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.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Beer Trip V Tentative Schedule

Here it is, for those wanting to know:

Tuesday, July 28th

  • 11:45 AM –Mattingly Brewing Company in St. Louis, MO.
  • 4:00 PM – Illinois Brewing Company in Bloomington, IL.
  • 5:15 PM – Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works in Normal, IL.
  • 9:15 PM – Carlyle Brewing Company in Rockford, IL.

Wednesday, July 29th

  • 10:00 AM – New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, WI.
  • 11:45 AM – Great Dane Brewing Company in Madison, WI.
  • 2:00 PM – Tyranena Brewing Company in Lake Mills, WI.
  • 4:00 PM – Sprecher Brewing Company in Glendale, WI.
  • 5:45 PM – Miller Park for Brewers game.

Thursday, July 30th

  • 11:00 AM – Milwaukee Ale House in Milwaukee, WI.
  • 1:45 PM – Hops Haven Brew Haus in Sheboygan, WI.
  • 4:00 PM – The Courthouse Pub in Manitowoc, WI.
  • 6:00 PM – Titletown Brewing Company in Green Bay, WI.
  • 8:15 PM – Stone Cellar Brewpub in Appleton, WI.

Friday, July 31st

  • 9:00 AM – O’so Brewing Company in Plover, WI.
  • 11:00 AM – Red Eye Brewing Company in Wausau, WI.
  • 2:45 PM – Das Bierhaus in Menomonie, WI.
  • 5:30 PM – Surly Brewing Company in Brooklyn Center, MN.
  • 8:15 PM – Barley John’s Brewpub in New Brighton, MN.

Saturday, August 1st

  • 10:30 AM – Summit Brewing Company in St. Paul, MN.
  • 12:00 PM – Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery in Minneapolis, MN.
  • 3:30 PM – Worth Brewing Company in Northwood, IA.
  • 7:00 PM – Raccoon River Brewing Company in Des Moines, IA.

Potential stops

  • Horny Goat Brewing Company in Milwaukee, WI on Thursday morning.
  • Flat Earth Brewing Company in St. Paul, MN on Friday afternoon.
  • Rush River Brewing Company in River Falls, WI on Friday afternoon.



Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Beer Trip III- Part 1

Beer Trip III was July 25-29, 2007. This trip was the second with the EM-50 and would take us east this time. The trip started out with a black cloud over it, as our founder and leader, Dan, was sick beyond belief when we rolled out of Overland Park. The trip this time had me, Dan, Andy, Jerry, and new inductees Kelly and Ed.

Day One:
Our first stop was across Missouri to O’Fallon Brewing Company in, you guessed, O’Fallon, MO. We arrived a little before 11AM for our tour and tasting. Our tour guide was Fran Caradonna, co-owner with her husband Tony, and she could not have treated us better. Small, but definitely growing operation.
From there it was on to Schlafly’s Taproom in St. Louis. Great food and great beers as expected. Dan had a sickness spell, but being a trooper, he soldiered on. No tour there as it’s their brewpub as opposed to the brewery itself. We enjoyed several great brews before heading out to Evansville, IN to Turoni’s Pizzery and Brewery for dinner. We arrived about 5PM and Dan immediately went to use the facilities. The rest of us sat around feeling horrible that he was so sick. We ate and tried a few beers and decided to get going on to our final destination of the day, Louisville, KY.

We arrived in Louisville pretty late due to the time change from Central Time to Eastern Time. We checked into our hotel which was way nicer than expected, a high rise in downtown Louisville. We decided to just hit Bluegrass Brewing Company since it was late. The cab ride there was terrifying on the way there. I’d expect that in Chicago or another huge city, but we were flying through Louisville like we were being chased by cops. We managed to safely arrive despite the ride over. We were split into two cabs, and the other half had a similar experience. Have to say BBC was an awesome place. I wasn’t expecting much, but it blew me away. The beers lived up to the reputation and were great. But the atmosphere itself made it all the better. Basically they had open jam sessions where people bring their guitars and jam out on the patio. The crowds were crazy as well, and that just added to the fun. After that we cabbed it back to downtown and crashed to rest up for the next day.

