"Beer in Colorado" is dedicated to that divine elixir born of the marriage of water, malt, hops, and yeast as interpreted
by those living in Colorado. Follow the author as he visits every brewery in the state, creates experimental homebrews,
attends beer festivals, tries interesting beers from around the world, and spreads the good word of beer. Prost!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Boston Beer Bloggers Conference: Part 4

The day had come; Nicole and I finally arrived in Massachusetts—the host state of the Beer Bloggers Conference!  We were, however, a few days early and, although we’d yet to officially enter Boston, the state’s so miniscule one could throw a rock across it and hit Maine; everywhere in Massachusetts is near everywhere else in Massachusetts (for perspective, about 12.6 Massachusettses, with a little finagling of the borders, would fit inside one Colorado).  Thus, while we were adjacent to our destination, it made no sense to complete the trip because the hotel room wasn’t yet ready.  Therefore, we camped just south of Beantown in the suburb of Hingham.

Hingham and the surrounding area mirrors our collective assumptions of the quintessential New England town: colonial-style houses, shingle-sided seaside shacks, and roads that zig, zag, loop around, and shoot off in all directions as if the city planners had no concept of a grid.  Then again, with the town being incorporated before America was even a country (1635), the founders probably didn’t have automobiles in mind when they laid out the map; that spaghetti bowl of streets would be easier to navigate if traveling at carriage speeds.      

Inside Sea dog
We made camp at Wompatuck State Park and piled back in the car to search for beer in Hull, a neighboring town.  Hull is, in a word, quaint.  Located on a little spit of land jutting into the Atlantic, Hull’s a little beach town rife with seaside shops and restaurants and, to accentuate the wholesomeness, a carousel.  In many ways, Hull is reminiscent of Amity Island in Jaws sans (I hope) man-eating shark.

Our destination in Hull:  Sea Dog Brewing Co.—sort of.  Actually, Sea Dog is based in Maine but they have several ancillary pubs along the eastern seaboard including, of course, one in Hull.  No actual brewing occurs on premise—to call it a brewery would be a misnomer—but they had beer and fantastic views as the building is perched alongside the shores of Sunset Bay Marina.  If ever a rooftop patio was appropriate, it was the one at Sea Dog.

Patio at Sea Dog (and a little girl photo-bombing my picture)
TANGENT #1: I’m what seasoned sailors call a “land lubber.”  I’m more appreciative of mountains-and-canyons; the open seas do not beckon.  From an evolutionary stance, it’s a reasonable opinion—humans lack gills and Michael Phelps is an inefficient swimmer compared to even the most awkward of fish.  We weren’t designed for water and those who seek the ocean are, I believe, actively fighting Mother Nature’s intentions (similarly, beer geeks and our IPAs; bitterness is innately hardwired into our brains to indicate poison.  Nonetheless, we’ve managed to override the alarm system and can now happily drink hoppy ales without fear).  Besides that, the ocean is boring.  It looks the same no matter where you go.  I can’t be convinced that, if one removed all land-based clues (flora, fauna, culture, terrain), anybody could distinguish Atlantic from Pacific.  Topography, on the other hand, is always unique.  Each peak and valley has an appearance and spirit all its own.  Water is a fantastic accompaniment to land—a rive cutting through a gorge, an alpine tarn—but the show-stopper is always the terrain (tourists visit northern Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, not the Colorado River and Crater Lake is only cool because, hey, it’s in a crater).  Also, salt water irritates my skin.  No, I’m quite content in the continental interior.  All that said, however, when I gazed with all due serenity upon Quincy Bay, at the sailboat masts bobbing languidly against a dusky sky, I understood, on a certain level, why some folks are called to the coast.  END TANGENT.    
Old East India Pale Ale

Whilst enjoying the awe-inspiring seascape, Nicole and I did what every visitor to Massachusetts does and ordered clam chowder (as though our pronunciation of the letter r didn’t already alert locals to our touristy status) and, less indicative of out-of-town behavior, drank Old East India Pale Ale, an English-style IPA.  Like the English themselves, this style of beer is more polite and subdued than its American counterpart making for a beer that’s more herbal and floral than face-smackingly bitter. 

