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“Lucky Dogs” Get Private Tour of Flying Dog Brewery

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A few posts back I had written about the Hubster’s wins in our local Battle of the Bubbles homebrew competition.  First place won the chance to have their beer professionally brewed at the Barley & Hops brewpub.  But SECOND place (aka. the Hubster) won a private tour with 10 select beer buddies at the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland.

We have since cashed in on that prize, and he now has his sights set on winning second place again NEXT year!  We had a rare and fantastic opportunity to spend half a day on a personal guided tour with two of Flying Dog’s top brewing experts.  For almost 5 hours, we had access to the brewery, professional brewing information, and of course Flying Dog beers.

Breakfast of Champions

The tour started off with a brewer meet and greet and liquid breakfast in Flying Dog’s tap room.  We became fast friends with our two tour guides – the two Bens.   Ben C. came from the banking industry in PA and worked his way through the ranks to become one of Flying Dog’s top brewers.  Ben S. is FD’s science guy, tasting coordinator, quality control lead and scrabble guru.  He has the awesome responsibility of ensuring that Flying Dog’s beers are always top quality.  I can personally assure you they are both doing excellent work!

We also tried a very unique beer called Keith’s Gose.  Unique because it is a sour beer brewed with Old Bay seasoning, intended to pair with steamed crabs.  I guarantee you’ve never tasted a beer like this before.  The only thing missing were the crabs.

The “Have it Your Way” Tour

It was our tour, our way, whatever we wanted to see, ask, or taste.  We went outside, back inside, past the grains, around the brew tanks, down to the experimental brewing operations, back up to the fermenters, stopped for a refill (fresh Raging Bitch Belgian IPA straight from the tank…ahhhahh), into the boiler room, over to quality control, across to bottling, on to kegging, upstairs to storage, past the hot room, into the hop cooler, back over to bottling, and finishing in the tap room for a potty break and refills.  Shew!  The homebrewers were in heaven, soaking in the beer data, tips tricks, stories, and snagging some recipe ideas.  The two Bens seemed happy to share their knowledge with an enthusiastic and fairly knowledgeable group.

Behind the Scenes Tidbits

They can recycle their yeast up to 15 or 16 times, depending on the beer.  And each generation spawns better and better beer.

There’s a hot room used to store beer at garage temps.  Ben S. has to taste these beers to determine the shelf life and durability of any given 6-pack after it’s been sitting in the garage all summer.  It’s a tough job, but at the end of the day, it’s free beer!

Artwork is EVERYWHERE in that brewery.  But the best artwork is on the labels.  All label art is designed by Ralph Steadman.  But the brewery art and murals are painted by local artists who have studied Steadman’s style.  Their reflective work appears in the entrance hallway leading to the brewery and in numerous locations throughout the brewery.

Who Spiked the Beer???

After potty breaks and refills, the two Bens led us into a conference room and Ben C. poured 6 beer samples in  labeled cups.  These beers were intentionally spiked with contaminants that produce common off-flavors in beer.  The point is, in order to produce good beer, it is equally important to know how beer should and should NOT taste.  It should NOT taste like creamed corn, green apple, butter, or circus peanuts (banana – unless its a hefeweizen).  All good flavors for jelly bellies, but not so much for beer.

Some large brewers intentionally produce these flavors because they appeal to certain tastes.  For instance, creamed corn is a flavor produced by DMS that actually appeals to a wide audience, and which you will find prevalent in some select and very well known commercial brews.

All Good Things Come to an End

We ended on a huge high note as Ben S. pulled out some specialty beverages from the secret stash, including side by side comparisons of their current and vintage Horn Dog Barleywine; their special Secret Stash Harvest Ale; vintage Gonzo Barrel Aged Imperial Porter (my personal favorite); The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale (stellar!); and side by side tastings of the almost released Fever Chocolate IPA, as it was supposed to taste vs. the production version.  Both versions of The Fever were great beers, but the chocolate flavors dropped out of the final packaged version, which resulted in a very tasty non-chocolate IPA. The original version is absolutely delicious and completely different – a full hoppy IPA with a smooth blend of chocolate flavor that totally works.

By the end of it all, we had two new beer buds in the two Bens.  We found our way to the gift shop, purchased current and vintage beverages and lots of swag, then hugged it out and made our way safely home.

I would like to give a huge shout out and thank you to the two Ben’s.  We can’t thank you enough for your gracious hospitality and generous sharing of beer knowledge.

