Archive

Posts Tagged ‘brewery’

“Lucky Dogs” Get Private Tour of Flying Dog Brewery

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

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!

The Craft Beer Snowman from Flying Dog Brewery

November 28, 2011 2 comments

One of my all time favorite beer commercials never even made it to television.  The Flying Dog Brewery  (right here in Frederick, Maryland) received this promo commercial last year as part of an interview from director Tim Martin.  He got the job!

Happy Winter and Cheers 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!
.

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!  

Thoughts on Brewpubs and the Unspoken Rule

You wouldn’t ask for Folgers in a coffeehouse, you wouldn’t expect Five Guys to serve big macs, and you probably wouldn’t scoff at a wine bar that doesn’t serve Riunite (in fact, most people would react quite the opposite). So why are brewpubs expected to sell mass-produced commercial beers?  Not all brewpubs do sell these beers, but the expectation is still a sort of unspoken rule that pertains to beer serving establishments in general.

I suppose a lot of people equate brewpubs to beer bars.  But brewpubs are unique in that brewing beer is their specialty, their differentiator, the heart of their business.  So they should be exempt from that rule, right?  You’d think so, but it really is amazing how embedded certain brands are in our beer culture – and not just American.  I’ve seen people get downright angry if their beers aren’t available, even at brewpubs.

I’m not judging those who prefer the commercial brews.  We like what we like and we shouldn’t have to apologize for it.  And I’m definitely not judging brewpubs for selling those beers.  It’s a business, and brewpubs do have the option to sell or not to sell, and to charge just as much for those beers as for their in house brews, if not more.  I suppose that in itself should be lesson enough to the finicky beer-drinkers who eat at brewpubs but snub the house brews in favor of commercial beers (ok, that might sound a little judgmental).  It’s an easy way to make money and keep the customers happy.  The pressure is evident, and I know that in our semi-rural suburban region, it doesn’t matter how many house or craft brews are available, if a bar (any bar) doesn’t serve at least one of the major brands, then they’re gonna lose business.  Hey, if that’s what it takes to keep a good brewpub going strong for the rest of us, then give’em their beer.  However, I would think its gotta be a sticky pet peeve for most brewers.  Just my opinion.

Responding to the Inevitable Request

Of course it never hurts to ask, fair enough.  I’ve witnessed several ways that brewpubs handle the request for commercial brands…

  1. Sure thing, whatever you want, no questions asked.  The larger chain-type brewpubs often serve commercial brews in addition to their own – no muss, no fuss, no questions asked, the customer gets what they want.
  2. You can have it on one condition.  Give ours a little taste first, and if you don’t like it, then we’ll give you your commercial beer.  This approach encourages non-craft beer drinkers to acknowledge that they are in fact in a brewpub.  And out of sheer respect to the brewer and the establishment, at least give the lightest house brew on tap a fair shot.  Hey, like it or not, its free beer!
  3. We only serve house beers, but our XYZ beer is the closest match to your request.  This “take it or leave it” approach is a sure sign of an independent, confident brewpub whose regulars appreciate the good stuff and come back for it often, and whose head brewer (I’m assuming) probably takes immense pleasure in giving the big three a big bird.


Respect the Brewer, Respect the  Beer

I am not a beer snob – truly, I don’t know enough, nor am I serious enough to be a snob.  But I have tremendous respect for brewers and the passion and commitment they have for their craft.  And virtually every brewpub I’ve ever been in produces one or more lighter beers that speak to a wider audience.  You say you like beer?  Then branch out a little.  Ask for some samples.  Give the house beers a fair shot.  You might even find a new regular, in which case, good for you!  Welcome to the brave new world of craft beer.

Cheers beers!




10 Best Craft Beer Vacation Destinations

Breweries are located in some of the most beautiful areas of the country, so why not plan a vacation around craft beer?  Or at least include some beer destinations in your itinerary.  Here’s a link to an article just released in Milwaukee, WI ranking The 10 Best Craft Beer Destinations.  You might find that some aren’t terribly far from your front door.  Day trip!

Cheers beers!

Jolly Good Beer at the Jolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery

Our final beer destination on this year’s State Capitols and BeerVentureJolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jolly Pumpkin always seems like our beer of choice on a beautiful relaxing evening outside by the fire pit or on the front swing. We’re seeing it more and more in the mid-Atlantic region, but its still rather hard to find, so this visit was a much anticipated venture for us.

