Thursday, January 3, 2013

"Get Tired Of Travelin' & You Want To Settle Down"

Tacky? Who says that's tacky?
Another whirlwind year has passed, and it is time to rest up for a moment before it starts all over again. I was in D.C. to visit family over the holidays, but don't worry, I didn't forget about the beer lovers down south. Last Friday I left my brother's house in a rental car, picked up a friend at the airport and went to Baltimore to visit our friends at Heavy Seas. They were nice enough to not only let me make a cask of IPA, but they also let me make a cask of Siren Noire straight out of the whiskey barrel that it was aging in. I just happened to be there the day before they were going to keg it all, so lucky me, and lucky anyone who comes to drink it when it arrives in Atlanta. Should be early to mid-February if I had to guess.

This is my second year making the same trip to Heavy Seas to make casks, and my second visit to one of the best dive bars I have ever experienced (pictured below), just down the road from the brewery. One liverwurst on rye with onions and mustard, plus one bowl of chili: $6.00. I don't recall how much the pitcher of Rolling Rock was, but whatever it cost was too much. That is just god-awful beer, and I am not snobby about beer. I drink PBR. All the time. I drank Bud at the football game I went to Sunday. But that nasty Rolling Rock had my taste buds begging for a Bud or Pabst. Anything but the horrendous torture of that putrid Rolling Rock. I can't believe we finished the whole thing. (OK, so it was bad, but who just leaves a pitcher partially full?) But once we got to the brewery the beer was much better, and life seemed worth living again. I made a Loose Cannon cask with Grains of Paradise, lime leaves, toasted oak, and Amarillo hops. The cask of Siren Noire got cinnamon and maple sugar. So that would make it a chocolate, maple, cinnamon, bourbon, barrel-aged Imperial Stout. I think it might be a masterpiece.

Short on charm, but the people were as cool as they get.
After we finished up at the brewery we visited some Baltimore beer spots, including the new Union Brewing, who won a gold at GABF this year, and they are less than a year old. Impressive. Nice people too. We occupied ourselves on Saturday exploring more of the Baltimore beer scene, with a lengthy visit to Max's Taphouse. It's a "must" if you are in the Fell's Point area. Interestingly, Fell's Point is named after Admiral Fell. I have no idea who he was, but we stayed at "The Admiral Fell Inn". The admiral fell into what? How sick of that joke are the people who work there? My god, it must be terrible. "Oh, ha ha. I see, another comedian. Good one sir. Enjoy your stay." And then they people talk about how much of an idiot that person is for thinking they were original in some way. As if every single person that stays at or near "The Admiral Fell Inn" doesn't think of the same joke in about 1.5 seconds. No, I was not that guy. Refused to be that guy. Resisted great temptation to succeed in NOT being that guy. Why not "Admiral Fell's Inn", or "The Admiral's Inn"? Or just put out some coffee and muffins in the morning and call it "Admiral Fell's Bed & Breakfast". Who knows, maybe they did it on purpose, because here we are, talking about "The Admiral Fell Inn", which is, by the way, in a fantastic location, and I recommend staying there if you are ever in Baltimore. If you go, and I suggest that you do, I can tell you a lot of the great beer drinking joints in town, even the Most Pretentious Beer Place Ever (which you should avoid), and where to get gourmet hot dogs at 3:00 am. Basically, I got you covered in Charm City.

On Sunday we went to back to D.C., and much to my surprise, one of the better beer bars in that city was three blocks from my hotel. This hotel is where I will stay every time I go to D.C. on business from here on out. Here is why: Three blocks from the Metro station and the beer bar RFD (Real Food & Drink). On the edge of Chinatown (this is important later), so that had a touch of weirdness. A restaurant, for example, called New Big Wong (who would want to eat at Old Big Wong?), and a store to buy Kung Fu supplies (i.e. weapons). The Metro train took us out to FedEx field for the Redskins/Cowboys game, which was an 8:20 pm kick-off for those of you that live in a cave or some semblance of an appliance box under a bridge. I am telling you it was cold, people. I am talking December 30th, outdoors, windy, at night, up north. The game did not go in my favor unfortunately, and we did not eat much during the game. Why? Take a nice hot Polish sausage off the grill, put it in a bun and walk back to your seat. The sausage is about the temperature of your refrigerator before you even bite into it. Nasty. And it was $8.00. Want some nachos? You got about 25 seconds before that cheese starts to congeal and you are going to need a chisel to get it out the dish. Mmmmm...plastic. When the game was over and we finally made it back into town on the train, it was roughly 1:30 am Sunday night/Monday morning. Do you think there was a restaurant open in Chinatown at that time of night? Hell yes there was, and a really good one. Ming's. Open until 3:00 am...on Sunday, two blocks from our hotel. Like I said, best hotel location ever. "The Admiral Fell Inn" was, in its defense, across the street from Max's and the 3:00 am hot dog place, so it was a pretty choice location too. We really lucked out across the board.
A masterpiece? You decide.

But now I am back to work, with a few weeks to relax in GA before a ton of travel starts up again in February. If you did  not get a chance to taste the Beer Camp beer that I brought back from my September trip to Sierra Nevada, it has been tasting great. I am going to give you the list of the remaining tap dates and places below. In and around those dates, you may want to check out the East Roswell store on Saturday. They are celebrating their first anniversary with a cask of Red Hare Watership Brown with maple, vanilla and bourbon. That gets tapped at 6:00 pm. They have some other special beers lined up as well.

On Monday the 7th they are tapping a cask of Eagle & Lion Stout at Mall of GA. I think there is an important football game going on that night...better check the schedule. I will be in Chattanooga on the 12th to help tap a cask of Terrapin Wake & Bake at 2:00 pm. This marks the arrival of high-gravity Terrapin beers into Chattanooga for the first time, and those folks up there are psyched as you can imagine. Last but not least is that awesome Allagash beer & cheese pairing at South Park in Charlotte on Wednesday the 16th. You can sign up for it by clicking here. Normally I would tell you that these events don't grow on trees and that they are worth every dime you spend on them, but this particular one is even better than worth it, it is a steal. I am going to paint a red cross on the building that day, because $25 for that kind of beer and a super-knowledgeable guy to pair the cheeses for you is like charity. Anyway, that is all I have for you right now. It sure is good to be back home, but I will get bored with that soon enough. Take care folks.

Hop Secret 644 Schedule:
Jan. 4th--Decatur
Jan. 8th--Mall of GA
Jan. 9th--Dallas Hwy. (Marietta)
Jan. 11th--Canton
Jan. 14th--Old Milton Pkwy.
Jan. 15th--Perimeter
Jan. 18th--49er (Charlotte)
Jan. 21st--Lindbergh
Jan. 22nd--Duluth
Jan. 23rd--Woodstock
Jan. 28th--Suwanee
Jan. 29th--Virginia-Highland
Jan. 30th--Crababble (Last keg in GA! Help kill the keg in 15 minutes!)
Feb. 4th--South Park (Charlotte)
Feb. 5th--Huntersville (Charlotte)

PS-- Like every year, I am going to help you with your New Year's Resolutions. You should resolve to drink more beer this year. It stimulates the economy, promotes world peace, and it makes you happy. Everyone wins. You're welcome.