Day Two:
The next morning we were up early and ready to start heading north into Ohio. Our first stop was Cincinnati and BarrelHouse Brewing. The brewer treated us great and took us all through the operation. We all know the process very well, but it’s always fun to see at the same time. We all bought a case of bombers, and loaded up for the traditional Brewers game over at Great American Ball Park. The game was a loss, so we’ll move on, except to say they did offer some beers besides Bud/Miller/Coors at the stadium.

Next was Columbus and Barley’s Brewing. This is the point Dan seemed to be at his sickest. He looked awful and spent most of the time in the restroom. Surprisingly good brews and food, although Dan still being sick was a huge bummer. We headed on out for Cleveland, hoping for a leader that felt better and good times. Like all things though, it must get worse before it can better.
We arrived in Cleveland after dark and headed to the downtown Holiday Inn. We passed an exit for Parma en route, and I being drunk had spent the whole time singing “Moon Over Parma” from the Drew Carey Show. Surprised no one punched me. There were huge crowds in the lobby, and something felt off. I go to check in as the rooms were under my name. I stood in line for probably a half hour before getting to the counter. I give her my confirmation info and found out they had overbooked the hotel and we had no rooms. They had a Postal Service convention in town, and they took all the rooms. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, we were sent a half hour south to another Holiday Inn out in the suburbs. No apologies and acted like we should be grateful they did that for us. We decided to hit Great Lakes Brewery before going to the hotel since they were on the way. Great Lakes was in a great area of Cleveland and had a cool set up. The manager couldn’t have treated us better, as he took Dan (who finally was feeling better) and Andy to the already-closed-for-the-night gift shop and gave them a GLBC banner and some free schwag. They let us hang out for a bit even after they closed, giving us a couple of pitchers of whatever we wanted. Ed was cool enough to drive for us so I could drink away my frustration with Holiday Inn and the rest could live it up. We drove out to the ‘burbs and checked in to the hotel and passed out, not suspecting the next day would be one of the most memorable in Beer Trip history….


Monday, July 13, 2009

"Bill Clinton" and Tasing

In my opinion, one of the best days of any of the Beer Trips was Day Two of Beer Trip 3.5. Day One was a good day, as Andy, Ed, Jerry, Kelly, Tim, and I went to a couple of places in Springfield, MO. We had lunch at Springfield Brewing Company, who were kind enough to let us in early and label our tab as “Drunk Early Guys” on the bill. After lunch, we headed over to the now-defunct Hickok’s Steakhouse for a sampler of their beers, which were nice enough. After that, we left Springfield and headed to Bootlegger’s in Aurora for another round of samplers. The day ended with us in Little Rock, having dinner at Bosco’s before walking over to end the night at the Flying Saucer for some quality brews.

But really, Day Two is what made the trip. We started out going over to Vino’s for some of their pizza and beers. Really, really good pizza, and even better beers. The place itself is a grungy building with the pizza joint and brewpub up front, and a rock stage in back. I keep telling my brother-in-law that his band needs to play there, because I imagine they have some pretty good crowds there. After that, I had scheduled a tour with Diamond Bear, not only for Beer Trip, but because I was writing an article and would be discussing them. Whenever I schedule private tours, I am usually a little weary about how they will turn out. I don’t know why, but I am.

Well, Diamond Bear ended up being one of my favorite brewery stops in my life. Our tour guide was Russ Melton, the president and owner of Diamond Bear. When we arrived, he gave each of us a pint glass to keep, and he filled them up with some of their tasty brews while he just chatted with us. Russ was one of the friendliest and entertaining people I have ever met. He treated us so well, and even did his Bill Clinton impression (the best I had ever heard, including Phil Hartman). He took the six of us all around the brewery, chatting away and really just acting like one of the crew. I am really glad that Ed was driving, because the beers kept coming, and I wasn’t refusing them. Eventually, we had to leave because we had another stop before heading home. I got some nice quotes for my article, but more importantly, we all got to hang out with Russ, have some awesome beers, and have a tour that we’d never forget.