The pub is a spacious two story building, with full bars on both levels, and an upstairs rooftop patio. I love the dim, relaxed, artsy fartsy atmosphere, and the walls are filled with artwork adapted from their artisan beer labels.

As for the beer, the actual brewery, located in Dexter, Michigan, is well known for their openly fermented, oak barrel-aged, bottle conditioned artisan beers. I tried their Raspinical, which is an Abbey del Norte brewed with spinach. This experimental beer is only produced in small batches for their brew pub. Raspinical has medium body, and a dark, sweet, malty belgian character. Excellent brew for those who enjoy darker belgian-style ales.

I also enjoyed their Bam Noire, a dark farmhouse ale – one of Jolly Pumpkin’s better known beers and one of my personal favorites. Their description tells it best:

Bam Noire– Dark Farmhouse Ale
Dark, smooth, delicious. Aromas of worn leather and cool
autumn nights. Notes of sweet plum and toasted raisin, hints of
coffee and cacao. Lingering tart and refreshing finish.
Only available for a few short months. Not to be missed.

Seasonal released in September
4.3% Alc./Vol.

750ml bottles – 12 case

The pub also offers a full line of non-sour beers brewed at their “sister” brewery, North Peak in Traverse City, MI. North Peak‘s beers include the Diabolical IPA and the Siren Amber Ale, Majestic Wheat Ale and Vicious Wheat IPA, as well as a number of seasonals. The Diabolical IPA is fully aromatic and flavorful with floral and citrus hops, but distinct pine notes and a dry earthiness give it a really unique taste that sets it apart from other IPAs.

Their rustic food is prepared fresh and designed specifically for pairing with their rustic beers – warm flatbreads, marinated olives, cured meats and cheeses, pizzas, truffled fries with rosemary, and artisan sandwiches. Don’t let the upscale interior fool you – Jolly Pumpkin is relaxed, casual, easy, warm, and inviting, much like its Ann Arbor surroundings. The pub is surrounded by streets full of great shops and artsy attractions – glass galleries, speciality food stores, clothing, and more – so be sure to set time aside to walk around the downtown area. It’s a perfect location for this artisan brewpub, as Jolly Pumpkin clearly demonstrates that brewing original rustic craft beers is indeed an art.

Cheers beers!

Bell’s Brewing Company – Best Darn Brew in Kalamazoo

The only bad thing about Bell’s beer is that we have to drive to Virginia to get it.  One of our all-time favorite craft breweries, no way we were passing up the chance to stop in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Since the brewery isn’t open for tours, we settled for the next best option – dinner at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe.

Bell’s Cafe is located in a rustic wood building with stained glass windows, and high ceilings lined with wood beams. A beer drinker’s sanctuary of sorts. The chalkboard tap list is surrounded by tribal masks, one of which resembles a Dr. Seuss character. There’s a casual quirkiness about the place, and an old fashioned vibe.  Fresh roasted nuts are served in paper boats, they offer a long list of old fashioned soft drinks, and the menu includes interesting updates to some old classics. The prices are reasonable, and the beers are sold in 12 oz, 16 oz, and 20 oz glasses.  If you read my SimplPlea for Half Pints blog, then you’ll know what a fan I am of smaller sizes!

My first beer was a limited release, draught only brown sour ale called The Wild One. Hands down one of my favorite beers ever. A tart, sweet, fruity beer aged in oak barrels and brimming with funky sour flavor from the wild yeast.  I also had the Oarsman, a golden wheat sour mash that was a light, crisp, fruity mild session beer, similar to a farmhouse ale with only a very mild sourness.

They also had a number of IPAs on tap, including the Oracle Double IPA (DIPA) Ale, a delicious strong, citrusy, malty, hoppy brew that clocks in at 10% ABV.  If you’re lucky, you might find this one in bottle form.

But no visit is complete without heading next door to their general store.  Lots of great Bell’s takeaways, including homebrew supplies.  Another fun brewpub – they rarely disappoint – and it was truly a great beer experience as the restaurant features quite a few small batch, draught only beers that you won’t find anywhere else.  So the next time you’re up Michigan way, head to Kalamazoo for some darn good brew by Bell’s Brewing Company.

Cheers Beers!

%d bloggers like this: