Bottle Logic 

Does anyone even care about beer right now? I’ve been stuck in a “What if? What if? What if?” cycle of doom and gloom for the past 48 hours. I need to think about something else, so I hope you don’t mind reading about something else.
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I spent last weekend in Huntington Beach, CA with my best friends Nikki and Paul. On Saturday Nikki planned an afternoon of brewery hopping in Anaheim. We started the day at Bottle Logic, recently named Best Orange County Brewery by the OC Weekly. We arrived right after opening, and were surprised to see an already-long line for beer. My one complaint about Bottle Logic comes now: they were significantly understaffed for a Saturday morning, with only one employee filling growlers,  serving flights, and selling bottles to go. Another employee served those sitting at the bar, but they needed at least two more people to keep things moving on what is probably their busiest day of the week.
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The long line did give us plenty of time to plan our flights, necessary considering the plethora of good options! The 20+ draft list included fruit-filled sours, creative pumpkin beers, a handful of IPAs, and a whole series of candy-infused beer for Halloween. I wanted to try everything!
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After thanking the remarkably unstressed bartender, we found a table on the patio and dived into our flights. Nikki and I started with Revenge of the Nerds, a blonde ale finished on Nerds candies. Everyone who knows us knows we have a shared love of candy. In college we used to dip lollipops into our cocktails! This fruity, mildly tart beer felt like it was brewed just for us.
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Another I enjoyed from the Halloween series was the Jolly Ranger, a West Coast-style IPA brewed with watermelon Jolly Ranchers. Watermelon was big in the beer world this summer, and I’ve found other IPAs with this fruit, (Ballast Point’s Watermelon El Dorado, for ex.) to be too sweet. It was pleasant in this take, with watermelon notes only appearing in the finish.
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Moving on to pumpkin brews, Paul ordered Picture if You Will…, a bourbon-barrel aged, 13% knockout. On the other end of the spectrum was my Pumpkin Chai— a nice take on a somewhat tired style. It copied the thin, slick body of chai tea and featured notes of cardamom, ginger and cinnamon, in addition to pumpkin.
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Of course I had to try the Double Actuator, their 9% ABV double IPA. It was deceptively light for the alcohol content, and filled with tropical hop flavor. It reminded me of a Northeast IPA! Even though this was one of the more standard offerings on the menu, it ended up being one of my favorites.

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I ended with the Cobaltic Porter, an 8% Baltic Porter that won gold at GABF in 2015. By this point Paul and I were definitely tipsy (Nikki was the DD), so my notes aren’t as good.  From what I can remember, dark fruit and roasted malt were the standout flavors. Alcohol was prominent too, but this could partly be from sitting in the sun for a bit.

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Uninspired by the food truck options at Bottle Logic, we moved on to our second stop: The Bruery! I’ll save that report for another day, but here’s a preview: huge draft list with every variation of sour/wild imaginable + borderline insane tour guide who pumped us full of beer start to finish.

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Stay safe, stay positive, and stay hopeful. If all else fails, stay drunk.
The Barley Babes love you.
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Zinzinnati

I spent last weekend in Cincinnati visiting my best friend, and loyal BBs reader, Haley! Cincinnati has a booming craft beer scene, and we packed as much Cincy beer as we could into my short trip.
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I arrived late on Friday night and we relaxed on Haley’s roof and enjoyed a couple cans of Rhinegeist Crash. Rhinegeist is probably Cincinnati’s most known craft brewery. The barely three-year-old operation has experienced enormous popularity and growth since opening in June 2013, and they just started expanding distribution to the East Coast. I really enjoyed the flavorful, easy drinking Crash pale ale. It has tropical hop notes, mild bitterness and a short, clean finish.
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On Saturday morning we went to yoga at the newly renovated Central Parkway YMCA and browsed at The City Flea. Our first beer stop of the day was Taft’s Ale House, named for 27th President, William Howard Taft. Taft’s is housed in a renovated Evangelical church. The enormous three floor space has a bar on each floor, tons of seating, a private events space, and a full food menu. We grabbed flights on the top floor (in the balcony?) and took a seat to discuss the important issues of the day. 😉
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Unfortunately they were out of Haley’s favorite beer: Snake in the Grass, a Belgian-style blonde brewed with lemongrass and local basil. I thought all the beers I tried were solid. My favorite was the Nellie’s Key Lime Caribbean Ale, described by Haley’s husband Andrew as “the craft version of a Bud Light Lime.”  It’s a wheat beer brewed with key lime juice and coriander. So refreshing!
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From Taft’s we walked to Rhinegeist, just half a mile up Elm Street. Rhinegeist was having their annual mini Oktoberfest inside, but we went straight to the rooftop bar–Haley and Andrew’s favorite in the city. Rhinegeist has a huge selection of beers and ciders on tap. I wish I could report on the rosé cider, but I only had eyes for beer! Andrew recommend Rhinegeist’s flagship IPA, Truth, the brewery’s most solid offering in his opinion. I wasn’t disappointed! Truth is packed with West Coast hops and effortlessly masks the 7.2% ABV. I also enjoyed Haley’s choice,  Chester, a dry saison brewed with sour cherries.
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The people-watching on the Rhinegeist roof is highly entertaining, but we finally tore ourselves away from lederhosen, bachelorettes, and dress-wearing runners to take in the view. Andrew and Haley pointed out all the old buildings being converted to swanky new apartment buildings and businesses. Like Bushwick, the landscape of Cincinnati is constantly changing, and understandably it hasn’t been without controversy.
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From Rhinegeist we took Cincy’s new street car back to the apartment for a little r&r. Haley and I made this delicious, extra crunchy, pistachio guacamole, and we had more skyline time on their balcony. The coolest sight on the balcony might be the outhouse Andrew built for their dog, Zoe! Do you recognize the material on the roof?? It’s covered in different varieties of Rhinegeist beer cans! Such a great idea. Reduce, reuse, rep great beer. 🙂
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The main event on Saturday evening was a trip to the Cincinnati Oktoberfest, the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany. We hopped back on the street car for a quick one mile trip downtown and emerged in a different world.
Although over half a million people turned out for “Oktoberfest Zinzinnati,” it wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded. We easily grabbed beers and found seats next to an Oom-pah band. Andrew got in touch with his German heritage, grooving along to the music, and even convinced Haley to get up and do the chicken dance with him (am I the only one who didn’t know it’s an Oktoberfest song??)
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Deciding that a lap was in order, we moseyed over to another band with a less traditional set list. An Oom-pah take on oldies and classic rock? You know we were into it. Another round of beers and we found ourselves in a Congo line sandwiched between a gaggle of very enthusiastic International students from the University of Cincinnati and a group of friendly middle-aged Midwesterners. It was one of those moments when you think, “How exactly did I get here?” but decide not to care because you’re having so much fun.
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We ended the evening on the swings at the Smale Riverfront Park, recapping the day and gazing out at the John Roebling Suspension Bridge. The bridge spans the Ohio river between Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky, and was built 30 years before Roebling started an even bigger project– the Brooklyn Bridge! When worlds collide, it’s a beautiful thing.
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Thank you, Haley and Andrew, for showing me such a good time in Cincinnati! I’m already thinking about my next trip. If you’re a craft beer lover, this growing city needs to be at the top of your vacation wish list!

Westbrook Brewing

The Chitwood family just got back from a lovely vacay in Folly Beach, South Carolina! While there we drank a lot of good beer (..and rosé..and prosecco..). The SC beer scene had definitely improved since our last trip. The highlight of the week was finally visiting Westbrook Brewing Company, a longtime favorite of the Barley Babes.

Westbrook only packages a handful of their beers, and we were excited to see a draft list filled with brews we’d never tried, or for that matter, heard of. Maddy ordered a flight of small pours for group, and we got a few pints as well. Two standouts from M’s flight were the Key Lime Pie Gose and Coconut Weisse Weisse Baby. The KLPG is loaded with tangy, sour lime and rounds out with a graham cracker finish. Maddy noted graham cracker on the nose too; Westbrook nailed this one!  The table also enjoyed my pint of juicy Nelson Sauvin IPA. It’s the style of IPA I’ve come to expect from NYC breweries like Grimm and Other Half. Finally, we were excited to try the Mexican Cupcake, a session version of Westbrook’s hyped imperial stout brewed with habanero peppers. The cupcake didn’t quite live up to the cake, but it’s nice that you can experience almost the same flavor profile in a lighter, lower ABV beer. Great for summer!

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The small tap room was hopping on Friday evening. Groups of friends gathered for post-work pints and young parents kept a relaxed eye on their kids over flights. Like us, I think everyone was looking for an air conditioned spot to drink beer and escape the oppressive SC heat.
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Our only complaint about the visit is that the Westbrook staff wasn’t very friendly. No one that helped us was overtly rude, but they seem to keep lines short by taking an all-business approach to customer service. I didn’t feel comfortable asking to taste before ordering, and when I ordered a beer that had just run out, the bartender walked away instead of recommending something else. We’re often on the other side of the counter, so we understand the stress that comes with a busy weekend night. I guess we just wanted to experience a deeper personal connection with the staff since we’ve loved Westbrook for so long.
We’ll have more highlights from our trip later this week! Another favorite destination: The Charleston Beer Exchange!

Spring Saturday 

A couple weekends ago we had one of our favorite guests in town, Kat’s boyfriend Michael! On Saturday we took full advantage of his luxurious automobile and went upstate for a short hike. 
Bear Mountain is only about 2.5 miles round trip, but the incline on the first half is quite steep. The trail was busy, but not crowded, and drizzle turned to clear blue skies as we leisurely made our way up the mountain.

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“I’m glad I didn’t know ahead of time that it was going to be this steep..” -All of us

The summit was filled with hikers having picnics and hanging out, but we were able to find a secluded spot to relax and take in the view. Our adventurous little Kitten almost gave me a heart attack in her quest for the perfect place to sunbathe.

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Bear Mountain Bridge


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After many a picture taken and Snapchat sent, we made our way back down the mountain. Carefully inching down the rocky incline might have been harder than climbing up! Safely back in the car, we decided we should reward ourselves. That, my friends, is where the beer comes in. Don’t worry, this hasn’t turned into a healthy lifestyle blog.

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Practicing for my future career as a TMZ reporter

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Peekskill Brewery is only 5 miles from Bear Mountain (we didn’t even plan this!) After a refueling lunch at La Cascada in downtown Peekskill, we headed to Water St. to check out one of my favorite NY breweries.

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Juices Flowin’ DIPA

Peekskill Brewery is right on the Hudson and just a short walk from downtown. The two-floored facility features a full bar and restaurant in addition to a tasting room. The first floor was crowded with groups of friends drinking, snacking, and playing darts. A sign advertising a two-for-one happy hour deal Monday-Thursday had us wishing that Peekskill wasn’t so far away!

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Allison ordered the Simple Sour, an easy-drinking, moderately sour ale that we’ve had many times. I tried Peekskill’s new double IPA, Juices Flowin.’ As promised in the tasting notes, it was juicy and dank–just how I like my IPAs these days. Michael and Kat shared a flight. Michael, a fellow hop head, enjoyed Juices Flowin’ as well, and also it’s lighter cousin, Shotgun Willie. Kat’s favorites were the Simple Sour and Moscow on the Hudson, an “Atlantic-style Porter.” The only letdown was the Uncommon Rye Lager; the happy couple reported that this one is actually quite common.

