Saturday, June 25, 2011

I don't travel FOR beer, but I do get to have beer when I travel

Greetings my fellow beer lovers,
I travel on business.  Some years more than others and before every trip I look into what there is to drink wherever I'm headed.  My co-workers who travel with me have learned that I'll do this and they've all accepted it.  Breweries? Brewery tours? Brew Pubs? Where's the beer in this town?
I have taken photos and written down notes from the places I've been and now I am going to attempt to put those thoughts and photos here in an effort to chronicle where I've been and what I've had to drink.

The most recent trip I took was to Nashville, TN and Huntsville, AL.  There were a lot of places that I wanted to go to, but work is the primary reason for travel (not beer) so I went where time would allow me to go.
The first stop was for lunch and based on where we were and where we were heading we my co-worker friend and I decided to hit up Big River Grille & Brewing Works.  We had been there years before and it was a good place to grab a bite and some brew so we figured we'd head back.
It didn't take long to figure out what I was going to order.  Being an IPA fan I ordered their House Brand I.P.A. From their website - "This classic copper colored ale has a pronounced hop aroma and assertive bitterness. American grown Galena and Cascade hops are the star of this fragrant and citrusy dry-hopped masterpiece." 
The appearance was dark golden with little to no head and barely any lacing to speak of.
The aroma is primarily heavy caramel malt followed by light floral hops. Doesn't really hit the IPA range in my opinion.
The taste is malt forward followed by a quick bittering and floral and citrus hops. Malty sweet and not as hoppy as most of the IPAs I drink, but a nice beer on a hot day.

My overall take on it is that it is more of a crossover, not quite an IPA.  I liked it enough to order another.
We made our trek down to Huntsville after lunch and I starting thinking where we'd hit for dinner (and if there were any brewpubs in Huntsville).  Since I only had one night in town I thought I would hit a place that served more than a few of the local beers to get a taste of what Alabama has to offer.  That place was The Nook Tavern. With over 370 beers available and a huge draught beer list it was hard to know which beer direction to go.  I asked the guy running the place what he'd recommend in terms of local beers and he made some suggestions.  Since I had read up on the local breweries he pointed at the table next to us and said that three of the local brewers were there. It looked like a brewmaster summit of sorts. You know you're in a good place when it is where the brewers drink! Unfortunately he was out of all of the local IPAs.
I decided to turn my attention to a local Belgian style beer from Straight to Ale in Huntsville. Brother Joseph's Belgian Dubbel is a 7.0% ABV treat.  From their website, "Maimed in an accident that left him with a hunched back, Brother Joseph Zoettl worked in the St. Bernard Abbey power plant shoveling coal. In his spare time, Brother Joseph used found objects such as marbles and chunks of concrete and tile to build miniature shrines and buildings on the Abbey grounds. Over 40 years, he created 125 different models and replicas. Today, the Ave Maria Grotto covers three acres and is world-renowned as both a fun roadside attraction and an awe-inspiring collection of folk art. We have named our Belgian dubbel after Brother Joseph as a testament to his perseverance, his hard work, and his indomitable spirit. A full-flavored abbey-style ale with a complex taste and aroma, Brother Joseph’s Dubbel is filled with specialty malt and dark fruit character."

The appearance was a dark copper with a thick white head and nice lacing.  
The aroma was that of Belgian yeast, sweet caramel malt and honey, spice and dark fruits.
The taste is a little lighter than some of the Belgians I am accustomed to, but very nice.  Spicy, fruity with a nice caramel malt backbone.  The Belgian yeast profile is great. A solid beer.
Since The Nook was out of all the local IPAs I wanted to try I had a tough time making a choice for the next beer until I saw it...Rogue Ale's John John Dead Guy Ale...on tap.  I have previously written about my friend John Couchot who is the master distiller at Rogue (here) and since I've been trying to find other beers he's involved with. What's funny is that I had to go to Alabama to find a beer from Oregon. From the Rogue website: "Deep honey in color with a malt aroma, a caramel, vanilla, and oak finish."
The appearance was a medium amber color with little head.
The aromas of caramel malt, vanilla bean, whiskey and oak. Smelled fantastic!
The taste is complex.  Malty upfront, caramel and butter toffee, some hoppiness and fruit and a fantastic finish with vanilla, oak and bourbon.
At 6.4% ABV this beer is very drinkable (if you can find it). And it IS so worth finding!
So that ended my day of beers.  The next day I had work to do...I did and then had some lunch at Cracker Barrel (I love me some Cracker Barrel) - you can read about that part of the trip here.
My return trip took me through San Diego and what was a pretty close connecting flight turned into a delayed flight home.  With nothing better to do I decided to grab some dinner and what was close by? A little Karl Strauss Brewing Company place right next to my gate. Fantastic!
Needless to say with an IPA on the menu I went that direction.  Karl Strauss Brewing Company's Tower 10 IPA is a beer that I saw recently in the store, but hadn't made it into my shopping cart yet.
From the Karl Strauss Brewing Company's website: "Tower 10 IPA boasts hops from beginning to end, and everywhere in between. We fill the brew kettle to the brim with assertive Chinook hops, giving the beer its intense grapefruit and pine flavors that linger through its dry finish. After fermentation, we dry hop with a blend of Cascade and Centennial hops for a floral citrus aroma. A touch of lightly kilned caramel malts make Tower 10 a well balanced, full flavored IPA.
Mission Beach, the late 1980s. Amid a sea of neon bikinis, Tower 10 marked the spot where two college grads and a 75 year-old master brewer drew up plans for the first local craft brewery in San Diego since Prohibition. Named in honor of our first good idea, Tower 10 IPA is brewed to inspire the next one."
The appearance was a clear copper amber with nice foamy head and heavy lacing.
The aroma was primarily of floral and citrus hops, but there was a caramel malt and bread quality to the nose as well.
The taste was great.  Well balanced with moderate hop bitterness.  Caramel and toasted malts and a nice sweetness.  This is a West Coast IPA, but certainly not a hop bomb.  Great session beer...I had a couple waiting for my flight and at 7% ABV I didn't hobble onto the flight.  I'll definitely seek this one out next time I'm beer shopping.
Well, that's the beer side of the trip I took.  I'll be writing up more of my travels as time allows.


Mark Harvey

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