Rusty Gold Brewing: Located in Canonsburg, PA, which at one time was known as the most radioactive town in America, due to a former Uranium refining mill. Not to worry, the site has been cleaned up and you will only glow after drinking a few brews at Rusty Gold Brewing. I'll also note that Sarris Chocolate is located in Canonsburg. In addition to good chocolate, they have an old fashioned ice cream parlor. If you can find better ice cream than Sarris' Caramel Cashew or Peanut Butter Cookie Dough, please let me know where. Back to the beer........Rusty Gold converted a 1920's vintage store, bakery, pool hall into a brewpub with a 7 bbl brewhouse. The brewpub has a Pittsburgh Tavern feel with memorabilia dedicated to the area and the Pittsburgh Sports Teams. The Brewery offers a variety of Pub Grub listed on a chalkboard, from which you order. In addition to the 5 or 6 house brews on tap, they offer a variety of cocktails made from spirits distilled locally.. During my visit I sampled the 5 brews they had on tap, with the "Yorkshire Rose" oatmeal stout and "Serious Business" IPA , making it to the top of my list. Rusty Gold Brewing has a great pub atmosphere, stop throw back a few brews while enjoying some pub grub.. Then you can head to Sarris to enjoy a nice ice cream desert.
When I traveled thru Michigan during the first year of my beerquest, I visited breweries mainly in Southern Michigan. I visited the brewery hot spots of Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Holland. On the return visit to the Great Lake State, my objective was to cover areas that I missed early in the quest.
So off we went heading to the northern beer city of Traverse City, while Incorporating visits to Joann's Aunt in Dearborn and the world's largest Christmas store in Frankenmuth ( added bonus, it was Frankenmuth's Bavarian Festival week).
Dearborn Brewing Co: Located on Michigan Ave, the main street in town, the brewery opened in 2012 and is billed as the first microbrewery in Dearborn. The Ford world headquarters is about 10 minutes down the road from the brewery. Of course, everywhere you look in Dearborn you see the influence of Ford. If you are a Ford employee ( you are in the minority if you are not) you recieve a 10% discount at the Brewery. The Taproom has a small bar and numerous tables in front of the brew works, giving you a nice space to enjoy their beers. They usually have about 10 of their beers available on tap. They do not serve food, however, you can order food from a few local restaurants and it will be delivered to the brewery. You can also bring in your own food.
I did notice hundred's of unique glass mugs hanging above the bar. They have a mug club that you can purchase a membership to. You then get to select a class mug that was made by the local glass acadamey. I beleive there is an additional fee for some of the more unique mugs. Believe, they have some very interesting mugs. I did enjoy a nice sampling of their brews, my favorites were WACOV, a pale wheat,Rouge River Red Ale and Death By Chocolate Porter.
Frankenmuth Brewery: Traveling north and slightly west of Detroit, before you run into Saginaw Bay, you will Germany in Michigan. Frankenmuth is a full fledged Bavarian village and not many years ago you had to be German to live there. By Luck, during our visit the Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival was taking place. Just what I needed more beer, German Food, Large Pretzels, more beer and Cheese. The town is similar to a quaint Bavarian Village and the festival was a minature version of Munich's Oktoberfest. Before I get to the brewery, there are two must do'd if you visit Frankenmuth. Bronner's Chrismas Wonderland is located just south of town. It is billed as the world's largest Christmas store. After visiting I will not dispute this claim, you need a map to navigate the store, enough said. Secondly, when in town you must find and try chocolate cheese. Yes it is chocolate cheese the town is famous for it...buy it and enjoy it.
Ok..back to the beer. The Frankenmuth Brewery is located on the north side of town. It is a beautiful Bavarian themed brewery with a full restaurant. Since I ate too much in town at the festival, I did not try the food, however, it looked good. The Restaurant area and the large bar and tasting area are basically surrounded by the Brew works and Fermentors.. polished and shined fermentors. I know, we always hear the oldest, the first, etc. Frankenmuth Brewery claims to be the Oldest MicroBrewery in the U.S. and the first craft brewery of Michigan. Founded in 1862 at its present location, it was operated under many names and owners until 1980, when it was named the Frankenmuth Brewery. I will not disput or verify this claim, however, I will verify that they have 21 of their brews on tap. After sampling a nice variety of their brews, I particularly enjoyed S.M.A.S.H IPA,Rock the Cashmere IPA,Tangerino IPA and the Scotch Connery.