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About a year ago Peekskill’s renowned brewmaster, Jeff O’Neil left to start a new brewery. Assistant brewer Matt Levy took over O’Neil’s position, and almost immediately won a silver medal at GABF. Before Peekskill Levy spent a year at Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin, and produced small batch brews at Captain Lawrence. I haven’t had enough Peekskill beer over the years to evaluate whether this change in head brewer is an improvement, but I was extremely impressed with the beers I tried last Saturday. Peekskill is one to keep an eye on! If they scale up and start packaging, I hope Juices Flowin’ makes the cut.

Happy Friday! Any brewery visits in your weekend plans?

-R

Russian River Brewing Company

We have a special Thursday treat for you, readers! The lovely Amanda Stromecki has written another great Barley Babes guest post. Amanda is currently living on a wildlife refuge in CA, helping research an endangered bird called Yuma’s Ridgway Rail. She recently  visited one of California’s most renowned breweries; read on for her review!

Hi, there! It’s Amanda—friend of the Barley Babes and fellow beer geek. For the past two years I have been rambling around the West coast and drinking beer along the way. I just spent six months living in Lagunitas, California, a small town about an hour north of San Francisco. Fun fact about Lagunitas: it is a tiny, tight-knit community that is home to the original Lagunitas brewery, when it was still just a homebrew operation. Owner Tony Magee was actually kicked out of town when he dumped his rejected beer down the drain and into the septic system, causing a yeast + human waste explosion! Oops!

While I have visited Lagunitas brewery in Petaluma, my most notable brewery trip in CA was definitely to Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa. This brewery is in beautiful Sonoma County, in the heart of wine country. Russian River is known for Pliny the Elder, a west coast style IPA that lives up to its reputation. Pliny has a gorgeous honey color, a citrusy hop resin nose, a powerful hoppy punch on the palate, and a clean finish. It is big and bold, yet light and refreshing. One of my favorite IPAs to date.

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On tap at Russian River

Another great RR IPA is Blind Pig. Seriously full hop bite, but a little mellower ABV. We tried a bunch of beers, including the STS Pils, which was light, crisp, and true to style. Damnation, a Belgian strong pale ale, was a well-balanced, bready, and woody. Compunction, an American wild ale brewed with pluots (a plum/apricot hybrid), was my favorite of the day. Great pucker factor and stone fruit flavor. Another sour was Supplication, another American wild ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels. The barrel aging imparted a rich mouthfeel, lovely red color, and complex flavor profile. While my sour beers turned most of my friends off, I was impressed by Russian River’s sour and Belgian offerings. If only Maddy and Rachel had been there!

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Russian River’s Blind Pig IPA

Don’t be scared off by the long lines or crowds; a trip to Russian River Brewing Company is well worth the wait. The staff is efficient and handles the chaos well. The food, mostly pizzas and sandwiches, is tasty and well priced. The brewpub has a massive bar, which provides lots of opportunities to meet fellow hopheads. After enjoying RR beer for a few years, it was nice to finally give the brewery a visit. I think a Barley Babe fieldtrip there is a must. Cheers!

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Thanks so much, Amanda! Although it’s wonderful to have a West Coast correspondent, we wish we could all be drinking beer together. One day 😉

Did you read Amanda’s first guest post? What about our review of two of Russian River’s most-hyped sours?

Woodstock Brewhouse

As I’ve mentioned, my roommate’s dad opened a brewery in Woodstock, Virginia last summer. This weekend we went down to Woodstock for their annual St. Patrick’s Day bash, and got to hang out at Woodstock Brewhouse on Saturday AND Sunday.

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Saturday afternoon we went to Woodstock for pre-party-set-up beers. We drove to the brewhouse because it was snowing, but it’s just a couple minutes walk from Kat’s house (I would never leave!).