TANGENT #2: does anybody else find it curious that the Northeast—the heart of the American Revolution—typically brews in the same vein as their former overlords while the West—not even American territory in 1776—is more apt to make beer that truly rebels against traditional British ales?  I would think the colonists, with their newfound independence, would want to immediately distance themselves from anything relating to their oppressors.  I suppose when one is putting together a country one doesn’t necessarily have time to dabble in new styles of beer.  END TANGENT.

We slept for the night and, at long last, drove to Boston the next morning!  We checked into our hotel but, since we were a day early for the conference, we had time to kill.  We dumped our luggage in the room and ventured out into the city.

Whenever we mention our visit to Boston, the inevitable question is “Did you walk the Freedom Trail?”  Yes, we did—in a way.  The Freedom Trail is a meandering squiggle of a line and any aimless Boston wanderer (e.g. Nicole and I) will inexorably find themselves on that iconic two-brick-wide path.  We saw Old Ironsides, we saw Old North Church, we saw a bunch of cemeteries and more and more churches; we pretty much saw it all (including a place that’s not yet on the list of historical must-sees but a place that, to me as a runner, should be sanctified as a monument of silent reflection: the site of the Boston Marathon Bombing). 

Marathon bombing memorial
After sight-seeing, an internal alarm clock rang in my head and stomach—time for a beer!  Cambridge Brewing Co., suggested to me by a Twitter friend, didn’t look far on the map and, really, it wasn’t; it was a relatively easy walk.  However, with a storm rolling in and rain falling in curtains, that short jaunt seemed an endless, grueling excursion.  Oh, we remained fairly dry hopping to and from storefront overhangs and trees but crossing the Longfellow Bridge—1,767’ of absolutely no shelter—soaked us all the way through.

It doesn't look too bad in this picture but, trust me, it was a deluge
Dripping like a St. Bernard’s jowls, we made it to Kendall Square, walked into Cambridge Brewing, and took a seat.  You cannot begin to imagine our relief!  After that unpleasant stroll, we both needed and deserved a bite and a beer at the self-claimed “one of the nations (sic) first [brewpubs].”  I ordered the pale, hazy yellow Jack Straw (4.2% ABV), an American wild ale with enough summery, tart refreshment that I almost forgot how miserable it was outside. 

Inside Cambridge Brewing

Brewing equipment behind the bar at Cambridge Brewing
Unfortunately, the rain did not stop.  Doubly-unfortunate, we had tickets to a Red Sox game (that game was postponed to a later date; a date when we would have already left Boston).  I’m no fan of Boston professional sports but Nicole is a fan of baseball in general, regardless of team, and was quite disappointed that we’d traveled so far only to miss our opportunity to catch a game at The Green Monster.  Lemon juice in the wounds: the rain let up shortly after the postponement was announced.  I guess we’ll have to come back some day; Fenway Park is over 100 years old, I’m sure it will still be there long enough for us to visit again.
Jack Straw

After leaving the ballpark—heads hung in defeat—we dropped into a local Irish pub (as is customary when in Boston) and had a beer.  We only had one beer, though, because tomorrow was a big day.  Tomorrow was the official start of the Beer Bloggers Conference—when the real fun started. 



The highlight of my summer had finally arrived, the Beer Bloggers Conference in Boston!  I’d never visited Boston before and was very excited about attending a game at Fenway Park.  Fenway isn’t just any baseball stadium, it holds so much baseball history.

Before heading to the game, we wandered around the city and took in the sites of where American history was made.  As game time neared, the clouds rolled in.  Of course, I packed a rain coat but I left it in the car which was valet parked somewhere in the city.  It was only a two mile walk to our dinner at Cambridge Brewing but two miles in the rain is definitely a miserable experience.  After dinner, we continued our soggy trudge to Fenway.  My first stop was the team shop to buy a dry shirt and then we made our way to our seats.  To our relief, they were in a covered section. After sitting for about an hour, the game was called due to weather.  I was pretty upset that I traveled all the way from Colorado and I didn’t get to see a game at Fenway.

The next morning, we continued our exploration of the city (with my newly purchased umbrella in hand).  We took the subway to UMass Boston and visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum which was featuring a temporary exhibit on the Bay of Pigs invasion. After the museum, we went in search of local Boston lunch fare and found it at the Beantown Pub where we ordered the quintessential Boston baked beans.  After lunch, we had a few hours to relax but then the conference started and relaxation became a thing of the past.


