Category: Travel

The voice mail announcing Las Vegas as the location of our national business meeting struck terror in my heart: I don’t gamble, it’s a 5.5 hr flight from NYC and I can’t sit still for that long, I have no need for a Girl Delivered To My Room In Only 20 minutes!, and gasp, I might have to go without a good beer for 5 days. Egads. I sucked it up and came up with a plan. I would have precious little free time at the meeting and would only be able to check out the places within very close distance, walking or cabbing, to Caesar’s Palace, my base for the week. New York, New York casino.JPG I looked up craft beer places online, created a Google Map, and studied the public transportation options – I was ready! After the long Monday morning flight, I had a few hours before the opening session that evening and I was thirsty. Out the front of Caesars, through the Flamingo, onto the monorail, down 2 stops to the MGM Grand, through the casino, across the street, and I was at my destination in no time. New York, New York, home of the new craft beer bar, Pour 24. Things were looking up already as the bar is right inside the southernmost door off the strip, no traipsing through the entire casino to get to it, a big plus in Vegas.

Pour 24.JPGI settled myself at the bar and asked for the beer menu. I was given a steel covered book which contained all of the drafts and bottles, some nice beer quotes and offered several flight combinations, nice. I ordered up a custom flight of 4 and got out my little notebook. Let’s start with the pros: 24 taps, 14 of which don’t make it to New York (woohoo!), a large rectangular bar topped with cobalt blue geode slices under a thick layer of resin, about 30 comfortable backed and padded chairs surrounding the bar, free paper cones of sweet or spicy mixed nuts, a striking ice covered tap tower and educated bartenders. Yes, they all attended a 7 day school before they started, trying all of the beers, evaluating the aroma, flavor, and other aspects of each, and learning the finer aspects of craft beer. Well done! The major drawback taps at Pour 24.JPGof the bar is the atmosphere – it’s loud and exposed and rather ugly. The front of the bar is a major inroad of the whole place, with a mall-like feel it’s flowing with tourists and contains tacky gift shops, a magic shop with crazy sounds emanating from it on a regular basis, and the boisturous Coyote Ugly which provides the ever-present loud crappy rock music. The back of the bar overlooks the casino one floor down. The other con is that the beers are served a tad cold.

None of this distracted me from enjoying my flight of Alaskan ESB, Firestone Double Barrel Ale, Big Sky Moose Drool, and New Belgium 1554, served in 6 oz mini pilsner glasses for $14.00. 16 oz. drafts are either $6 or $6.50, depending on the beer and you can get flights of 5 for $16.50 or 6 for $19. beer flight at Pour 24.JPG The also stock bottled beer, including about 10 craft, most costing $5.50. I found those very reasonable prices for good beer in Vegas. My bartender was kind enough to give me a freebie and I finished with the Breckenridge Vanilla Porter, a perfect dessert beer finish to my first craft beer excursion in Vegas. He also told me that they are adding a new restaurant directly underneath the bar on the casino level that will share taps, something to look forward to should I find myself in Vegas again.
I highly recommend Pour 24 to any craft beer lover staying on the strip – the 24 taps, accessible location, and friendly bartenders make this bar a must.

Beer Travel

thursday-signs.jpgI recently traveled with four friends to Portland, Oregon on a beer trip. Three of us (Slander, Ken, & me) flew in late Wednesday night. I watched the movie American Beer on my Mac on the plane – a very entertaining film that I highly recommend all craft beer lovers watch. Check out the website for a clip. It was the perfect way to start a beer trip. baron-brews.jpgDavo met us at the hotel (as he had been beering it up in California and Seattle for the previous 5 days) with two chilled bottles from Baron Brewing Company in Seattle. The Helles Bock and Uber-Weisse weizenbock were both very nice – and perfect after the 5 1/2 hour flight! I preferred the helles, which was very clean with a nice caramel-toffee maltiness, lightly sweet, bittering a bit at the end – quite refreshing. The weizenbock was quality, but a bit too smoky for my particular tastes (I really respect the smoked beers, but just don’t love them). Our friend Jon picked us up the next day for our pub crawl. johns-marketplace-outside.jpgWe started at John’s Marketplace, a beer/wine/grocery store. johns-marketplace-inside.jpgI had brought my friend Warren’s beer suitcase (a brilliant piece of luggage for anyone travelling with beer or wine or liquor) and filled it up with West Coast beers that can’t be found in NYC. We also picked up a few bottles to enjoy at the hotel, of course.

