Scott Morrison and Al’s of Hampden

If you’ve been drinking craft beer in Pennsylvania for a couple of years, then you know the name Scott Morrison. He is a highly respected brewer with four GABF medals under his belt from 2003 to 2006, and well known for his strong ales. He put McKenzies on the map, but left in 2006 after management pressured him to concentrate on more mainstream brews. Scott Morrison groupies have observed that he hasn’t dropped out of the brewing scene, rather has had his hands in happenings all over the east coast. Morrison’s name is associated with influence in places like Dock Street, Sly Fox and many other fine breweries, and rumors continue to fly about where and when he may open a brewery of his own.

If you’ve been watching the beer scene in the Harrisburg (PA) area over the last couple of years, then you know the name Albert Kominski, who opened Al’s of Hampden in 2002, which has been exploding since he obtained his liquor license in 2008. On the surface, it may seem that Al is running a simple pizza shop. Get him talking about food and you’ll get an earful Al's of Hampdenabout his fresh and perfected recipes: his outstanding dough is made fresh every day and combine with signature sauces and toppings for remarkable pizza; the deli meats and cheeses are sliced and grated in-house and combine with freshly baked bread for amazing subs; the soups are started from scratch with hearty vegetables; the meatballs are made fresh from of a mix of ground veal, pork and Angus chuck, two styles of bread crumbs and eggs – no salt needed; the wings have outstanding sauces for a variety of palates.

But get Al talking about beer, and your head might explode! At the moment, Al’s has up to 27 fresh-pour beers available – 3 beer engines, four nitro-taps and 20 CO2 draft lines which can be consumed at Al’s or taken out in growlers (which he can sell you in 64-ounce or 32-ounce sizes!) In addition to the taps, his four doors of coolers house approximately 350 varieties of single bottles, and you can take them home for a mix-a-six price. And it’s not just that he carries beer, but his passion for beer, that draws in such crowds. Al is absolutely a beer geek, and his concentration is on making sure the beers on tap are as fresh as possible and represent a bold spectrum of styles.

So it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that Al is taking this whole beer thing one step further – opening a brewery operation on premises! If it isn’t clear already, Al strives for no less than perfection, and doesn’t enter into this brewing venture lightly. He sought out an experienced and creative brewer for this project, and came up with a winning answer.

Scott Morrison and Al Kominski will partner in the brewing operation at what will soon be known as Pizza Boy Brewing. Scott’s expertise is sure to bring success to the brewing operation, and fulfill to the beer appetites of south-central Pennsylvania beer enthusiasts. We can expect high quality, pleasurable house beers, sure to have high ratings in the “overall balls” category!

Al has been working with BrauKon of Truchtlaching, Germany to design and manufacture a 5 hectolitre brewing system (as a Getting started on the brewery!measurement reference, 1 barrel = 1.17 hectolitres = 117 litres = 244 U.S. pints), and in fact, will be returning to Germany in a few weeks to brew the test batch on his new system. The Braukon system will include everything from the malt mill to the storage tanks, using an energy saving boiling system (BrauKon EcoBoil) and a semi-automated brewing system.

Just when I didn’t think things could get any better…  Keep your ears and eyes open, or better yet, follow Al’s of Hampden on Twitter or Facebook to follow the whole story!

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Perfect Fills Come to Harrisburg

You thought Al’s of Hampden was already rockin’ the Harrisburg area beer scene with:

  • 20 CO2 tap lines  for in-house consumption, 1L and 2L growler fills
  • 4 nitro lines (one on his fancy, new nitro faucet)
  • 3 handpumps
  • 350+ beers for take-out (in six-packs, mix-a-six bottles, singles, bombers and 750 ml bottles)
  • live, real-time updates to the beer list on display in the shop and via Feedburner

Well, tonight he’s installing a counter pressure growler fill machine, which is essentially identical to the Austrian-built Alfred Gruber growler filler at Victory Brewing. It will create the perfect fill, the counter pressure fill will keep your beer fresher even longer.

