Omar. (It would of been just as cool if it was Todd.) I tell Omar it's Andy from Beer Trip and he tells me to just come on in when we get there. Now I'm stoked, very stoked.

Rob and I go into the brewery and talk to some of the other people who are already dipping bottles. We get the low down on what to do and before we get started I wanted to talk to Todd and Omar. Rob and I go over and talk with Todd, which might sound sappy, but I really dig talking to him. He just comes off as a really down to earth, and despite what the beers are named, nice dude. I truly enjoy the time, though it's only been a few times, that I get to talk to him. We go back to where the dippin' is going down and see Omar. This is another dude I really enjoy shooting the shit with, good sense of humor, another down to earth guy and very busy dude the day before a Darkness day, everybody who works for Surly is the day before.

Rob and I jump in and start helping out anyway we can. We are also told by some of the guys dippin' that we need to go get ourselves a glass of the Wet Hop Ale that was on tap. Well, who are we to turn down a beer? We grab some and if you get the chance to try it, and you like hops, do your taste buds a favor and get yourself a glass of it. I have to admit, it felt weird rolling into the tap room and helping myself, pouring my little plastic cup full of Wet Hop. It was that same feeling where you might be in somebody you've only hung out with once before and you're in his/her house just reaching into their fridge, not because they said it was cool, but somebody else said it was ok. It just felt a little weird to me. Rob and I spent from 2:30p to 6:30 dipping bottles with a couple others and we did about 5 or 6 pallets worth. We did work!

Now we had heard that about 3ish that "Eddie" had brought in an RV and big towable smoker. Omar had come in about 5 to inform us that "Ed" had a bunch of chicken and ribs going. Now I'm thinking well that's cool, but I had no intention of going out there and having any. I figured Rob and I would head out to a place called Stub and Herbs to grab some food and get some Surly brew to drink. Well, Omar tells us to go out and grab some food. Rob and and Matt head out to grab some grub, and I end up talking to Surly's marketing guy, Alex. Well anybody that knows me, knows I love talking about my beer fridge, well because it's freaking awesome! So I pull up a pic of it on my phone, and I think dude was impressed. He pulls out his video camera and starts recording a vid of me showing him my fridge on my phone. Sorry but that is funny to me. Then he starts "interviewing" me for lack of a better term. Well we talk about home brewing and what's cool about the beer. I end the little deal by telling him that I'm pretty sure that my 12 year old daughter knows more about good beer than any Coor's Light lover ever will. He turns off his camera and says "That was the perfect way to end that." Those guys were very cool.

I finally make it outside, where everybody else was at and I was shocked to see the set up that Eddie had going on. Omar tells me to grab a plate and get served up. Again, it feels like I'm totally crashing this party uninvited and it just feels weird asking somebody I have never met to grind on some of his food. Well let me just say that when Eddie opens his smoker, my eyes got huge! There was probably 30 slabs of ribs and 20 half chickens on this smoker, it was just awesome looking. He gives me a huge chunk of chicken and ribs. It tasted as good as it all looked. Well Eddie owns a liquor store and he had gotten a keg of Dogfish Head 60 min IPA and Todd brought out a keg of Smoke Ale. Well there is about 15-20 people all chilling out at Eddie's compound just outside the gates of Surly and the beers started flowing. There was one more pallet left to dip and it was getting chilly so we all go in to finish the last pallet. Well I figured there was enough people going at it and so I'm basically just standing around where Omar and I are chatting, when he says, hey let's me and you go get me a beer. Well, Omar is a busy dude like I said before and for him to pick me out of all the people there and for just me and him to have a conversation between the two of us is pretty meaningful to me. We go to the tap room and he asks what I'm drinking I said well since I can't buy the Wet I better get as much of that as I can. I hand Omar my plastic cup that I've had since 2:30, he looks at me and says "Dude you love good beer, we need to get you a glass man" He hands me one of the new Darkness glasses full of Wet. We go check out the keg room and he asks me "How did you get into drinking good beer?" I tell him I've always drank different stuff but that Dan pushed me past the brink of never looking back to the macros. Then the inevitable happened, a beer nerd attack.

I'm going to interrupt this story by venting about beer nerds. Now I'm sure I've been described by some as one, along as everybody on Beer Trip Crew has. I'm here to tell you, that nobody in the BT crew nor anybody I've met on Beer Pal, or in any of my travels has ever even sniffed beer nerdness like this dude that interrupted I and Omar's convo. This guy was a the type of guy that keeps me off of the more popular Beer websites and makes me love BeerPal. I just couldn't stand this dudes vibe, and it bothers me when somebody can clearly see two dude talking then just comes in starts talking, then mid-sentence says, "Oh did I interrupt?" Jathink smart guy. Well unfortunately for me he didn't get the hint that he should of walked away, so I did. Later on in the evening I offered up some New Belgium La Folie, and another beer nerd asked what vintage it was. Really? How 'bout the free kind slick. Now what really got my goat was that I didn't see either one of these nerds offer anything up to the party. NOTHING. So here is a tip, if you don't bring anything don't be picky or pull out your pad and begin to rate it. Just say "hey thanks this is great" and move on. As a side note on top of a side note and not to steal any of Rob's thunder if he writes his version of this but he was telling me a couple day afterward that he saw one the dis-liked beer nerds actually pour himself a big glass of Cran-bic, which this dude was very, very graciously sharing the next morning, only to dump it out after a sip. I'm glad I didn't witness this, cuz I'm pretty sure I would of gone into dick-mode and said something I shouldn't have. These dudes in no way diminished my trip, but the did need to be called out. Now back to the FUN!

We all end up back outside at Ed's party palace and that's when the beer really starts to flow. I bust out the Free State beers and I was very happy that everybody really dug all three growlers that we brought and I'm super happy Dan had the great idea of bringing some up. It was a hit and it ended up getting Rob and I some new nicknames. Mine is Kansas and Rob, Kansas2. Ed's crew couldn't of been cooler to us if they tried, everybody treated Rob and I like rock stars. We continue to drink awesome beers and I wish I had a list of all the great beers people were pouring to share. Next thing I know it's 1 am, only 11 more hours till the gates open for Darkness Day! Rob is a trooper and stays up to drink, and I head into the Tahoe for some cold sleep.