Normally, the Diamond Bear tour would have been the most memorable part of a Beer Trip, yet it ended up not even being the most memorably part of the day. Our next and final stop would be in Fayetteville, where we were meeting our good pals, Brett and Hannah, at Hog Haus for dinner and beers. We got to town, and it was a Saturday with a home University of Arkansas basketball game, so the town seemed to be jumping a little. We had to park in a lot pretty far away, and then we made the way towards the brewpub. Tim and I both have small bladders (although mine not as bad as his), so we were leading the pack. The other four were all behind us. As we walked around a building, some dude (known here on out as “Dude”) ran past us like he was being chased. Sure enough, he was, as two cops were running after him. We turned and laughed, and I jokingly said to Tim, “Don’t tase me bro!” Within two seconds, dude had two red dots on his back as one of the cops yells, “Freeze!” like in a 1970s cop show. Dude should have stopped. POW! He got tased, and dropped like a rock. Fittingly, he fell face first into a rock and was out cold. The ambulance came to take him away, but Jerry made sure to go around the area and take some good pics.

After that, we met Brett and Hannah, and I remember having a good time and some tasty beers with them. I love Brett and Hannah, two of the best people I’ve met. I only wish I would have remembered more, but the combination of Vino’s and Diamond Bear before we met them made the rest of the night a little foggy. But I’m sure it was fun for all. We left Fayetteville, and I promptly fell asleep in the back of Ed’s van while Ed drove. That pretty much sums up why Ed is the most popular guy among the Beer Trip crew.

Your pal,

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Beer Trip Crew Presents "Their Dirt"

For those of you who know me, you know that my favorite book of all time is Motley Crue’s The Dirt. If you don’t know The Dirt, it is an account of the band’s rise to the top of the world of rock and roll, and the trials and tribulations they encountered along the way. It is written by the members of the band themselves, and the stories are told with the different guys in the band giving their recollection of the events. Andy thought that for this blog, it would be cool to do a The Dirt-style recap of the most famous Beer Trip incident, the time that Jerry smashed the RV into the hotel. So for those confused by Ed’s poem, read this and then go back and read his.


The 27th of July started out pretty average. The night before had been a pain due to hotel issues, but I was looking forward to a fresh day. We were hitting some cool places, so I was ready to get going. Jerry had gotten destroyed the night before since that day would be his day to be sober and drive us around. Never the best day for that person, but it has to be done. Unfortunately for Jerry, he was going to have the worst designated driver day in BT history.


The day of beer touring went as usual, and we were on schedule.


Day Three of Beer Trip III was pretty typical. We woke up in Cleveland, had lunch and samples at Arbor Brewing, more samples at Kuhnhenn, even more samples, some peanuts, and a mini-tour at the Michigan Brewing Company, and then more beer at Founders in Grand Rapids. So far, so good (especially after spending the first two days as sick as I have ever felt in a long time, and not even because of beer), and the designated driver that day was the guy who knows and cares more about cars than anyone I know, Jerry.


So as a second year veteran of navigating the RV, I was feeling cocky. All the fellas appreciated the grace-like skills I had with the beast, and at this point I felt like a rock star. That is...until the "mishap".


For me the memory starts with our fearless leader (let’s call him Dan) climbing up the ladder to the top of our rolling oasis – his parents’ RV. Seeing his ascension to the top, I grew concerned that something may be wrong with the RV. Once on the roof, he quickly started goofing around…. Surfing and the like. Soon Andy was rooting “Go Teen Wolf!!” This joyous occasion, turned quite different the next time Dan climbed those stairs.

The EM-50 only a few short hours before the "incident"

We had a great day, we had been to four really great breweries, we were on a roll, and couldn’t wait to “hit” New Holland. Jerry, who prides himself on being a fantastic driver, as he should, chose to be the DD that day. We decided we’re going to check into the hotel before we head to New Holland Brewing Company.