Follow the installation on Twitter – complete with photos!

The Road to Brewgrass 2009

Julie said it all so well when she talked about the night before Brewgrass Eve.  As one Ashevegas local put it last night as she stood in line to get her BrewDog tastings, “Thursday night is ‘going out night’ in Asheville”, and there was plenty to do!

Bruisin’ Ales was just the start of a great night – the Scotland brewery was well represented with Jason and Julie talking up the seven different BrewDog beers available (I think the site lists 5, and then there were two of their Paradox beers as well – smoked and unsmoked.) Everything was really good, but I was most impressed with Dogma – a 7.8% ale brewed Scottish heather honey and a blend of guarana, poppy seeds and kola nut. Five malts and both Bramling Cross and Amarillo hops contribute to the complexity of this easy-drinking ale.

From the tasting, we headed over to the Thirsty Monk for the 7 pm tapping Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout. Just when I keep thinking, “Enjoy this – you’ll never get it again!,” the seemingly impossible happens, and someone else is serving it! The Monk also featured a cask of New Belgium Hoptober and a keg of Ballast Point Sculpin. It was great to catch up with all of our friends who came into town for the night and enjoy these three terrific beers!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few other stops on our way to Asheville. It was enjoyable, as always, to make a stop off in Afton, VA at Blue Mountain Brewery where the Big DIPA was on tap, as well as the Nitro Ale Imperial Porter. We ended our enjoyable evening at Blue Mountain by sharing a bottle of Mandolin – a 9% Tripel named for the brewer’s wife (Mandi Lynn).We pulled in at the same time as Uncle Jedi and Purple Hat Joan (as planned!), so it was great to catch up with them over dinner.

That evening, we were sleeping in Blacksburg, so we decided to check out The Cellar, which had Blacksburger Pils on tap – served in the proper glass! – and also, Shooting Creek Rebel Ale. It was a quiet night in the college town, and I’m pretty sure we closed the place.

So then it was back to the hotel, where Jim shared a growler of Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale with us! I was tired, and frantically searching for my driver’s licence (which I seem to have lost or forgotten…), but kept pulling myself out of it to enjoy this Imperial Belgian Porter brewed with chocolate malt, dark candi sugar, vanilla bean, and tangerine peel, then aged on French Oak chips. This 8.7% beer boasts chocolate, tobacco, molasses, vanilla and hints of banana and clove. It was a great finish for the night!

Finally, one more stop to boast about on our way out of Blacksburg – Vintage Cellar – where we found an amazing selection of wines and an outstanding beer selection. In the hundreds of beers there, I managed to seek out the one we thought we’d missed out on…a stray six pack of Duck-Rabbit Schwarzbier!

It’s raining in Asheville this morning, so we’re making a lazy one of it, but look forward to visiting Pisgah (just ’cause we love it!), Highland (for the special release of 2009 Tasgall Scottish Ale at 4 PM today!) and Wedge, among other things we’ll do in town on Brewgrass Eve!

Catching up with December

Between a real breakdown in our home technology (i.e. we needed a new computer) and technology overload at work (i.e. I’ve been working overtime on a project at work), I’ve had time to do some beer traveling, but no time to write about it. The work project lives on, but I’m now the proud owner of an Acer Aspire One in pink, so I have reliable and speedy Internet access at home again. Maybe I’ll be a better blogger…or at least write more frequently.

So there is a lot to catch up on, and I hardly know where to start.

