The other day, Holly said to me, “We need to do more Beer Adventures so you have more fodder for your Blog!” I told this to my coworker Kevin, and he said “Did you look down at your wedding ring and say ‘I made the right decision?'” I responded, “Yeah, I’m so glad I locked that down…”
Holly and I are continuing our 2016 by finding more opportunities to do something different. We live in the greatest, worst, dirtiest, prettiest, smelliest, most expensive city in the world. This year started off with a bang (literally) when our ceiling collapsed, at 12:01am on January 1st. (Ok, I don’t know exactly when it collapsed, as we were out at Singlecut Brewery with Alex, Shelbie, Ryan, Erica, and Rafa for the quietest, most amazing New Years celebration we’ve ever had. So it may have happened in 2015. We’ll never know.). Things could definitely be worse, so we’ve been making a conscious effort to be present in the moment, and venture out and explore as much as possible.
I got a text from Holly the other day, as we had the next day off together. “Wanna drive to Vermont tonight and crash at a B&B and spend all day touring breweries? Or we could do Upstate NY.” I thought that Vermont was a bit far for an overnight, so I did a little research, and we decided on Boston! We left right after work, and as I got onto the Whitestone Bridge, Holly asks, “Can I make us a playlist for our ride?” I said “Of course!” She responds “THIS IS GOING TO BE LIKE JOCK JAMS.” And like Jock Jams, it was. We got to hear a freaking non-radio edit of Chumbawumba’s Tub Thumping. Absolutely not-to-be-missed. Also, it made the nearly 4 hour drive go by in a flash.
We had gift certificates for bedandbreakfast.com, so we booked a quaint little, definitely not haunted, Bed & Breakfast in Brookline, MA, called Coolidge Corner.
In actuality, I didn’t see one ghost (not even a naked one), and frankly, I’m disappointed. Minus one star on Trip Advisor.
We absolutely loved this place, and would definitely stay there again. The staff is wonderful, and the bed was really comfy!
Boston is home to a ton of breweries, but the ones we decided we would try to hit in our limited time were: Sam Adams Brewing, and Trillium Brewing, which are inside the city, and Night Shift Brewing, and Lord Hobo Brewing Co., which are just North of the city. The long shot, though, was Tree House Brewing. Their brewery is in Monson, in Western Massachusetts. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to make that one, as it was an hour and a half from Boston, but it was a possibility, as (I thought) they were (sort of) on the way home. More on that later.
So basically, we tore through Boston. We got up early and had an amazing Breakfast spread (because what’s a Bed & Breakfast without Breakfast? I’ll tell you what. It’s Just Bed.). We headed out to Sam Adams Brewery to catch one of their first tours of the day. Holly and I agreed this tour was our favorite part of the trip. Sam Adams is the second largest Craft Brewery in the United States (Yuengling Brewery is the largest). They make a delicious lager, but you know that. Their other offerings are hit or miss, but they’ve been around for 32 years, and are still 100% privately owned and going strong.
A goober in front of Sam Adams Brewery. Photo Credit to Holly Kay!
The facility is absolutely gorgeous. The exterior of their buildings is a dark, reddish brown brick, combined with the cobblestone streets on their property, evoked a feeling of Old-World Germany. We got our tickets for the tour, and wandered around the lobby, waiting for the tour to start. (BTW, Tours are free! They ask for a $2 donation, all of which goes to local Boston Charities!). Our tour guide was named Tom, and he was so passionate about the brand, and about beer in general! Super well spoken and articulate about the ingredients that go into beer and the brewing process in general.
Tom, mid sentence. Photo Credit to Holly Kay!
We got to taste different types of barley (they get darker as they roast them for longer, and the more they’re roasted, the darker your beer is! SCIENCE!!).
We also got to do a HOP APPRAISAL!! (How do I get a job where all I do are hop appraisals??). A hop appraisal is where you take a handful of hops (in this case, Hallertau), rub your hands together to release the hop oils and aromas, and then smell your hands!! This is one of the only acceptable time smelling your hands in public is appropriate (in addition to, say, Lush or Bath & Body Works, where smelling your hands is absolutely acceptable, and in fact, encouraged!). I sniffed the hop flowers before grinding them up, and they smelled like sweetened iced tea, as I rubbed my hands together, and smelled again, they released flavors of lemon citrus, dank pine, and grapefruit. If I could put this scent in one of those little tree air fresheners, I would. (Is this a thing already? If not, I’m going to be a millionaire.)