old-lompoc-outside.jpg Back in the car and on to our first brewpub, New Old Lompoc. Located in Portland’s Northwest district, the current New Old Lompoc has been open since 2000 and brewing beer since 1996. old-lompoc-mosaic.jpgUpon entering, a beautiful hop mosaic (created by one of the bartenders) above the bar caught my eye. We sat in the room to the right of the bar area – bare wood floors, casual chairs, tables, and booths, old pictures and ads on the walls, and a high shelf lined with beer bottles give this brewpub a comfortable, laid back feel. old-new-lompoc-inside.jpgSlander and I split the sampler (key to making it through an all-day brewpub crawl)new-old-lompoc-sampler.jpg NOL brews eight of their own beers and features six guest tap. The sampler was $6.50 and included the seven in-house beers available and one guest, Caldera Dry Hop Orange. Our friendly waitress gave also gave us a sample of the Caldera Pilsener Bier. We tried the Fool’s Golden Ale, Parliament Red, Sockeye Cream Stout, Condor Pale Ale, Centennial IPA, Lompoc Strong Draft(LSD), and the C-Note. All excellent, but my favorites were the Sockeye (creamy, roasty, sweet, very smooth), the Condor (citrusy, biscuity, subtle yet tasty), and the LSD (malty, toasty, some smoke in the back, complex yet easy to drink). Both Caldera’s were also good. new-old-lompoc-hop-vines.jpgSlander and I split the French Dip(eating a bit at every place, another key to my lasting all-day), which was quite tasty – the gorgonzola used adds a whole new dimension. The house-made lemon basil vinaigrette on the accompanying salad was delicious. I admired the spacious back deck after I finished and the wall of hop vines growing back there. New Old Lompoc is a must for a Portland brewpub crawl.

luckylabradorinside.jpgLucky Labrador Brew Hall was a short walk. The brew hall is a large, garage-style space, with a very long back counter where you order and pick up your beer and food. luckylabchalkboard.jpgA terrific hand-drawn chalkboard behind the counter displays the beers available. 1/4 pint samples are $1.25 each – Slander and I ordered five and took a seat at the family-style tables. We tried the Hellesaurus Rex, Crazy Ludwig’s Alt, Stumptown Porter, Wheat Stout, 5-ton Strong, Bike Route Rye, and Triple Threat on nitro (thanks to Jon for sharing). luckylaboutsideseating.jpgMy favorites were the Hellesaurus (sweet maltiness, a bit grainy, clean), the 5-ton (intense citrus/pine/floral hoppiness and sweet clean maltiness in the aroma and flavor), and the Triple Threat (all piney/citrusy hoppiness with some sweet maltiness to back it up). A bowl of roasted peanuts was eaten. Lucky Lab also has a side room with more seating and a nice outside area (complete with hop vines and recycled keg planters). Darts are available as well as a few board games. A cool place.

laurelwoodoutside.jpgAnother short walk brought us to Laurelwood NW Public House. laurelwoodchalkboard.jpgSet in a lovely house built in 1902 with wood floors, a fireplace, natural lighting, and a great color scheme (golds, oranges, brick reds) the public house is a cheerful, charming place. A hand-written chalkboard by the bar displays the available beers (brewed at their other two locations). Slander and I again split the sampler, 8 beers for $8.00. laurelwood-sampler.jpgWe enjoyed the Mother Lode Golden, Ettinger Amber Bier, Organic Free Range Red, Organic Tree Hugger Porter, Space Stout, Hooligan Brown, Piston Pale Ale, and Boss IPA. laurelwoodbar.jpgAll were excellent, but my favorites were the Hooligan Brown (toasty melanoidins with coffee in the back), Tree Hugger (toasty with some roast, malty, bittering a bit at the end), and Space Stout (roasty coffee aroma and flavor, dry, licorice in the back). laurelwood-upper-deck.jpgWe also enjoyed an order of the garlic fries (delicious). The Public House also has an upstairs seating area with an outdoor balcony as well as a front deck. The service was excellent. Laurelwood is another must when in Portland.

amnesia-outside.jpgA drive across the river brought us to Amnesia Brewing. amnesia-inside.jpg
Set in a converted warehouse, Amnesia’s high ceilings, wood bar, chalkboards, and varnished picnic tables under a large outside tent give it an eclectic and laid-back vibe. We again split the sampler and took a seat outside. We drank the ESB, Summer Ale, Dusty Trail Pale, Desolation IPA, Copacetic IPA, plus the Laurelwood Porter, as they were out of theirs.amnesia-welcome-sign.jpg All were drinkable, but we found them to be quite similar in taste. My favorites were the ESB (more hoppy than a traditional one) and the Copacetic (Amarillo goodness). We also shared a hearty sausage appetizer, which included 2 sausages cooked on the outdoor grill, bread, cheese, and pickles. I was digging the board welcoming Oregon Brew Fest attendees (especially since we were going the next day). Amnesia has free wi-fi and an altogether chill feel.