  • I have more Pennsylvania Brewery Roadtrips up my sleeve, which are a special tribute to my sister.
  • There was a fast-paced and fabulous “Dark Side of Michigan” trip over the Black Friday weekend which I didn’t even mention on here (but I will in another post!), where we visited many great Michigan breweries.
  • We got to try out Old Forge Brewing in Danville, not just once, but twice, and we finally made it to Spring House Brewery in Connestoga.
  • There are a few Iron Hill and Sly Fox stories to be told. Among them, a gathering of 31 librarians at Sly Fox in Royersford, a cask ale festival at Iron Hill in Newark and the Sly Fox IPA Project in Phoenixville.
  • We combined the Iron Hill trip with a visit to a great beer bar called Quotations (where I had Pumking on nitro!) and the new Earth Bread + Brewery (where I didn’t mean to downplay the beer, but loved the McManis Viognier 2007.)
  • Brass Rail Beverage finally opened the deli, where great beers are constantly rotating on the five taps, and the bottle selection is outstanding for this area (the website does not reflect the awesomeness of the store.)
  • For the first time in 11 years, Appalachian Brewing Company brewed a beer that I could recommend to a friend.
  • Our friend Julie stopped in unexpectedly turning a growler sharing evening into a full-blown tasting night, and that same weekend we attended “Firkin Winter Solstice Sunday” at Selin’s Grove Brewing to help them celebrate their 12th Anniversary.
  • And then there has been the past week which has afforded many opportunities for sharing and tasting good beer.

I think I’ll start with the Appalachian Brewing Company beer, since it appears to be an anomaly that isn’t even acknowledged by the website. I was visiting the Abbey Bar at ABC on December 13 for the Herbie Christmas show, and my friend Brandi offered me a sip of her beer, saying, “Have you tried THIS? It’s called Batch 666 and it’s really good!” This was not a beer available on their board – it was only advertised on a single poster behind the bar – and to this day, has not appeared on the website nor have they responded to email inquiries about it. It was delicious! Labeled by the bartender as a Winter Warmer, my five acquaintances who had it all agreed it was more like a dark lager, Munich dunkle lager or dopplebock. It was medium dark in color and had a light body, but carried strong coffee, caramel and chocolate aromas. There was a hint of citrus hops and strong roasted malt flavors. It was a seriously well done beverage. I hope they will tell the world more about it, and continue to produce it, because it is seriously the first really great thing they’ve produced since I first started going there in 1997.

The weekend of December 19 was a fun one for us. It was the Harrisburg Christmas Bird Count weekend, so we were in the area, and decided to spend a quiet Friday night at home, joined by Brandi and Ffej, to share some recently acquired growlers. D made dinner, which we had just sat down to when the phone rang. It was a most unexpected call from our friend Julie of Bruisin’ Ales fame, whose flight was diverted to Harrisburg because of ice. How fortuitous, since we didn’t think we’d get to see her at all during the holidays. We opened growlers of Cape Cod Berry Merry Holiday Ale – an amber infused with cranberry, orange and cloves – and Spring House Two Front Teeth Holiday Ale– a Saison withsubtle cherry; but this was just the start. It was a fun night with the opening of multiple bottles:

  • Bullfrog Beekeeper
  • Green Flash Le Freak
  • Midnight Sun Sockeye Red IPA
  • Russian River Pliny the Elder
  • Three Floyds Moloko Milk Stout
  • Pisgah Valdez
  • Great Lakes Barrel-aged Blackout Stout, and
  • a 2005 bottle of Stouts Old Abominable Barleywine.

And the most fun was hanging out with good friends, sharing stories and listening to music. It was a late night, especially with an early-morning bird count ahead of us, but worth losing a little sleep!

This week of Christmas has also been delightful for many reasons, but since this is a beer blog, I’ll focus on that. First, our Christmas surprise – Spoetzl Shiner Holiday Cheer– which we shared on Christmas Eve. This is a Dunkelweizen made with Texas peaches and roasted pecans, and it was quite delightful! Unfortunately, it ended up being spilled during an exhuberant gesture, and we lost most of it, but it was great while it lasted.

The night before Christmas Eve, we enjoyed a growler of Roy Pitz Truly Honest Ale with D’s family, which was part of the growler-fill half-price sale on December 22. For Christmas day, we cracked two of our homebrewed beers – the NyQuAle, which became drainpour (the other bottles will sit for a few years before we try it again), and our COW Stout (Chocolate Oatmeal stout on toasted Walnuts during secondary fermentation.) We also opened the traditional Harvey’s Christmas Ale.

