Beer

I blame my eldest brother for my love of craft beer. No teenager should be grabbing cases of low fill bottles to take to parties. But, alas, I did and I'm all the better for it. Cheers to beer (especially good beer)! It is the ultimate carrot at the end of a stick

Bicycle

Surly Disc Trucker - she's my steel horse. Built like tank, beautiful as any before her. She takes whatever I give her and loves it. She's not cuddly but that's not her purpose

Travel

For me, the best way to grow is to push my own limits of comfortability. Travel is the ultimate tool for growth. I've seen many beautiful things, but still don't know my own country. That must change.

Moutains, Love, Lexington

As a light sleeper as soon as the house moves, I wake up. With no crying baby in the morning, I instead woke up to the coffee being ground, which is such a better way to wake up. Once I moved, the two year old was ready to party. I had been mulling over Brian’s warning about the weather all night, but had decided to leave anyways. I goggled places to stay along the way just in case and headed out. I had a my first massive climb of the tour up a county road to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I discussed the route with Brian, who convinced me that there was a longer, but easier grade up. The caveat was that there was way more traffic. I had handled the worst traffic and roads in Maryland and DC, so was not nearly as concerned about VA state highway traffic.

Five miles later and I was passing thru Rockfish Gap and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was glorious, but hilly, and possibly mountainous. When I got to the visitor’s center, I inquired about the impending weather. The response scared me. I had five miles, almost entirely uphill, followed by four more miles of up and down until I would reach a group of cabins I was considering stay in. I had less than an hour and half before the rain hit me according to the visitor’s center. I kicked off and hauled ass as much as possible to make it before the storm hit. I arrived in Love, VA at Royal Oaks Cabins at 1:15; the rain hit at 1:45. I got an efficiency cabin, three shitty microwave meals, a box of Cheeze-Itz, and four DVDs. It rained all day. Every hour I took a photo to justify to myself staying there. I was justified so many times over. It rained until at least midnight with high wind gusts through out that time. I watched two of the four DVDs, and passed out. It was a nice short day.
Downhill and Lexington VA (not KY)

There was an intense downhill that had ultimately influenced my decision to stay over the previous night. Going down in the rain and wind would be exceedingly dangerous, not to mention stupid. In the morning, the rain had cleared and it was beautiful. I rode about ten miles and began the massive downhill. It was a glorious, nerve racking twenty minutes downhill. I watched for gravel slicks and still managed to reach almost 40 mph. When I made it to the valley I couldn’t stop smiling. It was absolutely exhilarating to fly down a mountain at those speeds.

Cruising through the valley I stopped at a bridge to eat some snacks and drink water, something I have been trying to schedule in more and more. I haven’t been the best about eating and drinking while on the road; my energy and concentration have suffered. It was here that I met my first Transamerican cyclist. His name is Ed and he had done the majority of the trail last year after an unfortunate incident in Lexington, VA. He recounted the story of being side swiped by a car in Lexington, which was the next city we were going through. Great, I thought, here is a guy whose done this before and he’s telling me he had an almost game changing and ending experience just up the road. Great flipping timing. I decided to stay in high spirits and peddle to Devil’s Backbone Brewery just off the trail (of course, it was off the trail and uphill). [Side note: if a road is called “Peters Hill Rd” it is almost certainly a hill. Worse yet if its called “Old Man Mountain Rd.” Stay away, don’t take these detours.]

I made it in shortly after they opened. A nice clean lager seemed appropriate and tasted great. A had a friend who worked here named C-Bass. His real name is Cory but as we hiked the AT together, I knew him by his trail name. He had to work until 4:30 so I set up my mobile command center and proceeded to try as many different beers as possible. After he got off work, he graciously gave me a tour of the new facility. It is an impressive, German-styled facility, replete with real Germans welding in the back room and listening to shitty techno music. And it was so wonderfully clean and sanitary. Stainless on stainless on stainless, and their own cooperage to boot. And an external calandria and several new 240 bbl fermenters. It sounds like the brewery is hoping to become even more deeply distributed in VA and be an important player in the regional craft beer scene, which they are already doing.

There was an event that night at a local bar, which we attended. Two major highlights: one is a new medical term I thought was an old man word, Carbuncle (and carbunculosis); the other was the DJ at the event. He had massive white boy dreads and was dressed in all new Sherwin-Williams painter’s whites. At first I didn’t understand, but then as night fell it became apparent their purpose. He had a black light, and was lit up like we were at a rave. It was so gloriously ridiculous.

That night, we enjoyed the Bruery’s Beauregard, a blue berry sour from heaven. Cory also reminded of a couple of stops I had long ago planned to visit which were on my way. The first was one of the seven natural wonders of the New World, Natural Bridge (VA not KY). The other is a feat of modern building materials, Foamhenge, a foam replica of Stonehenge. I was stoked.

Published: May 26, 2014

Heading to Nelson Co. VA

When I thru hiked the AT, I stayed a week and a half in Nelson Co., VA. We visited Devil’s Backbone and Blue Mountain Brewpub. Both locations were relatively new, and not known outside of the state. I remembered enjoying both but for different reasons. Fast forward five years and both are monsters with two locations: one as the original brewpub, and one production facility. My plan was to see as much as possible, within reason, which I haven’t established what “within reason” means exactly.

Leaving my stealth site, I had 35 miles to Charlottesville. I had hoped to be able to tour/sample some of the local facilities but none opened until 4pm and I arrived at noon. Also, only one returned my email and they weren’t able to accommodate me, which I understood. These are working breweries and therefore they have to work and produce beer, and not let visitors diddle around.

I ate at Mellow Mushroom, where I could keep an watchful eye on my bike, and drink three localish beers. Apparently, Kolsch is the new summer beer (I had previously guessed/hoped Gose would be this years summer style, but alas it isn’t so, and probably for the best as I am very particular about my Gose. Thanks Tilo!). I tried two different Kolsch, one was good and sort of to style, the other was a cluster fuck of disappointment. Fortunately both were samples. I went with an IPA and then a pale ale. Not nearly as disappointing.

Then I headed to Afton, where an old graduate school friend, his wife, and two year old live. Brian and I went to UGA at the same time for graduate school. When I hiked the AT, he met up with me and took me to Starr Hill Brewery, where he was part time bartending and leading tours. Now, his wildlife consulting company and family are taking up more time so he doesn’t do it anymore, but he still has connections. I arrived at his house after a wonderful twenty miles of riding. This was the first full day on the Transamerican route and the roads and routes were fantastic. I had ridden on so many busy, shitty roads that it was a wonderful relief to not have to be as intensely focused as before. To be able to look around and not worry about imminent death was nice.

Once I settled in, Brian and I left for Starr Hill. I had been following the brewery since my first visit five years ago and they had made some great strides since then. The brewery is financed by a music promoter who started with Dave Matthews Band before he was big (with high school girls and one of my best friends, which is why I will ever be able to enjoy his music ever again). The brewery has grown by leaps and bounds, and fortunately, the beer is still excellent. I was excited to try a collaborative beer done with Terrapin Brewery. The beer was a Belgian style stout; it was a good stout, but had very little Belgian yeast influence, which was disappointing. The beer was good though. Brian gave me the behind the scenes tour; I met one of the owners (a delightful and wonderful woman) and numerous other employees. It was quickly obvious that this was a positive workplace; everyone was happy to be there while working and after work.

I was informed this was the first day of American Craft Beer Week, and thus there was a cask of double IPA with Serrano Chiles and Amarillo hops; it tasted delicious. Subtle undertones of spice and a nice hoppy, lightly smoky nose. Another interesting beer was a replication of Jefferson’s Monticello Ale, a fairly basic light ale, more akin to a cream ale meets alt.
After several more samples, we headed to the original Devil’s Backbone. I had been craving a smoked beer and was happy to see there was a smoked porter on tap. Forgoing a flight for a bit, I ordered the porter and enjoyed its roasty-smokey awesomeness. Then the flight, all of which were wonderful, and fried pickles because they are pickles, and they are fried. The brewpub hadn’t changed much since my last visit, except there was a much greater diversity of styles.