It aint the mountains but it aint bad; the view from Sea Dog
You can see the Boston skyline from Sea Dog
Fenway Park

The Green Monstah

Hey, look; a Bull & Bush Brewery sticker on a Massachusetts car! The owner was walking up to his car when I took this picture.  We talked briefly of Great American Beer Festival (which is how he knew of B&B).


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Brief Interlude from the Beer Bloggers Conference: A Re-Cap of Fermentation Festival

We interrupt this series of Beer Bloggers Conference posts to bring you a re-cap of a local beer event.  The conference posts will recommence shortly.

a. The anaerobic conversion of sugar to carbon dioxide and alcohol by yeast.
b. Any of a group of chemical reactions induced by living or nonliving ferments that split complex organic compounds into relatively simple substances.

The imposing Highlands Masonic Center

Sounds riveting, does it not?  Perhaps the dictionary definition sates the eggheads among us but, for the average, everyday beer geek, one need only know fermentation is your friend.  Fermentation is the difference between hopped barley-tea and actual beer.  It’s the creator of alcohol.  Connoisseurs of craft beer (rightfully) shun those who drink merely to become inebriated and one trend in the industry is session (AKA low-alcohol) beer but, one must nonetheless admit, craft beer would not have nearly as strong a fanbase if we weren’t all catching a little buzz (just a little, though; I stand with every true beer geek when I implore to always drink responsibly). 
Learning how to make fruit wine
Indeed, it is a beautiful thing, this process known as fermentation.  Even beer geeks who failed high school chemistry understand and appreciate the science.  What some may not realize, however, is that fermentation takes forms beyond the realm of beer.  Liquors, before distillation, are fermented.  Sauerkraut, the favorite German condiment, is fermented.  Kimchi is fermented.  Kombucha tea?  Yep, that’s fermented, too.  Why’s fermentation so popular?  Historically, it was a way to preserve food but, nowadays, we also know fermentables work wonders on the digestive tract; it’s healthy and fun—a combination rarely seen.  To partake in the grandest celebration of fermentation, one need not look further than The Fermentation Festival & Market.

Held this past weekend at the Highlands Masonic Center, the Fermentation Fest is more than just another beer festival (not that there’s anything wrong with “just another beer festival,” mind you; the rapidity in which Great American Beer Festival [GABF] tickets sell-out proves there’s still an unmet demand for beer-centric fêtes), it’s a place to eat, drink, and—dare I say—learn; between sips and snacks, festival-goers had the option of attending classes ranging in topics from homebrewing kombucha to cooking sauerkraut to the demonstration Nicole and I attended—making fruit wines.  Lest the libations erased one’s memory, folks at Fermentation Fest left more educated than when they arrived.

Homebrewed fruit wine 
The uniqueness of Fermentation Fest—in addition to the inclusion of all fermentables and the educational aspect—is in the location; walking up to the Masonic Center's massive stone façade, defined by Ionic pillars and a massive front door, one might forget they’re actually in Denver and not Washington, D.C., ancient Greece, or King Kong’s mausoleum.  It’s an intimidating structure.  I felt as though I was to be judged (and subsequently condemned) by the high priests.  Not helping to ease my mind are the myriad conspiracy-theory pseudo-documentaries on the History Channel which concern the Freemasons—schlocky shows attempting to convince viewers that the said secret society is hell-bent on world domination.  I don’t really buy into that stuff, though; methinks the Freemasons are more benign and wield less influence than the Stonecutters.  PROOF: I never saw a guy named Homer Glumplich at Fermentation Fest; they can't be the same entity.
Delicious fermented foods
There’s another aspect to Fermentation Fest which makes it one-of-a-kind (at least as far as I’ve experienced): indoor and outdoor event spaces.  Want to soak in the rays?  Head out to the parking lot where beer tents intermingle with the IndyInk shirt station (they screen-print shirts right in front of customers; they’re the Benihana of casual apparel), pickle-toss competitors, and food vendors (including some superb pickled jalapenos and kimchi from Dae Gee; as an ethnic German I’m predisposed to enjoy sauerkraut but my promiscuous palate often leads me to Asian food.  Thus, Dae Gee’s offerings were a mélange of the two).  Is the sun a bit harsh for ya?  Go inside to the banquet hall where more beer, food, and spirits await (I was quite impressed with Beer Bites Premium Jelly and Vital Cultured Foods—the former was an inventive take on beer-based snacks and the latter an expert on traditional fermented foods).  Likewise, the demonstrations were held in separate rooms—upstairs in meeting halls that looked like British parliament or the Great Hall of Hogwarts.  I thought it a clever touch, allowing attendees to float from one area to another, keeping the event spread out over a larger area and therefore thinning the crowds to a manageable size.

