Tag Archives: beer

I love craft and micro brews. There is just so much flavor and complexity that the big guys just can’t match. My list of favorites is large and I love going to brew pubs and trying different experimental beers.

Oh the Side Journey

Half of a trip is getting to the destination and on my way west I keep making all these stops. This time it is to New Glarus Brewing for some beer.  I remember years ago sampling the Spotted Cow while visiting family in La Crosse and being impressed with the taste.  After all these years I finally am at the brewery.

Interesting place and not what I expected.  Huge can’t describe this place.  It is simply massive and when I visited all sorts of construction was going on to expand the facilities.  They are in the top 50 in the nation in terms of beer production so its really quite remarkable.

Tasting room was closed when I arrived but they have pints for sale and it was a beautiful day to be sitting outside in the shade.  Has a weird Mediterranean kinda vibe with all the path ways and weird architecture.  Great visit and I recommend it to everyone.

Winter Brewery Tour

Black Walnut Brewery

Not exactly the worst winter we have had.  In all it only snowed once all season which really sucked.  Just because it didn’t snow doesn’t mean it wasn’t cold.  Saturday was a perfect day to do a brewery tour.  We started by fueling our body with some kick ass tacos from Bartaco before heading to Lake Anne Brew House.  Not the easiest place to find but it was the closest to lunch and we had never been there before.  Nothing real special about the beer but an interesting location with some potential.  The Cold-Brew Coffee and Simon’s Stout was the perfect thing to get my going first thing in the afternoon.

Next up we headed out to Leesburg.  I knew there were several we had not tried and I remember seeing two new ones being built.  We got a recommendation for Black Walnut Brewing and it was a winner.  The brewery is a small house in the back of the lot.  When we walked in the place was packed and noisy as crap.  The rooms are tiny and with a few people talking everyone just tries to talk over each other.  We eventually went to the bar and spent a long time here.  The bartender was cool as shit and a regular had us cracking up.  The beer here was much better then Lake Anne with a good strange variety offered.

Crooked Run Shadow of Truth

Late in the afternoon we stopped at one last spot, Crooked Run Brewing.  This is a personal favorite of mine since I first found this place.  Their beers are very eclectic and challenge my palate which I really love.  It was late and a long afternoon of drinking so we didn’t stay here very long.  It was a Saturday night and the place was absolutely smashed with people.  We did however find out they opened a new location in Sterling which was much bigger.  The Sterling location would become their main brewery with the Leesburg being I think for small batch or maybe it was sours, I don’t remember.

I can’t think of to many better ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.  One thing I really like about this area is the number of brewers and the quality of much of their work.



NYE 2016 in Denver

Things have been a different this year around the holidays.  Lots of changes are happening so while I was driving to the beach for a 5 day mini vacation, stuck in traffic, I got a crazy idea in my head.  I have wanted to go to Denver for a while now, I had the time, and my bonus was burning a hole in my pocket.  It took me just over 5 hours but I finally made it to Rehoboth Beach and started doing research.  I knew it would take me two solid days of driving to get there and another two getting back.  I could arrive late on Friday and spend all Saturday in Denver.  A quick check of local NYE shows and I found that The String Cheese Incident was playing the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield.  String Cheese doesn’t tour much so this would be a good opportunity to see them and besides this is a hometown show for them.

Thursday morning I started this adventure by watching the sunrise on the beach.  It was overcast with a lite drizzle but I managed to see parts of the sun as it broke the horizon.  From here it was nothing but driving across the country.  The weather on the east coast wasn’t to great.  I drove through snow, rain and fog for about half the day.  I made a reservation for a hotel in St. Louis and didn’t make it there till around midnight.  One day done and my old bones where already starting to feel it.

Just get on the road and drive.

The next morning started early, I was out the door around 7am.  I knew this last part of the trip would take me a solid 12 hours and I wanted to spend at least some time that night having some fun.  On the outskirts of St. Louis another idea started to take shape.  I would have been perfectly happy going to Denver on my own but instead I brought Nancy and Jeremy with me.  It was a busy morning making a lot of phone calls and booking travel but totally worth it.  This was shaping up to be a pretty awesome last minute adventure for New Year Eve.