5:30 am Rob wakes up to use the port-a-potty and informs me that the line is already past the Tahoe. I get up and see that there is a line that is already about 50-70 people deep. I'm stunned, shocked, and not 100% sure my eyes weren't playing tricks on me. I go and grab the chairs and get ourselves in line. Rob goes back into the Tahoe to sleep and I watch the sun come up on a very frosty Minnesota morning. About 7:30a the Ed crew starts to come alive, so I'm hangin' out with them checking on the chairs from time to time. Then I'm asked, dude are you in line? I say yeah, then I'm laughed at. Dude you're with Ed's crew and he's the line leader! Again, I didn't want to assume that, it's not how we roll. Well I get our chairs out of line, a line that is now about 400 deep at about 8a. Yes I'm blown away by this. By 9a I'm guess the line is at the max of people who are promised a wristband that gets you a max of 6 bottles. By 10:30 you're chances are that of a snowball surviving in hell, because the line has to be around around 1100 or more. The line at this point in the morning is easily over a half mile long. I just can't even comprehend this, it's a sight that pictures won't do justice, you have to see this for yourself.

Well the gates are getting ready to open and, and Rob and I are two of the first 10 to get our wristbands. Once the gates open we go in grab a quick bite to eat, grab out Darkness bottles, say our good byes to all our new friends, Omar and Todd. Unfortunately, we were able to try some of the beers they were having on tap, due to us have some earlier that morning and having a 6 to 7 hour drive in front of us. Rob and I take off at about 1:30p and head to a liquor store where we proceed to drop another $300 bones on nothing but Surly beer.

I was an awesome 36 hour trip with little sleep, but I think Rob would agree that it was so worth it. The new friends we met, the beer we got to drink, and the purchase of Surly's Darkness was all a very cool experience. Omar and Todd once again treated us better than I could of, would of ever expected. There is no way I will miss a Darkness Day. As for next year I CAN'T WAIT! Andy a.k.a Kansas!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Beer Trip Crew Update - 09.10.09

Sorry for the lack of updates. Blame in on our post Beer Trip V hangover, if you will. Right now, nothing has been set yet for Beer Trips 5.5 and VI, but right now the thoughts are that we will be heading up to Chicago for 5.5 (Goose Island Brewing Company) and over to the east coast (primarily Delaware for Dogfish Head Brewing Company) for VI.

As for the last month, some of us have made some visits to some of the local brewpubs. 75th Street Brewing Company recently celebrated their 16th Anniversary, and had some solid beers on tap for the occasion, including a wheat wine which was available in 750ml bottles to bring home. I picked up a couple of those. Free State Brewing Company also has some nice seasonals on available, including Big Sea E.S.B which I now have on tap in my kegerator. Also, Free State is brewing at their new production facility in east Lawrence that I got to check out last week. While it’s not quite ready for public tours at this time, I did get to go there and meet with the brewers Steve, Geoff, Kevin, and Luke, Chef Rick, and owner Chuck, all who were very hospitable. I have also visited Boulevard Brewing Company twice, and spent time with some of the brewers and John from their Smokestack Series. There should be a couple of new seasonal Smokestack releases this year, which are terrific. Believe me.

Some possible trips that we might take in the next few months include a return trip to Surly Brewing Company for Darkness Day in October. Another possible destination is the Midwest Beerfest in Wichita, also in October. And because of my beer writing job, a visit to many of the Kansas brewpubs and breweries is a likelihood. If I’m lucky, that is. Should be a nice fall.

That is where we’re at right now. Stay tuned, as Tim should be posting about Beer Trip 4.5 soon. Cheers!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Surly Brewing

Ok, so, this trip was insanely busy, with us constantly on the go, so we haven't done well keeping everyone updated. I apologize for that. We'll recap the rest of the trip, but for now, I wanted to take time to describe what may be one of the best tours we've ever had on a Beer Trip. We arrived at Surly Brewing in Brooklyn Center, MN about 15-20 minutes before the start of their tour. Dan had contacted them several months early to ensure we had a confirmed tour. We got out of the RV and started walking toward the entrance when someone came out of the warehouse section and goes "Is this the Southwest Brewing News guy?" I think all of us instinctively pointed at Dan. Turns out it was Omar, owner of Surly Brewing. He talked to Dan for a bit, shook our hands, and then went back inside.

We got into the line to have our ID's checked and and get our wrist bands and tokens. We were next in line when Omar comes back out and says "Hey, come this way." Yeah, he's taking us out of the regular tour and giving us a private one. I had an internal beer dork freak-out as we walk into the warehouse. He gives us our wristbands and tokens for samples. Oh and a can of one of their kick ass beers for each of us.

He then brings over Todd, the head brewer for Surly to take us around while he talks to the people on the regular tour. We chat with Todd for a while and he takes us down to the gift shop and tasting room ahead of the regular tour. There we get a pic with him and enjoy samples of more of their stuff. Honestly, they do not brew a bad beer. In fact, every one is top notch. No exaggeration. Also got to talk to some of the very cool volunteers they had working in the gift shop and talked beer to them. After the tours shut down we went to the parking lot and hung out with Todd some more. Kelly makes these cool cantilever bottle holders and he got one out. We all signed it and gave it to him as a very small token of our gratitude. Omar came back out and started talking with us some more. As any regular readers of our blog know, we put stickers on the back of the RV for anyplace we visit. We put a Surly sticker on there, but he had given us a label for their Darkness that they only release one day per year. Omar humored us and put the label on the RV for us while we took pictures as is the norm. Omar even checked out the RV to see how we travel. As we're talking to him, an older man approaches. Turns out it's Omar's dad! He was the original owner of the warehouse the brewery is currently located in. He turned over a small portion of it to Omar to start his brewery. That was three years ago, and it's now the entire building. He talked to us for a while and was just as cool as his son. Omar then proceeded to bring us out some free gifts for us to split and share including some very hard to get stuff. He then took us back inside to give us an even cooler gift...a sample of a brand new beer they haven't released yet.
Needless to say, you will not find a bigger group of Surly advocates. Unfortunately it's basically only available in MN right now, so if you're in the state, buy it. You will not be disappointed. The Crew cannot thank Omar and Todd enough for how they treated us. It is truly appreciated and they deserve all the success they've accomplished and future success they're sure to have.