roots-inside1.jpgroots-outside.jpgOur last brewpub of the day was the all-organic Roots Brewing Company. Decorated in the spirit of the islands, Roots has green walls hung with interesting artwork and island memorabilia, a wood bar with mini-surfboards for taps, and picnic tables – yet another cool place! Surprise – we split the sampler, 7 for $7.00. We supped the Gruit Kolsch, Burghead Heather Ale, Island Red, Exxxcalibur Stout, Roots Rye, Woody IPA, and Snake Bite. roots-sampler.jpgroots-mosaic.jpgAll were quite good, favorites were the Gruit (all herb/spice in the nose and on the tongue, ta-sty) and the Roots Rye (nicely spicy). Slander and I split the jerk rubbed smoked pork wrap, yum. Roots brews on-premises in side and back rooms. A marvelous place – free wi-fi, unusual beer styles executed well, all organic beers and good food. Another must-hit Portland brewpub.

horse-brass-outside.jpgHorse Brass Pub was our next destination. horse-brass-inside2.jpgWow – walking in, I felt like I was back in London (it reminded me a bit of Market Porter, actually). This is a fascinating place – the walls and ceiling practically drip with English paraphanalia, the L-shaped wood bar is massive, it’s a big place with a completely cozy feeling. Very English and way cool. Horse Brass features 55 taps and 5 cask ales. I ordered a glass of the Caldera Exotic Erotic Passion Fruit Ale (I needed something light at that point) – quite nice, very refreshing with a natural passion fruit I also tasted Slander’s Walking Man Cherry Stout, Full Sail’s Son of Spot IPA, and Ninkasi Brewing’s Total Damnation IPA (we’re a sharing group). I didn’t order food here, but shared Ken’s Fish & Chips and Davo’s Scotch Egg. Everything was good. Yeah, you guessed it, another must-see.

belmont-station-outside.jpg A few blocks over to Belmont Station, which previously resided next door to Horse Brass. Belmont is both a beer bar and store. belmont-inside.jpg We entered via the bar room, and I promptly ordered the New Belgium Eric’s Lips of Faith Sour Peach (oh, yeah, a beautiful sour ale). Belmont Station has four drafts in the cafe and over 800 bottled beers and ciders, as well as wine and sake, in the store – an impressive place. We wandered around for a bit, picking up a few more bottles and some English chocolates. Nifty place.

concordia-outside.jpgconcordia-bar-area.jpgConcordia Ale House was our last stop of the evening. We walked into a room that felt a little like a giant shoebox, then back into the sophisticated yet intimate bar area. The high ceiling and shelves of extra tap handles on the right wall are nice touches. We chose our beer (22 taps and a lot of bottles in a glass-front cooler behind the bar) concordia-tap-handles.jpgand retired to the the long and narrow side game room (pool tables and several arcade games). I chose the Deschutes 19th Anniversary Golden Ale, their first Belgian-style ale. concordia-beer-cooler.jpgI found it imperfect but drinkable, a nice fresh fruitiness but a lot of alcohol heat and a bit rough around the edges, concordia-pool-room.jpgwhich will probably change with age (everyone else either liked it or hated it, interestingly). I ordered the enticing mussels appetizer (the rest of the food menu looked equally tempting) and ate while the guys played games. Sated, stuffed, and completely satisfied with the Portland pub scene, we headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

New Old Lompoc
1616 NW 23rd Ave

Open M-Sat 11 am-1 am, Sun 11 am-midnight

2 other Portland locations: The Hedge House and 5Q

Lucky Labrador Brew Hall
1945 NW Quimby

Open M 11am-10 pm, Tu-Sat 11 am-midnight, Sun noon-10 pm

2 other Portland locations: Lucky Lab Brew Pub and Lucky Lab Public House

Laurelwood NW Public House
2327 NW Kearney St

M-Sun 11 am-11 pm

2 other Portland locations: Laurelwood Public House & Brewery and Laurelwood Pizza Co

Amnesia Brewing
832 N Beech St

M-Thu 2 pm-11 pm, F-Sun noon-midnight

Roots Brewing Company
1520 SE 7th
Portland, Oregon

M-Th 3 pm-11 pm, F 3 pm-midnight, Sat noon-1 am, Sun noon-10 pm

Horse Brass Pub
4534 SE Belmont

M-F 11 am-2:30 am, Sat & Sun 10 am-2:30 am

Belmont Station
4500 SE Stark St

store hours: M-W 10 am-10 pm, Th-Sat 10 am-11 pm, Sun noon-9 pm
cafe hours: M-W noon-10 pm, Th-Sat noon-11 pm, Sun noon-9 pm

Concordia Ale House
3276 NE Killingsworth St

M-F 11:30 am-2:30 am, Sat 9 am-2:30 am, Sun 9 am-midnight

(All in Portland, Oregon)