North Peak Brewing Co: Located in the heart of Traverse City a few blocks from the West Arm Traverse Bay, the brewery was built in an historic building that was a former candy company. The Brewery houses a large indoor bar, a two level seating area and a large outdoor patio area. A full Lunchand dinner menu is available if you want food with your beer. You can sample 9 to 10 of their beers on tap, along with a variety of their bottled beer. The THunder IPA and Diabolical IPA were my two favorite brews. I also Enjoyed their Cherry Nomad Cider, when in Cherry country enjoy what the locals drink. There was a small batch brewery works on site, however, their large production facility ( 51.5 Barrel system) is located in Dexter, Michigan. I also learned that North Peak is owned by the Mission Restaurant Group, who also owns Jooly Pumpkin Brewery & Blue Tractor Brewery in Ann Arbor.
Brewery Terra Firma: The Brewery is located on a 10 acre farm about 2 miles south of Traverse City. They claim to be Michigan's first Agricultural Brewery and ar MAEAP certified, meaning they are environmentally friendly. The farm does grow and provide some of the incredients for their beer. The tap room will accommodate about 60 people. There is a nice variety of cheese and a few snacks to purchase if you needed some munchies while you enjoyed sampling their beer. Speaking of beer, there were 15 to 16 of house brews on tap. I will say making a selection was very difficult. The 4 IPA's Soul Butter Triple, Magnum Hospitality, Open Space and Karma Palace were very good. I also enjoyed the Black Bikini Coconut Porter.
Right Brain Brewery: My first experience with Right Brain Brewery was when I attended Beer Advocate's 2012 Extreme Beer Festival in Boston. Right Brain was pouring almond Joy beer, turtle beer, peanut & Jelly beer and many other unique / extreme beer. This was before the peanut butter beer craze started. Needless to say when in Northern Michigan Right Brain was on my must visit list. The Brewery is located on the southside of Traverse City away from the downtown buzz. When we entered the brewery, we found ourselves standing in the middle of a Beauty Parlor ( not open ). Our first thoughts were the brewery moved, then we heard noise around the corner. We continued on and entered a large, crowded tasting area. The taproom was packed, fortunately we found two seats at the bar. Back to the beauty Parlor. We learned that the owner was a hair stylist and home brewer. He operated a styling salon in town and brought in samples of his home brew for the customers. The beer got so popular he opened the brewery at the current location along with a small hair styling shop. Bottom Line, when visiting breweries you never know what you may encounter. Right Brain offered 24- 30 of their beers on tap. They also had a nice sandwich, burger and appetizer menu if you needed food. It was difficult to choose a sample flight with so many choices. The beer wife actually selcected her own flight and enjoyed each of her selections. Now that was a first. My favorites on this visit was the Thai Peanut Brown ale, Dead kettle IPA,Broken Nose Dbl Black IPA and Spinal Tapper IPA.
Shorts Brewing Co.: Shorts Brewing was another brewery that I encountered while attending a beer festival. Like Right Brain Brewing, Shorts brews unique and extreme beer. Their production facility is located north of Traverse City in the small town of Elk Rapids. They also have a "pull Barn" in front of the facility where you can order draught beer, fill growlers, etc. Unfortunately during my visit the pull barn was not open, so I drove further north and east to the town of Bellaire to visit their pub. Located on the main drag of Bellaire, the pub was definitely the hot spot of the town. In addition to over 20 house brews to sample, they also had a very nice food menu with a nice variety of sandwiches, pizza, soups and salads. The pub had two large rooms with ample space to seat a large number of people. With such a large number of brews to choose from I again struggled with making a selection. Ok...I went a little overboard and sampled 11 of their brews. Everyone was good, however, my favorites were Richard in the Dirt Tripel, Melt My Brain Golden Ale, Dock Sitting IPA, No Recess Sour Ale and Hellacious Rock Imperial IPA.
Mackinac Island: No brewery here, however, if you are in Northern Michigan and have the opportunity to take the Ferry to Mackinac Island...DO IT! The only means of transportation on the island is horse, bicycles and your feet. A beautiful laid back island with a Grand Hotel that overlooks the Strait of Mackinac. The Grand Hotel has a very long covered front porch, where you can relax on one of the many rocking chairs. Plus you can enjoy a Bell's Amber Ale brewed specifically for the Hotel, appropriately named " Big Porch Ale".
