Monday, August 25, 2008

To the Land of the Free Beer and the Home of the Braves

Finally, a drive that my back can handle! The drive from Athens to Atlanta is only 73 miles, our shortest day of driving the entire trip. I guess that is kind of obvious, though. Who drives cross-country and only drives 73 miles a day? It would take you awhile. We can't afford that many hotels (even the kind we stay in).

By the time we left Five Points it was noon, and we were well ready for lunch when we arrived in Atlanta, which was fine. Our lunch destination was planned out before we even left Albuquerque: The Varsity. You may have seen the various foodie shows that tout this Atlanta institution, or maybe you are one of the thousands who pass through their doors every day. This is the place where there are at least twenty cashiers shouting, "What'll ya' HAVE!?!" at you.

We found a cashier with no line (ever notice the "flock mentality" in public, how people will mill over to the longest line?) and were greeted with "What'll ya' HAVE!" . I had the urge to point at her and say, "As heard on TV!", but her glare made me think twice. We ordered a hot dog with chili, cheese and coleslaw; a hamburger with chili, and an order of onion rings. Plus a large diet Coke. Yes, we are those people. I guess the order translates to, "Slaw hot dog, chili steak and ring one!" because that is what the cashier shouted to the kitchen. I trusted her, as this place is famous for its lingo, and the order indeed came out right. She got the Diet Coke herself, otherwise I wouldn't have been surprised to hear her shout "Delusional!".

There were plenty of seats, as everywhere you turn there are dining rooms. The place is huge, and with good reason. On game days they may get 30,000 people customers.
The food was great, not so much for the quality of the actual burger patty or hot dog, which were both good, but because of the chili that topped them both. The slaw was good, too- that KFCish slaw that you can never duplicate at home. It was nice that they had free internet , because we still hadn't booked our hotel yet or gotten directions to the other stops on our agenda. I am still amazed at how reliant I have become on internet service even though I have plenty of maps and a phone in my pocket.

We couldn't hang there too long because we had a date with a whale shark at the world's largest aquarium- the Georgia Aquarium. First tip- park in the crappy-looking five dollar lot across the street rather than driving up five levels of the official aquarium ten dollar lot. Second tip- don't pack any heat. They pat you down before you go in. Otherwise, enjoy the amazing display of sea life that they have on hand. The HUGE ocean tank is the highlight of the aquarium, and is the home of the whale shark. The Georgia Aquarium is one of the few in the whole world to house the largest fish in the sea. Plan to spend thirty dollars to get in and three hours once you are in. The Albuquerque Aquarium does a great job for what they have to work with, and you should support and visit them, but this place is a one of a kind.

Atlanta has good breweries and brewpubs like Red Brick Brewery and Five Seasons Brewpub, but our destination was a few miles east, in Decatur. We decided on Decatur for three reasons: Taco Mac, Brick Store Pub and Fred Crudder. No, Fred Crudder is not a bar or a beer, but a beer bar expert. We met Fred when we visited the Rogue Brewpub in Newport, Oregon in 2007. My girlfriend and I were drinking with the wife of Rogue's General Sales Manager, Jim Evans, who was entertaining the Beverage Director for the Tappan Street Restaurant group, Fred Crudder. This group owns the Taco Mac chain, which features huge beer tap and bottle selections at their various locations. And this is not your everyday chain that says they have X million beers but when you get there they have every variety of Bud, Miller and Coors on tap and the rest of the beers are out. I had read about Taco Mac in different beer publications so I introduced myself, and Fred couldn't have been cooler. We talked beer for a half hour or so, he gave me his business card, and then I had to go pass out.

Flash forward to a few months ago, when All About Beer magazine did an article on the Southeast beer scene. Taco Mac was mentioned, along with a quote from Fred. I still had his card, so I emailed congratulations. We corresponded a few times and I mentioned our plan of a trip to South Carolina. He invited us to come visit his neck of the woods for a beer tour and hey, who am I to turn down that kind of offer?
So we checked into our hotel and walked over to Taco Mac. This may be a chain, but is the real deal when it comes to beer, with the one we visited having 92 beers on tap and 237 bottled beers. The tap list was full of beers that I wanted to try, but I decided on Weyerbacher's Hops Infusion IPA. My girlfriend ordered Terrapin's Rye Pale Ale. The bartender carded us and after seeing our New Mexico IDs he showed us his own- also a New Mexico ID! Small world. While we were enjoying our beers, Fred arrived. I wasn't sure I would recognize him after only meeting him that one time but his entrance reminded me of Norm's arrival at Cheers. Everybody seemed to know his name (sorry) and greeted him as he came in. We caught up for awhile and we gave him a six-pack of Marble IPA and a bottle of Rio Grande Pancho Verde(green chile beer) to give him a little taste of New Mexico. We decided to head over to the Brick Store Pub.