Beer Travel

crackwaffle.jpgWell, I did get my waffle but not my nap as I wandered the campsites taking photos and chatting with people Saturday evening and into the night. The waffle makers were Waffle Cabin (formerly Waffle Haus) and the waffles were delicious! A few more highlights of the tasting session: brian-of-sly-fox.jpg Brian O’Reilly, head brewer at SlyFox, pouring the new Incubus, a “tripel in the Abbot style, Jeff O’Neill, head brewer at Ithaca Beer Company, pouring the White Gold (the AbbeyIPA had kicked by the time I got around to the booth, bummer), chatting with Chuck Cook (beer writer and all-around-good-guy), jeff-of-ithaca.jpgtasting Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche (which they were running through a Randell packed with fresh peaches) and Iron Hill Brewery’s F. Red (thanks to my friend Ray for sharing the last two). matthewsteinberg.jpg The first of my wandering after the tasting took me to the Offshore Ale campsite. I met Matthew Steinberg, the head brewer at Offshore for only 3 weeks longer (Joe Cleinman will be taking over after that). Matthew has brewed at John Harvard’s Cambridge and Concord Rapscallion in the past and will now be brewing at Mayflower Brewing Company in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Matthew is taking delivery of a brand-new 20-barrel brewhouse in mid-September and hopes to release beers by mid-November. He will be brewing “classical brews with historical significance”. The first beer out will probably be a pale ale with hope of an old ale after that. Good luck on your new venture, Matthew! I hope to visit in future travels. I tried the Offshore Hop Goddess Belgian IPA before I left, a nice beer at 6.9% ABV, 69 IBUs, and an OG of 1.069, “cunning and blatant and hopped with a heavy hand” and met the Hop Goddess herself. blind-tiger-crew.jpgI next chatted with the Blind Tiger crew and friends (looking appropriately laid back in the photo, huh?) and moved on to the Troegs/Iron Hill/Southampton/Captain Lawrence area. chris-of-troegs1.jpg Chris Brugger, brewer at Troegs Brewing Company, poured me a Scratch beer #3, a tripel. Chris has been with Troegs for 8 years. This is the 10th Anniversary of Troegs (Congrats!) and they are brewing a special beer about once a month or so in celebration. These are beers that were originally pilot brews or recipes that never quite made it to liquid form (but written on scratch pads and saved, hence the name). They are brewed in 25 barrel single batches and are only available at the brewery. About 150 cases worth will be bottled and the rest will be on draft at the brewery for events and growler sales. Scratch #1 was a California Common and #2 a hoppy porter. I missed those, unfortunately, but was really glad to try #3 – if you live near the brewery, be sure to check it out! Oh, and possible future scratch beers: a barleywine, bitter, and dunkelweizen. Chris also had Naked Elf on tap. spence-and-brian.jpgspence-and-brian2.jpgNaked Elf is the Mad Elf with no honey or cherries and a slightly lower ABV (7%). The Naked Elf is a one-time beer available on draft only (although future seasonal production might be possible). Nearby, Spencer Niebuhr of Southampton, and Brian of Sly Fox were up to shenanigans. ryan.jpg No bullying needed to get me to try the new Southampton tripel! Spence’s brother, Ryan, was nearby living it up. I headed back to my own campsite to put on jeans (it was getting a bit chilly) and take a breather. post-fest-group2.jpgMy campmates were chowing down on grilled burgers and dogs (thanks to Ed) and taking it easy. I headed up the big hill behind the brewery and fest tents to check out the sunset (it’s true, I have a hard time sitting still). The music was going strong in the big tent – they had some outstanding musicians during the day and into the night. I met some very nice people on the way down, including a fellow Brooklynite. post-fest-group.jpg The folks next to us were living it up – screen house with strung lantern lights and quite the feast. post-fest-tent.jpg I met a lot of very kind and generous people at the fest – lots of sharing of food and beverages! Back to our area, where I broke out the s’mores and tasted the tasty new imperial porter that Victory is brewing using the Heavyweight recipe (as yet to be named). Tom Baker had very generously given a growler to Steve to bring to up. Hopefully, it will be released for public consumption soon! I ended the night hanging out with friends and enjoying more beer (and a little of the absolutely beautiful single-barrel Four Roses bourbon that Larry shared with me). A fabulous day.

