Right Brain Brewery (Traverse City, MI)

With 13 beers available, and flavor combinations like parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, grapefruit, beets, lemon, maple, chocolate, ancho chili, vanilla, bourbon, cherries, and oranges, who wouldn’t be happy at Right Brain Brewery? I’m so glad this is where we chose to end the night. It’s a pub that, from a visitor’s perspective, gets overlooked by the very awesome Shorts Brewing in Bellaire. Granted, Shorts has a menu of delicious sandwiches and bottles for take-out, and they are pretty creative themselves (with 20 taps to choose from!) but Right Brain still wins for creativity.

We just missed a pale ale brewed with grilled asparagus and lemon peel, but we go the ancho chili dutch double chocolate porter, the Scarborough Fair spiced ale (brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme), a cream stout brewed with orange marmalade and peel, a wheat brewed with oven-roasted beets, an amber brewed with chocolate malt and cherry juice, a cream ale with maple syrup, barleywine aged seven months on Madagascar vanilla beans in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels…it just goes on!

Right Brain Beer List

A staff member told us that the brewer has produced approximately 90 different beers in the year-and-a-half they’ve been open! For instance, the Pale Ale is a new recipe every time – practically every two weeks!

Right Brain is in the warehouse district of Traverse City, MI and located behind Salon Saloon, where “you sip, we snip”.  It’s non-smoking, and the menu is limited to popcorn, tortilla chips and hummus. You are encouraged to bring your own food from outside, and sit at the bar, at one of the tables, or in a barber chair. There is no television, but they play music and have darts. There is a mug club, and the mugs are colorfully displayed on the wall. Windows also overlook the Salon Saloon.

Right Brain always has one beer on cask, and will serve Pints for $4.75 and half-pints for $3.25. Also, there are sample trays of six 8-oz pours for $15. Happy Hour on Monday – Friday from 3-6 PM means $3 pints, and there are growlers to go (and they will fill ANY growler – not just their own!)

If you find yourself anywhere near Traverse City, this place is absolutely worth the stop for rare and creative beers!

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Local 44 (Philadelphia, PA)

I just got back from Disney World. What do I want to do next? Make my first visit to Local 44, of course! It just opened on New Year’s day, and I’ve been itching to get there after reading all of the coverage.

D picked me up at the airport, and we were early to leave the city for the Seventh Annual Robbie Burns Birthday Bash at Sly Fox, so we decided to check out Local 44, which is one of West Philly’s newest pubs. It is located at the corner of 44th and Spruce, and there was plenty of street parking on our visit.

Local 44 is owned by Leigh and Brendan. Brendan is a proprietor of Memphis Taproom in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, and this space has a similar corner bar charm. The neighborhood is a safe and friendly residential area, and the plain storefront look hides the classy charm inside. The colors are sleek and rich, and the place just feels very comfortable.

When we first arrived, we were two of just a few other customers, so we had some nice conversation with Leigh. And when it got more crowded, she still did a fantastic job of making everyone in the growing house feel welcome and appreciated as a customer. It was obvious that most of the people were from the neighborhood, already embracing Local 44 as their “local” in the few short weeks it’s been open.

Local 44 specializes in session beers, serving mostly brews under 5.5% ABV and higher gravity beers in smaller quantities. Leigh was also happy to serve me half-pints, which was a welcome treat. There were 17 taps of goodness, and two PA beers on the handpulls, plus bottles of Orval – plenty of selection for beer drinkers across the spectrum – and the list is kept up to date on the website. Leigh was making fine recommendations to any neighborhood macro-drinkers who walked in the door, and could talk about breweries and fermentables with the geeks. This girl knows her beer, and she was a wealth of information.

The taps we enjoyed were:

In addition to the beers, I snacked on the tacos, which come in fish or tofu (both sounded delicious, but I opted for plantain-encrusted mahi mahi with guacamole – check out a photo on the Beerlass blog.) The whole menu was mouthwatering, and there was a smooth way about placing salt, pepper and Sriracha on the bar for use while food was present, then slipping it away at the end of the meal.

Getting to the Local 44 from our home won’t be easy, but when I’m in the neighborhood, it may be difficult to keep me away from that place. If you have SEPTA transportation available, use the 42 bus or the 34 trolley and have one of everything. They are all worth it!

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!

Zeno’s Cask Ale Festival

The notes in my Palm T|X said the following from our April 4-6 trip to State College, PA:

We’re sitting here having such a relaxing time at Zeno’s. 

 

All the stresses of work and home are just melting away, as we enjoy day two of the Cask Ale Weekend (I guess it was a long weekend, as it started yesterday!)  We arrived just in time for the AAA Blues Band to start playing, and very quickly, D and I were thinking the same thing…we miss KClingers!  Not enough to end the boycott…they screwed us so royally…but we both pined a bit for the old days when we used to drink good beer and listen to great music in the company of friends.

 

I swiftly reminded D that we are drinking MUCH BETTER beer, right now, and quite frankly, we have better beer IN OUR OWN BASEMENT then we can get at KClingers.  We can go home, pop in a CD from a band that Bill has banned or one that has broken up (Danny Morris?!?! Where are you now?!?) But we won’t. Because we are here and the experience is wonderful.

