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 (http://marshallbrewing.com/home.asp). 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 (http://www.petes.org/ ). 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 (http://www.hankiswiserbrewery.com/) .
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 (http://www.rivercitybrewingco.com/). 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.