Monday, August 16, 2010

Beer Trip VI-Day Three

Of all of the days of all of the Beer Trips, Day Three of Beer Trip VI made me the most nervous going into it. The reason was because I really wanted to visit Grand Teton Brewing Company, one of my favorite breweries whose beers are available in Kansas. Unfortunately for us, they are located in Victor, ID which is over 1000 miles away from my home. But since I am the one who plans Beer Trip, I decided that we were going there. Because of that reason, I was nervous about how cool it would be considering that it was going to make us spend more time in the car, spend more money on gas, and spend less time at breweries. Anyway, I decided that was the case, so we were doing it. I just hoped that this part of the trip, the portion that took us from Fort Collins to Victor, Idaho and back (about eight hours each way), and was initially created solely because I wanted to go to Grand Teton Brewing Company, was going to be worth the trip. It didn’t hurt that I also set up at stop for us at Snake River Brewing Company in Jackson Hole, not far from Victor.
We woke up in Pinedale, WY, after getting in late the night before. We did the normal routine, slowly getting up, having breakfast if we so choose, and head on our way. We had an appointment to be at Grand Teton at 10 AM, so the plan was to leave at 7:30 AM. One note that morning: it was really effing cold. I mean, really cold, and unexpected. Since it was July 16th, I figured it would be safe to wear shorts and a t-shirt like every other summer Beer Trip day. Well, this particular day, I was ready outside to go around 7 AM while the others ate breakfast (I’m not really a breakfast guy, especially on BT). Unfortunately, it was about 45 degrees outside. One of the guys said that they saw a thermometer that read 39 degrees, which I don’t think was accurate, but it was really cold. We hit the road on time, and headed over to Idaho.
The ride up to the Jackson Hole area was interesting for two reasons. The first and frustrating one was that they had heavy construction, and we didn’t move for about 15 minutes as they only had one-way traffic for about a five-mile stretch. The good thing was that we planned on arriving early to Grand Teton, so it didn’t put us behind schedule. The other thing dealt with Rob’s driving, as he is known as a lead foot. As we headed up, he was probably driving about 85 mph in a 70 mph zone, and a cop put on his lights as we were passing him going the other direction. He pointed down, to let Rob know to slow down, and then turned off his lights and went about his way. With the stash of beer that we had in the EM-50, it was a bit of a scare for us. Luckily, nothing came of it, and we were able to make it without any issues, which was great because we were all in a great mood driving through one of the most beautiful parts of the country. The drive around the Jackson Hole area is unbelievably gorgeous. For me, this made me feel better about the whole journey this far, because I knew everyone else felt the same. Even if Grand Teton and Snake River Brewing Company were so-so, it was worth it for the views.

We got to Grand Teton about 9:40 AM, so we took our time in their parking lot taking pictures and enjoying the views. Maybe five minutes later, the bartender, Abby, yelled for us to come in, so we did. I had scheduled the visit, but I wasn’t sure who was going to show us around. I knew that they were busy with a festival in town, so I was just happy someone was there for us. Abby was really, really nice to us, and she showed us around the place, which was smaller than I would have guessed it. I mean, they have their beers in California and even Kansas, so I figured it would be a bigger place, especially because they make such great beers. The tour was quick, and she poured us some samples. A few minutes later, one of the brewers, Marks, came out and talked to us. He was a younger guy, and was really cool to talk to. He knew a lot of stuff, and both he and Abby were really great. We probably spent about $300 as a group on their beers and merch, including some of their root beer. After Marks put a Grand Teton sticker on the EM-50, we rolled out about 11:15, ahead of schedule, and made our way to Jackson Hole.

Snake River Brewing Company has had a lot of success at the Great American Beer Festival. Well, that is an understatement. They are the most award-winning small brewery in the history of the event. Before this trip, I had only had bottles of their Pale Ale and Zonkers Stout, both which I really enjoyed. I joined the Snake River group on Facebook, and one day I got an email from Tim Harland about a new beer that was being released. I sent him an email back, telling him about us making our trip to the area for Beer Trip, and he seemed really interested in us stopping there. We exchanged a few messages, and told him we were looking forward to checking out Snake River and meeting him when we got there.