OK.... I know attending a beer festival is not a Brewery visit. However, this is the Savor Beer Festival. One of my favorite festivals to attend. This year is the 10th Anniversary of the Savor. I have been fortunate to attend 7 Savor Festivals. The atmosphere of the National building is maybe 2nd only to the GABF in Denver. This year 86 breweries attended pouring 172 brews. Adroit Theory was one of the 86, making it a little more special for me. Very few festivals, other than the Savor, provide you with the opportunity to meet the brewers and owners. It is a great opportunity to learn more about the beer and enjoy a great small dish paired with each beer. I know the ticket price is high, but believe me you will not be disappointed.
Spring time is the season for college graduations and my niece-in-law, Anna, was graduating from Middle Tennessee State. Hey a road trip to my sister-in-law's home in Nashville for the graduation party and why drive that far without finding a new brewery to visit.
The Black Abbey Brewing Co.: The Nashville Predators were playing in town and in the process of winning their playoff series which put them into the Stanley cup finals. So Downtown was crazy and in gridlock. So we headed to South Nashville and a visit to Black Abbey Brewing. Walking into "Fellowship Hall" ( their tasting room ) I thought I walked into a 15th Century costume party. As it turned out they were celebrating banner day. Fortunately my Brother-in-law and I were not required to have a banner to purchase a flight of beer. Black Abbey Brewing has taken the theme of brewing beer in the tradition of Martin Luther's brewing during the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500's. They have a strong focus on Belgians, Marzen, Saisons and Ales. THey do have a few pale ales, IPAs and stouts, however, their speciality is the Belgians. Banner Day brought a very festival atmosphere and I did not have an opportunity to chat with anyone to learn more about the brewery. I do believe they have a 300 barrel capacity and you can find their beer at a few establishments in town. The tasting room had a small bar and few wooden picnic tables. We sampled 12 brews on our visit, my favorites were the Grand Design Tripel and The Rose Belgian Blonde. If you are around South Nashville, I highly recommend a visit, no Banner required.
Country Boy Brewing: On the way home from Nashville, I decided it was time for a break and by coincidence we were near Georgetown,Kentucky. To my surprise (ha ha ha) Country Boy Brewing had recently opened their new production brewery and Tasting Room north of Georgetown. Located a few miles to the east I-75, Country Boy built a beautiful facility with a 90 bbl brewhouse and numerous fermentors. This brewing capacity expansion was necessary to meet their growing distribution market. The new facility included a 4,000 sq.ft. tasting room and a 5,000 sq.ft. patio. Their is plenty of room to enjoy a flight or a pint or two. Country Boy is keeping their original downtown brewery and taproom open. They will continue to operate this location to serve the UK students and downtown crowd, along with brewing small batch beers and experimental brews. OK...back to the beer at Country Boy North. In addition to the large tasting room and patio, they have a very large selection of brews. Making it difficult deciding what brews selectfor a tasting flight. So I did two flights, allowing me to enjoy a nice variety of their beer. My favorites were DY9NASTY IPA, Last year's was better IPA,Infinite Sadness black IPA and Fuego Del Oro stout. Great visit and I'm sure the new location will be very successful. In addion to a large Toyota plant next door, the area is growing.
Fury Brewing Co.- My brother informed me that a new brewery had opened in our home town of Irwin, Pa. OK, the brewery is in North Huntingdon Township, which actually surrounds Irwin. Full Pint Brewing was the first brewery ( brewery visit # 244) in North Huntingdon and now Fury Brewery opens on the opposite side of US RT.30, one and half miles down the road. New brewery sounds like a great reason to go visit the old stomping grounds. The brewery is located in a former pizza shop that was a hang out for Norwin high school students. Yes my old high school, the memories flooded back as I entered La Donnas Pizza .....I mean the Fury Brewery. The tasting room was small but well decorated with stone and metal sheeting. There were 16 taps, however almost half of them were dedicated to APIS Meadery, I'm not sure what the connection is with the brewery. The remaining taps were for the home brews, unfortunately 3 of the taps had kicked so I tried the brews available: Carson Street Kolsch, Nuts of Fury, Craig, Stealth, Notorious ESB, Pittsburgh Fog & Sid's 1K IPA. All good solid brews, Pittsburgh Fog and Imperial IPA was my favorite of the flight. The brewery is relatively new, so I'm sure they are still tuning in their recipes. If you are hungry, there is a pizza shop next store, no not La Donnas, but I wish it was. You can order at the bar and it will be delivered to your table. Well it was great to see that the hold home town is catching the craft beer bug and hopefully future breweries are on the Horizon for Irwin or North Huntingdon,
Beltway Brewing- during one of my many visits to Loudoun County, Jeff and I went on a beer run to fill a few growlers for the weekend. The number of Craft Breweries growing in Loudoun County, along with my twin Grandsons growing up, requires many visits to Northern Virginia. On this beer run we made a stop at the Beltway Brewing Co. Beltway is unique in the fact that they focus more on contract brewing than brewing their own beers. The taproom, located in front of their 30 bbl brewhouse is very small and fills up quickly. We were lucky, as we were entering the taproom a large group was leaving. Shortly after ordering our brews the crowd returned and packed the tasting room. The beer selection was slightly surprising to me. They had more Grimm Artisanal Ales on tap ( Grimm contracts Beltway to brew some of their beer for Distro) than their own beer. So we selected a few Beltway brews: Black Snake & LoCollabor/coffee aged in rye barrels. the LoCollabor was a collaboration beer brewed by all of the Loudoun County Breweries, I believe each brewery made their unique variant of the base beer. Since the Grimm Brews on tap looked interesting I also enjoyed Lambo Door, Castling, Saison de Coupage and Skyspace.