Friday, July 31, 2009


We all had a great nights sleep at the Hilton which was in a really old builing downtown Milwaukee. We drive the 1 mile to Milwaukee Ale house that is right on the river that runs through downtown. Even though it was a bit overcast and had a few sprinkles we sat outside and enjoyed some decent beer made by, as far as I know, our first encounter with a woman Head brewer. The beers were solid as was their food. We aslo got to meet some people we work with as well which was very cool. We climb back into the EM-50 and head off to Hops Haven in Sheboygan. We go in and we were the only people in this huge place. We get a few samplers and as I'm sitting at the bar drinking them I'm thinking to myself "this is one of the best overall beer samplers I've ever had". I'm not a huge Wit fan but their Wit was incredible. I'm also not a fan of Dopplebocks, but this was so freaking good and smooth that I ordered up a couple pints of it. Jeff the Head brewer told us he didn't have any stickers to grace the EM-50 but he made us our very own personalized sign, printed it out then laminated it for us. Then he showed us around the brewery even showed us a little video that somebody made him of the brewery which was really freaking cool. We even had a very cool couple from Chicago that we met and found out that he was going to be in Leavenworth next week and hopefully we can meet up with him to have a beer. I think it's very sureal how much people are interested in our beer travel. We have met some really cool people along the way and that to me make the trip so worth it. We leave Hop Haven about 2 and a half hours later than was scheduled but Jeff made it worth our while with his incredible beers and his love of people who knew good beer. We headed out to Titletown Brewing Co. where we were to meet up with another Beer Pal, Beerhunter (aka Shawn) his wife and their friends. I had an incredible Pot Roast along with a really nice IPA and what they called a Studded Tire, sort of a Fat Tire clone. Titletwon was in a really old train depot and was a cool little setup. We go across the street to Hinterland Brewing Co. for a couple pints. This place was like no othe brewery I had been to before. I think their electric bill each month could only be at the most $7.56 since they had around 400 candles lit all around this place. We were able to go upstairs and talk with Shawn and his crew. Now were running so far behind it no longer matters, Shawns wife Kristen slaps a Titletown sticker on the EM-50 and we get on our way to Stone Cellar Brewing, but we can't really go to through Green Bay without stopping at Lambeau. It was late and dark but we'd be fools no to stop by there to check it out. What was amazing was how many people were there taking pics just like we were that late at night. Very fancy upgrade they gave that place. Looks cool. Rob was the man guiding us through our day and even longer night. We show up to Stone Cellar at around 10p or so. We go in and Dan tells me that their Smoked Porter is their flagship beer so we get a pitcher of it. Unfortunately Kelly and Rob suddenly are feeling as though they are in tip top shape. We drink a pictcher of the smoked porter which was really good but it was one of those beers that one glass is plenty. Just as we get done the bartended comes over and give us a free pitcher of the smoked porter and there was just no freaking way we could drink it, espcially since there was another pitcher of IPA on the table that we had to finish off. We decide that we better get moving because it's about 11:30p and we still have another 70 miles to drive before we get to the hotel. Rob again pulls us through and we arrive at the LaQuinta at about 12:30ish wiped out but loving the awesome day we had.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


We woke up to half the room missing it's electricity and the water being turned off. At 7 we noticed the water was back on but it had a serious brown color to it. It actually looked as though somebody pissed in the toilet after a serious bladder infection right after we flushed it. I think I let the water run about 10 minutes before it became clear. I'm just glad Ed and I filled up some cups of water the night before so that we could brush our chiclets this morning. Well I'm couldn't be more sure that tonight's Hilton experience will feel like the lap of luxoury. We headed out to New Glarus and we pull up to one HUGE freaking facility. This place was simply incredible. We walk around and take a few pics then head in to take our own self guided tour. We all get a few samplers as we wait for Dan's buddy (and now ours) Six Pat. New Glarus has an array of beers, but the one that seems to stand out to me is the Belgium Red made with cherries. This is an amazing beer and is very expensive for them to make. We start on our way and we get to the mash tun and kettles and I look over and see a dude just hangin out. I have a few questions and ask him if I can bother him for a couple minutes answering questions. He was super cool said it was no bother at all and walked over to where I was at and answered my questions about their water tanks. Another empolyee of the brewery walks by and the dude I'm talking with says "Hi Dan". I knew the founder of the New Glarus was named Dan but I'm thinking no way...Well sure as I'm overweight it was "him". I introduce myself and kindly ask him if he wouldn't mind taking a picture with us. (we were kind of spread out at this time throughout the brewery) I go gather up the other for what I consider a fantastic picture with a maker of amazing beer. He then tells the dude I was tallking to, to get Jean to give us our own little personalized tour. I have to brag here, as I was suddenly given the title of Gov'nah of Wisconsin title by the rest of my Beer Trip brothers. Jean the Plant Manager took about 45 minutes out of her day and showed us all around the brewery. It was simply awesome. Kelly had made some bottle holders for people who took time out of their day and treated us better than good, and we made sure Jean was indeed a receipent. We all signed it and we could all tell that she really appreciated the gesture, as we truly appreciated her time and knowledge that she was so willing to share. I think it was cool that she just once again reaffirmed to me that people in the business of beer are the coolest people ever. We went down to there store and I think we all bought some beer that is only sold in Wisconsin. We were about 40 minutes late to our next destination which was Great Dane Brewing in downtown Madison. We were meeting a couple Beer Pals, John and Travis. These two guys also proved to me that there are nothing but cool Beer Pals, as these two guys were both awesome dudes! We have a great cask IPA and really good lunch. Downtown Madison is a very cool place but we are already a running a little late as we have a date with Tyranena. We take our Beer pal John with us in the RV as it's on his way home and we head off to Lake Mills. Now, since beer people are awesome Tyranena had one of their bar tenders show up and hour early to take care of us so that we could try out their beer. This place was super cool and very accomadating to us. Our bartender was awesome and she treated us like superstars. There beers were freaking great and I think between the 8 of us we tried everything they had to offer and according to Ed even the root beer was fantastic. I got the mrs. a hoody and my self a shirt that says "I love a bitter woman". Now if you know my wife she is far from bitter but that T shirt made me laugh it was actually a name of their beer. We also got to talk with the Head Brewer and was able to get a photo with him as well. Yes, we were having a killer day! So now it's time to head to Milwaukee and drink some of Sprecher's fine beers. We show up a little to late to join the tour, but since we home brew and have been on countless tours, we kind of know the lay of the land, but we do make it in time for the tasting portion and that's all we're really concerned with anyway. We each got four drink tickets and a taster glass, well I'm not sure if people just saw in our eyes that we were lovers of beer or what but they kept handing us their drink tickets and we did our best to to use them all up. We stay until they quit serving us beer and we head out to the Brewers baseball game. Well Dan and Timmy will have different versions of the Baseball game the the other 4 of us, but that is only cuz we got seperated driving in and Timmy and Dan, especially Dan are big Brewer's fans and were more concerned with the outcome than the rest of us might be. We needed to meet up with Dan and Tim to get our ticket but when we showed up we ended up on the complete opposite side of the ballpark than Tim and Dan. We start off on our hike, but then run into a dude in a golf cart who we somehow start shooting the shit with. I decided what's it going to hurt if we ask him for a ride to the other side of the park. He says he can't but he'll get somebody to take us around. I was blown away and within 40 seconds here come Rex in his 6 person golf cart. We give the dude who made the call in a Hopslam and climb into Rexs ballpark limo. The four of us kind of walk around and take in some scenery insided Miller Park. We decide that we're hungry and want good beer and end up in a Friday's. I got into a fake fight with one of the biggest dudes I've seen in a while and I of course took him down quickly. As you can tell by the picture, this dude was a pussycat and could of just destroyed him if I wanted to. We get shown to a table that was just in a killer section of the ballpark. We were basically looking down at the bullpen of the Brewers and we happened to be sitting about 100 feet away from where the Brewers hit a home run to go ahead and ended up winning the game. There were some 10-12 year old kids not sitting to far away from us and were asking for a ball from what I can assume is 3rd string catcher but the dude denied them. The four of us were giving dude a load of crap his whole way out to the outfield when out of nowhere comes along one of the bat boys and flips the kids a ball. We I look at the bat boy and say thanks man, that's what it's about, treating the kids kids right. Next thing I know dude is flipping me a ball! That was great and completely unexpected. We finally meet up with Dan and Tim and head off to a killer nights sleep at a Hilton. It was the complete opposite of where we stayed the night before.