We made it through most of the day without any incidents. We were having a blast at Michigan Brewing Company that afternoon. They had a great tasting room and there was a crazy hippie couple playing music. We then drove over to Founders and had even more amazing beers. Met some funny/insane people, and from there we were going 30 minutes down the road to Holland, MI.


Just so you know, when I am not driving during Beer Trip, I am in the front passenger seat because I get motion sickness. Doctors won’t prescribe Dramamine for Beer Trips, those jerks! So I am sitting in the front of the car, and our best driver is leading us in to the Country Inn in Holland.


Dan had brought the Garmin this year and it was working like a charm....everyone was laughing, being silly, and ready to drop the luggage off and hit up the local bars with our new beer friends we had just met. When I pulled around to the front of the hotel, I noticed the "home feel" it had with a front porch and a few people sitting in rocking chairs enjoying the beautiful evening. I set my eyes on the front door of the hotel to properly line up the RV door with it for easy access for the fellas, and then it happened. The sound of the hotel awning ripping into our beloved RV sounded like the Hiroshima bomb had went off. Slow-motion ensued, and as I hit the brakes I look over at Dan, and we are both ducking and looking up. Before we could get stopped, I feel the RV suspension load up from the pressure of the hotel roof. The sky light explodes, I see daylight out the top, and finally, as icing on the cake, when I do completely stop, I finally hear the AC unit drop off the back of the rig.


Keep in mind, we had just left Founders, and they had their Kentucky Breakfast Stout on tap, one of the best beers you will ever have. Also, it tips in at over 11% ABV. So Jerry pulls up to the overhang, I realize what is about to happen, yet I am speechless. I have no idea why, but everything is in slow motion as the top of the EM-50 smashes into the hotel and I don’t make a sound.


I know I’m sitting in the middle of the bench behind Dan. We’re just bullshitting with each other when out of nowhere this very loud cracking/popping sound erupts, and then plastic pieces begin to rain down. The cracking and popping continues for all of milliseconds. I think we all realize at the exact same time what had just happened.


Things get fuzzy for me at this point. It went from all of us talking and being happy as hell to a loud noise, stuff falling on us, and then silence. I was sitting in back on the passenger side on the bench facing the driver’s side. I remember the vent in the center had fallen to the floor, and I got up and thought picking it up and holding it to the ceiling would fix it or make what just happened not so bad. Jerry and Dan were up front and the only memory I have is both of them sitting in silence looking straight ahead.


I was in the rear with the gear, and did not see the hotel, nor the low overhanging “A” frame entrance. It started with an unusual sound – that of bending and snapping metal. Then a small snap, and then the sound of air pressure being released simultaneously with a few more plastic snaps. To this point, there was only the sound of a collision, yet no feeling of impact or even stopping… it took several seconds for the catlike ninja reaction time of our driver to stop our traveling beer bus. Now remember, that most of us were not driving, therefore sobriety after four brewery stops was not possible. I looked up and found a new skylight where the rooftop air conditioning unit was.


I was the first one out of the back of the now damaged EM-50, and what I noticed first was Dan’s face in the rearview mirror. He was staring straight ahead, his eyes were open but I’m sure he couldn’t tell you what he was seeing. It was the most deer-in-the-headlights look I have ever seen on another human being.


All thoughts come back to our leader – you remember Dan right?? -- We just wrecked his father’s pride and joy. His face showed no emotion. This seemed like a poker game, and we just met the master of the table.


I get out, and there’s a loud hissing noise, a weird smell, and some giggly girls hanging out of one window of the hotel pointing. I finally see what had happened. Behind us lay the A/C unit, hoses spraying air, liquid...I don’t remember exactly. I was numb. Those little awnings are amazingly strong. It scraped the top off pretty cleanly. I turn towards the front, and I see in the rearview mirror, Dan still sitting, staring straight ahead wide-eyed. I went over, opened the door, and got a “Just leave me alone.” I understood, shut the door, and walked back to help pick up the debris.