Beltway is a nice stop if you are in the area, you get the bargain of two breweries in one taproom.
SPRING HOUSE BREWING CO. - My first visit to Lancaster during year One of the quest, I did not have the opportunity to visit Spring House Brewery. The brewery was located in a barn near Conestoga, PA, with a taproom on King Street in Lancaster. Shortly after my visit, they moved the brew works to an old warehouse on Hazel Street in Lancaster. They also opened a very nice brew pub in front of the brew house. There is a very nice pub menu of sandwiches, pizzas, salads and wings to satisfy your hunger pangs. We enjoyed a very good Market Salad with blackened Chicken. The beer selection was very good with about 14 house brews on tap. There were also a few house beers available in bottle only, along with a few guest beers. I enjoyed the Braaaiins Pumpkin ale for Zombies, French Toast Coffee Oatmeal Brown Ale, All Them Witches, and my two favorites: Blood Turning Black Coffee Coconut Porter & Kerplunk! Imperial Chocolate Stout. I'm very happy that I missed Spring House on the farm... I mean in the barn and saved my first visit for the Brew Pub.
The Great American Beer Festival, better known as the GABF, is the Superbowl, Stanley Cup, National Championship, America's Cup, World Cup...........bottom line it is the Holy Grail for a Craft Beer Lover. When my passion for craft beer began, the GABF was always a event that was on my bucket list to partake. Finally the stars aligned and the trip to Denver became a reality. The best part was I was able to take this venture with my son, who first introduced me to craft beer. Can it get any better than that? Oh yes it can, we both were given brewery credentials and represented Adroit Theory Brewery at all four sessions. In addition to sampling brews from close to 900 breweries with nearly 4,000 different beers, we took turns with the brewery team pouring great selections of Adroit Theory's beer and then sampling all the other available brews. Everyone asks how beers did I sample? The answer is simple.... a lot!
The Colorado Convention Center is the perfect venue for this event. Walking in on the festival floor for the first time is like being a little kid walking into a candy store. Speaking of candy, beware of the Denver Gummy Bears.....unless you want a little Rocky Mountain High. It took us the first hour to get our bearings, the floor is a maze of craft brewery booths. The breweries are grouped together by geographic regions. With a little bit of geography and a map, it was easy to find the breweries you wanted to visit. The GABF is one of the few festivals that require a brewery Representative to pour their beer with the help of volunteers. You often have the opportunity to talk with the brewer or owner. Unlike most festivals that have volunteers pouring beer that know little or anything about the beer they are poring.
If you have been bitten by the Craft Beer Revolution bug, you need to put this festival on your bucket list. You will have the time of your craft beer life, with or without Brewery credentials.
The GABF offers close to 4,000 brews, represented by nearly 800 breweries. However, there is not a session on Friday afternoon. So what does one do with their free time? You visit some of the many breweries located in the Denver area. So in the spirit of true beer adventurers, we ubered to the following Denver Breweries:
Crooked Stave Brewery: if you enjoy sour beer this is a must visit for you when in Denver. Located in the "Source", an Artisan food market within an 1880 vintage foundry building. The tasting room is small, the bar area is not very large and there are a few tables. Arriving minutes after they opened, the line was long, however, the wait was worth it. There were so many choices and I sampled so many, just check the beer log to see what I tasted. The 12 beers that I sampled were all good, I wish I could have sampled the remaining 12. The source also has a few nice restaurants within the building, so food is not far away from the tasting room.