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The interior of the brewhouse is both spacious and cozy. The building is an old clothing factory–Casey Jones Work Clothes, which explains the size. They retained the original 14-foot beadboard ceilings and uncovered gorgeous wood flooring that was tiled over by a previous occupant. There are a few seats at the bar and then tons of tables and couches to enjoy your beverages and snacks. Huge windows surround the space and drop down lighting provides an additional warm glow.

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For our first round I tried the Crow’s Provender, a 10.2% Double IPA that Kat’s dad raved about the previous night. It has a bold, citrusy hop flavor, but is entirely smooth considering the ABV. Kat ordered the Paysan Saison, which ended up being my second beer, and one of my favorites. The initial lemon flavor is nicely balanced by yeast and spice in the finish. Karl (Kat’s dad) mentioned he would like this one to be a bit more effervescent, but I enjoyed the fuller body since it was such a cold day. Allison, who’s really into dark beers lately, tried the vanilla porter, Casey Jones. As we learned on the tour, this one is brewed with bourbon soaked vanilla beans. Two thumbs WAY up.

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Beers in hand, we followed Karl on a tour of the brewhouse. One of the coolest accents is a couple rows of seats from baseball stadiums from around the country. As you watch your favorite team on the brewhouse TV, you can recline in a seat from Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. Dad, I knew you’d love that!

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Karl walked us through the whole brewing process and showed us Woodstock’s high tech brewing system. The equipment he first used to home brew in his garage is now used by the brewing team for small batch experimentation with new recipes.

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After our tour we returned to the tasting room for more beers and delicious pizza prepared by Kat’s sisters (it really is a family affair! ). Usually 1752 Barbecue serves food on Saturdays, but since they couldn’t be there last weekend, Woodstock’s weekday menu was available. They make Bavarian pretzels and a variety of flatbread pizzas; I highly recommend the white and margherita!

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Before leaving to catch our train on Sunday we returned to the brewhouse for one more beer. I couldn’t stop myself from ordering the Crow’s Provender again; it’s just so good! Kat and Allison stuck to their favorite too, Casey Jones. Luckily Kat’s mom helped us branch out and brought over a sample of the new honey wheat. It’s crisp and fruity—a great summer beer.

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Also, being VIPs and everything, we got to sample a couple of brews that aren’t on the menu yet. Hunter, one of the brewers, brought over tasters of their brand new Black IPA and Belgian-style tripel. The tripel was tasty, but the Black IPA blew us away. As I’ve mentioned, Black IPAs have grown on me recently, but I prefer them to be pretty hop forward. Black Powder has the creamy mouth feel and roasted malt and dark chocolate flavors of a stout, but still has a big, fruity hop presence. Again, we used our connections to score a growler of this baby to take back to NY.

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Allison and I were SO impressed with Woodstock Brewhouse, and haven’t stopped raving about it since we left. Virginians—I urge you to make a day trip soon! In addition to the brewhouse (though you really don’t need another reason) there are plenty of other things to do in this charming town!

Thanks so much to the Roulston family for a spectacular weeekend, and to all of the brewhouse employees who showed us such hospitality. We can’t wait to return to Woodstock!

Bridge and Tunnel Brewery

Now it’s time for some NYC brewery action! I found out about Bridge and Tunnel and Rich Castagna when I first started working at Hops and Hocks. One of our draft lines was occupied by a brewer that brewed in his garage in Queens, and who was currently working on building out a tasting room entirely on his own?? That’s pretty neat. Fast forward one year and the Bridge and Tunnel tasting room is officially open in Ridgewood!

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Our trek was slightly rainy..oh wait, my walking companions already told you?

Since opening at the end of November, B&T has expanded their tasting room hours from Saturdays only to Friday-Sunday. Last Sunday evening we took a pleasant walk to the cozy tasting room for some pints and coloring.