The day after Christmas we started our “Golden Triangle of Beer” tour (encompassing Selinsgrove, State College and Williamsport).  On Friday, we drove up to Bavarian Barbarian Brewing to taste, and buy growlers of, First Snow Ale. This is my favorite brew from this place so far. It is described as a smooth, dark winter warmer with caramel and chocolate notes, and weighs in at 7.5% ABV. Cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger flavor this beer, which has the same flavors I savor in my homemade molassasginger cookies. Mike hit the nail on the head with this one! After getting a second growler for my cousin, we headed off to Danvilleto have dinner with Ffej and Brandi at Old Forge Brewing Company. This was our second visit since they opened, and things were hopping! The place was pretty full, but we found a table upstairs. The same four beers were on – nothing new yet – so I had the T-Rail Pale Alealong the spicy carrot ginger soup and veggie quesedilla. Old Forge beer still has room to grow, but the food, atmosphere and service are right on. I’ve got faith things are going to get even better, and this place will stay on our agenda.

Later that night, at a party with our friends Jason and Megan, we cracked our second Roy Pitz growler – the Daddy Fat Sacs Imperial IPA. Several other good beers were brought out, including my first beer from Copper Kettle Brewing – the Celebration Wheat – and Brouwerij de Molen 1914 Porter.

On Saturday, D had another Christmas Bird Count and I had a lie-in, but we met up for lunch with my parents at Selin’s Grove Brewing Company. My parents had not had the IPAsince it was reformulated to be a bit more citrusy, and D got himself the 2008 Saint Fillian’s Wee Heavy. From there, D and I headed north, back to Bavarian Barbarianto get more growlers filled with First Snow Ale for family members, and later met up with Heath and Kim for dinner at Bullfrog Brewery. It was during that visit that we learned of the Sunday night Pub Club potluck dinner. Since it was already our plan to be in Williamsport for a Christmas Bird Count the next day, and the wrap-up was at the Bullfrog, we were perfectly placed to attend, and so we did. We’ve always been out of state during this time, so we were unaware of this annual event where members supply the food and Bullfrog supplies the beer.

This year, Terry broke out preview bottles of a few coming attractions:

  • Beesting Saison
  • Houblonium P38
  • Barrel-aged Old Toad Barleywine
  • Barrel-aged Wolfsblood Scotch Ale
  • Saison Noire

Also, we were able to get 2005 Old Toad Barleywine on tap, Bruggetown Blonde, and my favorite – Edgar IPA.

It’s worth mentioning that during the bird count, we did stop in at the Valley Inn for a taste of Abbey Wright Brewing Company’s Vanilla Latte Stout. This is a 5.8% ABVale brewed with five pounds of Grigg’s dark roast coffee and vanilla beans. It was served on nitrogen, and overall, a very good beer. Not too sweet, and very creamy. Unfortunately we observed the same as previous visits – there are no other Valley Inn patrons drinking Abbey Wright beers, and the staff don’t know anything about it (one staff member said to another, “I thought the stout would taste more like the IPA!”) Ugh.

To finish out the triangle, today we decided to drive over to Otto’s Pub & Brewery. I enjoyed a glass of Appel Trippel, and D had the Winter Warmer, both of which were served in 12-oz goblets.  The trippel weighs in at 9.5% ABV and is a tasty drink. There is virtually no hop profile, and the apple is subtle beneath the malty, honey flavors. The winter warmer is 11.5% ABV, and it is spicy and tart with sour cherries.

So that’s what we’ve been up to… I hope to get details and photos of the Michigan trip up this week, and will make a New Year’s Resolution to be better with the blog. It will probably last as long as my diet, but I’ll try!

I’ve got Scurvy!