Your Chance to Tour Flying Dog Brewery

Visit Flying Dog’s website to sign up for a tour or attend one of their offbeat events.  It’s a great time to hang out with friends, sample some stellar brews, and learn how beer is made by one of America’s finest breweries.

Cheers Beers!

Firkin Fest Closes Out Frederick Beer Week

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Last Saturday, Frederick Beer Week came to a close. I can’t think of a better way to end an exciting week of nonstop beer activity than with an easy, fun day on a hop farm.

You may recall my post last year about the Frederick Beer Festival at StillPoint Hop Farm. This year was every bit as much fun. All the great Maryland breweries were represented, but this year, the festival featured a different twist. The beers were tapped from firkins – and so this year’s festival was dubbed Firkin Fest!

Amazing Maryland Beers were served by Barley and Hops, Brewer’s Alley, Flying Dog, Heavy Seas, Evolution, DuClaw, and Brewer’s Art.   Some unique brews included belgian beers brewed with currants and peppercorns; some great IPAs – including last year’s Battle of the Bubbles competition winner, which was expertly brewed by Larry Pomerantz at Barley and Hops; Oatmeal Stouts; refreshing light lagers; german style bocks and dunkers; and more.  And then there was the homebrew tent, hosted by Frederick’s Original Ale Makers. Lucky attendees sampled from over 20 different styles of homebrew throughout the day.

The festival also brought back all of the great attractions from last year, only bigger and better with a larger and wider variety of vendors, more great folk style music, the ever-popular Hayride to Hoppiness, and hoola hoops!

Imagine plopping down on a hillside with a quality Maryland beer, on a beautiful day, in a gorgeous country setting, listening to live music and watching the little ones (and a few not so little ones) dance around with hoola hoops. It’s easy to see why Firkin Fest has become a fast local favorite for Frederick beer fans!

So once again we bid farewell to Frederick Beer Week – til next year!   In the meantime, plan your next visit to the Mid-Atlantic around some of our great breweries and pubs.  You won’t be disappointed.  Maryland has indeed become a great state for beer!

Cheers beers!

Cheers Beers’ First Beer Dinner

What better time to experience our first ever beer dinner than during Frederick Beer Week at our favorite hometown brewpub – Barley and Hops.  The Barley and Hops Spring Beer Tasting and Dinner not only featured their stellar house brews, but the event and the menu were all organized by head brewer and culinary creator Larry Pomerantz.  Each item on the menu, shown below, was designed to pair with one of Larry’s exceptional beers.

If you find yourself in Frederick, Maryland, stop by Barley and Hops for a quality pint or two and a great menu!  http://www.barleyandhops.net.

This was Barley and Hops’ premiere beer dinner  – hopefully the first of many to come (we’ve heard rumors that various themed beer dinners may be held quarterly!).  They seated 20 or more of us at a long family style table.  When beer and food are involved, it doesn’t take long for new friendships to form. We were all chatting and laughing and oohing and ahhing over the meal items as Larry explained his thought process behind the pairings and sought our reactions to tastes and flavor combinations.

Dinner is Served

We were so absorbed in the dinner that we missed most of our photo moments. Take my word for it…the cheese course was delicious!

Celery Heart Salad with Bacon Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp served with Larry’s fabulous Sugerloaf Saison and a Saison Vinaigrette.

Stout ice cream…a great way to top off any meal!

1st Course

A cheese course consisting of local goat cheeses that included a soft tangy baby swiss paired with his flavorful sweet and malty Highway to Helles;  a tangy cheddar that brought out delicious notes in the Tuscarora Red Ale; a spicy tangy jalapeño cheddar paired with the Hoptopsy ESB; and a magnificent soft zesty gouda paired with the Annapolis Rocks Pale.

2nd Course

A unique celery heart salad served with bacon wrapped shrimp, topped with a zesty saison mustard dressing, and paired with the Sugarloaf Saison.  The Saison is amazing by itself, but this course brought out the tangy citrus flavors in the beer.

3rd Course

A fork tender Cocoa and Ancho Chili Crusted Pork Tenderloin paired with his 80 Schilling Scotch Ale.  Wow, lots of smoky and chocolate flavors from the beer.  I would never have thought of matching a Scotch Ale with southwest flavors, but boy did it work.