Then to the original Blue Mountain, with its hop field in the front (the polls for the hop field were only 12ft tall, which seems to me to be a mistake and could be doubled in height). We barely made it in time for some beers and an excellent pork laden pizza. The facilities had greatly expanded since my last visit, but still maintained a comfortable atmosphere. We ate, drank, and headed back home for some rest.

When he got home, Brian started scaring me with talk of torrential downpour and high winds the following day. I checked the weather channel and it didn’t seem so bad. Then I realized how much of Brian’s everyday job depends on the weather, and thought maybe I should listen to him. I fell asleep anticipating a two-year-old alarm clock in the morning.

Published: May 26, 2014

Ironic Names and Stealth Camping is Fun

The one-year-old-alarm beckoned me out of bed at the same time a big black nose attached to an even larger white fur coat nudged me for some love. There are so many worse ways to wake up, for instance, it could have been my crying one year old. I’ll take the dog.

I packed and headed out after a brief stop for breakfast and coffee. I’m carrying an Aeropress coffee maker and needed some new beans. It’s been a terrific addition to my camping and touring experience. Yesterday I had decided I would take the NW diagonal route to meet up with the Transamerican route. This would allow me to ride thru the Goochland and visit Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery (I couldn’t make these names up. Goochland, located in Gooch Co. and the brewery is on Lickinghole Creek adjacent to Beaver Pond).

The taproom was closed, but fortunately I had contacted the owner about a visit and he was more than amicable to let me stop by. The head brewer, David was cleaning kegs all day and was at first stand offish when I arrived. After some conversation, we hit it off and all was well. I had a flight of their beers, all of which were great to excellent, and David gave me a tour of their operation. Virginia recently passed a farmhouse brewery bill, which allows a brewery to act more like a winery. Lickinghole wanted to be the first farmhouse brewery, followed closely by Rusty Beaver. The property is located about a half mile down a gravel road to nowhere (well to a brewery so somewhere). The facilities are gorgeous and surrounded by freshly planted hop fields.

After the tour, David and I began to talk about beer, plants and life. We got on the topic of German styled beers, a passion of mine, and he hurriedly asked if I’d like to try his new pilsner. He warned me that it was still conditioning and hadn’t been pulled off the yeast. An American zwickel, hell yes! After a sample of the pilsner and his new session IPA, he asked if I wanted a pint of anything (as he pointed to the draft cooler). Of course, I wanted more pilsner and he was happy to oblige. That pint went down and I asked for another. If it hadn’t been so early in the day, I would have happily stayed and drank that pilsner all night. Midway through my second pint, the owners, Sean and his wife (sorry I am now forgetting names at a pace akin to my drinking) came in and we had a delightful conversation about breweries, distribution, and the like. The sun was not as intense anymore so I packed up and headed out.

There was nowhere to camp along my route. It would be my first night of stealth camping, so named because you do it all stealth like (aka quasi-illegally, wherever you can get away with it). I found a regional park, located next to the library and sheriff’s office. Who would look for someone near a sheriff’s office? Great logic right? I headed into a decent looking piece of forestland and set up the hammock. After an hour of paranoia (what would the sheriff say to me, or worse yet the random redneck whose property I was inadvertently on), I ate and fell asleep. This would not be the last time I attempted something like this, but it was a beautiful camping site. With birds singing and the herpetofauna calling, I fell asleep quickly.

 

Published: May 26, 2014

I’m Leaving – Psych-out

Once again, my alarm was crying at 6am, yearning for mom and dad.  I rolled over and tried to ignore it, which isn’t possible.  Awake and at em, I made coffee, loaded the GPS and said goodbye to my friends as they left for work.  My plan was to shoot some emails, drink some more coffee, and head out.  As I opened the laptop and made a list of items to complete before departure, I quickly realized I had too much to do.  I could have not done it, but it was in my best interest to do it.  I made sure I was clear to stay another day, and then walked to breakfast and began a long day of typing and editing.  I haven’t been in front of a computer for extended periods since graduate school, so after 1pm I allowed myself an adult beverage.  One can only drink coffee and water for so long, particularly when there is beer in the refrigerator.