Ahoy, tis’ post mid-night, which means tis’ September 19 and tis’ International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I’m celebratin’ by drinkin’ Tyranena Scurvy, brought t’ Ashe’ille compliments o’ Jim ‘n’ Joan!

We had a great afternoon / evenin’ in town, startin’ with a shoppin’ trip at Bruisin’ Ales (the best place to crawl for a salty bottle ‘o grog), followed by a few hours in the new tastin’ room at Pisgah with Dave – the man with the bloody birthday, dinner at Ed Boudreaux’s with John and Melissa, and some sour Belgians at Thirsty Monk (including Cantillon Lamnivus.)

Aye, I’m expectin’ another great day tomorrow – the actual TLPD-2008! Maybe I’ll scrawl some news ’bout that Vortex III…

Raspberry Beer Run

A major theme on our departure from Madison was seeking out raspberry beers – specifically New Glarus Raspberry Tart, and with the same passion, but not nearly the concern, Founder’s Rübæus.

New Glarus is busy working on an expansion project, and already brewing at the new facility, but I am speculating that they haven’t been producing Raspberry Tart lately. Even at the facility, there were apologetic signs to explain that it can not be purchased on site. This is a unique framboise – a lambic brewed with “Wisconsin farmed wheat and year old Hallertau hops” that is refermented with Brettanomyces yeast found on the Oregon-grown berries – that weighs in at 4% and is found in wax-sealed 22-ounce bombers.

D and Dain went to Steve’s Liquors to get some, but Steve’s didn’t have any. The employee at Steve’s referred them to another store, even calling ahead to confirm five cases were available (but not placing a reservation.) In the interest of kindness, our crew allowed some guys from Colorado to go first in Steve’s checkout line. Don’t you know, those “Coloradans” (we called them something different, but it’s not a nice word to use here) overheard the conversation, drove ahead, and bought ALL FIVE CASES?!?!  We just wanted a few bottles and they bought every last one… At $8. a bottle, who would have thought they would get all 5 cases right out from under us?

So we searched and searched, finally finding success in McFarland, WI – two bottles tucked in the cooler at Bob’s McFarland Liquor, and ten more after a tense search at J & B Liquor (when he figured out what we were asking for, the guy at J & B was so excited to sell so much to us, he threw in a bottle of New Glarus Belgian Red Cherry Ale!) We celebrated our finds by stopping at Culver’s for cheese curds before hitting the road to have lunch,  buy some fudge and cheese, and a take brewery tour in New Glarus.

As for Rübæus, the problem is a little different. We really didn’t look very far at first – we get this in PA, an we were planning to go to Founder’s on this trip. Our hunt for NG Raspberry Tart changed that plan, but we still felt confident we could get this along on our way. At the Great Taste, however, we learned differently. Rübæus, the brewers told us, will be removed from the line-up due to the overwhelmingly increased cost of raspberries. They are brewing a Cherry Ale (not currently described on the website, but now available at the brewery; they were available side-by-side at the Michigan Brewer’s Guild Summer Festival.)

UGH! This news broke my heart, especially because I really didn’t care for the Cherry Ale. I love the 7% beer brewed with raspberry puree, served from a bottle with the prettiest label ever (the only thing better than a Rübæus is Rübæus on tap mixed with Founder’s Imperial Stout!) Unfortunately, it just doesn’t cellar well, so while we did get a case as soon as we got home, and I will savor every bottle, it won’t last long.

This sad news came on the heels of hearing that Founder’s will also no longer brew Devil Dancer. Norman Miller shared the story with Massachusetts readers, and it’s centered around that darn hops shortage.

Well, as far as I know, there is still Raspberry Eisbock from Kuhnhenn in our cellar. If you’ve never had it, you must read the description at this blog (why not read all of the fruit beer descriptions while you’re there – they are terrific reading!)

I’ve now got plenty of raspberry beers to get me through the summer…

Destination Madison – Already Behind

It’s only day 2, and I just can’t keep up.  Drink beer or blog – those are my choices, and I choose beer.