4th Course

Stout Ice Cream with chocolate sauce – I keep telling you all that beer ice cream rocks!  By the end of this course, 20 people practically had their faces planted in their bowls trying to salvage every last bit.

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A Few Pairing Tips 

  • When pairing foods, match stronger flavored foods with stronger flavored beers….and visa versa.  Lighter foods with lighter flavored beers.
  • Hoppy beers pair well with hot and spicy foods.
  • Malty beers pair well with grilled and smoky foods

But the most important tip of all is slow down, stop guzzling, and pay more attention to how your beer and your food complement one another.  You might find that your meal is even more interesting and enjoyable.

Beer dinners are happening all over, so check out your local brewpubs and beer bars and find one near you.  They’re tasty, they’re fun, and you’ll learn how to get the most from two of life’s greatest pleasures – beer and food!

Bon Appetite and Cheers Beers!

Frederick Beer Week is Back!

For more information about Frederick Beer Week, visit www. FrederickBeer.com.

It’s that time again!  May 12-19, Frederick, Maryland is all about beer (as it should be) as our fare city celebrates our 2nd Annual Frederick Beer Week.

If you’re not familiar with Frederick, we are home to:

Last year’s Frederick Beer Week started this annual event off with a boom, and this year’s events prove to be bigger and better with two beer festivals, beer dinners, beer happy hours, brewery tours, great music (some of it about beer), the Battle of the Bubbles 2 home brew competition, and so much more.  Check out what’s going on….

2012 FREDERICK BEER WEEK EVENTS

Saturday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

So if you’re if you’re in the Frederick area this coming week (we’re just a 30 minute drive from DC and Baltimore), come join us for some great beer and tons of fun for big kids and for the little kiddies too.   We’ll see you there!

Cheers beers!

The Victory-Garden BeerVenture

Cheers Beers has been nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award!  Many thanks to Anne at Zen and Genki for her gracious acknowledgement.  As part of my acceptance, I shall follow a few simple rules…

Instructions for the Beautiful Blogger award:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award
2. Paste the award on your blog
3. Link the person who nominated you for the award
4. Nominate 7 bloggers or less
5. Post links to the 1-7 blogs you nominated

Ground rules aside, I’m happy to recognize several of my long time, personal award worthy favorites for this BEAUTIFUL award …

The Victory-Garden Tour

Feeling the need to post something beautiful, our Victory-Garden Tour should be just the ticket!  We visited Longwood Gardens a few weeks ago, on (as luck would have it) one of the most gorgeous spring days yet.   Longwood Gardens is located in PA, just over the Delaware line.  Of course, when we travel, there’s always beer involved.  It just so happens that Victory Brewing Company is located only 30 minutes away.  Yay!

Our first trip to Longwood Gardens, it was spectacular.  Fabulous for kids of all ages.  Tulips were at their season’s peak, and trees were flowering everywhere.  But the real show was inside the conservatory, where florals, fruit trees and greenery filled every room.  Every turn offered an entirely new experience – new colors, sounds, smells.  Not our last visit, I assure you.

The brew pub at Victory Brewing Company in Downingstown, PA never disappoints.   We followed our usual game plan and bellied up early in front of the growler fillers.  What can I say?  It’s stupid simple entertainment for us big kids.  And of course we had to get a sampler, because the list at Victory always  includes new and rare items that we may have the chance to try again.  Their tap list is long and includes something for everyone – stouts, IPAs and hoppy bevs, belgians, barley wine, german style lagers, wheat beers, and three cask beers.  One of my favorites, St. Boisterous (maibock) was bellowing my name.  I also love the Golden Monkey.

A stand out was the smoked lager.  Smoked beers, when done well, are amazing, and the sure sign of a masterful brewer.  In fact, that’s one thing you can expect from Victory.  Whether or not you like their beer, you can’t say it’s not well brewed.  They have rightfully earned their elevated position in the craft beer hierarchy.  We’re just glad they’re within driving distance.   In fact, we’re considering a year-round pass to Longwood Gardens to justify more trips northward.  I hear the garden fountain exhibit (opening June 9th) is spectacular!

Ah, and here my wordy tour ends with some actually beauty – a small sample of our Victory Garden Beerventure… Cheers beers!


Flying Dog Unleashes the Wildeman

January 20, 2012 2 comments

Great news for hophead fans of the Flying Dog Brewery!  They’re releasing their new Farmhouse IPA – The Wildeman – in Maryland, Virginia and DC.