When we walked in, we walked up to the hostess stand when we heard, “Beer Trippers! What are you guys doing here?!?!?” It was Tim, and he had a big smile on his face and we introduced ourselves to him and shook his hand. He immediately took us to the bar, poured us a beer of our choice, and gave us a quick tour of the brewery. It was probably the best welcome to a brewery on any Beer Trip. Tim showed us around, and is basically one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. Just a guy who is proud of Snake River, as he should be, and about as friendly, upbeat, and cool as could be. Unfortunately, he had to leave early, so he only hung out with us for a few minutes at our table before leaving. We did give him some BBQ sauce, beers, and one of Kelly’s beer bottle holders, and he gave us each some stickers, free beer, and other things, and even gave me a really nice shirt and visor.

Then he rolled around with his sweet ride, and Kelly and the other guys were loving it. I’m not a car guy, so I don’t even know what it was, but it was pretty cool. He left and we had a really nice lunch there. It was phenomenal actually. Really good food, and the price was nice too, especially for Jackson Hole. As we finished up, their head brewer Chris Erickson showed up. For me, this was pretty cool, because Chris was featured in “American Beer.” He was the guy who said you could tell the head brewer at a brewery because he’s the one who’s driving the forklift. Not surprisingly, as he led us though another tour of the brewery, we saw the forklift and had to bring that up to him. Again, another great guy. Much like Surly Brewing Company was with Omar and head brewer Todd on Beer Trip V, Snake River had two of my favorite people that I ever met on a Beer Trip. We went back to pay our tab, and they even took money off of our bill. We bought a few bottles of beer to take home, although for some reason I didn’t buy any of their Pale Ale or Zonker Stout like I meant to. I am still mad about that. I wish I had gotten at least a case. Stupid me. Anyway, it probably doesn’t need to be said by me, but Snake River was easily one of my favorite Beer Trip stops of all time.

The next stop was Wind River Brewing Company in Pinedale, which we didn’t go to the night before because we got in town too late. It was a smaller place, but still rather nice. We had a light dinner there since it had been awhile since we were at Snake River about an hour and a half longer than we originally planned. That’s not a complaint either. If we didn’t have to end up in Laramie at night, I would have stayed at Snake River all day. Anyway, we ate a nice, light meal outside, had a couple of pitchers of beer, and even bought a few four-packs of their beer to bring back. While not one of the more memorable stops (probably due to how great Snake River was), but a pretty nice place nonetheless.
We left Pinedale around 5PM for Laramie, which is about 5 hours away. We didn’t do a great job in planning our next gas stop, as we spent about 30 cents more per gallon at a place that wasn’t open at 8 PM on a Friday night (but pay at the pump tanks) and had three cars there of people who knew each other. It was a weird stop, as they just stayed there. They were there before us, but were in no hurry to get going. One of the guys said it once we left (probably Ed) that it looked like people meeting for a drug deal. It really did. Just odd. We got to our hotel around 10 or so, and we were debating whether or not to go to one of their two brewpubs. Both Chris and Tim from Snake River said that both the Library and Altitude Chophouse had great beers (and that their brewers were good guys), and after calling to see how late they were open (both 2 AM), we went to Altitude. It was a really nice place, a higher end type brewpub. Our bartender was extremely friendly to us, even taking us on a mini tour of their brewing operation. Their beers were solid too, as I really liked their 9% ABV Grand Cru. After about an hour or so, the place was close to empty, so we decided to check out the Library, another brewpub. This place was more of a college bar to me, which is what I expected to find in Laramie. They also had nice beers, but one stuck out to us more than the others: a “peanut butter and jelly” beer. Andy asked if he could have a sample, but the bartender said that they weren’t allowed to give out samples of that beer, because everyone wants to try it but few buy it. I asked how much it was, and the $4 price was fine for me, especially since I’d share it. As gross as it sounded to me, I gave it a whirl. Well, I have to say, it tasted like a peanut butter and jelly beer. And not in a bad way. It was a very drinkable beer. Ed even liked it enough to order one of his own.

We hung out for awhile (I honestly don’t remember how long), and eventually called it a night. The only day with five brewery stops of our trip, and it ended up being one of the best Beer Trip days we ever had.

1 comment:

  1. Damn...that was a HUGE day for you guys!
    Glad Snake River Brewing could be a part of it...and seriously, you guys are welcome back in Wyoming ANY-TIME!!

    Kick me an address to shoot you out that Zonker Stout and Pale Ale you forgot to take home w/you.

    Anyway, thanks for the props...and it's a 1973 VW Thing BTW...and that's the only "cool" thing about me.

    Tim "Beerguy" Harland