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B&T has more of a neighborhood vibe than any other NYC brewery I’ve visited. Those sitting at the bar were clearly regulars, and excitedly answered questions about the beers and tasting room. The space is industrial, yet homey, with colored lights hanging above the bar, long wooden tables, and a decent selection of board games. We easily found a table and sipped our beers while working on illustrations for B&T’s “Tank Fund Color Off.” The color off is to raise awareness about the small crowdfund campaign they’re launching in March to raise money for a unitank fermenter and chiller. Rich’s daughters are choosing the winner of the color off!

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Kat and Cooke Cooke took their submissions very seriously

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I started with a super flavorful rye DIPA, while Matt and Kitty Kat chose two of the darker selections on the menu (Rich’s specialty), and Allison tried a blackberry kombucha. Kat analyzed the differences between B&T’s vanilla porter (Bone Orchard) and that of Woodstock Brew House (Casey Joes); we’re always working, I tell ya!

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Mitch is deep in thought about which beer to choose next..
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‘Bucha Baby!

For my second beer I picked Tank Fund Saison, the SMASH beer Rich brewed for NYC Beer Week. In honor of this annual event, every brewer creates a SMASH (State Malts and State Hops) beer that emphasizes the same three hops and grains. It’s really cool to see the wide range of styles that result. Tank Fund is now one of my favorite B&T beers. It’s medium-bodied with flavors of lemon and honey, and has a closing bitterness that keeps it from being too sweet.

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They serve popcorn and pretzels in the tasting room, and you can also order from Houdini, the wood fire pizza place next door. I see your wheels spinning, Pammy! We can definitely put B&T on the itinerary during your next visit. Like many NYC spots, B&T is cash only, but if you forget dat paper, just bop into Houdini and use their ATM.

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Rich explains the 1642 Maspeatches, a gruit brewed with local honey and spruce.

Rich was at H&H for a tasting last night and we chatted about how NYC Beer week is going. He confessed that he was a bit tired of the events, and couldn’t wait to get back to the tasting room this weekend. If you read the reviews on Yelp, or any other press about B&T, it’s so clear that B&T is Rich and his family. He’s so passionate about the tasting room and his beer, and he loves to tell the backstory behind each brew. Customers will return to B&T for the delicious beer, welcoming atmosphere, and amazing prices, yes, but most of all, because of the faces behind the bar.

Happy Friday! Cheers to passion.

p.s. Want to know more about about Rich and the Bridge and Tunnel story? Of course you do! Check out these beer reads:

Building a Brewery From Scratch
Bridge & Tunnel Brewery Taproom Opens in Ridgewood, Queens
Bridge & Tunel Brewery Set to Open Ridgewood Location This Saturday
Bridge and Tunnel Microbrewery in Ridgewood, Queens: The Definition of DIY

Drinking on Grand Bahama Island

You probably know our dad from the positive and sometimes cryptic comments he leaves on pretty much all of our posts. Maybe you read the guest post he wrote with our mom after visiting Abingdon’s Wolf Hills Brewing Company a couple years ago. Or, perhaps you follow him on Trip Advisor, where his thorough and comical reviews help fellow travelers find the best hot dog spots and reasonably priced hotels in the country. (I’m begging you to read his praising, but honest reviews of Cville’s Blue Grass Grill. Here’s a teaser: “I reviewed the Bluegrass Grill some years ago, and slammed it for its archaic and unworkable waiting list.”) Our dad just visited his sister Susan in the Bahamas and offered to write a guest post about the The Bahamian Brewery.
Without further ado…

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     My sister Susan (Tooti) and I visited the Bahamian Brewery on 2-9-16. Let me first describe the physical setting. The brewery is located on the western end of Grand Bahama Island and is just west of Freeport proper at the intersection of Queen’s Highway and Grand Bahama Way. This area is primarily industrial and business-oriented, and the brewery is very near the large and busy shipping port and one of the cruise ship docks. The spiritual setting is much different. James “Jimmy” Sands opened the Brewery in 2007, the brewer is German, and the beers are consequently lagers and not the porters, stouts, and IPAs routinely featured on this blog. The brewery, however, is 100% Bahamian owned and operated and features the cool, clear Bahamian water. It also has a hip and laid-back island feel.