Im never going to Sveedin

A poem on how Sveedin sucks

The Sweden House Lodge is a place to avoid
If you happen to be passing through Rockville Illinois
Upon our arrival there was no way to know
Just how bad this place would blow

Not even to our room we pass a guy in the hall
who was without question tripin balls
Orange Juice he claimed was what he be needin
What is wrong in this fake lodge from Sveedin

Upon entering our room “what is that smell?”
we should have know right there it was gonna be hell
My bro thought cleaners, myself I thought piss
Either way there was something amiss

The place was dated and kind of old,
Wondering if under the sheets lurked some kind of mold.
Well good news for us no mold was found
but the stains on the sheets, well they were brown
Perhaps not brown but more of a tan
The frightening result of a strange woman and man

Upon further inspection the place was a disaster
Stains on the toilet seat and no toilet paper
Not wanting to find anything else that was vile
We went and had excellent beers at the Carlyle

We drank our beers even played connect four
Soon it was time to head for the door
Back to the sveedish house to get some sleeps
there is no F'in way I'm sleeping on those sheets
So on top of the wool blanket I go
pulling half over myself like a giant burrito

Over my fears and settling in
That’s when the sirens started to begin
A door slams and the siren stops
Uh-oh Mr. Orange Juice is meeting the cops
Thinking that’s funny and drifting off to my slumber
What else could happen tomorrow I wonder

I forgot to mention upon check-in Dan was mad
from 6am to 7am there was no water to be had
We tried to understand how could this be
dont people get up and have to shower and pee
By morning water was not the only thing in doubt
During the night the power went out

Its a very good thing we don’t sleep in
Cause the fun of the morning was about to begin
The water was back but still no power
Andy went in to take a shower
Within a minute he came out with a bellow
He says “Dude the water is coming out is yellow!”
I jumped out of bed, this I couldn’t miss
Yep, it looked like the tub was filling with piss.
With pictures of proof taken it began to clear out
I took the fastest shower of my life without a doubt

All packed up and ready to be leavin
Ready to get out of the shitty lodge from Sveedin


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

DAY 1 BEER TRIP V June 28, 2009

Well I personsonally woke up entirely to early after going to bed to late. Basically, every year I have the same feeling the night before Beer Trip, and that is one of massive anticipation. Like I'm 8 again and I know that the next morning I'm getting to go to Disney World. This morning of course was no different. I woke up at 5am ready to get this trip going. I had, for the most part, gotten everything ready the night before so I decided that since it was technically Beer Trip I would go ahead and start drinking. I cracked open a Tallgrass IPA and got on with my day. Ed showed up right at 7am to pick me up and we got to Dans about 15 after, where i promptyl cracked open my second beer of the day. We got our annual pre-leave pic, loaded up and off we went. We got on the highway and cracked open a Cave aged Ommegang Abby Ale, while being seranaded by Lidnsey Buckingham and Holiday Road, our theme song. That bottle lasted all of 7 minutes with 5 of us drinking it, as Timmy was the DD for the day. Up next was Kelly busting out some of his spent grain bread and a incredible bottle of Stone Brewings Sublimly Ale. That was some very incredible beer and we were well on our way to St. Louis and Mattingly Brewing Company where our buddy Drew is the Head Brewer. It took a bit to get there since they had a highway or two closed but we got there and that's what matters. We go in and it's kind of a smallish place but nice decor with about 8 or so beers on tap. We get a couple samplers and order some lunch. As we're eating this dude walks in and I notice him noticing us and he kind of disappears for a bit. The beers are all solid and I thought it was really cool that somebody I know and have brewed with created these beers. Well, after about 10 minutes the dude who was checking us out comes by with a bunch of samplers of what he called a Uber APA that was very nice and hoppy. He introduced himself as the Assistant Brewer and that this was his very own creation. I thought that was really cool of him. Usually what happens is we get treated special after we tell somebody about what kind of trip we're on. He must of had a sixth sense about us or something. He even took us down to the brewery which was in the basement of this older building and showed us around. It looked like a homebrewers place on steriods. It was a really cool set up and I was personally impressed they get 90% effieciency from it. (sorry went all homebrewer geek on ya there). We ate and Jerid brought us another beer of his, a ESB, which again was very nice. We finshed our lunch and headed off for Bloomington, Il and Illinois Brewing Company. We had a couple of hours drive and we got there around 4 or so. Looks like Bloomington is revitializing their downtown as they had some cool looking places. We go in to IBC and we all order something different. I got the brown ale which was probably the best of show. We hang out there for about 40 minutes or so....long enough for two bad pool players, Kelly and myself, to have the worlds longest game of pool. Kelly asks some people at the bar if there is a decent liquor store around. We get to the liquor store and well it was very, very cool. They had lots of stuff we couldn't get back in KC so we all bought some "treats" and headed our way to Desthil Brew Works. We pull up to Desthil and there is this massive crowd dressed way better than us standing outside. I was nervous thinking we might not be able to get in. Luckily it was some sort of Mayor reception that was being held outside and the resturaut had plenty of room for us. I order up a sample and the beers were really good. They had a wit that was outstanding to me, and I'm far from a fan of the wits. The whole line up they had was rock solid. We were told by our hostess that the appetizer of beer battered bacon was a must and well, since I'm fat, I was down. We got two orders and it was a japaleno bacon, beer battered, fried then had maple syrup drizzled on it. I thought it was quite good, but thought it could of been stepped up a notch with some Thai peanut sauce, but hey that's just me. The food there was some of the best I've had on Beer Trip I think everybody was very happy with their choices. We head off to Rockford, Il. and we stayed at the far from spectacular Sweden House Lodge. Dan goes to check us in and comes out with what I know is unhappy Dan face. He says that we won't have water from 6am - 7:30am, which is extremely uncool with us needing to be leaving by 8:15. Well we go in to put our stuff in our rooms before we head out ot Carlyle's. We stroll in and the place is looks old with new decor. This place had fantastic beers. Dan ordered up a Bourbon Barrel Creme Brule' that was silky smooth. I get their IPA and the aroma was one of the best, the taste didn't dissapoint either. There was only two beers we weren't impressed with but out of the 10 we tried that's damn good. We get back to the Sweden House and noticed that we needed to make a small change to the sign out front. Then there happened to be this dude that was, well to be quite blunt, fucked up. Not sure what he was on but dude was on something. We Ed told me this morning that the cops came later and could hear in the hall that the cops were asking this dude all kind of questions about what he was on and things like that. I'm just glad we had a great first day with some seriously outstanding brews.