Enjoy Fermentation Fest indoors...

...or outdoors!
The beer, of course, was Nicole and I’s impetus in attending Fermentation Fest and we were not disappointed.  In terms of number of participating breweries, Fermentation Fest lags far behind most other beer festivals.  Beer geeks were not left wanting, though; there were but a few brewers in attendance, but many of them were not the ones typically found at other festivals.  These included new, small breweries such as City Star Brewing, 12 DegreeBrewing, and Verboten Brewing as well as yet-to-open businesses like Kokopelli Beer Company and Großen Bart Brewery.  Beer geeks may not have had as much selection as they’re accustomed but the selection they did have was of beer they’d most likely never had before.  I, personally, would rather have a little new brew than a lot of the same old suds; the tried-and-true beers are great but I prefer to drink what’s not always readily available.  My favorite of the event was City Star’s Barnhouse Beast, the house saison for Beast + Bottle.
Jellies made of beer
Jellies made of beer
This was the first year for Fermentation Fest and, hopefully, not the last.  Every successful beer festival has a twist that keeps people coming back (GABF has sheer size, Parade of Darks caters only to dark beers, Rails & Ales Brewfest is held in a spectacular location…etc.) and I think Fermentation Fest’s niche—the inclusion of all fermentables—is an idea worth keeping alive.  Besides that, when, besides Fermentation Fest, are you going to get into a Masonic lodge without knowing the secret handshake?  See you at next year’s fest! 



Chris told me we were invited to the Fermentation Festival and I was unsure what to expect.  I teach fermentation to middle schoolers but it’s mostly in relation to what happens to muscles during exercise.  I never get to talk about the good stuff like yeast burping carbon dioxide and making alcohol.  However, as I found out, I forgot about the many non-alcoholic fermented foods and beverages that I could possibly teach to minors.

Our first stop at the festival was a class on making small batch fruit wines.  I’d been entertaining the idea of making cider for quite some time but I’ve been afraid I don't have the proper equipment.  As it turns out, the stuff that makes beer (which we already have) is essentially the same stuff that makes wine.  We learned how to process the fruit, which herbs to add, and that it takes a lot longer for good wine to bottle condition than good beer.  I’ll let you know how it goes when I eventually venture into wine making.
Watermelon gin

Next stop: pick up our festival t-shirts.  The guys at IndyInk made the t-shirts while we waited and we also learned about their glassware printing services.  I’m thinking I might have pint glasses made for our wedding party next summer and these guys have some pretty good deals.

Then we tried some fermented foods.  I had kimchi and pickled radishes for the first time and both were surprisingly tasty.  As we wandered outside from booth to booth, I overheard someone mention a watermelon drink so we headed inside and found Roundhouse Spirits serving a gin cocktail infused with fresh watermelon.  It was a refreshing summer drink and, as we chatted with the rep, he mentioned that their fall offerings will include a pumpkin liqueur.  My ears perked up at that information; I’ll be on the lookout in the coming weeks!  It seems Roundhouse Spirits will be serving drinks this weekend at the Taste of Colorado so, if you plan on attending, check out their yummy drinks.