Beer Travel

saturday-tent.JPGsteve-from-3-floyds.JPGAh, where to begin? Beautiful weather, great company, way too much really good beer… The festival started at 2, so many good breweries and beer, live music, more good food. I’ll hit some highlights now and get a bit more in-depth when I get home (and sober up, ya know). I started with a Lost Abbey Devotion Ale – a Belgian blonde dry hopped with Northern Brewer hops, niiiice. Around to the 3 Floyds booth – Steve (whom I had met at the Extreme Beer Fest in Boston in February, back when he was brewing for The Tap) was representing with the Gorm Noir – a Brussels Style Black Ale – fermented at 80 degrees, spiced with coriander, cardamom, and an African relative of cumin. Really interesting, in an all too good way. Honestly, I’ve never had a bad 3 Floyds. Oh, a disclaimer… I concentrated on the breweries and beers that I don’t normally see in New York City. Southampton, Ithaca, Sly Fox, Captain Lawrence, and many more of my local favorites are here representing very well. saturday-shaun.JPGBack to my faves… a few months ago I attended the Connecticut Real Ale Fest (also a very nice festival) and met a guy named Shaun who was trying to start a brewery. Well, he’s here and brewing some absolutely outstanding beers. Shaun E Hill is his proper name and he is building a brewery from the ground up at his family farm in Greensboro, Vermont. He’s planted 100 hop vines and is aiming for a “diversified agricultural farmstead brewery”. The name will be Hill Farmstead Brewery and it will hopefully be open in March of 2008. I started with the very nice Terra Madre Spring Saison, brewed with hand-cut dandelions, hand-picked lilac flowers, and honey. Really good, and interesting to boot. Next up, the Seraphin “Saison of the Highest Order”, 6% ABV, a wild saison, also very tasty. Last was the Black Star Stout, a very nice (yeah, I need better descriptives…) Belgian-style stout. I was very impressed with Shauns’ beers and am looking forward to trying more. It’s always exciting to see a new craft brewery! saturday-bullfrog.JPGMoving on to Boulevard Brewery and their George Brett beer. A bretted saison – yeah! They had the ’06 and the ’07 – both nice, although very different, as you would expect. The ’06 was all farmhouse funk, while the younger ’07 was a nice saison with just a touch of funk. Both good. I’d had several recommendations for Bullfrog at this point – how could I resist? I grabbed a glass of the tasty Sour Black & Blues – aged in a 2nd generation Bourbon barrel (which had previously been inoculated with a wild yeast) – oh yeah, nicely fruity, sour, funky – everything I love in a beer. Bullfrog is a brewpub located in Pennsylvania. Terry, the brewer, and Nate, the assistant brewer, are doing a fine job – they told me they generally keep 9-12 beers on tap and have a barrel cellar downstairs with about 6 beers aging at a time. A Pennsylvania beer trip is definitely in my future. saturday-lunch.JPG Sustenance was badly needed at this point. Red Lion Vending & Catering was selling lunch on one side of the tent. Steve & I had sliced prime rib sandwiches ($8 each) with a side of fries ($3). Wow – I’ve had a lot of fest food and this really was some of the best. saturday-cambridge.JPG Another brewery I’d been hearing great things about – Cambridge Brewing Company. I had had several of their outstanding beers at the Extreme Beer Fest and was happy to revisit. The Cerise Cassee (barrel-fermented wild sour ale), the Tripel Threat, and the L’Amour du Jour were all fantastic (really, I’m not exaggerating, I didn’t have a bad beer all day). Will Meyers is the head brewer at Cambridge – I look forward to visiting next time I’m in Boston. saturday-will-shelton.JPG My last visit of the day was the Shelton Brothers table – Will Shelton was in attendance. I’d had a very nice Tsjeeses earlier and was back to try the Pannepot vs Pannepøt. I’ll be honest, my satiated palate could not detect a difference, but they were both good, a spicy brown sugar – carbonated, dry, and sweet – liquid candy!

I need a crack waffle (really, those crispy sweet Lieges waffles) and a nap. More coverage tomorrow….

