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Saturday, August 13, 2011

On the Road

Another Beer Store to Add to the Mix

A former high school classmate and long time friend of mine, Dan Pasquale, contacted me recently to tell me of a beer store north of us (Watertown, NY). Here's what he had to say:

Played golf at a course just north of Watertown yesterday (Willowbrook) and we stopped at Bear World, the beer/grocery store I mentioned in my last email. It's an awesome place! They have a huge walk-in cooler with a large selection of craft beers from all over. Mostly six- and twelve-paks, with some small kegs. They will order any kind of keg you want as long as they have some advanced notice.
In the main part of the store along the back wall, is a display of individual bottles of about a hundred varieties of craft beer- make your own craft-pak and get 10% off the price.
A beer distributor happened to be in the store when we were there and was also impressed with the place. He said usually these types of stores can be dumpy, but this one is new, bright, clean and the staff is ready to help you find whatever you are looking for. Bought a couple of six packs of summer wheat beers, a blueberry wheat and a raspberry wheat.....

Thanks Dan. Sounds like a great place to check out. Here's a link to Bear World's website . I counted 73 different craft breweries represented. And there are almost as many foreign breweries as well. Pretty impressive. It's located at 22093 US Route 11, Watertown, NY - across from the Seaway Plaza.

New Holland Brewery and The Mark

We just returned from a trip to Michigan and Indiana while Dan and Shelly traveled to Pennsylvania. While there, we took in the sights as well as a couple of breweries and a restaurant unique for what it DOESN'T  have.

The Dune Ride
We descended on Saugatuck, Michigan en masse on an extended-family vacation; occupying two houses and hitting the highlights of that delightful town on the shore of Lake Michigan. We hit the beaches, hit the shops and coffee houses, and we hit the dusty trail on a wild dune buggy ride. The dune buggy ride is about as close to a roller coaster as you can get without being on some sort of track. It's a combination thrill ride and guided tour with the guide/driver delivering a steady patter of witty groaners and dune-related history. The story of the dunes is a cautionary tale of the wages of greed and the consequences of rampant deforestation. Buried beneath the dunes is the entire town of Singapore as well as part of a lake and a river. Founded in 1836 in the hopes of becoming a port city similar to Chicago, by the 1860's it was thriving - due in large part to the lumber business. When the great Chicago fire in 1871 occurred, the area was denuded of trees to supply lumber for reconstruction. The result was the attack of the dunes. Without the protection of the trees, the dunes advanced unabated, ultimately burying the town. Until fairly recently, the top couple of floors of a hotel were visible, which must have been an eerie sight.

So all this talk of sand made us thirsty, which required a trip to the nearby New Holland Brewery. Unfortunately the brewery only does tours on weekends and we wouldn't be there, so we went to their brewpub for a tasty meal and a wide selection of beers. I sampled a number of them. Their Dragon's Milk Imperial Stout was outstanding. At 10% ABV it's a big, bold, full-bodied sippin' beer. Their  Imperial Hatter (a souped up version of their Mad Hatter IPA) was also excellent. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed their Lights Out Black Belgian as well; a mild, smooth stout-like beer. Poet Oatmeal Stout was also a solid addition, strong on chocolate, coffee and toffee notes. The lightest of the bunch was their Full Circle Kolsch. It's a light, yellow beer - clear and light, but finishes with a nice hop crispness.
I chatted a bit with bar boss Phil Thomson. I wondered when their brews might find their way into the Central New York area. He said they are in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and have plans to get into New York in the near future. I'm hoping they will. Perhaps they'll contact us and we can highlight their brewery when they make the move. Who knows?
On my way out I picked up a bottle of el Mole Ocho. An interesting beer we'll check out at the next beer club.

 We moved on to Indiana to visit my brother (an unrepentant light beer drinker, but hey, he's family and you have to overlook such flaws, painful as they are). We stayed in South Bend and there, thanks to the advance tip by my brother-in-law (who loves craft beer) we visited a restaurant called The Mark. The Mark is not a brew pub, but they carry an ever changing line-up of exciting craft beers from all over.
I started out with Flat 12 Half Cycle IPA out of Flat 12 Brewery in Indiana. Half Cycle is so named because it is a single IPA hopped like a double (as in baseball where a single and a double is known as a half cycle). It's a really good IPA. 6% ABV. Piney, spicy. I followed this with 2 Brothers Hop Juice DIPA. 2 Brothers is out of Illinois. Hop Juice is big, at 9.9%. Described as having "massive hops balanced with caramel and brown sugar notes" it is an excellent beer.
After dinner we adjourned to the bar where I met Wally the Bartender (Walter Ruston who writes a blog of his own). Here I learned an interesting fact: The Mark and sister eatery Uptown Kitchen do not carry any InBev, Miller/Coors products. At all! None. Zip. Nada. The beers on tap and in bottles are all craft beers. Pretty gutsy, knowing the pressure the big boys put on restaurants to carry their stuff. Wally told me of a time when a Bud rep and his wife stopped in for dinner. When he learned there was no A-B beers available, he stormed out. I thought that was pretty cool.
At the bar I got a chance to sample some amazing beers, including one of the top 10 beers in the world - St. Bernardus ABT 12 Quadruple.
I also sampled:
                        3 Floyds Gorch Foch, a light Helles which is an easy drinking, pleasant beer.
                        Bourgagne Des Flanders Sour Ale - a really different beer for sure. Very tart with a taste of sweet fruit, cherry and fig.
   Figure 8 Scapegoat ESB - Nitrogen ESB - I really liked this beer and it's not an overly hopped beer by any stretch of the imagination. A very lively pour with a beautiful head.  It's creamy and malty with just a hint of banana and finishes slightly bitter. Smooth is the best way to describe it. It's a beer that I believe would appeal to a number of different tastes.

Of course, you can't be in South Bend without checking out Notre Dame University which, conveniently, was just across the street, more or less, from The Mark. It is quite an impressive place, with two lakes and a golf course.

And of course, this guy:
The Holy Ref

Meanwhile, Back East

So while we were in Michigan and Indiana, Dan and Shelly were in Harrisburg, PA. Of course it was necessary to visit Troegs Brewery while there. He was able to sample a number of their excellent brews including one of my favorites - Java Head Stout.
A quick run down of some of their beers:
Java Head Stout - 7.5% ABV - 60 IBU - Made with Crystal, Pilsner, Chocolate and Roast malts with the addition of oats and a blend of coffee beans. Cluster, Chinook and Cascade hops round out this complex and tasty brew. Strong notes of coffee and chocolate. A deep, rich flavor.
Pale Ale - 4.5% ABV - 45 IBU - Pilsner and Munich malts with Liberty and Cascade hops. 
HopBack Amber Ale - 6% ABV - 55 IBU - Their flagship ale made with Pilsner and Munich malts and Cascade, Williamette and Nugget hops. A nice floral spice. 
Dreamweaver Wheat - 4.8% ABV - 15 IBU - Pilsner and Vienna malt; wheat and Saaz hops. Peppery, spicy with the taste of cloves.
Dead Reckoning Porter - 5.8% ABV - 53 IBU - Pilsner, Caramel, Roast, Black malts with Vanguard and Chinook hops. This unfiltered porter scored very well with us when we did porters last year. Rich chocolate and roasted taste. 

Many of these we have reviewed in previous posts as Troegs is one of those breweries that isn't shy with the hops and therefore is a favorite of the BOTB guys.

The BOTB Guys

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