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     Please understand that while Bahamian is not Budweiser or Coors, it is also not a micro-brewery or a small batch distiller. The tour was therefore less intimate than others I have experienced. We viewed production by peering from a catwalk and not by walking among the beer and hops while volunteers tend the process. It was nonetheless pretty cool to watch the bottles clink along the line, going from the washer to the labeler. We also peered in the “lab,” met the brewer, and saw the keg room. The real fun began in the tasting room.

     The tasting room and the tasting were indeed the real highlights of the tour. Our guide Crystal really came alive at this point, vividly describing the beer and giving us local history. The room itself was attractive with a long bar and several tables. Crystal set a nice atmosphere with some cool music, which included, I think, Ronnie Bother performing “Big Bam Boo” and “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.” Joining us for the tasting were two friendly snowbirds from Detroit and a couple with their daughter.

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     We tasted 6 beers, and I enjoyed each one:

  1. Sands- named for the owner’s family, this lager is crisp and clean and has a pleasant color and odor. It would be great in a bottle or can and would go down smoothly on a hot day with some conch fritters.
  2. Sands Light- this beer is also very refreshing and, as the name suggests, is lower in calories.
  3. High Rock- this was my favorite of the beers we sampled. Named for a local settlement, High Rock is richer than the two Sands beers and has a smooth, clean taste. According to the brewery website, “High Rock is brewed using the German ‘Purity Law,’ malt , water, hops and yeast.”

IMG_27024. Bush Crack- at 5.9 % alc/vol, the Bush Crack has more alcohol than many of its competitors. I enjoyed its taste, but the story behind the name is even better than the taste. Crystal really told this story well, but I will paraphrase: a man works every day, leaving the house at eight and returning at five. He leaves his woman behind, and she grows lonely. Another man begins stopping by the house. Growing suspicious, the husband comes home early one day to check on things. The boyfriend hears him coming, escapes out the window, and jumps into the bushes. The husband looks out the window, but all he sees is “bush crack, man gone.”
5. Virgil’s Ale- perhaps having had one too many High Rocks at this point, I remember little about the Ale, but it is brewed for one restaurant only and is not available for sale.
6.Strong Back-this is the brewery’s stout and weighs in at 7.6%. Tooti found it a bit syrupy but I think it would grow on you after several sustained drinking bouts.

     Here are a few final observations. The tasting room used plastic cups. It did not inhibit the flavor, but it did make it more difficult to view (and photograph) the offerings. The Brewery has a full liquor store that offers not only its brews but also other beers, wine, and liquor. Finally, the attached gift shop was quite nice and offered an extensive array of t-shirts and other Bahamian Brewery paraphernalia.

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Thanks, Dad! We’ve said it time and time again, thanks for putting beer in our bottles. It got us on the booze train early.*

-R

*The final line is a joke. Our parents never promoted underage drinking.

Pro Renata Farm Brewery: The Good, The Meh, and the Hoppy

It’s strange being so out of the Charlottesville beer loop. Since I left, West Main got a World of Beer, Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint moved in downtown, and Pro Renata Farm Brewery opened in Crozet! Luckily I have a few C-ville correspondents to research these new spots for me. My friend Emily and her husband Rich are super knowledgeable about Virginia beer and wine; they visited Pro Renata last weekend and Em was kind enough to do a full write up.

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Last Saturday afternoon, my husband Rich and I ventured out to Crozet, VA to sample some brews from newly established Pro Renata Farm Brewery. Although we’re not necessarily beer experts, we’ve sampled from many local breweries in the Central VA region, so we’re no slouches either.

