Hey everyone! I hope you are having a great 2010. It has been pretty good on my end, with Beer Trip 5.5 being one of the best trips we’ve taken. Speaking of 5.5, when we were coming back home after the last stop that trip, I was thinking about our stop at Front Street Brewery. Saturday night, we went to the Quad Cities and stopped at Bent River Brewing Company. You may recall that we stopped at Bent River on the very first Beer Trip in 2005. It was just Tim and I on that trip, and we were actually the only two people in the place when we arrived on a Sunday morning for an early lunch. There, I had one of the best burgers I’d ever had in my life (a patty melt) and enjoyed samples of some really good beers. It was a really good stop. We were all looking forward to going there this year, but the vibe was a lot different. The place was packed, which I was fine with, but there was a band playing that was not very good (to state it kindly) and the people at the brewpub were a little on the tool/bar trash side. It wasn’t a good scene that night. To be fair, their beers were still very solid and we didn’t order food, but the experience wasn’t what we were hoping for. We stayed there for maybe 45 minutes before we decided to check out the lesser known Front Street Brewery. When we got there, there were a few people hanging around the bar, which was a very esthetically pleasing interior (it was too dark to tell you how it looked from the outside). We sat down, were greeted by a very cool bartender who set us up with some beers. He even came over and talked to us about our trip, and even came back a couple of times to bring us some free samples. The beers were pretty good, but nothing like a barrel aged Imperial Stout or something like that. The thing is, this stop became one of my favorites because the bartender treated us really well and the beers were enjoyable.
This is one of the points that I try to let people know about Beer Trips. Often when I tell someone about where we’re planning to go on the next Beer Trip, I get a lot of weird and confused reactions from people like “Why are you going to that place?” A lot of “The beer at Beer Bar A is way better than the beers at Brewery X!” comments come in my direction. And I get that completely. It’s just that for me, having the best beer isn’t necessarily the most important thing to me. Now it is really important, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t make me enjoy one stop over another. For example, Rogue Brewery in Newport, OR makes some really great beers. I have enjoyed their beers for a long time, and we all were really looking forward to making the visit from Portland on Beer Trip IV. But the tour was one of the biggest disappointments I’ve had on a beer trip. The tour guide was pretty bad. She wasn’t that informative, she was a little rude, was really boring, and at the end of the tour she said, “No samples but you can buy beers upstairs.” That was the only tour without samples that I’d ever been on, which wouldn’t have been a big deal if the tour itself was good.
On the other hand, for Beer Trip V, we were driving up from Milwaukee to Green Bay, and we wanted to have a stop along the way. We randomly decided to stop at Hops Haven Brew Haus in Sheboygan, a stop that was questioned by several people. When we arrived there mid-afternoon on a Thursday and were greeted by our wonderful bartender Amy. She was great, knew her stuff, and was absolutely pleasant. We asked her if they had any stickers to but on the RV, and she went and spoke to the brewer. Jeff, a great guy who made us a laminated sign in lieu of a sticker (they didn’t have any) showed us, along with our new friends of about 10 minutes Colleen and Grant, around their brewpub, even showing us a video they had of the place. Amy and Jeff couldn’t have been cooler to us, and this was a stop that most people wouldn’t have made. It was one of my favorite stops on any of the Beer Trips. And it didn’t hurt that their beers were fantastic, either.
So that is the story to why I do what I do in terms of Beer Trip planning. To me, I’d rather have an above-average beer at a brewpub with great people than have a fantastic beer at a snobbish beer bar (which I have found several to be). The people I’ve dealt with at the brewpubs are a lot more passionate about what it is that they are serving because it is their hard work behind it. While I appreciate the finer beer bars a lot, especially the ones that support their local breweries (the Twin Cities are phenomenal in my opinion when it comes to that), I’d rather have our guys go check out a place where we can ask the brewers direction why and how it is that they do what they do than have a server tell me that the IPA I’m drinking is 93 IBUs. But that’s just me.
Anyway, that’s what I have for you this week. We are going to be doing a better job of keep this site updated, so check back.