Those were notes from the first night, and on Saturday, we met up with a bunch of friends from all over the state (first at Otto’s for lunch, and then on to Zeno’s for the night.)  Here are the beers we had – Zeno’s was kind enough to offer a pitcher price, so our crowd of, like, 10 people, were able to order pitchers and share…

  • Big Black Voodoo Daddy
  • Otto’s Red Mo
  • Otto’s Nugget IPA
  • Otto’s Double Double D IPA
  • Otto’s Jolly Roger Imperial Stout
  • Ithaca Nut Brown
  • Ithaca 10th Anniversary Ale
  • Cricket Hill Best Bitter
  • Weyerbacher Double Simcoe
  • Sly Fox Seamus Red Ale
  • Troeg’s Hopback
  • Troeg’s Mt. Hood Red (which is really Troeg’s Pale Ale dry hopped with Mt. Hood Hops)
  • Bell’s Java Stout
  • Bell’s Two Hearted IPA
  • East End Fat Gary Nut Brown
  • Weyerbacher Double Simcoe
  • East End Gratitude
  • Lancaster Rare Cock Bock
  • Legacy Hedonism American Strong Ale

Besides our usual cast of characters, it was fun to hang out with Matt Allyn and his wife (from Voodoo Brewery), Scott from East End Brewing, and the Ithaca Brewing rep (sorry – I don’t have your card right here and I’ve forgotten the name…)

 New Friends at Voodoo   Fat Gary\'s Nut Brown Ale   (thanks to Tim for being the photographer!)

 

Is this a good time to mention that on Friday I stopping in at Troeg’s for a taste of Scratch 11, dry hopped with Cascade hops, from a firkin? Mmmmm, mmmmm…tasty!

Countdown to Dark Lord Day

I know…it’s been ages since I’ve posted – that trip to Minneapolis ended with a conference for work, and I’ve been swamped with library stuff ever since.  That’s not to say there hasn’t been some great beer in my life – just no time to write about it!

In Wisconsin, we went to a fabulous beer bar called Maduro, from which I hope to someday post my notes, and had a really good time hanging out with Steve – a fellow collector and Beer Advocate – at his house. My only disappointment was that I missed out on a cask of Surly Darkness later that week, but work took priority.

I did make it to State College for Zeno’s Cask Festival (see next post) before heading off to another conference, where I was again terribly busy.  But during that time, I did get over to Rustico in Arlington, VA for a glass of Harviestoun Ola Dubh Special 30 Reserve on Cask!  At $12 for an 8-oz glass, this black, smooth, smokey and chocolaty treat was so very worth it! And I spent a night out with an old friend at Sweetwater Tavern & Brewery in Merrifield, VA – that was fun.

So no links in this post, or the next, because I’m just shooting this off to let the world know I’m alive and haven’t given up on the blog or enjoying a lovely brew from time to time.  With Dark Lord Day coming up, and a very full agenda of stops along the way, I hope to be much better with keeping up!

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery – MN

We checked into the hotel late in the afternoon and took time to freshen up a bit, then drove across town to Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, which is located at the corners of S Washington and S 15th Ave.

We love this place because they have cask ale at all times, but today they had Masala Mama IPA on cask, and THAT was just what I needed! The glass arrived with creamy foam suspended from the bottom of the glass. The orange color with white creamy head was so beautiful, and as I was thinking, “Where is my camera? I must get a photo of this beautiful beverage!,” D was scribbling in his notebook “Appearance = 5! Perfect!” The foam settled, and I touched it – it pushed back like a Tempur-Pedic® foam mattress, and stuck to my finger, creating a stiff peak.  That same, amazing thick foam had the drawback of masking the aroma – the piney, citrus notes of this same beer on draft just don’t come through on cask. And the foam never ends. While it doesn’t really lace the glass, it remained there, all the way through my drawn out session with this ale. In the end, I tipped the glass back to enjoy a mouthful of foam that was left long after consuming the beer.

Additional beers we enjoyed at Town Hall (which does, by the way, serve half pints) were Pot of Gold Potato Stout (4.9% ABV, brewed with chunks of Yukon Gold Potato in the grain mash), Black H20 Stout and Masala Mama on draft (which was so fabulously aromatic and the hops flavor just bursting in the mouth!)

Town Hall, like Herkimer and Stub & Herb’s, is located on a corner with two walls of windows, so we could look out on the world. The sun was shining when we went in, and then snow began to fall. Then the sun came back out, and then the snow returned. Then sun AND snow…it was ridiculous. Wondering what I’ll do for footwear later this week when I chose skirts to wear at my conference, I was observing everyone on the streets. Not a single woman in a skirt or dress! They just don’t do it here!

We were warm and toasty inside, and not rushed at all. A steady stream of bar patrons, including many people with empty growlers in hand, came in and out of the place. We enjoyed a few hours of beer, basketball and the food. Unfortunately, the grilled tilapia tacos, served with cilantro rice, black beans, mango salsa and guacamole plus sweet potato fries was crossed out on our menu, so I assumed they didn’t have it (they did, and our neighbors go it – they looked wonderful!) D had the fish and chips – perch in a thick, roasty beer batter – and I had the chicken burrito which was as big as a loaf of homemade bread!  It was ridiculously large, and we will be enjoying half of it at a later time.

The beer and the atmosphere at Town Hall are so enjoyable. This really a great place to come hang out. Especially on a sloppy snow day like today!

We had plans to continue our evening by going downtown for Surly Smoke, but since the bar we knew of was out of it, we returned to the hotel to turn in early.