While walking to the local coffee house, it was drilled home how dichotomous this neighborhood is.  Middle aged, white couples with 1-3 kids or poor black families barely surviving.  The white families were almost wonderfully and scarily stereotypical; at times sickening so.  I got hit on by a 40 something year old woman who must have been cracked out on ADHD medicine.  Twitchy and talkative are not attractive traits.

I spent a good part of the day loving on Poa and Arlo, time that wasn’t wasted.  Then, by the time night came, I was certain I needed to leave the next day.  And I did.

Published: May 26, 2014

Mother’s Day

When you sleep in a friend’s house, you have to be willing to live by the rules of the house, and also the social/family norms of the house. I knew this, so when Oscar (the one-year old) woke up crying at 6, I wasn’t surprised. Mildly upset and wanting to sleep more, yes; but he’s a little guy and I’m the big idiot who stayed up late drinking. Deal with it. I did.
Late last night, I received a message about how my fairly intoxicated self had left my cycling shoes in the back of the Beaver Truck. Said shoes were going to meet me in Richmond today, until another friend, the Beaver Promoter Patrick, also forgot the shoes. My fault, damn it. After contacting Rick we agreed to meet at Center of the Universe Brewery, located in Ashland, VA, right between the Beaver and me. We planned to meet up around 4, a convenient time since he was meeting his mother-in-law for her birthday and mother’s day combo in Ashland.

Grant ran me to an excellent and beautifully laid out bike shop called Carytown Bikes. The Trucker got a tune up and light cleaning; Oscar got a kids helmet (safety first). The Trucker has over 400 miles at this point (I’m not sure the real total). She needed a little love, and it wasn’t the kind I could provide.

Off to COTU (as its acronym’ed out), where there was a flight waiting. COTU is owned by a professional baseball player; as I don’t give a shit about baseball it was lost on me as to whom the owner is. The beer was delicious, the building is repurposed from what looked to be some sort of office space. Really odd layout but they are making the best of the preexisting design and there is a fantastic beer garden.

I returned to Richmond to attend a concert in the park, and the band was an incredible Talking Heads cover band. Great times, especially since I was rocking a “Dedicated Dad” shirt with pride. I was asked by numerous people where my wife and kids were. Grant and I found this hilarious. In all seriousness, I may have been the only single guy with no kids there. Not a place to pick up ladies, unless you’re into married woman with kids, which, well, it is what it is. After an excellent photo op with not my kids, it was back to the home for some more beverages.

Since I wasn’t around my own mother (sorry, Sheri), I asked if I could take Megan out for Mother’s Day. A nice guy would have allowed her to choose, but I had an agenda and strongly suggested Mekong, which is “for beer lovers.” She loves the place so it worked out well. The prices were incredible, to the point that they must lose money on certain kegs. And the food was excellent Vietnamese food. An amazing experience: fantastic and well priced craft beer, served alongside authentic Vietnamese food. I had an Allagash Confluence and Bruery Sour in the Rye. I was happy (and so was my hot mom of a date). We headed back home and I made to pack to leave the next day. Which didn’t play out as I hoped, mostly.

Published: May 26, 2014

Did You Say “Beer Festival”?

When I woke up, I had a sliver of memory about a beer festival.  Maybe I had dreamt it up.  But once I actually got up and dressed, Rick assured me there was one and he had an extra ticket.  The only caveat was I would have to throw my bike in his truck to make it in time.  But as this is my trip, I went for it.  We toured the farm and the hop garden and got on the road.  A quick pit stop at the Beaver for signage (and to sell an elderly customer some wine yeast), then we picked up Patrick, the Beaver’s marketing guy.