IndyInk screen-printed shirts on the spot 

So, this guy just walked around Fermentation Fest with a bird on his shoulder

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Boston Beer Bloggers Conference: Part 3

The weather leaving Pittsburgh was dangerously wet—Nicole and I’d be less drenched if we drove under Niagara Falls.  Piling on the problems was the fact the streets were utterly unfamiliar.  However, with the help of GPS and sailor-worthy cursing on my part, we found the interstate and continued eastward towards the Beer Bloggers Conference.
SkyRush's first drop

We camped in central Pennsylvania, awoke, and once again indulged in some roller coaster action at Hersheypark.  With eleven coasters (of which we rode all), Hersheypark was by far the largest park we’d yet visited on our marathon road-trip to the Atlantic.  Thankfully, it wasn’t insanely crowded.  In fact, we were able to log-in three go-arounds on thir newest ride, SkyRush.  SkyRush is pretty rad because, of the four seats in a row, the outermost hang over the edges of the track, dangling riders in the void.  It adds a touch more thrill to an already intense coaster.

After leaving Hershey, Nicole and I headed towards our next destination, Long Valley, New Jersey, where we claimed a campsite and—true to our nature—employed the use of our smartphones to search for the nearest brewery.  In this case, it happened to be the Long Valley Pub & Brewery (LVPB).

For those who watch too much The Sopranos and Jersey Shore and for those who buy into New York City’s propagandistic teasing, one might assume one can’t swing a dead cat in Jersey without hitting a goombah, a fake-tanned tool, or a landfill.  However, fans of Zach Braff might recall Jersey’s nickname: The Garden State.  After negotiating the drive to the brewery in Long Valley, the reason for the epithet becomes abundantly clear.  The narrow, windy country roads navigating through old-growth forests, farmlands, stone walls, and cottages is less GTL and more 4-H.

We turned right at the first traffic light we’d seen for miles, drove up a small incline, and arrived at the brewery.  I’m a big proponent for the industrial area brewery (See: Strange Brewing Company, CAUTION: Brewing Co., and Yellow SpringsBrewery) because they turn shady neighborhoods into craft beer destinations that regular, law-abiding consumers will visit without trepidation.  They are the breweries that inspire communities, the breweries that transform land largely deemed worthless into sudsy paradises.  Do you want to hang out by the old factory amid the smoke-belching smokestacks?  No, nobody does unless there’s beer involved; in which case, I’m already there.  That’s the magic of a brewery brave enough to tread where other businesses fear.    

Then again, I can’t help but fall in love with breweries located in already-awe-inspiring locations.  Stone Brewing Co.’s Old Testament-esque beer garden?  Awesome.  The Church Brew Works from the day before?  Literally divine.  LVPB belongs in this group; the structure in which it resides is already beautiful and the brewery within just adds to the allure.  With a stone façade, vaulted, wood ceilings, and general grandeur, one might think that LVPB—like The Church—was built in a decommissioned cathedral.  The truth, however, is more secular yet nonetheless inspirational; the brewery is in a barn!

Inside LVPB

This monument to the rustic boasts an extensive, rock-tiled patio (a feature not included in the original design, I’m guessing).  The weather that day—for probably the first time on our entire trip—was neither rainy nor oppressively hot so we opted to enjoy our brews outside.  The pub-on-the-moors ambiance of the interior with its fireplace, wrought iron, and stained wood was certainly appealing but I elect to drink in the great outdoors whenever reasonable.  I ordered the oak-aged version of their Lazy Jake Porter (ABV N/A).  It’s a sufficient beer and the vanilla notes from the oak shine through but it isn’t necessarily the type of beer that makes one stand up and rejoice.  Lazy Jake isn’t a bad beer by any means but, when compared to the picturesque, pastoral setting, anything could be outperformed by the surroundings—the Hope Diamond wouldn’t shine as bright if brought to LVPB.  Let’s just say Lazy Jake is a “good beer” because that’s accurate—it just isn’t outstanding (despite the accolades).

Inside LVPB
We camped for the night and in the morning pointed north.  That day, we drove through five—count ‘em five—states!  It’s easy to lose perspective on size when living in a vast, western state where one can drive for hours and never cross a border, where citizens explore remote corners of their home state like it’s a foreign land, and where the beauty and splendor makes one wonder why anybody lives anywhere else.  Indeed, compared to the West, all those New England states just seem so damn cute!  Oh, who’s a little state?  Who’s a little state?  You are!  Yes you are!  Oh, yes you are!  Cootchie, cootchie, coo!