So for those who care, let me just tell you where we’ve been, and not elaborate on how much tremendous fun we are having (or how horrible the traffic has been.)  We are heading into Madison tonight, but our day went something like this:

  • Liquor Stop distributor in Highland, IN was our first stop for bottles of Three Floyd’s and other things we can’t get in PA (I also got a good deal on Chateau St. Jean CabSav – 2003)
  • Piece in Chicago for awesome (AWESOME!) beer and pizza
  • Lakefront in Milwaukee for a tour and tasting (where I got to be “Shirley” (of Laverne and…), and we got lots of free beer and a pint glass!); you can take your own tour at their site
  • and now we are sitting at Tyranena, using the wi-fi and enjoying Scurvy IPA

Tonight we will end up in Madison, where there are many, many special release parties all over town, 105 breweries represented at the festival tomorrow, and more parties in town again tomorrow night.  Hooray for a town with fabulous public transportation!

I’ll write when I can, but don’t hold your breath!

Mondial de la Bière – Long (very long) Report

Reflecting on Mondial de la Bière, after three days of tasting (and one more morning to go!) I have determined that this may be the best beer festival I’ve ever attended. Unfortunately I don’t have the means to share photos, but I do have a little (okay – a lot) – to say.

Montreal is a great city.  We haven’t seen as much of it as I’d like, what I’ve experienced leaves me wanting more. The pubs are fabulous and plentiful.  There is a wealth of culture here – the diversity is outstanding.  It is clean, trendy, attractive and eclectic.  And the festival – our raison d’être – is c’est magnifique!  These are just a few of the things I’ve listed:

Pros:

  1. five days of tasting – you don’t have to pack it all into one day or a four-hour session; doors open at 11 AM each day, close at 10 PM and participants have in/out privileges
  2. taste as much or as little as you like – buy as many tickets as you care to, and taste as many beers as you like; very few of the breweries seemed to run out of any particular beer (we missed out on a rhubarb beer, but that’s about it!)
  3. BYO-glass is acceptable as long as it is 12-oz or less
  4. friendly folks running the booths – willing to talk and share
  5. open door – come and go as you like (well, if you get there late and there is a crowd, they do make a line out the door…)
  6. tasting areas that are both outdoor and indoor (under a glass ceiling so it feels kind of like outdoor); Windsor Station and Courtyard is a wonderful place for a festival
  7. the French pavilion, which included 16 exhibitors, 13 of which are microbreweries and one of which was Thiriez (a brewery we fell in love with after Chris and Jen treated us to a bottle at Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, ME)
  8. outstanding restroom facilities – ample, clean, spacious and fully functional (complete with a hook on the door designed just for my mug!)

Cons:

  1. five days of tasting where you can taste as much or as little as you like – we like, so we spent a lot of cash!

So what have we had?  Well, we made it a point to taste all of the award winning beers and as many of the 15 anniversary mashes created just for the festival. 

  • Awards were given to twelve breweries for a variety of beers. Among them, I particularly enjoyed Aphrodisiaque from Dieu du Ciel – a stout that tasted rich in chocolate and vanilla (kind of like a stout milkshake.)
  • For the 15th anniversary, Mondial dela Bière has teamed with places such as À la fût (creators of La Survivante), Brutopia (creators of African ale Nigerian Nectar), Dieu du Ciel (creators of Double Triple), Broue Pub Brouhaha (creators of Special B) and La Barberie (creators of Sangri-Bière.)

My favorite brewery of the festival? That honor goes to Hopfenstark.  They are cool guys with great vision and beer integrity. They work hard to make a perfect product, and won’t compromise for popularity.  The Baltic Porter De L’Ancier With Maple Syrup was by far one of the best beers at the festival, and they carried an impressive number of saisons: Station 10 (a sour beer which won a platinum medal!), Saison Station 16 (rye beer) and Saison Station 55(bitter and hoppy.)

