Friday, December 28, 2007

A Little Western PA Tour

I hope that everyone had a nice Christmas (for those who observe) and/or break and got to enjoy good beer!

Neither my or my wife's families exchanged gifts this year, except of course for the kids ... can't ignore the nephews! Regardless, I still ended up with a gift card to Marzoni's and an 'official' 2006 Oktoberfest München ceramic 0.5L mug on Christmas Eve. For Christmas day, I was drinking Avalanche IPA (which I'd purchased with the former) out of the latter. It was a nice day.

Yesterday, friends and fellow brewers Dave and Justin (Muckney Brewing) and I got in my car and headed out of town for a day of sampling and purchasing. Friend Eli (Four Eyed Geek) was not able to go, though he sent a cooler with empty growlers and cash in his stead; and Jon (no link) was working, but had just returned from a successful beer trip to the Detroit area.

After gathering everyone/thing, we grabbed some caffeine for the road at Indiana's own Commonplace Coffee and took off. First stop for the day (after a brief detour to my parents' house) was North Country Brewing in Slippery Rock. Here we had lunch and some samples. Dave & Justin each got a sampler tray, while I had a pint of the Dubble Trouble and the cask Amber. The cask amber was terrific!

From Slippery Rock, we headed down I-79 into Cranberry, where we each got a sampler tray at the Hereford & Hops. I thought that most were mediocre at best, though the Portersville Porter (Baltic porter) was above average.

Next, as rush hour was about to commence, we headed down Route 19 into Wexford to the first of two beer stores for the evening, 3 Sons Dogs & Suds. I find that 3 Sons is a bit cheaper than D's SixPax & Dogz for many beers, though the selection is a bit smaller. I grabbed a Lindemans Framboise and Chimay Bleu for my wife (both her favorites), and a Hoppin' Frog BORIS the Crusher for myself. Dave & Justin found good offerings, too.

From 3 Sons, we slogged our way down Route 19 to McKnight Road, then over Babcock Blvd to Country Wines for some homebrewing supplies. They had reorganized some things since I was last in - seemed a bit more roomy, anyway. I grabbed a few essential equipment pieces for friend/neighbor/colleague Erick, who's going to brew his first batch of beer over Xmas break in my kitchen. Lookin' forward to bringing yet another person over to the wonderful world of brewing!

By now, it was dark and rush hour in full swing. It was also time for growler hours (5-7pm) at East End Brewing! So, down Babcock and over to 28 North until the Highland Park Bridge, etc, etc. East End was slammed by the time we got there ... must have been at least 20-30 cars parked in the street and it was a fairly long wait to get our growlers filled. I think a lot of people go there to get free tastings and bullshit, though I hope they all buy something to support Scott. (see interview I did with Scott here)

I picked up a growler of the Grisette and a bottle of the Three Year Anniversary Ale; Dave & Justin got their fill, and we got more stuff for Eli. Snow Melt and The Bitter End were running, and last year's batch of Gratitude was back on sale.

By now, we were all hungry again and had one more stop to make: D's SixPak in Edgewood. After waiting for a table (man, it was slammed in there too!), we grabbed a draft and some food and then geared up to peruse the wares in the Beer Cave. I was particularly excited, because I had a $50 gift certificate that I'd purchased for $25 in October.

I grabbed 8 bottles, totaling just over $50, but they were ones I've been meaning to try for a while - along with a few spur-of-the-moment choices. A few interesting ones were Nøgne Ø 100, Avery The Beast and Avery Samäel's Oak-Aged Ale (note the particularly poetic rating by krisbierjaeger, who offers wonderful notes on beer tasting!), DFH Raison d'Extra and a few other goodies.

These buys, along with a few trades/gifts from Jon (including Founders Breakfast Stout, some Jolly Pumpkin offerings, and probably what will be my 2000th beer rating - Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock).

All in all, it was another enjoyable and successful year end voyage and shopping trip (last year I was at State Line Liquors in Maryland) and I look forward to drinking and sharing many of the finds with my buddies listed above (and looking forward to trying some of their finds, too)!

In case I don't get a chance before the next post; Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Catching Up

My, how time flies.

For those who check in regularly, my apologies. I'm still here, still drinking beer, still reading others' blogs - but unfortunately ignoring my creative writing outlet that is this blog. But, the semester is over, grades are in, and I'm looking forward to some time away from the office.

So what has been going on?

I've tried about 40 new beers since my last post, which included some road trips to Marzoni's for Bill's Wheat Wine, Otto's in State College (twice!) for some cask Amarillo Pale Ale, Five Year Ale, and some Ottonator and to Rivertowne Pour House in Monroeville for several offerings. The first trip to State College was pseudo-business related - just a flying day trip up and back and the second was because my brother came in from Idaho and the two of us did some bar hopping last week. I had several tasty Belgian beers while at Zeno's, which never disappoints (St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, HOTD Fred, Ichtegems Grand Cru, and Smuttynose Farmhouse Ale). Great time catching up with my brother, but the ice storm we had to drive back through the next morning ... coulda done without that!

The Indiana Homebrewers Club met 'unofficially' on December 11 at The Coney for a few rounds of pints and conversation. We'll meet again officially the second Tuesday of January. We also placed some advertisements in hopes of expanding membership and getting this thing really going.

I have been very bad about homebrewing! My all grain ingredients for the second batch of Commonplace Coffee Porter still are sitting here and now with crappy weather moved in .. well, it may be a while. However, I do plan to do an extract batch or possible counter-top partial mash during Christmas break, in order to have something to share for the homebrew club's Febtoberfest. I've fallen behind my comrades in barley! (Eli and Dave & Justin) but I've been helpful watching them brew, drinking their products, etc.

I'm looking forward to visits over the break to several of my favorite establishments, including Marzoni's, North Country, East End Brewing, D's 6 Pack & Dogz, and hopefully a few others. On the Thursday after Xmas, several of us are doing a road trip to North Country, then maybe to Hereford & Hops in Cranberry, then on to D's and East End (Dave has been to neither of the latter) and I need to use up a gift certificate at D's that burning a hole in my desk drawer! If I get real ambitious, I may try to get down to Johnstown Brewing and Tulune's South Side Pub.

My wife is ready for a trip to State College, and I'll gladly go again. I'd love to get up to Williamsport and hit Bullfrog and Abbey Wright, but that's probably pushing it ;)