The festival itself was being held on private property which looked to be a former plantation.  There was live music, an inflatable bouncy slide, regional food options, and lots of regional breweries.  I was delighted to spend the afternoon tasting beers that I wouldn’t have been able to try otherwise.  Further, I was able to coax Grant (one of my two good friends in Richmond) to come out and play.  And then I got him to go down the bouncy slide, where, much like a child, he managed to give himself rug burn.  He did beat me to the bottom though.

I managed to try all of the beers at the festival, using my sweet stainless pint glass.  It was frustrating to have to ask, and sometimes insist, to be poured small samples.  I’m not opposed to getting drunk, but it was a long day and I wanted to try a lot of different beers.  A couple of things struck me about this beer festival (and maybe VA and US craft beer in general): there were a ton of browns, reds and IPAs; a small handful of Belgian styles; even fewer lagers; and the attendees were there to party.  I guess it isn’t too different from most festivals.

Post festival, we went to Hardywood Brewery, barely escaping a torrential downpour.  It was packed in there, so we had two beers and rolled.  Grant gave me a tour of the city, during which we happened upon the Blue Bee Cider room, where we did a great tasting.  Then to Once Upon a Vine for beers and cheese, and on to his and Megan’s house.  It was great to see them both and their little boy.  I was even more excited to see my not so little girl, Poa.  Poa is a Great Pyrennes that lived next to me during college, where we became great friends.  I got out of class before Megan, and Poa and I would play and cuddle.  I’ve always loved big huggable dogs and Poa is top notch.  Arlo, the big boy, is also awesome, but he and I don’t know each other as well as Poa and I do.  I had last seen the whole family when I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail five years ago.  Back then when I made it to their yard then, Poa went crazy.  It was a wonderful reunion and I wanted the same (Disclaimer: we stopped by on the way to DE to start so I had already seen her).

Published: May 26, 2014

Road Closed and the Beaver Den

The morning was as wonderful as the evening: birds fluttering over head and frogs calling all around me. The GPS didn’t seem to like where I was (military intervention?) but Google maps routed me due south on what looked like forest service roads. In reality, they were USMC highways to different training areas. I was forced (chose) to walk around numerous gates and through several creek crossings (7 in total). At the first stream crossing, I dismounted, put on the crocs and slowly walked the Trucker across. By the third one I had decided to cycle through it, which was a blast. I made it to real roads (all too soon), and headed towards the base. Not to my surprise, but to my chagrin, I wasn’t allowed to ride through the base.

I headed back out and eventually made it to Fredericksburg, where I was planning to visit Blue and Gray Brewery. (Side note: who would win in a battle, a union soldier with one arm, or the rebel with one eye. That’s what’s on there logo.) The beer was good with the IPA being the best. I met another cyclist who was out on a long day ride. We chatted, he gave advice, I told some stories, and he was kind enough to pick up my tab. I love meeting great people. From there I headed to A. Smith Bowman Distillery. It wasn’t on my itinerary but I was told it was located around the corner, so I hopped on the Trucker and rode over. It is a bourbon whiskey distillery which uniquely stores their barrels upright rather than on the side. The whiskey itself was delicious, especially the Abraham.

I continued south on some spectacular roads, following VA Bike Rt 1/Atlantic Coast Trail. At one point, there was a “Road Closed Ahead, Local Traffic Only” sign. I hoped to pass as local traffic and avoid leaving this route. About two miles from the sign, I came to a bridge, or rather the skeleton of a bridge. All that remained were I-beams, rusty and crumbling. After a couple of moments of thought, I decided to walk across to test them out. Success. Back across, unloaded the panniers and walked those across the bridge. With each crossing, I was formulating how I was going to get my bike over the stream. I assumed the stream was fairly shallow and I could survive a fall if I didn’t jack my head on one of the beams. The bike would also hopefully be fine. Not great thoughts but none the less I was determined to cross. Carrying the bike seemed the most dangerous; I opted to push it carefully across. This method worked really well when there were two beams in parallel close enough to walk on: bike on one, me on the other. Then I got to the last of three beam sections and it didn’t have the second parallel beam. It had two much smaller support beams crossed in a X. Mustering my climbing skills of yore, I shuffled out one arm of the X and back the other, using the bike as a point of balance and friction. And we made it. Safely. Some may say stupidly across but it worked for me.