I had been following this place for awhile now. One of the weird things I do is look at the websites of beer bars around the country to see their updated beer lists. It gives me cyber-goosebumps to see the offerings. Weird. Told ya. The inside area was packed when we arrived so we grabbed a table outside.
We were quickly handed menus and asked for our drink order. I am always the last in a group to decide, often leaving the server to put in the order of the other people and having to come back for mine. It's hard to choose on a beer when there are so many good choices.I had been drinking IPAs almost exclusively on the trip so I switched it up with a Weyerbacher Slam Dunkel(7.4%), while my girlfriend got the Sweetwater IPA(6.4), a local favorite. The Slam Dunkel, an imperial dunkelweizen, was a nice palate change from all the IPAs I had been drinking, and left me wishing I had bought the big bottle of it that I saw at Five Points. I tried the Sweetwater and couldn't believe how great it was on tap. I had bought a sixer two years ago and thought it was good, but I loved this beer on tap. I didn't buy any Sweetwater beers while in Georgia either, because I had seen them everywhere and kept saying, "Oh, I'll pick up some of that before we leave town". Apparently I forgot that I am an idiot, and am now Sweetwaterless.

One of the cool things from that night was how many "beer people" we talked to, since Fred knew all of them. We met Bob Townsend, who is the editor of the Southern Brewing News, and...other people. I was drinking, so it's a little foggy. They were all cool, though. What also was cool was hearing Fred's story on how he had started out in the beer business working for the great Bell's Brewery in Michigan and eventually ending up with Taco Mac.
By now we were drinking Terrapin All American Pilsner(7.4%) and Avery Maharaja (9.7%). We can get the Avery beer in Albuquerque but nobody carries it on tap. That's a damn shame, because while I never thought much of the bottled version, on draft it is a whole different animal. We also drank Lagunitas Sirius Cream Ale (7.4%) and Thomas Hooker Hop Meadow IPA (6.5%). Lagunitas is so consistently good in all their styles and this beer was no exception. Thomas Hooker is a company out of Connecticut that is best known for their outstanding Liberator Dopplebock, but their IPA is a great beer as well, though was overshadowed a bit following the big double IPA from Avery. We were having a great time but Fred had to get up early the next morning for work (ugh! at this point in the trip I had forgotten that word) and somehow it was pretty damn late already, so we said goodbye and promised to meet up at the Great American Beer Fest in October. Fred paid for all the beer too, at Taco Mac and Brick Store. He's a classy guy, for a Dallas Cowboy fan!

My girlfriend and I went to the upstairs portion of the Brick Store where the Belgian beer bar is housed. All that is served up there is Belgians drafts and bottles, and the selection is impressive. I don't write about Belgians that often, and it's not because I don't like them; I just can't stretch myself that far. I have to restrain myself and focus on American micros because otherwise I would have to rent a U-Haul for these trips. But we went upstairs anyway, just to look. I think the upstairs is cooler than the downstairs, all polished wood and cozy atmosphere. I would hang out up here, American beer in hand.

We left the Brick Store Pub (notice the beautiful door with the stained glass beer window) and were starving as usual. Only problem was where to find food at 1:30 in the morning. I found the number for the local Mellow Mushroom(yes, I was willing to get the $21.00 pizza again) and remembered they are open till 2 am in Athens, so I called. My stomach growled as the phone rang and rang. Finally, success! "Mellow Mushroom, can I help you?" "Hi, I'd like to place an order, please." "Uh, we closed at 11:00."

My stomach stopped growling and started crying. I restrained myself from yelling into the phone, "You closed at 11:00?!? Then why don't you go the hell home already!!!" Everything turned out ok, though. Taco Mac, home of the 92 draft beers, also serves food until 2 am. We got some kind of nachos and Philly steak wrap thingy that hit the spot and we crashed into bed. We had a long day ahead of us.
Thanks to Fred and the Atlanta area for showing us an unforgettable time!

Next: How many times in one day can we drive in and out of Tennessee?

It's The Not So Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

The Fall seasonals are arriving almost daily here in Albuquerque and I have a couple more for you today.

First is the Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale (5.5%) from Anheuser Busch. It is a decent beer if you keep in mind that it is from Anheuser Busch. Like many of their "craft beer" attempts, this one lacks a little flavor but may convert some yellow beer lovers, at least until Halloween passes. I think there must be fine print on the label that says "hint of" before Pumpkin Spice Ale. Quarters Liquors at Montgomery has it for $6.99, and you should find it at all the grocery chains as well.

Next is Shipyard Brewing's Pumpkinhead beer (4.5%). This beer isn't distributed that well in the Albuquerque area. Last year I only saw it at one place, Kelly Liquors at Eubank and Central. I found it today at Quarters. It's another mildly spiced pumpkin ale. The beer's label looks really cool, but the price looks like shit: $10.99! Here's a tip- Shipyard Brewing is Sea Dog Brewing is Kennebunkport Brewing, which is exclusive to Trader Joe's and the Kennebunkport label sells for $5.99. I haven't seen the pumpkin style yet but am told that it is on its way, so if you want to save 5 bucks hold on a little longer for the same beer.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bye-Bye Myrtle, Hello Athens!

It wasn't supposed to happen this way.
Our plan was to leave Myrtle Beach Sunday morning and drive into Atlanta, where we going to stay Sunday and Monday. We were going to make a detour of 45 miles or so to hit a great beer store in Athens, the Five Points Bottle Shop. Then my girlfriend had an interesting thought- are they open on Sundays?
Nope. Time to change plans.
We really wanted to hit Five Points, so we decided to stay Sunday in Athens, go to the beer store Monday morning and continue into Atlanta. We had incentive to stay in Athens anyway because it is home of the Trappeze Pub, a bar that specializes in American and Belgian craft beers. We booked a motel just under a mile away from the bar through and said goodbye to the beach.
The drive to Athens is mainly set out along I-20, which is pretty non-descript through South Carolina. Once you hit the Georgia line you are in Augusta, home of the famous golf course. I have passed through the area a number of times, but I never stopped to see the course. Not that I could get through the gates, but I would at least like to see the gates.
To get to Athens we had to get off the busy interstate and onto a quiet country road that rolled through hills, passing small towns now and then, and other cars even less. After awhile it felt like we were never going to see civilization again, but after an hour on that road (and taking a wrong turn at one point) we arrived.
We checked into the palatial Travelodge, home of the pool that hadn't been cleaned in ten years and a view of a barbed wire fence from our window. This is the price you pay to be close to a good bar.

We headed down the street to the Trappeze Pub. The bar is located in the main business district, which is full of historical buildings surrounded by shady trees. We were almost to the bar, then my girlfriend had an interesting thought- are they open on Sundays?
Deja vu! Luckily for us, Trappeze was indeed open, an oasis in a desert of victims of Sunday blue laws. I was scared for a minute there, because the whole area looked like a ghost town, and it would have been disappointing to miss out on this place. But it turns out they are not yet subject to the law regarding the ratio of beer to food that must be met to operate on Sundays because they have only been open since January.
We grabbed a couple of seats near the end of the bar, right under the chalkboard with the tap list on it. The list boasted 30 American craft and Belgian choices. My girlfriend started with a Sweetwater Georgia Brown while I went with a hand-pumped Victory Hop Devil. The bartender not only served the beers in the proper glassware, they served the beers in logo glasses of the brewery we were drinking the beer from! Now, I'm not that much of a beer snob where I care that much about "proper glassware", but it is nice to see a bartender who knows their beer that well and sure beats a frosted mug.
After a few swigs of beer, we both realized that we hadn't eaten all day, and if we wanted to last through the amount of beers we wanted to try we better get something in our stomachs. The Trappeze has a small menu of pub fare that they crank out of a closet-sized kitchen. We learned that they bought out the former coffee shop next door and will soon be expanding their kitchen and menu as well. We ordered a beer-cheese soup, roast beef sandwich and spinach salad. We were so hungry that Hot Pockets wouldn't have tasted bad at this point, but the food was a perfect match for our beer (ok, maybe not the salad, but you gotta have some greens)and it's remarkable they can turn out such good food from a hobbit hole.