I recently took a growler of the Wildeman Farmhouse IPA home, and let me tell ya, the hubster and I were in hoppy heaven. Mind you, I’m not a hophead, but I do love beers that have a good dose of hops balanced with mild malty sweetness. The Raging Bitch fits this profile, and so does the Wildeman. Its a golden hoppy beer with lots of flavor, the smooth drinkability of a farmhouse ale, and a really nice well balanced hoppy layer. Raging Bitch fans are gonna love it, and many of the brewery staff have already dubbed it their new favorite. Hey, I was there and heard it with my own ears!

The Flying Dog Brewery's Wildeman Cometh to MD, VA and DC

If you’re in the Frederick, Maryland area on Thursdays, come to Flying Dog for a tour and bring your growlers. They open the taps up for growler fills on Thursdays, and its a great time to get a sneak preview and stock up for the weekend on their scratch and pre-release brews, as well as their full time beer line up. Their Raging Bitch Belgian IPA, K9 Winter, Gonzo Porter, Gonzo Barrel-aged Porter (kick butt), and Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout are just a few of my personal favorites.  And just a tip – the Gonzo Imperial Porter and the Double Dog make a kick butt black and tan.  I can’t account for separation, but the flavor is unreal.  There are at least 10 or 12 taps to choose from so mix it up any way you like.

If you don’t already have a growler, you can buy one in their gift shop for $5. In fact, at $5 a growler, you might wanna stock up on those too.  They’re like shoes…you can never have too many.   Stick around for the tour, its a fun (and cheap) date night at $5 a pop – includes tokens for tastings and a commemorative Flying Dog glass.   I love our hometown brewery!

If you’re nowhere near the MD, VA, DC area but you still get Flying Dog, then be patient.  I predict the Wildeman will gain a very quick following and will eventually make an appearance in a liquor store near you.  But then again, life offers no guarantees.  Grab your buddies….it’s time for a road trip!

Cheers beers!

BeerVenture to DC’s Churchkey

January 17, 2012 1 comment

“Just put me in the car and I’ll go wherever you take me.”  That’s what I tell my husband when he starts planning a day trip to to somewhere.  He plans, I participate.  So on a gorgeous 60 degree day in January, we both jumped in the car and on the DC metro, then walked a good mile uptown to DC’s Churchkey .

The Churchkey features 555 beers from 30 countries, 55 are on draught.  Small pours and pints are available so you can test out a bunch without overloading.  We sampled local brews, including an exceptional IPA called the Corruption from DC Brau; as well as some farmhouse style collaboration beers from Stillwater, DOG Brewing, The Brewers Art, and Oliver out of Baltimore; Bear Republic’s tasty Heritage wee heavy scotch ale; and an unusual fruit beer from Japan (I couldn’t pronounce it, much less spell it).  In fact, we hardly scraped the surface of the beer menu which was categorized not by style but by flavor type – sour, smoked, fruit, hop, crisp, malt…

The Churchkey’s bar is dark and kinda urban-retro, located on the 2nd floor of an old building atop the four star Birch & Barley restaurant.  The executive chef for both the bar and the restaurant is a NYC CIA graduate, so the food is as fab as the beer.  We noshed on deep fried cheese stuffed pickled cherry peppers and crisp bricks of tender fried macaroni and cheese.  Piled up plates of golden tater tots were also a bar favorite.

The neighborhoods of DC have come a long way over the past decade.  The once smelly and not so warm and fuzzy areas have been converted into lovely neighborhoods lined with refurbished row homes populated by hip urbanites who are having an exceptionally positive influence on the local beer scene.  In fact, Beer Advocate recently ranked DC as one of the top five fastest growing beer cities in the US.  You’ll see why, as locals and visitors alike flock to window front tables overlooking the neighborhood streets.

Tack this one onto your next DC visit.  The Churchkey is a relaxing place to hang out and try some different beers, enjoy world class food, and explore the lovely residential side of our nation’s capital.  It’s also a brisk walk away from the local attractions….like the museums, the conference center…or the next beer bar.

Cheer beers!

Camping and Beer at Cape Henlopen, DE

November 3, 2011 1 comment

Home away from home at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.

No year is complete without a camping trip to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  Cape Henlopen State Park is among our favorite camping spots, with bike access to gorgeous beaches, geocaching galore, hiking through the white sand dunes, a short drive to the downtown boardwalk, unlimited shopping, and of course some great beer destinations.