Friday, July 24, 2009

We decided that we would highlight some of what we considered “special” places to us. I asked to write this particular segment because what the others will surely tell you is that our VIP tour of New Belgium seriously affected me and I’m not even embarrassed as most would be about how I truly got emotional over this visit.

We deliberately took it easy the night before so that we would be fully rested and very sharp for this tour that Dan was able to set up. We go into a fairly crowded tap room area and there is quite a line to wait in. We shop around while Dan waits it out for us and we get ushered off to the corner. We have absolutely no idea what to expect or do we really know what VIP means here, but we were excited to find out.

We were greeted by Matt our tour guide and surprised that he said “So you’re here for the VIP tour? Let’s get you guys some safety glasses and we'll get on our way.” Right then and there I knew this wasn’t going to be a ho-hum run of the mill tour. We grab our glasses and we get on our way.
Matt tells us about the history and informs us that New Belgium was started by a college graduate who was going to take a tour of Europe on his mountain bike and he was starting in Belgium. Well to make a long story short he never left Belgium and came back here with a new fondness for beer with flavor. Matt takes us over and shows us the first mash tun and kettle along with this crazy heating element he designed. Matt shared with us how they used to shove 29 cases into their car and would hand deliver the beers to those who were in my opinion were smart enough to purchase this beer. We go over to the newer areas and up some stairs to what I would say is probably the most beautiful mash tun, and kettle area there is in the brewing industry. It was a huge area with beautiful stainless steel kettles with polished concrete floors. Around each kettle is a mosaic that tells a story and the one that hits me was an interpretation of an employee’s first day. After Matt decided that was have been at this for about 15 minutes and asks us if we were in need of a brew, well we’re on Beer Trip and of course we said a resounding YES. Matt handed us a wonderful Abby Grand Cru and I believe the 4 of us were all blown away of how buttery smooth that beer is. We marched on through a few rooms and then up some dark stairs then Matt opens a door and suddenly we’re on the first level of the roof. We then take a few more steps up and we’re on the very top of New Belgium’s fermenters. What a treat, we were where the group that inspired this trip was standing in the film American Beer. This was an epic moment for me. It was simply amazing and I would say at that point and time I was officially hooked on the concept of Beer Trip. As we were standing up there Matt points out to us off in the distance that was New Belgium’s very own waste water treatment center. Apparently, the City of Ft. Collins wanted a ton of money from the local breweries since they are using and disposing so much water from all the brewing that was being done. NB had a employee meeting and asked if anybody wanted to go to school to learn about waste water management. A couple dudes thought that would be something new and different, so they gave it a go. Now NB is a very, very green company and these guys were following along that same path. They came up with an incredibly brilliant idea. Yes, I might bore some of you to tears describing this, but I’m going to do it anyway. The waste water goes into a collection pond, where enzymes eat away at the bacteria in this water. When this happens there is methane released into the air. Well instead of letting this methane gas slip into the atmosphere it is collected into a “balloon”. When the kettles need to heat the water, this gas is used to do just that. To me, that is simply brilliant, but these guys decided to go full circle with their brilliance. The steam coming off the kettle is collected and used in the radiant flooring. Simply amazing. Now the city of Ft. Collins must have been strapped for cash because they came back to NB and says you sure do use a ton of electri………Well, I’m just going to stop right there because you should know what happens next. NB decides I’m not writing these clowns a check, we’ll figure this out on our own. So they purchase a wind farm in a town nearby in Wyoming. Every bit of electricity used at the brewery is wind powered, and as I understood it, Ft. Collins writes NB a check since they put electricity back onto the grid. If that’s the case, way to stick it to the man, NB!
We then start to go into what I would call the warehouse, we’re getting to leave to go into the employee only area where we suddenly see these huge wooden casks and Matt tells us that this is where they ferment their La Folie. I noticed there were these little chalk boards next to the taps and asked Matt what was up with them. He told us that when somebody want to check out some, they have a taste, and they write down what they think about it. So we kind of ask Matt if we can take a little sip from the taps….He looked around and gave us the OK. I’m thinking to myself, “ Holy crap, is this really freaking happening?” We each get our turn and we move on to what I would call the employee area. They have this gourmet kitchen where employees can fix themselves a freshly cooked meal instead of nuking a left over, which I thought was an extremely novel concept. We now are heading into a very interesting area, where the employees are to come in and grab a wireless tablet and head over to a personal booth where a door slides up and they are given a tray with samples to rate. There are very specific instructions while sampling these beers and when they’re done they head off back to work. How freaking cool is that!!!! On our way over to a large meeting area Dan and Jerry can’t resist the spiral slide, so they go at it.
We head into their meeting room where Matt explains to us their philosophies and what it means to work at this brewery. This is where the story hits me, and it hits me hard. Matt proceeds to inform us that on your first day you are handed a key to the shop and are welcome to a case of beer a week. After a year of employment you are given a bike, and you are then a part owner of New Belgium, but not until you stand in front of every other employee and explain to them why you should become apart of this family. He explained that there is rarely somebody who doesn’t break down after this explanation. Next you continue to stand there and give each and every employee a big hug. He then told us that the CEO, the founders wife, hand makes you a piece of “mojo”. So I’m hearing this and I’m thinking to myself, people are breaking down in front of their co-workers because they enjoy what they do, who they work with, and what they create, not to mention they are treated so well at their workplace that expressing their gratitude is bringing these people to tears. Matt tells us that people don’t quit, they either pass away, or get fired. Something tells me he wasn’t joking. After 5 years of what I can only assume would be, fabulous, fun filled employment, you get an all expense paid week long trip to Belgium where, oh you guessed it, they drink delicious Belgian Beers. From what I can remember after 10 years, they just kind of ask you what you want and get it for you. For instance back where the La Folie fermenters were located there was a full blown climbing wall. Why? Well one the guys who works for them said that he loved climbing, but since he works full time and now has family that he loves to be around, it just doesn’t leave very much time for climbing. So they hooked dude up, so that on his breaks, he climbs. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?! Where are we at? Fantasy Island? Now the thing to ask for from what I remember, is to have a tree planted, which is awesomely unselfish to me. Matt finishes up by telling the four of us that he enjoyed taking us around and that it would be their pleasure to fix us up some samplers and a six pack each to take along on our journey, along with a major discount on anything we purchased. I was simply blown away by their gesture.
As I wrote this I’m not afraid to say that yes, my eyes welled up tears just like they did while I was there hearing the passion and excitement coming from our tour guide Matt, and we took this tour in 2005. So yes, four years later I still get teary eyed thinking about it.
If you are reading this and happen to be an employee of New Belgium, we are jealous of you. From what I can tell your are part of a family not a corporation, we should all be so lucky. The kindness you all showed us is something I will never forget and for that kindness I made a promise to myself that no matter what, I will always have your product in my home. So please know that for the past 4 years I have kept my promise.
If you happen to be the CEO of New Belgium, I can’t explain to you the how lucky we were that Scott Poore happened to strike up a conversation with Dan and offered us this opportunity. You run an amazing company, with from what I saw, you have amazing employees. I promise you that if you ever needed four more employees, I’m pretty sure we would be there before you finished asking. Thank you once again for an amazing time and one that we will surely never forget because you truly treated us all like like VIP's.