The Good

  • The look and feel of the place was very “Crozet.” Rustic, farm chic, no frills. I enjoyed the decor, which included funky signs and sampler glasses evoking an “old-timey medical” vibe. There was also a stage to showcase live music by night.
  • Although we didn’t eat, we saw several people ordering food from the OTC food truck in the parking lot, which promised down-home comfort food and looked downright delicious.
  • One beer that especially stood out was the Pavlov’s Belgian Blonde Ale (ABV 6.0%, 12 IBUs). It was really flavorful with a coriander-like aroma on the nose and reminded me of a Chimay.

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Tastings

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The Meh

  • We arrived around 4pm on a Saturday and it was a bit of a mad house. Normally, I’d take this as a good sign–but it turns out the crowd was actually due to an awkward setup with the bar located really far from the seating. So everyone was hanging out in front of the bar, making it hard to order up some brews, and the seating area was nearly empty. And did I mention tons of kids? I am normally all about babies in bars, but it feels weird when kids outnumber adults in a brew house.
  • We tried 7 of their 12 available brews. And they were just okay. Naturally, we compared the beer menu to our local favorites (Blue Mountain Brewery and Three Notch’d Brewing Company) and found they still had a long way to go in terms of developing a more interesting variety and improving overall flavor. Which beers were just, meh?
    • Claudius Crozet Cream Ale (ABV: 4.8%, 14 IBUs): Didn’t get the “cream” flavor so much. A bit on the bland side.
    • Coconuts Deep (ABV 4.6%, 41 IBUs): One of two “dark” beers on the list. A coffee stout but the sweet coconut finish described on the menu just didn’t come through.
    • Kerri’s Cure Belgian Pale Ale (ABV 5%, 38 IBUs): Being a big Belgian beer fan, this once was especially disappointing and boring.
  • Pro Renata had that classic icky Brewery smell. You know the one I’m talking about–kind of smells like a pet store? Not my favorite thing. Separate those casks from the public, I say!

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The Hoppy
Being a big IPA lover, it’s not surprising that the hoppier beers really appealed to me. Here’s what I would recommend if you’re like me and enjoy a bitter brew:

  • Old Trail Pale Ale (ABV 5.2%, 35 IBUs): This was both simple and refreshing, creamy on the finish and tasty.
  • Hop Drone IPA (ABV 6.5%, 75 IBUs): By far my favorite (we took home a growler), really flavorful, bitter on the front but finished smooth. I also tried the Hop Drone IPA with Citra Hops, but preferred the classic version since the citrus was a little overpowering for me.

Hop Drone and Citra Hop Drone

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All in all, I’d recommend checking out Pro Renata Brewery if you’re in the Central Virginia region; but with all the delicious local beer competition, they’re going to have to improve their overall variety to turn this beer-lover into a regular visitor!

Cheers,
Emily

Thanks so much for your thorough and objective critique, Em! Rich, I’m still holding out for a guest post about your home brewing experience once you work out the kinks. Hope to drink a beer with you guys soon!

-R

Aloha

It feels weird for me to be writing about beer when I’m on a 5-day no beer, no dairy, no sugar, no gluten, no happiness cleanse, but I wanted to give you some scenes from Maui Brewing Company! My lovely roommate Kat is in Hawaii with her family for two weeks, and I strongly recommended that they check Maui out. Her family owns Virginia’s brand new Woodstock Brewhouse, so I knew they’d be up for the assignment.

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Maui’s brand new tasting room in Kihei
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Solar panels! Maui is taking steps toward 100 percent energy independence.

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Very intrigued by the “Adopted Arrogant Bastard.”
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Love the muffin tin flights!

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The winner of the visit was Maui’s Father Damien, a 8.5% Belgian Strong that’s only available on draft in limited locations. Note Kat’s excellent beer photography skills! She’s a natural.

Here are some other shots from the Roulston family vacay to get you through this frigid Tuesday. I guess those 60 degree winter days couldn’t last forever…

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What a view 😉

Thanks for sharing, little Kitty! NY misses you, but we’d much rather be at Maui Brewing knocking back a few cold pints with the Roulstons.