Our next beers were a Terrapin Oak-Aged Rye Squared Pale Ale and a Weyerbacher Double Simcoe IPA. I thought the Terrapin was a smooth, well balanced beer that was almost a sipping beer. We got to talking to Brad, one of the bartenders, and he used to work for Terrapin. Actually we talked to both bartenders all night, but we never caught the other guy's name. Sorry, man. You were cool anyway. So Brad said that the head brewer at Terrapin (Brian Buckowski) just had to make beers that were in balance, no matter what the style. If you read my stuff a lot you know I don't mind a beer that is super over the top in on way or another (preferably hop-wise) but you don't really get that from Terrapin. I enjoyed that beer, though, and I love that they use rye in some of their beers. You can really taste it in the Rye Pale Ale, which is well distributed in the Southeast.

The Weyerbacher Double Simcoe was not so balanced, and that was a good thing. Even a great thing. Maybe even the best thing ever. It smelled so good, I just kept sticking my nose in the glass and saying, "Wow!". My girlfriend got tired of my nose intruding into her beer and had to keep it away from me. I have had this beer before from a bottle and it was very good, but having it on tap elevates it to a new level. And congratulations to Weyerbacher for not toning down this beer even after the price of Simcoe hops jumped from four dollars a pound to over thirty!Weyerbacher is a company out of Easton, PA, and makes beer in a variety of styles, including a number of Belgian varieties. Their distribution runs all the way from Maine to Florida so keep a eye out for them in your travels to the east coast.

We finally got to try that Double Dog that we thought we were going to get on tap back in Myrtle Beach as we shared a pint of that while talking beer with the bartenders. How great were those guys? We were talking about Lagunitas Hop Stoopid and how we loved it and how hard it had been to find. Next thing we knew, they had tapped a keg of it. For us. Well, we didn't get to drink the whole thing, but that's only because we had already had some high gravity beers. But we did drink our share, and it was excellent! Trappeze is a first-class operation with a great crew, and we are so happy we decided to stay the night in Athens. Don't pass this place up if you are in Georgia.

Is this pizza worth 21 bucks? Apparently so, if you order from Mellow Mushroom, a semi-local pizza chain. I was hungry again after all that great beer, so we ordered a pizza. Mellow Mushroom has a large selection of specialty pizza with eclectic toppings and also a large beer selection. We went to pick up the pizza and the counter guy, who I think was in the movie Half Baked or auditioning for the sequel, told us it would be 21 dollars. I didn't know the prices when I called in the order so I just paid up but when the pizza came out we looked at it and it wasn't anything like the one we ordered. This one had shittake mushrooms, feta, pesto, jalapenos and I don't know what else. The guys working there were, uh, "mellow" about it and offered to make us a new pizza or give us that one at the price of the pizza we actually ordered, which turned out to be 12 bucks. That's more like it. I was so hungry by then that that mess actually sounded good so we just took it. It turned out to be pretty good. Not 21 dollars good, but good.

So Monday morning rolled around and we drove through the historic streets of the University of Georgia to the Five Points Bottle Shop. It turns out Brad, our bartender from the Trappeze Pub, is friends with Sachen, the owner of Five Points, and told him we were coming. Sachen came over and introduced himself. This guy is serious about beer, and about how his store looks. He told us that he actually has nightmares about shelves in disarray and he is constantly facing and straightening product.

They have some of the best selection of any beer store we have been in, with lots of beers that I had never seen before but only read about. But never dreamt about. I'm not that bad yet. If I had my way I would have liked two of everything, but we had to figure how much space we could afford in the car, so we didn't get everything we wanted. I was willing to part with my suitcase by I was talked out of it. I'm still kicking myself that I didn't get a few things I could have but it gives me a reason to keep traveling, right? I guess we spent enough money because Sachen was kind enough to give us Terrapin and Weyerbacher beer glasses. He also gave us directions to Atlanta and we were off, saying a sad goodbye to a town that one should take more time to visit. Not us though- there was still so much beer, and so little time!