Great Divide Brewing Barrel House: Almost directly across the street from the Source, you will find Great Divide Brewery's warehouse, canning & kegging line and barrel aging room. We were informed that this is where Great Divide will house their sour program. They also have a small tasting room in front of the facility. The bar area is small, however, they do have a nice patio area. They offered a great selection of their brews. Since Yeti is one of my favorite Great Divide brews, I sampled 3 variants of Yeti and their Mosaic IPA.
Mockery Brewery: wait, hold off ordering the Uber, across the parking lot from Great Divide you will find Mockery Brewery. The tasting room is located in front of the Brew House. The inside area is not that large, however, there is a very nice sized outdoor area. Mockery had 12 of their brews on tap to build your flight. I sampled 8 of their brews with Party at the Moon Tower and Oaked Southern Hemisphere Black Pale Ale, making it to the top of my list.
Unfortunately we ran out of time and the Friday Session of the GABF is caaling us back from our brewery tour. We still have 3,00 beers remaining to be sampled at the convention center.
The Northern Tier of Pennsylvania is beautiful if you like mountains, trees, wildlife and very few people. Wellsboro is a quaint little town in Tioga County that is known for the Pennsylvania Laurel Festival, the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, gas light lined streets , The Wellsboro Diner and the famed Wyken, Blyken and Nod Statue in the Town Park Green. Sounds nice, serene, easy going and yes there are more deer than people in the County. The locals refer to themselves as "Stump Jumpers" and if you are from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh or New Jersey you are a "Flat Lander". Oh I almost forgot if you are from West Virginia you are a "Down Homer". No I didn't make this up, I lived there for ten years and I never lost my Flat Lander Status.
I almost forgot this is a beer blog. This beautiful town does draw numerous flatlanders, who want to enjoy a slower pace of life. This migration of Flat Landers has also created a demand for craft beer. Their demand was answered with Wellsboro's first craft brewery, "The Wellsboro House Brewery".
The brew works is located in the old Wellsboro Train Station Building. Walk across the street from the train station, you find the tasting room. Located in an 1862 vintage building that was a tavern at one time, has been restored into a nice tasting room and restaurant. THe Wellsboro House has a very nice bar area and numerous tables in the restaurant area. They have a full food menu serving both Lunch and Dinner. I did not sample the food during my visit, however, the dishes being served around me looked very good. The beer selection was good, in addition to the house brews there were a few guest beers available. My flight of four consisted of the Wallaces Revenge Scotch Ale, Bavarian Steam Hefeweizen,PA Common Red Ale and my best of the flight, Wyken,Blyken &Nod IPA.
If you are traveling through the area this is a nice stop. If your traveling companion is not into the craft beer, Wellsboro has a few unique shops to occupy them while you enjoy the beer. Or just find a new traveling companion..............
New West Virginia Beer Festival:
Some of my friends, who happen to be native West Virginians and very Mountaineer proud, have not appreciated my labeling the Country Roads State, "The Vast Wasteland Void of Craft Beer".
Unfortunately, the State beer remains Bud or Bud Light and in some beer establishments Shock Top at the worst or Yuengling at the best is considered to be craft beer.
OK.... before my West Virginia wife throws me out of the house, I must admit the craft beer scene is changing for the better. Progress is slow, but the craft beer revolution is taking hold in Wild Wonderful West Virginia. The State Government has passed Legislation that permits breweries to brew beer slightly above 11% ABV and has made it easier for breweries to sell their beer on site. The laws are not perfect, however, they have come a long way from the days of selling near beer ( less than 3% ABV). There is a light shinning at the end of the tunnel for Craft Beer and it's not the Coors Express. The brewers have responded and there are now 18 breweries in the WV, with more on the drawing board. Watch Out Inbev distributors your WV beer market share is dropping.
In addition to the growth of Breweries, Beer Festivals are starting to sprout around the Mountain State. Snowshoe Mountain , a topnotch skiing and year round resort, is the Venue for the Brews, Blues and BBQ festival. Not a large festival for brews, however, it was the start. One of the larger beer festivals is the Rails & Ales Festival in Huntington, WV. This festival inspired the Mayor of Bridgeport, WV and his wife to start the " SOUND WAVES and IPAS Festival". This was the first WV Beer Festival I attended. There was a nice variety of WV Brewery beer available along with a few other national craft breweries. The music was good, the food was provided by a few food trucks( the best ran out of food early). All in All it was a very nice event, which I'm sure they will make improvements for the 2nd Annual Sound Waves and IPAS Festival in June 2017.
If the Craft Beer Revolution continues to grow, almost Heaven WV, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River, Mountain Mamma, Country Roads, may lead you to a nice craft beer.