Some of the more distinctive beers were La Carotte from Microbrasserie du Lievre (a beer brewed with carrot), Viotlette (made with Aizelles (?) and violets) and Verte (made with Denepi) both from Mont Blanc and Juliette from Brasserie Uberach.

In addition to plenty of beer, we have made plenty of new friends and enjoyed spending time with friend who are not so new to our lives. 

  • Our Thursday night table at Dieu du Ciel grew from four to fourteen as friends came and left. With sixteen of their own beers on tap, and all of them right on, it was hard to make a choice!
  • On Friday evening, we had a great cookout on the deck, which just happens to straddle the property of our friend Josh (party host) AND the bed and breakfast where we are staying. Several of the attendees were MontreAlers, and it was great fun to meet them.  Josh bought a wide selection of cheeses and beers (mostly from Vermont), and D brought a large selection of beers from our cellar. One of the stars that night was Stonecutter Scotch Alefrom Renaissance Brewing Company in Marlborough, NZ.
  • Saturday morning started with a trip to Metro Joanette – a grocery store where we found an awesome beer selection, which I hope to write about it a later post because of our À l’Abri de la Tempête find…
  • Saturday afternoon we left the festival with Beth, Jim, Mark and Matt, and we met up with Cornelia and Ray, forming an impromptu pub crawl!  We started out at the microbrewery L’Amer à Boire for Czech lager and stout, then moved down the street to Le Saint Bock, where they brewed their own beers and served plenty of other products on draft and in a wide array of bottles. Next we went to Le Cheval Blanc for a quick visit before taking a cab all the way down to Vices & Versa where 29 Canadian beers were available (and none of them Molson!) I particularly enjoyed Postcolonial IPAfrom Hopfenstark and Hoppy – an IPA from Brasseurs et frères.
  • Tired of all the same food at every single pub (nachos, chips, frittes, pizza and pannini), D and I found a nice little Peruvian restaurant called Chicho, where we had a great meal before returning to Josh’s apartment to dig back into the bottle tasting
    • My pick of the night was Rock Art Double IPA;
    • Josh chose Green Flash Imperial IPA as his favorite;
    • Troy liked the Otto’s Double D IPA and the Smuttynose Wheat Wine quite a bit, but his pick of the night was the 2007 Dark Lord Imperial Stout (even in comparison to the 2008 Dark Lord);
    • D was most impressed by the 2005 Bushwakker Wheat Wine (which we are calling a “double import”, since it traveled from Saskatewan to PA for cellaring, and now to Quebec.

Obviously I have a lot to say about this trip, and really, I could keep going, but it’s seriously time for bed.  I’m going to slack on the links for tonight, and sign off.

 

Asheville – so much to do, so little time to blog

In case I really never do catch up with posting my travel notes for this trip, I at least feel obligated to my mother to post where I’ve been.  And now that I know Kramer (is that your name, or your hometown?) is reading daily, I feel even more obligated! I’ll list it all here with links to the places, and if I post later, I’ll link to my posts.  And then there are photos just waiting on my camera…ugh.

Thursday night in the Asheville area:

  • Pisgah for the weekly Thursday night growler fill and tasting (hey, mom and dad, we got your something special, and it’s called Valdez…nothing to do with the oil spill or the peninsula…you’re gonna’ love it!)
  • Bruisin’ Ales for the weekly Thursday evening tasting (this week with Sweetwater!)
  • Barley’s in Asheville for dinner on Thursday night

Friday, starting with a foggy drive to Greenville, SC and ending with a pubcrawl in Asheville (designated driver included):