Beer and camping are like chocolate and peanut butter.  Although many state parks have banned alcohol in recent years, we’ve found that good behavior, coupled with inconspicuous hot pink iced tea glasses enable us to enjoy our vices without bother by the local authorities. So camping life is still good.

Cozy camper - fully loaded with room for two.

Camping supplies - important for survival in the wilderness!


Not Just About Camping

Cape Henlopen is a beautiful recreational haven for bikers, walkers, joggers, campers, hikers, geocachers, swimmers, kite flyers, surfers, bird watchers, fishermen, and the list goes on.

The beach is a quick bike ride away, and within a 5 minute drive is the main coastal highway with unlimited shopping.  If you need to stock up on wilderness supplies, then Cape Wine and Spirits in Lewes has the best beer selection at the best prices in town.

Five minutes further, and you’re in downtown Rehoboth Beach — home to none other the original DogfishHead Brewpub.  The Brewpub is a destination location for beer lovers and a must visit if you’re ever in Rehoboth.  It never disappoints and there’s always something limited on tap that can’t be found on the liquor store shelves.

Dogfish Head Brewpub in downtown Rehoboth Beach, DE

Lunch you say?

Head to the Pickled Pig Pub on the Coastal Highway – a great place to get pickled!  Top notch draught beer selection, and the best cuban sandwiches and fried pickled in town.  The locals are friendly, and there’s always a game on the tube.

Gordon’s Pond

After all that food and beverage, some activity may be in order.  We recently discovered Gordon’s Pond – an extension of Cape Henlopen.  A five mile trail leads you around the entire pond and along the beach back to your starting point.  Take the camera and capture some photos of the beautiful wetland marshes, full of wildlife and natural beauty.

Young, old, rain or shine, there’s no shortage of things to do in the Rehoboth Beach area, including Lewes (pronounced Lewis by the locals) and Cape Henlopen.  This community works hard to maintain it’s local presence and small town feel.  The area is warm, inviting, full of local events, and a great getaway for a long weekend or a relaxing week at the beach.  So enjoy your brews, and by all means…don’t forget the hot pink iced tea glasses!

Cheers beers!

Roy Pitz Brewing Co. – Chambersburg, PA’s Hidden Gem

Since reading an article in the paper about this small time operation, the hubster and I have been itching to visit the Roy Pitz Brewing Company.  Two years later, we finally ventured to Chambersburg, PA to check them out.  Our initial thoughts?  Wow!  Roy Pitz is a name to watch out for.

The Roy Pitz Story

The Brewery is owned and operated by Jesse and Ryan, two grade school friends who grew up in Chambersburg and have since continued their friendship and cultivated a shared passion for craft beer and brewing.  They experimented heavily with homebrewing in college, and their training in professional brewing began with jobs at Victory Brewing Company and Twin Lakes Brewing Company. Upon graduating with business degrees, the duo attended the Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology in Chicago, and Ryan continued on to study at the Doemens Institute in Germany.   He earned an International Degree in Brewing Science and returned to Chambersburg to join forces and open Roy Pitz Brewing Company with Jesse.

Who’s Roy Pitz?

According to an article from Hagerstown Magazine, “the brewery takes its name from the legend of a pair of quarreling conjoined twins local to Chambersburg named Roy and Pitz.”  The two brewers and longtime friends aren’t twins, but metaphorically speaking, they are attached at the hip, personally and professionally.  And so this relationship is conveyed by the conjoined twins represented in their logo.

The Brewery

The Roy Pitz Brewing Company was opened in 2008, has since tripled production and is currently looking to expand distribution into Maryland.  The brewery is housed in an old warehouse located off a remote alley on the edge of downtown Chambersburg.  If you’re not looking for it, you won’t find it.

They currently distribute kegs to about 30+ locations across Pennsylvania, and they only fill growlers at their Chambersburg location.  These guys are small potatoes…for now.  But the word is out in Chambersburg, as parades of locals crossed the parking lot and entered the small tasting room with empty growlers in tote.

Don’t expect sparkle and polish, the tasting room is a small, rustic, cellar-like setup.  It has character and foosball!   Wooden barrels emerge from the walls supporting plain wooden tap handles, and the small room is surrounded by a collection of growlers, memorabelia and merchandise.  Behind a glass wall lies the modest brewing operations filled with stainless steel tanks and a volunteer or two hard at work keeping the place well sanitized.