Typically when you look at a road-side hotel, you see shades covering the windows of every room. This time, all I could see were faces peering out to see what just happened. Still peering out above the RV deck, I turned toward the back of the RV and saw that almost the entire vehicle had passed under the A-frame before stopping, and there was about ¼ inch of room between the top deck of the RV and the frame of the overhang. Everything on the top deck was missing. The antenna, the A/C, the skylights that bubble up about one-inch from the deck, the ladder…all were gone. It was as if a giant Tiger Woods swung a big stick and cleared everything off the RV.


Cursing starts to ensue on the fact of "Did this REALLY just happen?!?!?" We all get out and assess the damage. It's not good! As stated, the skylight and AC are no longer. The upper luggage rack and ladder to the roof are in shambles, and I am pretty sure the RV roof leaks. There were some young teenage girls in their room a couple flights up that opened the window and laughed (loudly I might add) for the next ten minutes.....and I could have slowly killed each of them for that!


We all empty out of the EM-50, and an old geezer says something like, “Gonna have to let the air out of the tires to back that out.” I looked at him and promptly ignored his advice. There were enough fatties to jump on the back bumper and have Jerry back out. What I remember seeing next was shear and unbelievable amazement. We could literally fix the damage done to the hotel with a thimble full of grey paint!!! We couldn’t have been more lucky, and the MOD of the hotel couldn’t have been cooler. He was all of 20, and he looks at me and says, “As far as I’m concerned, this didn’t happen. And there is a janitor’s closet at the end of the hall where your room is at, so help yourself to whatever you need to fix your RV.”


The manager at the Country Inn was very cool and got us trash bags to help clean it up. Not much damage to the awning except some scrape marks. I honestly have no memory of what everyone was doing. I remember Jerry walking out to the middle of the huge parking lot by himself. Dan had to call and tell his parents we just crashed their RV into a hotel awning. We loaded the A/C unit into the storage compartment on the side, taped up the gaping hole in the roof, and locked it up.


Calling my dad up was odd. I mean, they lent us their RV for the trip, and we (the Beer Trip crew, not just Jerry) had damaged it. I told my dad what happened, and all he said was, “Is everyone okay? Good. Well, patch it up as you need to, have fun the rest of the trip, and we’ll take care of it when you get back. That’s why we have insurance.” Once I heard that, there was relief. And honestly, I should have expected that to be his response, but I still needed to hear it. Especially after two days of being every kind of sick possible and not being able to keep anything in my body, I didn’t want a damaged RV to keep me from having more than a half a day of fun on Beer Trip.


As Jerry and Dan drive off to park the RV, Ed and I proceed to die laughing because we had been holding it in for Dan’s sake. But holy crap was that some extremely funny stuff!


After Dan talked with his dad to let him know what just happened, the teamwork and camaraderie of the Beer Trip fellas kicked in. Everyone pitched in to patch up the RV, put the broken pieces in the RV, and try to comfort my busted ego.


I jumped into problem solver mode – trying to take care of the RV for the night – hoping that Dan would play his card, and let us in to his thoughts. We grabbed tape and plastic and covered all the holes in case it rained for the night, threw the A/C into the storage compartment. Dan climbed the stairs to look at the damage.

Kelly fixing 'er up

Damage done

At some point, Dan came out of his understandable stupor, and he was soon chasing Jerry around the parking lot trying to hug him to show no hard feelings.


I don’t remember Dan’s words, but the message heard was – “It happened – no reason to stop now.”

The show must go on.


We actually had a great night of continued beer consumption.


We went on to New Holland Brewing after all of that and drowned our sorrows. We had some fun with our now convertible roof the rest of the trip. And of course, it’s given us a story that everyone, except Jerry, gets a great laugh out of.


We really needed some beers at the end of that day, and New Holland was just the place to get them!

Ed sticking his head out of our new sun roof