"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!

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

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