Beer Travel

Ah, it’s finally here! Belgian Comes to Cooperstown at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York. This is one of the Northeast’s premier beer festivals. We had purchased tickets months ago. Attendance was limited this year – the 200 VIP tickets (at $120 a pop) sold out in a mere 5 days. We were lucky enough to buy early. $120 might sound like a lot, but it includes a VIP brewers dinner, a 750 ml bottle of the new Ommegeddon (being debuted at the festival), 2 Ommegeddon glasses, Friday and Saturday night camping and admission to the Saturday beer tasting (which includes both Belgian beer and American-brewed Belgian style beer). Quite the deal, really.friday-ratebeer-tent.JPG We arrived a little after 3 yesterday afternoon.  It’s cloudy, extremely windy, cool, and now it’s raining – not a great weather start, but we’re kids in a candy store regardless.  We headed for the check-in table and received our yellow wristband and Chouffe hats.  Up to the campsite, got the tent up and staked (cause it is really windy!), and headed over to a friend’s shelter. The beer was flowing – way too many to list, but highlights include Russian River Temptation batch 2, a mini-keg of Bell’s Oberon, several New Glarus and lots more tasty treats. friday-night-apps.JPGWe mosied down to the big tent at 7 for appetizers and drinks. What a spread! Mixed salamis, pate, 2 cheeses – a hop cheese and a beer-washed cheese, and veggies. The bar was directly across: pouring Duvel, the brand new Ommegeddon, and McChouffe. friday-night-bar.JPG We found a seat with friends and started munching. There were eye-catching menus at each place setting listing the courses and the suggested beer pairings. The first course was Big John’s locally-made Ommegang beer brats served with a red cabbage salad. The brats were fantastic! friday-night-menu.JPGNext up was a Belgian endive salad with Ommegang beer dressing. The mussels and frites served next were fantastic – the frites were hot, crisp and fresh. Hellman’s mayonnaise was on the tables to dip in. Oh – all the food was brought out from the cooking tent behind in large bowls or platters to be passed around family style. friday-night-long-table.JPG The main course was roasted stuffed pork, pork bellies stuffed with liverwurst, oven-roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts. The pork was amazing – and served with a scrumptious gravy (like mom used to make, you know?) and a plum sauce. The gravy was so good I was tempted to lick my plate clean! Really. Next out were plates of cheese and fruit followed by dessert – puff pastry served with vanilla ice cream and a berry sauce. The perfect end to a tasty meal. Brewery Ommegang really went above and beyond the with quality and quantity of food – three cheers! Oh, and you might be wondering about the beer pairings, right? Between every 6 or so place settings was a trough of beer. Rodenbach red, Rodenbach Grand Cru, Maredsous 10, Ommegang Witte, Three Philosophers, Hennepin, Rare VOS, and the Abbey. friday-night-beer-troughs.JPGMultiple bottles of each – enough for everyone to pair the proper beer with each course. And, of course, McChouffe, Duvel, and the Ommegeddon were available at the front bar – no shortage of beer! The very special Ommegang Kriek (“Don’t ask, it isn’t for sale at any price”, stated the menu) was passed around with the dessert course – the crowning cap to the meal. Back to the campsite for more beer, lively conversation, cigars for some, and eventually to bed. I hydrated well, so I woke up quite cheerful this morning. It’s cleared up and is warm – the perfect weather! A nice hot shower was had (again, props to Ommegang!) a bit of Dogfish Head Festina Lente, and I was good to go. More later….
(and thanks to Eric, Ommegang’s IT guy for hooking me up to the net!)

Beer Travel

Worked the morning and headed to C’est What for lunch with 2 coworkers. Neglected to take a photo, but it is located in the basement of a building. Lots of brick, wood chairs, laid-back joint. They were out of their Homegrown Hemp Ale, unfortunately (well, I’ve never had a beer brewed with hemp) so I had the Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale. A drinkable ale, not overly interesting. C’est What has a diverse menu – my coworkers enjoyed the Moroccan Stew while I had the best poutine I have ever eaten. I hit the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) near my hotel and picked some beers to take home (a 6-pack of McAuslan’s St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout and a couple of 650 ml bottles from Trafalgar, basically everything interesting they had). Out for a bit of non-beery shopping and then back to the hotel to meet up with coworkers for dinner. It was raining cats & dogs, which made it quite easy to convince everyone that we needed to go to the close-by BiermarktBiermarkt outside for dinner and drinks. We sat at one of the large picnic tables in the back. Several of us ordered the Ale sampler: McAuslan Pale Ale, Affligem Blond, DeKonnick Amber, Delirium Tremens, Leffe Brune. There was also an Around the World sampler and a Belgian sampler. 8 oz samples of each, a bit ridiculous really. We shared some tasty appetizers and I had the mussels for dinner – not bad. Biermarkt has 38 drafts and over 90 bottles & cans from around the world. Biermarkt insideIt’s a large space with a stone & chrome bar. There are banquettes, tall tables & 3 large white paper-covered picnic tables in the bar area. Other table seating is located throughout the restaurant as well as outdoors. The lighting is low, candles are scattered throughout, large copper columns add interest and there’s a faux store-front, complete with etched glass windows with fabric awnings above on one wall. Hip kind of place, although not as focused on Canadian beers as many of the other bars I’ve visited. We wandered to the Irish bar next door, Fionn MacCools, apparently owned by the same owners as Biermarkt. And here was the score for the evening – bottles of Hoegaarden Grand Cru and Forbidden Fruit, unavailable in the NYC area (and I’ve been told anywhere in the US, although maybe that will be changing as the bartender told me it was a very recent addition to their beer menu). The Grand Cru was delish, with a sweet, honey, orange, spicy nose and a full mouthfeel, with more sweet honey, orange, and spiciness in the taste. The Forbidden Fruit was tasty as well. A perfect beer finish to a great little trip.

C’est What
67 Front St East (corner of Church)
nearest station: Union, walk east on Front StBiermarkt
58 The Esplanade
nearest station: Union, walk east on Front St, south on Yonge, then east on Esplanade

Fionn MacCools
70 The Esplanade
same directions as Biermarkt

Beer Travel

Worked all day. Upon exiting the convention center, I noticed a brick building with Steam Whistle Brewing Steam Whistlein big letters. Brewing? Hmm, that’s not one of the ones on my list. Let’s go check it out. I dragged two coworkers along. We walked into the crowded doorway and were handed 2 tasting tickets. Walked up to the bar and were given 2 plastic cups of Steam Whistle, Canada’s Premium Pilsner. They went down easy enough – a smooth, refreshing pilsner, and were on our way back to the hotel to change for dinner (group dinner: excellent steak, but alas, no decent beer).