With no possible traffic coming from behind me, I enjoyed three miles of forested roads. A little while later I came to a train crossing, and there were five cars backed up waiting for the train. As the train slowed down, it became apparent that one car would remain in the way of the crossing. It stopped, no cars could pass, but a bike could. Then I enjoyed another three miles of care free riding bringing me to my next stop: the Rusty Beaver.

The Beaver is found in a strip mall area in Ruther Glen, VA. It was originally a VA BBQ, then homebrew store, now small brewery with homebrew supplies and wings. Yes, spicy, rather delicious wings. The only other food is pretzels. I was greeted by Austin, the head brewer, when I arrived. I had called earlier about possible camping spots in the area because I was concerned there wouldn’t be any. Riding into town I realized there were plenty, mostly on large timber land holdings. I got a flight and started a conversation with a guy at the bar who turned out to be the owner. After talking for ten minutes, I was vetted enough to get the invite to stay at his house, which also had a newly established hop farm. I was super excited. (I had been hoping to see the hop farm. It’s on their website as affiliated and I love hops and farms). Rick, the owner, then headed out to the farm while I had numerous more beers and helped Austin close. It was back to the three sink system for a couple of easy minutes. I was consuming a super sessionable beer (blondish cream ale-ish) called the Smashed Bastard. We closed up and headed to the farm where Rick had cooked up a couple of steaks. Its a 17-acre farm with 100 cascade plants and a couple dozen chinook. There’s also a pond, small mill (trees from the property are being sawn for a farm brewery barn), several gardens and a pool. The kitchen was at one point used commercially for Rick’s BBQ business, Viriginia BBQ. It was awesome seeing a Volcan stove, three sink system, grease trap, and commercial dish washer in a house. We then stayed up into the night drinking growlers and bullshitting. It was a great evening.

 

Published: May 13, 2014

DC to the Forest

The lads (now four deep) had to be ready to roll at 7am the next day. I did not, but had no choice but to wake up. After they left, I showered and packed. I had more work to do on the interwebs, but there was no wifi at the hotel (at least not for free). I headed out for food, coffee and wifi. I found coffee but no good food options (at least not on the path I was traveling on). Eventually I wound up in Arlington using wifi and eating food, where I met a young man who had done two bike tours. He was very encouraging and had some great advice. As I readied myself to ride further, I was struck by how hot it was. Fortunately the first twenty miles were along the river on a greenway.

At one point I stopped at a bike shop to put air in my tires. The guys there indicated I would be safe and fine riding down US-1. I listened and wished I hadn’t. It’s a four lane highway, not divided. And unknown to me, I-95 was undergoing lots of construction so everyone was using 1, which largely parallels 95. It sucked. I got passed by cars going 80mph while I was straddling the white line. At one point, some jackass in a RV decided he would pass me on a turn. Going up hill. He was kind enough (sarcasm) to give a light honk before he passed within inches of me, forcing me onto the nonexistent shoulder. I slammed on my brakes, pulled over as far as I could and took several deep breaths. What the hell was this jackass of a human being thinking? “I’ll pass this cyclist here on the curve while he’s pedaling uphill. All I have to do is let him know and it will be ok.” After he almost hit me, he completely crossed over the white line with half his gigantic RV. I continued to take deep breaths and vowed to get off that road. I’d rather be slow getting somewhere and alive, than be early and injured or be dead. It was a serious blow to my mental game.
About the mental game; it’s significantly different from anything else. On the bike, not only are you dealing with the physical components, but also the public at large. And if you’ve ever driven, ridden, walked, or otherwise watched a car, you should know most people are idiots and can’t drive. The mental component of trying to anticipate how someone is going to drive is daunting. You’re helpless. All it takes is someone texting, answering a phone call, eating a Snickers, and WHAM, tour over. Not to mention the mental exercise of anticipating potholes, dead animals and trash all over the roads. I wanted to enjoy riding as much as visiting breweries and meeting people. Up to this point, the riding had only been a means of shuttling myself between watering holes. I decided it was time to enjoy riding.