Due to our GPS’s terrible route judgment (it gained my trust in Pittsburgh and lost it in New York), we drove through Manhattan—during rush hour.  That was a tense drive, to say the least.  Oh, don’t you worry about me, though, worry about the locals; I may have been born a small town boy but I out-aggro’d those damn Yankee commuters like I was in a soft-core demolition derby.  I may not be accustomed to such heavy traffic but I have driven the Million Dollar Highway with over two inches of solid ice on the road, through three feet of snowy visibility, and with temperatures hovering around negative ten.  After that, Manhattan’s a leisurely cruise through the countryside.

We crossed into Connecticut and then into Rhode Island where we made a brief stop in Providence to visit a brewery that may sound familiar to Colorado beer geeks: Trinity Brewhouse (not TRiNiTY BREWiNG COMPANY).

Today, it’s practically a rite of passage for breweries to receive a cease-and-desist letter, one wonders why the two Trinities haven’t yet come to blows.  Is it because they’re simply ignorant of each other’s existence?  Is it because one knows about the other but doesn’t want to rock the boat and possibly ruin their reputation by filing a suit?  Is it because their official names are technically and legally distinct (Brewhouse vs. BREWiNG COMPANY)?  Is it because they’re both aware of each other but, because they’re chill companies and are nearly 2,000 miles apart, they realize the shared name really isn’t hurting either side?  I don’t know, but the story gets weirder; Colorado folks know our Trinity makes a saison called Elektrick Cukumbahh whereas the Rhode Island Trinity has an IPA called Electric Cucumber!  Make of that what you will (BREAKING NEWS!  I just figured something out—Trinity Brewhouse does not make a beer called Electric Cucumber.  Instead, an Untappd patron simply became confused and misspelled, mislabeled the style, and mistakenly attributed Elektrick Cukumbahh to the brewery in Providence.  Most people checking into “Electric Cucumber” checked into places in or near Colorado.  The confusion of the Untappd community was, until now, my confusion).  Whatever the case, I prefer to believe both breweries are laid-back and allow the other to continue operations unobstructed because, though faced with the contrary every day, I still believe in the existence of human decency.

Inside Trinity

Trinity Brewhouse is located on a corner storefront near downtown and derives its name from the Trinity Square neighborhood in which it resides (Trinity Square?  Oxymoronic much?).  The place gives off a vague Boulder-on-the-water vibe; crunchy, hippie bumper stickers plastered about, colorful and carnival-esque artwork, and a general aura exuding an eco-friendly, socially-liberal mindset.  Yep, that sounds like Boulder, except Trinity puts the nautical spin on it with their beer list painted on oars. 

We had a sample platter consisting of Kӧlsch (3.5% ABV), IPA (7.4% ABV), Tommy’s Red (4.5% ABV), Belgian Saison (4% ABV), Belgian Strawberry (11% ABV), and Larkin’s Irish Stout (4.5% ABV).  Call me a sissy if you want but the strawberry beer was the best of the platter; it’s subtle on the titular fruit and big on Belgian yeasty goodness.  Heck, it’s 11% ABV so, really, it was the manliest beer there!  Tommy’s was also semi-memorable for its pronounced hop flavor among balancing malts.

Excuse my dopey look at Trinity

After Trinity, we kept on our route and camped in our fifth state of the day: Massachusetts.  I swear to you, we will eventually get to a point in these posts where we’ll talk about the actual Beer Bloggers Conference.  We’re just not at that point.  



Saturday, August 10, 2013

Boston Beer Bloggers Conference: Part 2

After visiting 4 Hands Brewing Co. in St. Louis, day three of our epic, cross-country road trip to the Beer Bloggers Conference (BBC) dawned.  We tore down our tent, threw our sleeping bags into the car, and commenced towards the Atlantic.  We crossed Illinois, passed through last year’s BBC host city, and eventually arrived in Springfield, Ohio—just outside of Dayton—to visit my aunt who also happens to be a Catholic nun.

What's that yellow door in the distance?

My aunt, despite your stereotypical assumptions about nuns, does not lead a sheltered life, does not faint at the impropriety of modern life, and is fully aware and accepting of those with differing opinions.  That said, she does live in Ohio and Ohio’s culture is, on many levels, different from Colorado’s culture.  Thus, when, she told Nicole and I about the nearby town of Yellow Springs, she said it was an interesting place to visit if you can stomach all the hippies.  Hippies?  I live 30 minutes away from Boulder, probably the world’s largest commune!  Oh, yeah; I can manage a few hippies.  They may be a rarity in Ohio but they flourish in my neck of the woods.  So, we piled into my aunt’s car to see what the town was all about.