Dan, Timmy, Matt, Jerry, & Andy

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More Ramblings BT IV days 2-4

More Ramblings BT IV days 2-4

OK so day one of BT IV was a little weak on the beer exploration. Just 3 breweries/pubs checked off unless you want to count the veterans' stop at Rock Bottom in the Denver Airport and the virgins' stop at Gordon Biersch in the Las Vegas Airport. Yes, we spent almost the whole evening of day one at Amnesia but it was soooo good. This was not a normal beer trip because we had left the venerable EM-50 back in the Midwest. So a beer aficionado would think that we would take advantage of the public transit in Portland and start knocking out places on our list. Well, all beer trips other than a .5 have always included attending a Brewers game because the founder of the BT crew has a fondness for this team. Ok it is more of an obsession but as luck would have it the Brewers were just starting a 3 game series in San Francisco. Tradition is well tradition though, so we packed into a rental car and headed up Interstate 5 to the next best thing, a Mariners game at SafeCo Field.

Day 2

We kind of got a late start on the day due to some over indulging the night before but on the way to the game we stopped at a couple of places that were quite memorable. The first stop was in Olympia Washington at the Fish Tale Brewing Company. Fish Tale Brewing prides itself for fully supporting the local organic farmers and buy all of their ingredients from them. I believe their Mudshark Porter was my favorite and as I recall the rest of their beers were very solid as they are in the heart of Cascadian Hop country. It was lunch time already and the food was also very good. The next stop was alluded to in a Random Thoughts post. I'm not sure about the brewers at this establishment but at least the owners liked what they brewed. The building was very cool but the beers were not quite average. I think we all headed back to the minivan after our sampler trays. We found our way through downtown Seattle and dropped off the minivan at the hotel so that our faithful DD would not have to navigate his way through the game day traffic. After checking in, we piled into a couple of cabs and headed off to the game.

Since there were 6 of us on BT IV we had to split up into 2 cabs and I'm not sure what got into the cabbies heads as we made our way towards Safeco Field. They appeared to be racing except that just about everybody in town was converging on the Seattle Sports Complex. Although there were short bursts of speed on cross streets, the merges into the virtual parking lot of the collector streets was a big equalizer. Our cabbie tried another short cut down past Pikes Place Market but wound up having to circle back due to streets being closed for the game traffic. We eventually hooked up with the rest of our group at the Pyramid Alehouse (conveniently right across the street from Safeco). Well the alehouse itself was packed so tight we couldn't find enough room for all 6 of us so we just hung out in the beer garden for a sampling of their offerings. Ok it was more than just a sampling as it was still an hour before game time and we all needed to flush the taste of our last sampler trays. Unfortunately they were catering to the game crowd so the beer garden only had their most popular brews on tap. However it was a vast improvement and all of us were satisfied before we stumbled across the street to the game.

Well it had been a while since I have been to a MLB game as I kind of lost interest during the strike era but what a great stadium to rekindle some interest. OK the interest was not really in the MLB but in the excellent selections offered by the concession vendors. I've never seen a selection like that at a stadium without having to retreat to my tailgate. There were many micro brews represented such as Red Hook, Alaskan, New Belgium and of course Pyramid. The food selection was also outstanding. There were all of the standard ball park fare but just about anything you could have a craving for was represented from garlic fries and deep fried Twinkies to Asian stir fry or sushi just a short stroll along the concourse. However, beer and baseball were what we were there for and we were not disappointed. The variety of beers being hawked by the vendors walking the stands brought back vague memories from my childhood of an uncle from St Louis shooing away the guys hawking Iron City Beer or Rolling Rock when we took him to a Cardinals game at Pittsburgh. He kept complaining that Auggie Busch should have pulled some strings to get their swill distributed since the Cardinals were in town. I think he eventually settled for a Pabst Blue Ribbon which oddly enough I believe was available at SafeCo too. The only negative on this stadium is that you could get a 12pk of PBR or a micro brew 6pk for the price of 1 beer respectively at any liquor store. The Mariners trounced the Indians so the local crowd was quite happy and we still had to struggle to find a table at a bar on the way back to the hotel where we feebly tried to up our brewery/pub count. I can't recall what the name of the place was but all they had on tap or bottled was pretty much the same as what we had at SafeCo Field. Alas, day 2 of BT IV was a meager count of just 5 but I guess that was not too bad considering we traveled most of the day again and hit a MLB game.

Day 3

I woke the next morning with great anxiety because the plan was for another long travel day. I was feeling mislead by the maps promising 43 breweries or pubs in Portland and 16 in Seattle. It wasn't that we had not had plenty of beer so far and most of it very good beer. It just was that I was expecting to visit more of these breweries, seriously evaluating their beers and the trip was nearly half way through. However, the pot-o-gold at the end of this day was to be Rogue Brewery in Newport Oregon. Andy and I ventured out early on foot to find something to calm our nerves as we waited for the rest of the crew to drag themselves out of bed. Since we do have a fondness for supporting the micro vs. macro establishments, we skipped the big local franchise for our coffee and happened upon a great little place called the Top Pot on 5th Ave for our morning brew fix. I know it is a little off topic but this place was awesome. They served a unique variety of donuts from the routine to the extraordinary, good coffee and had a semi-retro atmosphere most of which was due to the antique neon. After satiating our cravings for sugar and caffeine we loaded up the minivan and headed South Southwest.