After dinner, I headed to the distillery district and Mill Street Brewpub. There was a line to get a table, but plenty of seats at the bar. The bartender gave me a small sample of their kriek in a small plastic cup as I sat down. They don’t have a sampler, but the bartender was generous with the samples after I asked (in glass, instead of plastic). I had 11 drafts and 1 cask. I’ll highlight some of my favorites: the Tankhouse Ale was light amber and clear, with a floral, orange blossom, citrus aroma and the same flavor and a nice biscuity maltiness to back it up. The Coffee Porter was a dark brown, with a huge tight tan head, roasted coffee predominating in the nose, excellent roasted coffee tones, bittering slightly at the end, with a sweet maltiness underlying and rounding out the flavor profile. I found the Mill Street Pilsner to have a clean, grainy sweet aroma, same in the flavor with a bit of hop spice, a well-balanced pilsner. The ESB had biscuity maltiness in the aroma, with some herbal hoppiness as well. It was light-bodied, with a nice biscuity maltiness, bittering nicely at the end, quite balanced, with some clean sweetness. Their lightest offering is the Original Organic Lager, which I think is very cool – at least the light beer crowd is drinking organic at Mill Street. Mill Street barThe wood bar at Mill St seats about 13, set in a large lofty brick space. The brewing equipment is in a glassed-off area in the middle of the room, hockey was playing on the 2 flat screens in the bar area, with several more flat screens scattered throughout the restaurant. Pop music from the 60s to now was playing, and the lighting is diverse and relaxed. There’s also a retail store where you can buy beer and schwag. A comfortable place. And the Distillery District is very cool – lots of shops, galleries, restaurants, etc in a historic and interesting location.

Steam Whistle Brewing
The Roundhouse
255 Bremner Blvd
nearest station: Union, walk west on Front St, south on York, west on Bremner. You’ll see the Roundhouse at the end of the park.
Open noon-6 pm Monday-Saturday, noon-5 on Sunday

Mill Street Brewpub
55 Mill St, Bldg 63
Directions to the Distillery District can be found on their website.