We arrived in downtown Yellow Springs, parked the car, and ventured out into the community.  It only took a few glances to realize Yellow Springs isn’t just a hippie hot-spot when compared to the rest of Ohio; hell, compare it to 1967 Haight-Ashbury and it’ll still retain it’s free-love street cred!  On one side of the street you have a New Age store selling Wiccan memorabilia and on the other side there’s a grizzled old granola selling obviously-homemade slogan t-shirts on the sidewalk (we had to ask him politely not to recite his poetry to us).  Even the trees along the sidewalk, wearing black armbands featuring anti-lumber industry quotations, are radicals.  Indeed, Yellow Springs earns its groovy reputation. 

Being the beer folks we are, we ducked into the nearest liquor store and perused their wares.  I picked up Two Brothers Brewing Co. Outlaw India Pale Ale and a tallboy of Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co.’s Kentucky IPA.  Those were nice finds but Nicole picked up the real gem; I’ll let her talk more about that later in this post.
Yellow Springs Brewery

As I looked around at the general funkiness of my surroundings I thought, as I often do, that the one thing’s that missing from this fabulously free-loving community is a good brewery.  On a whim, I pulled out my BreweryMap app (yep, another plug for them; seriously, it’s a great resource) and, lo and behold, Yellow Springs Brewery was less than a quarter mile from our location! 

Coming up on Yellow Springs Brewery, the average Denver beer geek would have difficulty not drawing connections between it and Strange Brewing Company.  A tiny, white building tucked away in an industrial zone?  That description fits both breweries quite accurately.

Once inside, one might notice that, while mostly lacking in windows, the taproom is nonetheless bright and lively with activity; friends chatting over a pint, people admiring the bottle cap artwork, and bartenders slinging craft to thirsty patrons.  Granted, the bare cinder block walls add much to the din but, even hidden in the nitty-gritty section of an obscure town, Yellow Springs Brewery—like any craft brewery worth a darn—is a friendly place where people meet in comfort over a good brew.

Inside Yellow Springs Brewery
Inside Yellow Springs Brewery
We ordered a sample tray featuring Captain Stardust Saison (6.5% ABV), Springer cream ale (5.4% ABV), Goat’s Eye Belgian pale ale (6% ABV), and Breaking Edge American IPA (6.9% ABV).  They were all quite good but, perhaps surprisingly to those who know me as a proponent for complex brews, the simple Springer was my favorite.  There’s nothing wrong with a clean, straight-forward beer on a summer day; I’ll never stop harping on the wonders of a boundary-pushing beer but that doesn’t mean I can’t have simple pleasures, too.
Left to right: Captain Stardust, Springer, Goat's Eye, & Breaking Edge

After drinking our tray dry, we bade farewell to Yellow Springs and holed up in my aunt’s guest room for the night.  That was a brief rest; early next morning we continued through eastern Ohio, across a finger of West Virginia, and arrived in the Pittsburgh suburb of West Mifflin to, once again, sate my geeky passion for roller coasters at Kennywood.

Sky Rocket, the newest coaster at Kennywood
As I attempted in the previous post, I’ll try to prevent myself from getting off on a tangent with the amusement park stories.  It’s an off-topic subject for a beer blog.  I will say, however, that while Kennywood continues to be updated with new attractions, the heart-and-soul of the park is its older rides—three of their coasters were built in the 1920s!  Sure, I love my new, hi-tech scream machines but there’s something therapeutic, meditative, and—dare I say—spiritual about enjoying a ride that’s transcended many generations.  These rides connect us to the past.  They’re probably the only means of experiencing life (albeit for only about two minutes) exactly as it was for our ancestors; you feel the same jolts, dips, and swerves on Jack Rabbit that riders felt nearly 100 years ago.  Like another Keystone State classic, Yuengling, Kennywood is long-lived and holds a special place in every Pennsylvanian’s heart. 

The new and the old: Phantom's Revenge (green) & Thunderbolt (white)
Riding coasters makes you thirsty; after leaving the park, Nicole did some research on the local beer scene and came across a brewery with an interesting name.  We punched the coordinates into the GPS and drove into Pittsburgh.