Liquid Art

One taste and you’ll agree, Roy Pitz’ beer is an art form.  Roy Pitz has coined themselves as “America’s Freshest Brewery”.  These guys brew using the highest quality ingredients, and they keep it local as much as possible, from the water to the produce to the hops produced from their own local hop farm.  There aren’t many breweries that offer customers the opportunity to taste and take home beers that were kegged from their fermenters that very same day.  That’s fresh!

Available beers are displayed in chalk on the overhead board, and the brewery is free and generous with their samples.  But many patrons are regulars who know exactly what they want, and some visit weekly to stock up for the weekend and ensure they don’t miss out on anything new.

Our server/jack-of-all for the day told us that the seasonals are outstanding and worth the trip.  After tasting the lot, I can assure you that the year round brews are every bit as outstanding as the seasonals, and yes, it was worth the trip.

Five beers were available on tap, four of which sold for $10 per growler, and one that sold for $15.  Most are available year round with one or two seasonals thrown in.

Our Two Growler Picks

Lovitz Lager (Watermelon Lager, Seasonal).  This has gotta be one of the best fruit beers I’ve ever had.  The aroma of fresh watermelon is intoxicating, and the fruit flavor permeates the beer.  The warmer the beer, the more fragrant, fresh, and apparent the watermelon flavor.  It’s clearly a well brewed lager, unfiltered, clean, and balanced.  I didn’t even feel compelled to add more watermelon to the beer.  It’s perfect as is.

Our server mentioned that Jesse and Ryan were at a beer festival in Philly pushing the Watermelon Lager as a contender for Best Summer Beer.  Best of luck guys!  It has my vote!

Lugwig’s Revenge (Smoked Lager, Year Round).  This is a smooth, rich, full flavored dark lager with a delicious smokiness that makes this a unique brow-raising experience.  Ludwig’s Revenge is unlike any beer I’ve had before.  Smoked beers can often be overpowering with smoke flavor (sometimes liquid smoke), or they’re watery with barely a hint of smokiness.  The primary flavors in Roy Pitz’s beers permeate without dominating, so the smoked flavor is apparent throughout the beer, but perfectly balanced with the smooth dark malts.  A rare treat of a beer.

We also had the privilege of sampling the Old Jail Ale (English Brown is delicious, mild, malty, flavorful), the Best Blonde Ale (amazingly well done Kolsch style beer with loaded with flavor and refreshingly crisp and citrusy) , and the Daddy Fat Sacks (malt and hops are incredibly well balanced, nice sweetness, full-bodied, full flavored).  Picking two to take home was not an easy task, every single beer was stellar.   Visit their website to find out what will be on tap during your visit.

Beer is Their Priority

Remember the name Roy Pitz and keep a watchful eye out for Jesse and Ryan.  The talent and skill of these two young brewers and their exacting attention to details are clearly reflected in their products.  Ignore their modest surroundings, their priority is the beer.  Our server mentioned an event where they displayed a note to customers apologizing for their lack of merchandise.  Their message read “we put our money into the beer”.   Enough said.

Cheers beers!
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Big Taste of Louisville – Fast Horses, Hot Browns and Bourbon Barrel Beer

Louisville, Kentucky, where the horses run fast, the bourbon flows freely, and the gentlemen always let the ladies go first.  I love the south and Louisville is chock full of southern charm.  A beautiful, bright and vibrant city, Louisville is filled with museums, sport arenas, waterfront recreation, riverboats, grand old hotels, fabulous restaurants, and of course bourbon.   They put bourbon in everything here – sauces, candies, cocktails, and the beer!

Arriving at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel

My business travel stationed me for two nights at none other than the  Seelbach Hilton Hotel, a gorgeous grand 4-star hotel located in the heart of downtown Louisville that dates back to 1905.  The Seelbach has entertained the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald (who mentioned this hotel as Daisy’s wedding location in The Great Gatsby) and Al Capone who dined regularly in the historic Oak Room restaurant.  The hotel has also hosted numerous presidents, historic figures and celebrities.  It was even featured in the film “The Insider”, with Russell Crowe.  It’s not often that I’d credit a hotel as the highlight of my trip, but the Seelbach is magnificent and the staff is flawless.