Photo Credit to Holly Kay!
Holly Holding Hops! Photo Credit to Holly Kay!
“Quit smelling your hand, ya weirdo!” -Someone, probably. Photo Credit to Holly Kay!
After tasting the malt and appraising the hops, we got to see the brew house itself. Tom articulated the brewing process, from mashing in, which is where you add water to the grain to suck up all that sweet, biscuity sugar to make wort, which is non-fermented beer, to boiling and adding the hops, to adding yeast for the fermentation process. Yeast are really cool, you guys. They’re alive! And they take a dive into the beer, chow down on sugar and oxygen, and they fart out carbon dioxide and alcohol. It’s amazing. So next time you take a sip of that delicious craft beverage, remember, you’re drinking yeast farts. Malty, hoppy, yeasty fart water. (SCIENCE!!) But, I digress…
The Brewhouse! Photo Credit to Holly Kay!
After chatting about the brewing process, we went into the tasting room, and learned how to professionally taste a beer. When you’re doing a professional tasting, you use 3 out of 5 senses:
Sight: observe the color of the beer. Is it filtered, or unfiltered? How much/what color is the foam head?
Smell: Swirl the beer around in the glass. What do you smell? Malt will smell like bread, or biscuits, or sugary sweetness. Hops will smell like pine, or citrus, or grass, or tea, depending on the type of hop. Yeast, we learned from Tom, will give a beer like a Hefeweizen (a German Wheat Beer) aromas and flavors of Banana or bubble gum.
Taste: Take a sip of the beer, and keep it on the front of your tongue for two seconds. Swish it around and swallow. Then, take another sip and swallow it like a shot, straight down the gullet. You should get different flavors on the front and back of the palate. (SCIENCE!!)
As I’ve said in previous blogs, if you don’t do this, that’s ok! You shouldn’t have to put that much thought into each time you gather for a drink with friends, but sometimes it’s fun to sit and appreciate the hard work these Brewers go through to make good beer. At Sam Adams, almost the entire brewing process is automated, but all small Craft Brewers, like my friends Matt and Lauri at Moustache Brewing Company, have to sit, wait, stir, and watch their beer for hours. So much hard work and dedication goes into it.
In the tasting room, we got to sample Boston Lager (you all know how this tastes), Summer Ale (ehhhh…) and Oat Stout (YUM!). The Oat Stout was an 8% ABV Oatmeal Stout that has not been released to the public. It was roasty from the malts, with flavors of chocolate and coffee. We chatted with Tom for a few minutes, and Holly asked if she could take a picture of the two of us, so, here ya go!
Just two guys, with some beer! Photo Credit to Holly Kay!
And, like any good theme park, you exit through the Gift Shop! Holly bought a Sam Adams tee, and asked that I take her picture in front of this Rebel Raw sign (she was feeling reaaaaal good after a few tasting glasses of that Oatmeal Stout)
Next, it was off to Congress Street, home of Trillium Brewing Company.
This is a quick, grab-your-bottles-and-go, shop. No tasting room at this location(which is sad), but they do have a location just outside the city that has a small tasting room, and there are bars and restaurants throughout Boston that get their beer on tap, including The Publick House (which, coincidentally is about a mile from our B&B). There, I drank the Double Dry Hopped Scaled IPA, which poured like hazy pineapple juice and tasted like a pineapple dream. (What is a pineapple dream? I don’t know, I just made that up. What does a pineapple dream taste like? Let’s just say it was like melted Dole Whip). Holly and I picked out a few bottles (Artaic, a double IPA brewed with honey, Upper Case, a double IPA with Mosaic, Galaxy, Citra, and Columbus hops, and Free Rise, a saison dry-hopped with mosaic) grabbed them, and went! We stopped next door at Row 34 (their slogan is “If we could eat oysters and drink beer for every meal period, we probably would. Professionals Only.” I’d like to say that we’re professionals.) We wanted a bite to eat and a half pint of Night Shift Whirlpool Pale Ale. This is a low ABV Pale Ale that is pure golden in color, unfiltered, and tastes like crisp, citrusy pineapple and grapefruit. This comes in cans, and is available around Boston. Pick up a 4 pack of you have the opportunity. Also, we had some unbelievable seafood; half of a giant lobster and some amazingly fresh oysters.