I drove all day and watched the sun set across Kansas which was really nice.  Finally I made it to Denver and when you come in on 70W you round this slight hill and then the city just appears in front of you.  It is this massive city with suburbs that go for miles.  Honestly I was shocked at how big Denver is.  On Saturday as we drove around I got a better idea just how big it is.  By the time I got into town Nancy had already landed and made her way to the hotel to check in.  I didn’t arrive till almost nine but it felt good to finally be in Denver.  Jeremy was on a later flight so Nancy and I head to True Food Kitchen just down the street for dinner.  After crap food for two days I wanted something super health and True Food Kitchen delivered.  They also had beer so it was my first sample of beer from Colorado.  Eventually Nancy and I retired to the hotel bar for another drink and this is when Jeremy arrived.  He worked a full day and then hopped on a plain so didn’t get in till almost 11.

Saturday, New Years Eve.  We all had tickets to SCI but we had a ton of time to kill before the show started.  We started with breakfast on the top floor which over looked the front range.  When I came into town it was already dark so this was my first sight of the mountains.  Denver is already a mile high and I knew the mountains where much taller still.  The mountains stretched for as far as the eye could see.  Denver is still a good distance away but they still looked impressive.  At breakfast we strategized what our plan would be for the day.  It really came down to what brewery we could find that was open at 10am.

All day we traveled across the city visiting as many breweries as we could.  By the end of the day we hit four in all and one restaurant that served some really good food and had a ton of local craft beer on draft.  First up was CO Brew which we thought we got wrong when we pulled up.  It is a home brew retail store and not a brewery per say.  We found they do in fact brew beer on premise, they teach glasses on home brewing so make a tone of beer.  Very interesting place to have our first beer of the morning.  As cool as everything was it didn’t inspire me to start home brewing.

On the recommendation of the bartender we went to Black Sky Brewing next.  This spot is certainly geared toward metal and hard rock.  My first impression was that this place would be an interesting stop on our trail, just a minor speed bump.  Of all the places this was the one I liked best.  The beer was good but it was the people that made it so enjoyable.  Not only was the staff very friendly but the other patrons really made it a fun time doing a little day drinking.

Black Sky sent us to Strange Craft down by the river.  This is a small hole in the wall but it had character.  Here the beer was very good with a wide variety to choose from.  We got to talking and the guys from Black Sky actually got their start at Strange Craft doing a home brew startup thing.  Small world when you think about it.  By this time we all where pretty hungry and headed over to Sloan’s Lake Tap and Burger for some food.  The burgers where all really good and the selection of local craft was amazing.  Very nice decor on the inside with huge ceilings and plenty of space for guests.  The building is brand new but the neighborhood could still use some work.

By now it was getting pretty late in the afternoon so we headed back to the hotel to rally for String Cheese.  I really wanted to take a nap because day drinking really wears me out but there was no time for that.  We got an Uber and headed to one last brewery before the show.  The last place we went to was 4 Noses Brewing just a couple blocks from the venue.  It was a nice place so close but honestly I didn’t care for the place.  The brewery is brand new and modern but it lacked character.  I also thought the beer all tasted pretty much the same.  It didn’t matter what style you got, they all had this underlying orange citrus taste to them.  They even all looked similar.  As much as I wanted to like the place I just couldn’t bring myself to find anything good about it.

Doors for the show were at 7 with the performance starting at 8.  It was all general admission so we didn’t feel a need to arrive early and grab a spot.  I was just happy to be there. I unfortunately could only manage the first set before I had enough.  The long day of drinking and two days of straight driving was catching up with me.  Nancy and I decided to head back to the hotel and Jeremy stayed for the remainder of the show.  The report the next morning from Jeremy was good and I have listened to the show several times at this point.

As soon as my head hit the pillow it felt like it was time to get up and get going.  I dropped Jeremy and Nancy off at the airport and started back home to Virginia.  Getting back was just as interesting crossing the country but not much inclement weather this time.  Just like going out to Denver I stopped in St. Louise for the night.  I got home before midnight on Monday which was my goal and got to work the next morning right on time.