Beer Travel

I’m in Toronto for work, flew in early to take in the beer scene. Toronto is only an hour flight from LaGuardia airport – easy! Landed around noon, checked into the hotel and my coworker Jeff and I walked up to beerbistro. BeerBistro I ordered a sampler, 3 100 ml beers for $6. I started with the St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout from McAuslan Brewery, which had a large creamy head and was an opaque black/brown color. The aroma was slightly sour, sweet and milk chocolate-y. It tasted creamy smooth, silky, with milk & dark chocolate flavors, a bit of tanginess midway, bittering out at the end, and very lightly fruity – delicious! Next up was King Brewery Dark Lager. This was dark brown, opaque, with a low/medium head. Aroma was sweet molasses and toast and the taste was as well – a very clean, malty lager. Last was Scotch Irish Major’s IPA, a bright gold clear pour with a white moussy head. A floral fresh fruit hoppiness in the nose and it tasted biscuity, with a herbal/floral hop character, bittering nicely but not overwhelmingly medium way through. Three tasty beers – my Toronto beer experience is off to a good start. Sampler at BeerBistro Jeff and I split a bottle of Church-Key Brewing Holy Smoke next. This beer was very cold, a clear, dark brown, with sweet, peaty characteristics. We found it highly carbonated – I unfortunately found it tasted like more like a smoked soda pop as it warmed up. Just not enough malt and body to balance the smoke for me. Oh, and the food – I had the Brussels Mussels (served with Cantillon sourdough bread) – quite tasty. Jeff had the smoked trout salad which he said was both savory and filling. We sopped up the mussel broth with the bread until there was no more – delish. The beerbistro has an urban w/homey touchesbar at BeerBistro (loved the silk hop vine draped around the top of the banquettes and windows) feel. High ceilings, a 7-seat curved bar with high tables in front and 4 super comfortable banquettes to the side. The large beer banners in the windows and beer posters on the walls are a nice touch. Inside BeerBistro They have 20 taps and around 90-100 bottles from around the world. The beer menu is broken down into different categories: quenching, crisp, appetizing, sociable, satisfying, bold, fruity, robust, spicy, soothing, contemplative, smoky. Each item on the food menu recommends a pairing category. This is great for easy pairing, but a bit confusing if you want to browse a certain style (like porter) or are looking for a particular beer. Lovely place – highly recommended. Jeff and I split up at this point, as he had friends to meet and I had a museum to visit and a pub crawl to do. I bought a day pass for the subway – $8.50 each. The subway is very clean and easy to maneuver – the perfect way to get around town. I took the subway to the Textile Museum of Canada (which was fabulous but completely unrelated to beer). After that, I walked to Smokeless Joe. Smokeless Joe outsideThey had 6 drafts: Durham Hop Addict, Durham ESB, Durham Blak Katt Stout, KLB Raspberry Wheat, Cameron’s Lager, and Konig Ludwig Weisse. I chose the Blak Katt Stout. Opaque black w/large creamy tan head, served too cold for an aroma unfortunately. Very creamy in mouthfeel – easy to drink – light roastiness, some bittering towards end, pretty smooth. Smokeless is a narrow space, with a wood bar seating 10 or so. There are additional small tables/counters at front and back of the room. Brick walls on the right and back and green chalkboards on the walls display drafts, new beers, specials. Smokeless insideThere’s an outdoor seating area in the front. The have at least 120 beers on the bottle list from around the world. They serve half pints and pints – no sampler. I didn’t eat here, but the menu has soups, salads, sandwiches, and mussels. A definite must on any Toronto pub crawl. Back to the subway and off to Outside of Bow and ArrowBow & Arrow. 24 taps and up to 3 casks, all Canadian. Ordered a half-pint of the Black Oak Pale. Clear, bright gold with a low head, nice fresh floral/fruity nose, highly carbonated (spritzy), very lightly bitter English-style pale. Lightly fruity and refreshing. The Bow & Arrow Inside bow and arrowhad a very English pub kind-of-feel – 10-seat U-shaped bar topped with green marble-looking stone, lots of wood tables, green padded stools, chairs and banquettes. There’s a floral-patterned carpet and wallpapered walls with lots of wood accents, etched mirrors – cozy place. There’s also a back deck, full food menu, multiple dining rooms, quite family friendly. Oddly, only 4 or 5 bottles of mainstream macros. I was greatly amused by this sign Pooper signin the women’s bathroom on my way out. Yep, back on the subway and onto The Rebel House. 17 drafts, mostly Ontario locals. I had a half-pint of the Neudstadt 10W30, which was a dark amber/copper, very low head, malty aroma, too cold past that. Nice malty flavor – dark caramel, dried fruitiness, nicely balanced, not too sweet, tasty. I sat at the slightly worn wood bar in a padded seat (of which there are 9). The big windows in front and back booths make this a very comfortable place. There’s a very popular backyard deck (with an hourlong wait when I was there) and a second bar and more seating upstairs. Bar at Rebel House My last stop of the night was Volo. I unfortunately neglected to take a photo, but it is a fantastic place. Bistro atmosphere, old-fashioned light (Victorianish) light fixtures, tin ceilings over the bar area, tile floor, with wood in the bar area, and padded stools and a couch in the bar area. Tables inside and sidewalk seating as well. There were beer and brewing magazines and books in the bar area to browse while you are partaking. 11 drafts and a huge bottle menu from around-the-world. And they offer a sampler – perfect. I had the Best Bitter Maple Porter, medium brown, clear, low head. Strong maple aroma and flavor. Sweet but not too much so – really quite nice. I also had the Church-Key Catch Her Rye, which, to be quite honest, I found peculiar. It had a very odd smell – definitely some type of herb or vegetable and it was very spicy in flavor, but more like a pepperoni pizza due to the lack of sweetness. Well, it was a bit sweet, but overall I found it quite odd – definitely worth the taste, but not for me. I then had the County Durham Hop Addict, an American-style IPA. A clear gold, with a nice hoppy aroma – citrus primarily. Nice citrus flavor, bitters midway to the end, remains on the palette, with enough malt to back it up, but definitely leaning towards the hop side. I met two fellow beer geeks at this point who introduced me to the delightful owners, Ralph and Ina. I snacked on an Ontario cheese plate and split a few bottles with the guys. I had the Yukon Midnight Sun Espresso Stout, the Black Oak Double Chocolate Cherry Stout, and the Scotch Irish Tsarina Katarina Imperial Stout. I wasn’t taking good notes at this point in the evening, but I assure you that I enjoyed all three and the company as well. Volo was the perfect end to my Toronto pub crawl.

18 King St East (at Yonge St)
nearest station: King St, can’t miss it upon exiting

Smokeless Joe
125 John St
nearest station: Osgoode, walk west down Queen St, turn south on John St, located on east side of street

Bow & Arrow
1954 Yonge St
nearest station: Davisville, walk north on Yonge, located on west side of street

Rebel House
1068 Yonge St
nearest station: Rosedale, cross Yonge and walk north, located on west side of street

587 Yonge St
nearest staton: Wellesley, walk north from station, located on east side of street

My Toronto beer map on Google

Toronto Transit Commission

Beer Travel