The Seelbach’s Rathskellar

 F. Scott Fitzgerald frequented the Seelbach’s Rathskellar, the historic “pottery room” located on the bottom level of the hotel.  The Rathskellar is, in fact, lined with Rookwood pottery tiles.  According to my counterparts who attended the opening reception held in the Rathskellar, the acoustics are so horrible even a small group can seem unbearably loud.  But I snuck down when the room was dark, empty and silent, and the door just happened to be propped open.  So I ventured in and felt as though I were in  the room of a castle as it conveyed renaissance and royalty.   The entire room was lined from floor to ceiling with pottery tiles, and the walls were lit from above, creating a quiet drama that made it easy to imagine the place coming to life with a roaring 20’s crowd.  

Supposedly the room contains hidden passages used by Al Capone, and ghost stories prevail.  Unusual Kentucky is a fascinating blog that includes some nice photos and more detailed points of interest about this unique Kentucky treasure.



The Old Seelbach Bar

The Seelbach Hotel is also home to the The Old Seelbach Bar, “one of the top 50 bars in the world” according to the Independent London.   I’m not sure what makes this bar one of the top 50.  It certainly has history and old time atmosphere,  or maybe its because they feature 44 select brands of bourbon.  I’ll bet they also stir up a heck of a mint julep.  But I bypassed the traditional bourbon and julip for a local microbrew – a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale produced by Alltech’s Lexington Brewing Company.  This strong ale pours a gorgeous dark amber color; it drinks smooth, sweet and malty; and its loaded with smooth delicious bourbon flavor.  One gentleman at our table took a small sip and said  “this tastes like someone dropped shot of bourbon in it”.  Yes, yes it does!  And I’ve determined that’s how I like my bourbon…in my beer.

Running Amuck in Downtown Louisville

The next day I found an hour to run out and explore.  Louisville is full of culture – music, museums, glass art.  I only had time for a quick walk to the Ohio River waterfront where I was met by several riverboats and some lovely views of bridges crossing over to Indiana.  Gambling in Kentucky is limited to horse racing, but visitors can board the riverboats or cross over to Indiana to play the slots and wager on a little table action.

A bartender later informed me that the view of Louisville from the Indiana side is breathtaking at night. And the week prior to the Kentucky Derby, the city sets off one of the largest fireworks displays in the world, second only to China.

The waterfront area is also home to weekly music festivals and concerts, as well as a waterfront park that rents paddle boats and offers river recreation for both visitors and locals.

B-Line for the BBC (Bluegrass Brewing Company)

Finally, I was freed up for the evening, and so I made a B-line for the Bluegrass Brewing Company (the BBC).  The BBC has a series of pubs throughout the Louisville area, and the beers are brewed on the premises, as demonstrated by the large brewing room that’s only visible through a window lined with shelves holding bottles of spirit.  I bellied up and started with a sampler – all great beers, ranging from a Kolsch to an Alt, an IPA, a Raspberry Mead and a Bock with an unusual (but good) hoppy bite.  However, the one that really got my attention was their Bourbon Barrel Stout.  Rich with chocolate, vanilla, bourbon and roasted malty goodness, this stout was so delicious that I had to fly a 4-pack home for the hubster, along with his and hers BBC t-shirts proclaiming “Beer is Food”.


Tackling the Hot Brown

I absolutely agree, beer is food.  But I still had to order some solid food in the form of a hot brown.  This Kentucky open-faced sandwich was first created and is still served at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. Different restaurants have their own versions, and the BBC bartender assured me that when in Kentucky, I had to have a hot brown, and the BBC’s version supposedly ranked among the best.

HOT BROWN Smoked turkey, alfredo, sliced tomato, crumbled bacon and wheat toast topped with cheddar jack cheese and smoked paprika 10.99

And so word spread across the bar that I was a hot brown newbie, and as the arrival of this monumental first approached, several servers shared stories of their hot brown initiations. The bartender was even prepared to call in the circus upon its arrival.  But the hot brown needed no added attention, as all eyes were on the newbie with the monster mound of evil cheesy cream covered artery clogging turkey on toast sitting in front of me.

I ate every last gluttonous bite and washed it down with a full pint of their amazing bourbon barrel stout.

It was a good evening, indeed.  Sometimes work offers unique experiences, and travel is a nice perk when given the chance to explore the local sites…and the local beer.  And based on my short time in this grand city, I’ve come to the conclusion that no one mixes their bourbon and beer like Kentucky brewers.  Just one of the many reasons why Louisville, Kentucky tastes so darn good!

Cheers beers!  

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