Next: Atlanta

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fall Must be Coming Soon

Because the first Oktoberfest and pumpkin beers are already arriving in stores!
First on the scene is Widmer's Okto (5%), which they call an oktoberfest beer, but which actually only resembles one in name and color. The beer is an amber ale, while a true oktoberfest is a lager. Albertson's has it for 6.99 a sixer.

The Blue Moon division of Coors has released Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale (5.6%). We don't get any great pumpkin beers in Albuquerque (Weyerbacher, Cottonwood, DogfishHead), and this is no exception. It isn't a bad beer at all, just slightly subdued, as you might expect from a company that markets to the masses. This also is selling for 6.99 at both Kelly's and Albertsons. Smith's can't be far behind.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Myrtle Beach Beer Scene

We did all the usual vacation stuff people normally do: go to the beach, play golf, go out to eat, etc. I could describe all that and show you the pictures too, but we are here for the beer, and that is what I will focus on here for the other days we were in Myrtle Beach.

Last night didn't show us anything exciting beerwise, but today is another day. We started out at Surf Beverage in Garden City, just south of Myrtle. In keeping with the tradition of stupid alcohol laws, South Carolina has a great one: you can buy beer and wine in the same side of a store, but to buy liquor you have to go through a separate entrance- into the same building. Sure, there is a partition, but what is the reasoning behind it?

The beer selection was surprisingly varied at Surf. There were beers from Schmaltz (makers of Jewbilation) Clipper City's Heavy Seas Collection, all kinds of Magic Hat, Oskar Blues, Flying Dog (including Double Dog, which I saw everywhere in the South, but we don't get it here!), and regionals from Charleston Brewing, Thomas Creek, and Terrapin. We bought Magic Hat HIPA and Circus Boy hefe for some easy drinking but good tasting beer, and Jewbilation 11, which is a one-time release.

Our next destination took us a few miles south to what was the home of Blackwater Brews, a microbrew bar that we were looking forward to. I had read about it first on and was looking forward to trying the Double Dog that they carried on tap and seeing their selection of bottled beer, not to mention just being in a bar of that kind in the Myrtle Beach area.
Its closed.

So...time to hit Broadway at the Beach, or Chainrestaurantpalooza! as I like to call it. This is a conglomerate of restaurants and shops (The Kite Shop- I'm there!) that attracts all the people who visit Myrtle Beach, or so it seemed as we were trying to find a parking spot.

The reason I wanted to go to Broadway at the Beach was to visit the Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery, and not to drink the beer. I have done that in the past, and while there were a variety of styles available, they all had that chain brewpub kind of sameness to them. That didn't stop me from going back this time to pick up an empty growler. Yeah, I collect them. I waited in the very busy bar and watched a patron order an IPA from the bartender. Without hesitation the bartender poured a beer and give it to the guy. The problem was, they didn't have an IPA, just a pale ale. The bartender didn't bother to tell the guy, so I did. He didn't seem to care. I got my empty growler, after paying $5.95 for it. That's an expensive empty beer glass. I can get a growler filled at Marble for six-something with my beer club discount. Let's move on, I'm starting to get mad.

Also located at Broadway at the Beach ids the Stool Pigeons pub chain. They have 30 beers on tap but the list is chock full of macros. They do carry local New South beers such as the nut brown, white ale and lager, and they also had the great Heavy Seas Loose Cannon Double IPA, so hopefully people are trying something out of the ordinary there.

We noticed a lot of those "urban living centers" on our journey, like the Winrock area is turning into. Myrtle Beach has one too, located on the space previously occupied by an air force base. The Gordon Biersch brewpub chain has opened there, and it can only bring good things for beer education in the area. I learned that the hefeweizen is the most popular beer there (and they make a good one), and the black lager is a big seller too. I wouldn't mind having one of those here. Who cares about California Pizza Kitchen?

Our last stop was to Green's Discount Beverages, which is a chain around the southeasten part of the country. The one we visited is located a block away from the beach, so I imagined walls of Corona and Bud Light. And Miller Lite. And Coors Light.