On the way out to the coast we stopped in Corvallis, Oregon at a place called Block 15 Brewing Company. This was a very surprisingly good find. Everybody enjoyed all of their beers we sampled and the food was outstanding. They didn't really have any procedures setup for giving tours but when we told the waitress what we were doing she informed the brew master and he came out to BS with us for a while. Andy also convinced the waitress to get the chef to come out as she had created an excellent BBQ black bean chili and we wanted to thank her for this wonderful concoction. Unbeknown to Andy, the part time chef was virtually petrified when he asked to get a photo with her. We had to take several before the terror diminished from her eyes. The Belgium Ale and Cask Brown were superb and the IPA and Red deserve honorable mention. I never would have thought we would encounter the end of the rainbow so early on Day 3 as Block 15 certainly was a pot-o-gold find on the way to Newport.

We got to Newport just barely in time for the 3 PM tour at Rogue we were hoping to make. This was the first actual tour of any brewing facilities on BT IV and it was a pretty standard tour according to the veterans. However a good portion of the spiel focused on the owners’ reinvestment in the business. The facility was huge which I guess when you make such a good variety of product with the right supply and demand it is quite lucrative. The most surprising fact was how many other microbreweries from the area were acquired. I don't recall whether any samplers were available at the end but we did slip over to the hotel to check in before returning for dinner, which was followed by a whole lot of sampling. After all, the next closest brewery was 1.5 hours away and our DD was ready to catch up after only a few sips at lunch. Fortunately the hotel was a reasonable distance from the brewery and in keeping with a BT IV tradition we walked back over to Rogue. From what I can remember dinner was good but the number of taps at the bar was incredible. We started slow on the samplers with the good intention of trying to find the best they had on tap. The owners seem to be pretty adamant that each of the acquired breweries retain their individuality. Therefore they had about 50 taps so each of the creations and experimentations that the brew masters concocted at the acquired locations could showcase their talent here. After sampling so many it is difficult to recall without having taken notes but I think there was definitely some distinction between each corresponding style from the Rogue, Eugene (Track Town) and Issaquah brewery variations. Unfortunately I don’t think anybody could determine the best as everything we tried was great. Also we were on vacation in a small coastal town with not much else to do so we kept the beer flowing. The bartenders were lively and provided plenty of banter to keep all of the customers happy until last call. And so our day came to an end and the count was only increased by 2 more breweries/pubs. But what a day we had, a couple of rainbows, each of them offering their pots of gold.

Well the day almost ended, some of us were pretty wound up and decided to head down to the hotel pool and hot tub to soak our aching bones from the long ride and crowded benches of the tasting room. It was a nice relaxing end to the day albeit with a similar distraction to that of BT IV day one. It turned out that there was a bachelorette party in one of the suites and the bride and 4 of her friends came down and joined us in the hot tub. We did our best to play it cool and ignore them. Eventually they initiated a little innocent flirting. They were impressed by the fact that the sole purpose of our trip to the area was Beer Trip IV and that we all could find the vacation time to dedicate to this endeavor. The red head seemed to be interested in something more than conversation but alas most of us were happily married. So we congratulated the bride for her upcoming nuptials and bid the group farewell as they decided to head to the local maid of honor's house to find some more liquor. The bride graciously invited us to attend the wedding the next day but we declined because we were planning on having breakfast up the coast in Pacific City.

Day 4

Dawn arrived quite a bit earlier than we desired but we were all loaded up in a reasonably good time for the drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. What a beautiful, rugged section of coast. I'm much more acquainted with coasts having barrier islands like the Outer Banks or South Padre. The northwest coast is not near as pleasant for water sports or people watching but the scenery is still breath taking. We made good time on this leg and arrived in Pacific City a little early for the 8 AM breakfast start at the Pelican Pub and Brewery. No worries though as this awesome brewpub is right on the beach and we were entertained by some of the locals trying to finish last minute preparations on their parade vehicles for a local festival. We wandered around for a little bit before heading in for a breakfast that can't be beat. I ordered up a great hangover cure of biscuits and gravy with a couple eggs as well as a pint of Tsunami Stout to chase it down. We all sampled most of their beers and I don't think anyone was disappointed because we headed out front to the gift shop and bought a couple of cases of bombers between all of us. Then we walked out on the beach and waded out to a sand bar at low tide since some of the crew had never been to the Pacific Ocean before. As I said the scenery is great and the brewery gets its name from a very large rock out cropping in the bay that looks like a pelican sitting on the water, reaching its bill in for a bite of fish. After a few pics to commemorate the occasion we loaded up to get back to the task of our 40 remaining breweries/pubs in the Portland metro area.

Well as nice as the Pacific Coast is when you are driving along it, the problem always arises when you are headed back east to the valleys where the large metro areas lie. There is no decent road that runs between Pacific City and Portland. This leg of the trip was excruciatingly painful with countless hairpin switchbacks, loose gravel, road construction and a couple of guys that get car sick very easily. Due to that problem as well as an issue with extremely small bladders our fearless (I hoped) driver was constantly on the lookout for wider spots in the road and quickly maneuvered on to them whenever the need to stop arose. Eventually we did make it back to more civilized roads and since this was the final day with the rental minivan we stopped at John's Market to stock up on whatever packaged microbrews we thought we could get into our luggage. We each grabbed a cart and dashed towards the back, giddy with excitement as we thought we had reached nirvana. Seriously the selection was incredible and as we browsed the aisles snatching a bottle here a bomber there trying to maximize the variety of quality beers we would be packing into our precious space, the curiosity of the staff was aroused. These guys were very knowledgeable about the distribution zones for the local products and really helped steer us to some excellent beers that were not available in the Midwest. They even pulled a case of bombers of a limited release stout they were reserving for preferred customers out of a storeroom for us. We strolled out with quite a haul and had to redistribute almost all of our other luggage to our laps for the remainder of the trip to the hotel. Now I know what you are saying. Here it is most of the way through day 4 and we had only been to about 11 or so breweries/pubs and barely touched that lofty goal of 43 locations in Portland. Keep an eye out for the conclusion of BT IV.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beer Trip III-Part Two

Sorry it's taken so long for the rest of the Beer Trip III. Here you go. Hope you enjoy and please comment.

Day Three

The next day we set out early for our first destination of the day, Arbor Brewing in Ann Arbor, MI. College towns are always cool and Ann Arbor didn’t disappoint. Arbor had some great brews and a nice bar and restaurant in an area not far from campus. From there it was on to Kuhnhenn Brewing in Warren, MI. This is the closest I’ve ever been to Detroit, and it was close enough. All I know about Detroit is what I saw in RoboCop as a kid, and that’s some scary shit! Kuhnhenn was located in what looked like an industrial area and I wasn’t expecting much. We were all pleasantly surprised though and they had some fantastic beers and had some cool people there.