With that quick taste of Whirlpool, it was time to head up to Night Shift Brewery! While the tour of Sam Adams was amazing, this was our favorite overall brewery. It’s in a giant warehouse, with a beautiful, industrial looking tasting room, with the coolest looking flights we’ve ever seen.
Really awesome wooden flight holder!
We were just north of Boston, right across the street from Teddie Peanut Butter Factory, which was wild, because the smell of freshly roasted peanuts wafted in from one side of the street, while the smell of the bready, malted barley wafted from the other.
There was a separate area in the brew house with free arcade games and cornhole! (WE LOVE CORNHOLE!). It doesn’t really matter who won cornhole (it was me) because one of the brewers walked past us and said “You guys are amazing at this. I’ve never seen anyone play this game so well.” And our hearts grew three sizes that day!!
Free arcade games!
Kegs on Kegs on Kegs.
Holly and I were growing tired, but we are intrepid travelers (I was trying to find a witty way to combine “Beer” and “Travelers” into something like “Beerelers”, or how ’bout “Beervelers”? Neither of those really roll off the tongue, do they?), and we still had places to go!
Our next stop was Lord Hobo Brewing Co., about 20 minutes west of Night Shift. We arrived at the brewery, whose building looks like a giant castle, with a grey brick facade and a large gate at the entrance. I couldn’t take a good photo, as the sun was directly behind the building, but it was absolutely massive.
This was an odd tasting room, because they had so much space, but you were unable to buy pints or flights. They offered free samples, and cans and growlers to-go of their three IPAs, Hobo Life Session IPA, Steal This Can IPA, and BOOM SAUCE (which is an amazing name) double IPA. I’m not sure if they couldn’t get a license to sell pints on-premises, and don’t get me wrong, the beer is great, all three were classic New England-style juicy hop bombs, and the staff is very friendly, and they have a dog, but the fact that we couldn’t really enjoy the large tasting room made it a bit disappointing.
So, that’s a lot of breweries, right? But, like I said before, Holly and I are Beervelers! (That definitely doesn’t work.). So we looked at the map, and saw that it was about an hour and 30 minutes to Tree House Brewing, and then about 2 hours and 30 minutes from there to our apartment in Jackson Heights.
As it turns out, Tree House wasn’t really “on the way home” as much as it was “in the middle of nowhere”. It was an absolutely gorgeous drive through the hills of Massachusetts (is that a thing?). Tree House is a Mecca for Beer Geeks who love hops (I fall into both those categories). But again, overall, Holly and I were a bit disappointed. We thought it would be a nice way to break up the trip back to New York, stop in and have a taste of some of the best IPAs in the country, maybe have a bite to eat, chat for a little bit, then head home.
I was reading Tree House’s Twitter page to see what beers they were releasing (they release their hoppy IPAs the day they come off the canning line, as hops begin to fade the longer the beer sits in the bottle or can). So I knew there was going to be a line. We arrived at the sprawling, farmhouse style building in the middle of nowhere, and were directed to park by employees in red Tree House tee shirts. We hopped on line with about 100 other people, waiting to purchase their cans and fill their growlers. We waited in line for about 30 minutes, soaking up the rays of the setting Massachusetts sun, and entered the tasting room. They weren’t pouring any tastes, only distributing cans for purchase, and filling growlers. Those who wanted growlers filled had to wait an additional 45 minutes to an hour. Once we got our cans, we packed them up in the car and headed back to New York. Yes, these guys make unbelievable beer, but we were disappointed in our experience at the brewery, as you couldn’t even enjoy the cans you purchased on property. They have a beautiful space outdoors with picnic tables and cornhole (CORNHOLE!) but, it appears it’s just for those waiting to get their growlers filled.
Photo Credit to Holly Kay!
Our disappointmentcertainly won’t stop Beer Lovers from lining up for these liquid masterpieces of beer. (The beer is worth the wait.) The facility was beautiful, I only wish we could have spent more time there. I understand they are opening a new facility, and I hope that they are able to keep up with demand, and create a better on-site beer experience for their customers.
We got home around 10pm, travel weary and with a trunk full of beer!
Our year of adventures continue, and I’m so thankful Holly Kay and I were able to share the experience together on a whim! Go out and adventure! Stay in a quaint Bed & Breakfast with ghosts! Go to a brewery! Or a vineyard! Or a museum! Enjoy the moment, and share your experiences with those around you! It feels amazing.
Thanks again for reading.