Which they did, but they also had a surprising selection of Belgians, along with a decent selection of American micros. We picked up a mixed 12-pack of Heavy Seas beers, which had three each of: Peg Leg Imperial Stout (8%), Small Craft Warning Uber Pils (7%), Hang Ten Imperial Weizenbock (10%) and Loose Cannon DIPA (7.5%). I wanted some Loose Cannon after seeing it on tap at Stool Pigeons so it was cool that it was included in the mix. Actually, all the beers are cool. It 's rare that a company puts all "big" beers together in a 12-pack; usually there are a couple of throwaway beers, but Heavy Seas did well.

There was one place that we didn't make it to, one that we learned about while watching the local access channel. Quigley's Pint and Plate is a brewpub run by former Liberty Steakhouse brewer Josh Quigley, and is located south of Myrtle Beach in Pawley's Island. From what I have read about the beer it sounds like they all run towards lighter, balanced flavors. I'll have to give it a try next time I'm there, if they are still there.

So yes, Virginia, Myrtle Beach does have a craft beer scene- you just have to know where to look for it. And be ready to deal with the Summer traffic. So many people drive for many hours or even days to come here, and for good reason. Great food, great golf, great scenery, and, as we've learned, great beer!

Next stop on the trip: Athens

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Day 4 Continued- Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach. Also called "The Redneck Riveria", but I think that name is outdated. The majority of Myrtle Beach visitors hail from Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York these days, so there is less "neck" and more "yank". The Redneck Riveria title should be passed on to Gatlinburg, Tennessee or Branson, Missouri.
Whatever the nickname, the Myrtle Beach area is a great place to relax and unwind while on vacation. There are miles of beaches, wetlands and hidden rivers, not to mention nightlife up and down the coast. So naturally, our first stop was to the Surfside Beach Moose Lodge #2351.
All right, "The Moose" may not be on any list of must-sees, but it is where my grandfather was when we arrived, so we met him there for some dinner. The Moose is a great place for members to hang out all day and drink cheap beer and eat cheap food. The only knock is that they close around 9, but most of their members are older and like to get up for that 6 am tee-time(if I am up at 6 am, it is for pee-time, then back to bed for a four-hour encore). We drank some Yuengling Lager drafts, then headed out to see what the more mainstream attractions offered.

We ventured into Murphy's Law South, which I guess you could call a sports bar. They had over 30 TVs located all around the place, and pool tables, dart boards, Golden Tee...all the usual suspects you'd see in a sports bar. The beer is slanted to the crowd they attract, which is the way it should be. It may not be the way I like it, but oh well. I drank a Blue Moon with some fruit in it. Looking around at all the guys pounding their longnecks, I started to feel a bit fruity myself.

We wanted to be a little closer to the water so we went to the restaurant row area of Murrells Inlet. The Inlet has a marshwalk that you can take from bar to bar while enjoying a fantastic view of the water and the sealife there.

We stopped at Wahoo's for our first drink. Wahoo's is an open air bar that used to have good beer when I was there two years ago. They carry beer from New South, which is brewed in Myrtle Beach. New South makes a Belgian White that would have been perfect for the humid Summer night. After looking over the beer menu, Heineken was the best Wahoo's offered now. Not even a Sam Adams or Sierra Nevada. We decided to go with margaritas and ordered two "Perfect Patrons" from the drink menu. Then the bartender was kind enough to tell us that they cost 12 dollars. Apiece. Perfect! We went for the 4 dollar no-frills and walked the marshwalk awhile. The Inlet is such a nice place to visit, unless you are there during Bike Week in May. Nothing against bikers, I just don't like the noise or congestion. Or people.

We returned to Murphy's Law because I decided I was going to have something with hops while out that night. We had a couple Sierra Pale Ales and while checking out the taps I realized that of the 12 beers on tap, five of them were light beers: Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Natural Light and Michelob Ultra. I think they have narrowed their beers down just like Wahoo's; I remember they were carrying Flying Dog Pale Ale when it was first available in South Carolina two years ago. I guess craft-ish beers aren't selling too well in the area. It's a shame, and kind of perplexing considering where the tourists are visiting from and the huge surge in craft popularity over the past couple of years.

Time to leave the bar. I've got some Terrapin All-American Pilsner waiting for me. Has the rest of the beach given up on craft beer? Stay Tuned!

Friday, August 15, 2008

New Beer Alert

A few new beers available in town these days.