Not sure if I will drive that far again anytime soon but it was a great trip further west then I had ever been before.  Seeing String Cheese Incident, even if it was just for one set during a three set night was still worth it.  I was able to cross several more breweries off my list.  Honestly there wasn’t a bad part about the trip.  Already thinking about seeing Medeski, Martina and Wood at Red Rocks in late April just so I can spend more time in Denver.

Vanish Farmwoods Brewery

Vanish Cranberry Gose
Vanish Cranberry Gose

Nothing like a visit to a brewery on a crisp fall day. Nancy had been here once shortly after they opened but I had never been. Being just a few miles north of Leesburg it is in rural Virginia with some peaceful views of the surrounding mountains.

Vanish Farmwoods Brewery is a working farm so as you drive up to the place you pass by their hop fields. Not sure exactly how many acres or what types they grow but I know they use it in their own beers. I have noticed a growing trend of farmers turning into brewers or vice versa. To me it seems like a logical choice as getting the right type and amount of hops has been becoming more difficult of late. You also get to control all aspects of the process when you grow it yourself. Another trend I have see which Vanish takes advantage of is using wet hops in various recipe.

Outside there is a large area with benches and on a nicer days it would b perfect sitting outside with friends drinking beer. Inside there are a ton more benches sorta like a traditional beer hall. When they designed this place they certainly made it big enough to accommodate large crowds. The bar itself is huge with ample space for people to buy beer without a line. There is even a section just for walk up service to make things quick and easy. In the back corner there is a BBQ joint which is nice. It is technical a “food truck” but is a permanent installation. One of the bar tenders mentioned that as soon as something is nailed down, the law governing it change.

A rather large beer hall.
A rather large beer hall.

So the beer. The menu was huge with a good variety of flavors. There lineup is certainly IPA heavy but I think they do it rather well. There is a large variety of IPA sub-styles which Vanish certainly had enough to choose from. There had dark ones, salty ones, high alcohol, and not surprisingly a regular old india pale ale as well. Certainly high marks for their creativity and flavor. I would like to know more about the farm to beer process they employee and sample some of the more limited seasonal varieties around harvest time.

Another great beer find around Leesburg . The setting is great with a large venue and a huge selection of beer. They have regular live music and with the onsite BBQ joint there is no reason you can’t spend hours drinking beers with friends. While the day was not quite over we hit up Barnhouse Brewery on the way home for one last flight to cap the day.


Old Bust Head Brewing Co.

old-bust-head-logo-green-goat-sealSaturday I went hiking in the Shenandoah and Sunday was going to be a day of rest.  I was outside smoking a cigar and got a bug to drink some beer.  Nancy was in but wanted to go some place new, that through out my first suggestion of Ocelot.  We decided on Old Bust Head which was a good choice.

The brewery is on an old army base in Vint Hill.  When you walk up to the building there is some outdoor seating which is perfect on a nice day.  The sun sets directly in front of the brewery so its a nice setting to sample some beer.  The inside main hall is rather huge with tons of benches everywhere for people to gather around and mingle, German beer hall style.  Outback there is a large covered loading deck with more seats in case the place gets crowded.  There is usually a food truck out back as well since they don’t make food onsite.  Just beyond the loading dock is the actual brewing operations which looked rather large from what I could see.

img_4765Very friendly staff with a rather varied selection of beer on tap.  Their selection is wide and varied which was rather refreshing.  This time when we went there were a lot of darker beers.  Maybe this is because of the coming winter season, just guessing.  I had two this day and both of them were pretty good.  The Black IPA was a good balance of roasted malt sweetness and bitter IPA.  The other beer I tried was their smoked rye IPA and this was certainly unique.  This tasted just like a camp fire in my mouth.  I have only had a few smoked beers but this was certainly a kick in the face with the smoke flavor.  It certainly has its place, just not as an everyday beer.

Great place to hangout and visit for a lazy afternoon drinking beer.  I believe they change their taps out regularly so you can visit frequently and never get bored.  With the stage you can probably catch some live music on certain nights.  The day we went they had football playing on the big screen.  A great place and certainly worth the visit.