Next on the tour was Michigan Brewing Company in Webberville, MI. It felt like this place was out in the middle of nowhere. The building itself was really impressive with a big entrance into a reception area. Off to one side were offices and the other a huge tasting room. The brewery was through some doors on the backside of the building. We met our tour guide and went through some doors into the lab type area where they handle the yeast strains and the sort. They gave us leis w/ Michigan Brewing Co logo tags on them. We did our brewery tour and headed to the tasting room. They had several beers on tap and the place, to sound douchey, was hoppin’. There was this hippie-type couple singing songs with an acoustic guitar. They were really fun though and we hung out there for quite awhile. At one point I was talking to the brewer and telling him how amazing their Pumpkin Ale is, and he said to hold on, he’d be right back. He came back with a case of low/high fills for us. Surprisingly I didn’t hug him in my drunken state. That was way cool of him, but he knew who we are.

From there on to Founders in Grand Rapids, MI, the cultural center of America (inside joke, sorry). We were all feeling pretty good with the exception of our DD, Jerry. Founders has fantastic beers, and the Kentucky Breakfast is probably in my top 10 beers. We tried to get growlers of it, but they wanted like $70 for one so that was a no-go. Oh well, it was still great to have it there. Founders is also where we first met Mr. and Mrs. Cock-knocker. The name will be explained shortly. They were locals and enjoyed having a good time to say the least. They said they’d meet us at out next stop; we kinda laughed it off and went on to New Holland, MI. This is where the “incident” occurred we blogged about earlier.

Holland Brewing Company was very modern, very nice, and almost pretentious. They do make excellent beers though and we enjoyed them greatly. We were shocked to find Mr. and Mrs. Cock-knocker did actually drive to New Holland to party with us and brought their friend, the ginger Amazon. Chick towered over all of us. Now, I started calling the wife Cock-knocker because she was a fan of….well…she liked to smack, grab, reach for, etc, the “fellas.” Constantly. Her poor husband just accepted it I guess. I think she got us all. Dan claims she never grabbed him, but I can’t imagine she missed anyone. She did make the night funnier and her cuckhold of a husband was cool. From there I think we went to a bar across the street, but it’s hazy and then back to the hotel where we all collapsed from drinking.

Day Four

We started the day a little later this time and headed to Kalamazoo, MI to visit one of my favorite breweries, Bell’s. Kalamazoo is an eccentric town, so Bell’s Eccentric CafĂ© is a fitting name for their bar. I was bummed they didn’t have beers on tap unique to the brewery, but you can’t complain when you’re getting Two Hearted and Expedition on tap. The brewery was a trip, and had some crazy art and sculptures around. Very cool place and definitely worth the stop.

From there it was on to Arcadia Brewing in Battle Creek, MI. I really wanted to tour the Kellogg factory, but alas, no such luck. Someday Tony the Tiger mascot, I will meet you! Arcadia wasn’t able to set us up a tour in advance because they were getting ready for the Michigan Brewing Festival. So we expected to just go, have some samplers and then move on. While we were there though, the bartender was talking to us and found out what we were doing. Dan was talking to him about their beers and said, “I like your flagship beers, but your big beers are phenomenal.” As he said that, head brewer Bryan Wiggs came by and heard him. He started asking us which of the bigger beers we liked best, with almost all of us saying Shipwreck Porter. He then took us on a private tour where he let us climb up and look into the open fermenters, very in-depth stuff. We get back to the bar and he said he’d be right back and went downstairs and comes back up with some seasonals that weren’t available yet because they were still aging, as well as a couple of bottles of two-year old Shipwreck Porter. He opened them up, shared them with us, and hung out talking beer. Very cool experience. He’s at Dark Horse now, and brewing excellent beers for them. Oh, and the bartender had a signed bomber of their Big Dick’s Olde Ale that he let me buy from him! Great time and Kelly and Rob have actually gone back to volunteer there to help them bottle.

From there we went to Benton Harbor, MI to try out the Livery. Benton Harbor is, to be PC, “economically depressed.” It was sad. Talking to the people there most of the population reads at a 4th grade level and unemployment is rampant. This is before the current recession, btw. To be honest, I didn’t expect much from the Livery, but their beers were really good. Definitely stop by there if you’re in the greater Benton Harbor area. As a funny side note, I’m sitting there drinking and some dude at the bar keeps looking over at me. I’m pretty hot, so I’m used to this, but this was different. He comes over and goes “Did you go to Olathe North?” And it hit me. This was a dude I graduated from high school with! Who now lives and works in Benton Harbor. Small-ass world out there, luckily this was a rare friend from high school and I enjoyed getting to see him. We left the paradise of Benton Harbor and drove on to Munster, IN and the famous (at least to beer dorks) Three Floyd’s Brewing. We ate dinner there and bought an obscene amount of their beers to take home since we can’t get them in the KC metro. It was really crowded there so we honestly didn’t stick around too long. We bought a lot and left after we ate. From there was our last stop of the day, Flossmoor Station in Flossmoor, IL. This was in the Chicago ‘burbs and was more restaurant than brewery. Really good beers though, and they didn’t kick us out when Dan grabbed the microphone when the band was on break and started talking and I believe singing. Yeah, we’re that cool.

Day 5

We set out on our final day of BT III. There always seems to be a cloud over day five. Most of us ‘cuz we’re upset it’s almost over, some ‘cuz they’ve been away from their families too long, generally not the best day of the Trip. Our first stop was a few hours down the road at Old Capitol Brew Works and Public House in Iowa City, IA. Located not far from the famous John’s Grocery Store it too was in an old building in a college town. Decent beers, but samplers were in plastic cups which was odd to me.
We made a stop at John’s Grocery store to check out their beer selection and pick some up that we weren’t able to get elsewhere on the trip.
Next stop was the Amana Colonies, IA and Millstream Brewing, the oldest brewery in Iowa. It’s located in an Amish village and looks almost like an old school house. Beers were good, and they had a great set up where you could get your beer and sit out on a front porch or in a gazebo. Our last stop was kind of a downer. It was the chain brewery/restaurant Rock Bottom in West Des Moines, IA. They’re ok, but you don’t go there for great beers. But a brewery is a brewery, and it added a stop before going home. Nothing stood out there really, pretty much all middle of the road stuff. We headed back home to KC, and pulled into town just as a huge storm hit our convertible EM-50. Luckily Dan has huge oak trees over his drive and we were somewhat covered while Kelly re-patched what had blown off on the highway. We were all soaked trying to get our hauls sorted and into our respective cars. We wrapped it up and another Beer Trip was in the books.