First up is a beer from Red Hook. Their Late Harvest Autumn Ale is available at Kelly's on Wyoming. I haven't seen it anywhere else yet, but I'm sure you will be able to find it elsewhere soon. It seems to be an amber ale that has a slight bitterness from the Northern Brewer and Saaz hops. The website says the beer is 5.7% abv but the bottle has it at 5.9%. What is funny it that the website also says it is an "east coast only release". I wondered if it wasn't selling well there and was getting dumped out here, but it is listed as an early August release and also says it was brewed in their Washington brewery rather than the New Hampshire one, so that theory doesn't really make sense. Anyway, it is here.

Rogue has put their Imperial Porter in those BBCB (Big Black Ceramic Bottles) and are selling for 13 to 15.99 in local stores. I think I tried it at their brewery last year but I can't remember what how it tasted. I think I liked everything that night so you should feel safe in buying it.

Lamar St. Organic Ale, the Whole Foods private label brand, has finally made it to Albuquerque locations. This beer has been around for a few years in stores in other cities. It is made by Goose Island out of Chicago and is a drinkable 4.7%. The beer retails at 6.99. Good price, but Trader Joe's also carries private label beers that Goose Island makes for them and cost a dollar less. But they aren't organic. If that matters to you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Day 4: Heading for the Coast

We made it back on the road on I-40 on our route to South Carolina. There was a liquor store right near our hotel in Knoxville and we stopped in for a look. They had a very small selection but everything they had was higher gravity. The owner of the store gave me the scoop on Tennessee beer laws. A liquor store can only carry beer that is 6.3% alcohol and above. Everything under that can be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores. Interesting.
We wanted to see Asheville because I have heard and read great thing about the beer scene there, but we wanted to get to Myrtle Beach at a decent hour and Asheville is off the interstate by about 22 miles, so we skipped it. Every damn time I go by Asheville, whether east or west, I mean to stop there but it is really a place you have to make a destination for the night. If you get a chance, check out Brusin’ Ales and see the selection of beer. I am sorry I didn’t get to go but we hit the next big town.
The town was Greenville, South Carolina. Greenville is located in the hills of Northwest SC and looks like it has grown faster than the already-existing roads allow for easy maneuvering about the shopping areas.It is a strange town. One minute you are passing shacks and trailers and the next you are going by mansions. I guess the zoning board still has some catching up to do.

We made the mistake of trusting the GPS system on the laptop to tell us where the Total Wine and More chain store was and spent a half-hour trying to find it in the midday traffic, then went the old fashioned way and called the store to get proper directions. Turned out we were a half mile away when the GPS said we were in front of the place.
Once we got to the area we were happy to see a Whole Foods Market, which we visited to check out their beer selection.
I like our Whole Foods at Academy and Wyoming in Albuquerque. I really do. But they look like the ghetto Smith’s near the university compared to the one in Greenville.

The beer section was at least double the size of ours, and that seemed to be the theme for the whole store; twice the beer, twice the hot buffet, twice the sushi, etc.
I freely admit I am a sample whore, especially at a place like Whole Foods, where the prices are so high I feel I am entitled to try samples of food that were maybe not meant to be sampled, like from the hot buffet. I might even be known to keep plastic sample cups in my glove compartment in case I am near a Whole Foods. That’s class.
I ogled the beer selection but only picked up some Terrapin All-American Pilsener because it was on sale there; I figured we could get better prices at the Total Wine And More store.

We inched our way through the Soccer Mom 500 and into Total Wine. Now I know that this is a mega-chain type store and may just be hurting the mom and pop liquor store. I justify my stop there because: 1. there were no mom and pop places listed along our route through Greenville, and 2. The selection there was just so darn good!

I bought my first wheat wine, the Dragon’s Milk from New Holland Brewing out of Michigan. Wheatwine is similar to a barley wine but is made with a high percentage of wheat in the brew. I also got a bottle of The Poet stout from the same brewery.
You know what? I am sitting in the car trying to remember the other beers we got that day and I think it would be easier for me just to do a post when we get home of all the beers we collected at different stores during the trip. That will be easier than me trying to get in the trunk to dig up the Total Wine bag while we are on I-40.
Aside from going the wrong way in Florence, which I do every time even though I have driven the route at least ten times, we made it into Myrtle Beach without incident.
Next: the Myrtle Beach beer scene