I can only comment on what I saw and I’m not just trying to be mean and I’m certainly not saying anything that’s never been said before but Pittsburgh is, well, not the most uplifting city in the world; soot and dilapidated houses abound and, as if to drive home the dismal point, it also happened to be raining.  If one is not iron-willed, it’s easy to lose hope.  And where do the discouraged typically turn in their hour of need?  Usually, either to religion or to the bottom of a pint glass.  Thanks to The Church Brew Works, one doesn’t have to choose!

Holy brewery, Batman!
As the name might imply, The Church is located within an old church.  No need to worry about catching a lightning bolt to the head, though, because according to the waitress the space had been desanctified thus to drink within its walls is not an affront to God.  Then again, it was a Catholic church and, speaking as somebody raised in that faith, I doubt many worshippers would find anything sinful about alcohol in an active church, even.  WWJD?  He turned water into wine, did he not?  The Church is just turning water into beer.

This isn’t any modern, suburban place of worship resplendent with aluminum siding, either.  No, this is a cathedral; sweeping lines that bring your eyes up to heavens, majestic stained-glass windows washing the congregation in a divine light, and the apse now housing brewing equipment that seems to emanate an aura of peace and happiness.  The once St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church can make even the most atheistic beer geek feel a deific tingle.

Nicole and I took a seat on one of the modified pews and ordered a Pipe Organ Pale Ale served on cask with orange peel.  This delightful English pale ale tasted a lot like a lavender Kӧlsch homebrew I made last year (which I brought to the Indy BBC).  Pipe Organ did not have any lavender in it but it’s interesting how different ingredients can produce similar flavors. 

When we left The Church, it was raining harder than when we had entered but, somehow, it actually seemed a little brighter.  The rain was no longer a symbol of gloom but that of a baptismal cleanse.  The city was born anew, revived.  There’s hope to be found in The Almighty and, judging by the number of breweries that have rejuvenated their once-plighted neighborhoods, there’s hope to be found in craft beer, too.  Do not pity Pittsburgh for, like the once crime-riddled LoDo in Denver, there are breweries doing their part to instill pride and faith in the citizens.  Rise!  Rise, from your factory-laden past, Pittsburgh, and embrace the gospel of craft beer!



That gem Chris referred to when we were in Yellow Springs is 21st Amendment Brewery’s Hell or High Watermelon wheat beer.  Long before Chris and I even met—when I drank a limited amount of craft brews—I saw an ad for the beer in a food magazine.  Of course, I headed right to the liquor store, searching for it.  Sadly, 21st Amendment does not distribute to Colorado.

I largely forgot about Hell or High Watermelon until I had it at Great American Beer Festival.  I was hooked after the first sip; this beer is great for sitting on the porch on a sunny summer afternoon.  I’m sure many of you have memories of eating watermelon as a kid (complete with sticky juice dribbling down your chin).  Well, this is like biting into a slice of watermelon but for adults only!  It has a crisp, clean flavor followed by a punch of watermelon aftertaste.

When we visited Ashville, North Carolina last summer, I was excited to learn I may be able to find and purchase the delicious, fermented liquid.  However, both stores we visited had already sold their last box; my efforts were thwarted!

I assumed I’d be able to scrounge up the beer in San Diego where we’ll be traveling in September for my cousin’s wedding.  I did not, however, expect to find it in—of all places—Yellow Springs, Ohio.  I glanced over the cans and bottles that lined the shelves at Emporium Wines and the Underdog Café, seeing a bunch of local IPAs Chris might enjoy, but I wasn’t paying much attention until Chris stared at me and pointed to something amidst the myriad of selection.  When I saw those two boxes of Hell or High Watermelon, I felt like I’d won the lottery!  I quickly grabbed both boxes and ran to the cash register.  The clerk had no idea how excited I was to be making this purchase—he sees those beers every day—but, for me, it represented a years-long quest finally completed. 


Cap art at Yellow Springs Brewery (yes, it's inside an old drawer)

Look, it shows a little Colorado love with the Breckenridge Brewery caps (uh, and Coors Light, too, I guess)

Phantom's Revenge