  • Barley’s in Greenville for lunch, hoping to score a cask ale, but no such luck
  • Blue Ridge Brewing Company for a taste of their products
  • Thomas Creek Brewing Company for a tour and tasting with the owner
  • Green’s Discount Beverage Store – because you can’t get it all in North Carolina!
  • Back in Asheville at Bruisin’ Ales to do some big-time beer shopping (this is a daily trend)
  • Dinner at Ed Boudreaux’s Bayou Bar-B-Que (can you believe I skipped the beer? not D…)
  • Barley’s in Asheville for shared glasses of Valdez and Sexual Chocolate (this will become a daily trend for this particular trip!)
  • Green Man, hoping to score Imperial Stout on cask, but finding it to be Porter
  • Thirsty Monk for the “wow – what a great new beer place in town!” experience

Saturday:

  • A drive to Dillsboro Smokehouse for barbeque
  • Growler fill at Heinzelmännchen Brewery
  • Bruisin’ Ales to do some little-time beer shopping (did I mention this is a daily trend when we come to Asheville?)
  • Barley’s in Asheville for shared glasses of Valdez and Sexual Chocolate (I said daily!)

And now I better get myself downstairs, as all of the fun people in Asheville are coming to a party! (PS – even though my WordPress timeclock says it’s midnight, it’s not…it’s only 7 PM!)

Olde Hickory at Amos Howard’s (Hickory, NC)

Amos Howard’s Restaurant & Brew Works is located at the former brewing facility for Olde Hickory. The new Olde Hickory Brewing Company facility opened in 2000 and does no serving; the Olde Hickory Taproom was already established, so the OLD Olde Hickory was renamed Amos Howard’s in 2002, and provides Olde Hickory beers as well as a small brewing facility that is sometimes used. Confused?

We stopped by after lunch at Foothills – it is close enough to be on the way to Asheville, but far enough that I could take a nap on the way there. We actually passed it, and I was pleased to learn that our friend Dave did, too, on his visit. Once found, it looks very plain on the outside (almost abandoned!), and inside it is on the verge of being just another smoky North Carolina dive bar.

We entered by walking through a great big barrel to the hostess station and giggled a little about the barrel booths (chintzy and unique!) We chose seating at the bar, which was also a unique shape. Instead of being one straight line, three “mini bars” branch out from the main bar, allowing patrons to sit together and talk face to face in small groups. Marilyn Manson was playing loudly on the jukebox, and combine with the cigarette smoke, I was thinking that maybe beer wasn’t even in order here.

But we ordered. D had a Weizenbock, and tasters of the Poor Richard’s Ale and the Sinatra Barley Wine (12.5% ABV.) I had the Hickory Stick Stout. Pints here are 20 oz, but our bartender offered to pour me a half (which really looked more like 2/3, but I appreciate the effort. Eleven house taps were on at Amos Howard’s:

  • Piedmont Pilsner
  • Brown Mountain Light
  • Ruby Lager
  • Poor Richard’s
  • Crawdad Red
  • Table Rock Pale Ale
  • Hickory Stick Stout
  • Hefeweizen
  • Weizenbock (8% ABV)
  • Nessie’s Scotch Ale (8% ABV)
  • Sinatra Barleywine (12.5% ABV)

Once the music stopped playing, the beers were enjoyable. I didn’t take the time to take notes, as nothing was outstanding on the good or bad side. 

The staff were friendly and attentive, and told us that some – very little, but some – of the brewing is still done here. In the brewing room window, we noticed 5 liter mini kegs of five different beers. That’s kind of unique for such a small place. And the bottle selection at Amos Howard’s was very nice – sure beats running into W-S to City Beverage every time you want something unique! Unfortunately, many of the other customers were not looking for unique. There was a LOT of Budweiser being consumed and put on to cool for the evening crowd.

One thing I noticed is that their website says, “Here at OHB we are proud to offer something you can get nowhere else around town, or in NC for that matter. Our Cask-Conditioned Ale, served off a real British Beer Engine, the way it was meant to be, Real Ale.” As a lover of cask ale, I was downhearted to learn there was nothing on cask. Also, I need to point out that Foothills does cask ales (they just did Seeing Double!), and so do Green Man and Big Boss (and probably others if I took time to do the research.)