I eventually got to a point where I could get away from the traffic. As I was extremely dehydrated, I stopped at a gas station and chugged water and gatorade, then ate some dirty taquitos, which although sinfully bad for you tasted great. I was hungry, thirsty and tired. It was time to find a place to sleep. Fortunately I was near Prince William Forest Park, a NPS ran forest adjacent to Quantico. I called to ask about camping and was told to come to the main office. It was 15 miles away, but there were numerous wide sidewalks in the area, which I took full advantage of. I made it twenty minutes before they closed and got my campsite in the backcountry. I had bought some food stuff from the gas station (jalapeño chips, two packs of ramen, a snickers, couple of beers, and M&Ms), and was ready to get to camp. I had three more miles of riding and another ten minutes of hiking. Eventually I found my site, hung the hammock, and crawled in to cool down. It was glorious, swinging in the breeze with no one around; hearing the birds and frogs call to a back drop of military gun fire and announcements. After dinner, I passed out without the rainfly over my hammock. I was awakened several times during the night when I thought I heard thunder, only to realize it was more gun fire. It was still the best nights sleep I’ve had on this tour yet.

 

Published: May 13, 2014

DC – Bluejacket, Orchids, and the White House

I awoke refreshed, sort of, as refreshed as 6 hours of sleep can make you feel. I knew I had work to do, but those damn lads from Lexington were still around, so we met up at their hotel. If I was going to stay one more day and night, I needed to vacate my residence. No one told me I had over stayed my welcome, but when you ask someone if you can stay the night and end up staying three, some people (myself included) feel obligated to move on. I packed the Trucker and rode to a brand new Marriott, where I walked the fully loaded bike up to the elevator and then to the 12th floor. People give you some odd looks when you do this, but it wasn’t my first time, and, like all things in life, if you do it with confidence, it usually works.

We left for Bluejacket, again. They had never been there, and I had a record to keep (three days in DC, three trips to Bluejacket and Churchkey). A quick Metro ride and brisk walk and we arrived, just in time for all the Nationals’ fans to arrive. It was crowded on a Wednesday at noon. Finally finding a table, we ordered beers and snacks. The group of men next to us appeared to have been going pretty hard already, and quickly integrated us into their group. Random question: when was the last time you heard anyone yell “social!” at a bar (outside of playing drinking games like Asshole). These dudes kept doing it, but the best part was one of the guys toasts. All were dirty, hilarious, and inappropriate for certain audiences. Jealous of their skills, DH and I googled several good toasts and tried to memorize them. I can memorize a lot of stupid stuff, but struggle to memorize toasts. Now I’ve got another goal for this trip.

Eventually the bar started to clear out for the ball game, and we were able to get a tour of Bluejacket’s facility. They have a coolship. Seriously, there is a coolship with shutters opening to the outside and cedar planks above it. No wort has been fermented in it yet, but soon. The brewery was a wondrous playground of stainless, kept clean by volunteers. There is a yeast lab, and two areas for barrel storage. And the walk-in, it is so sexy and full of kegged beer. The draft components are extremely well thought out and executed. I had all too much fun nerding out in there.

We left Bluejacket and the Boys went about sorting out yesterdays drama. As we drove past the national botanical gardens, I relieved myself of their company in favor of the company of plants. Far and away the coolest collection is the Orchid room. I love orchids and all their grandiose diversity. I sat in that room for thirty minutes. From the botanical gardens I headed for the Lincoln Memorial. I was going to go to the Natural History Museum but remembered I had a pocket knife, and wouldn’t be allowed in. I did a quick detour to the White House and then straight to the Memorial only to find it swarming with the youth of America. Too damn many kids for me. I got a cab, which ended up being a dumb idea. I could have/should have walked to the Metro, but I wanted to get there faster. The cab was way slow with so much congested traffic downtown. Eventually I got out and walked the remaining mile to Churchkey, only to arrive right when the lads were leaving. They had an important delegate meeting or some fancy thing like that. But they had found another Kentuckian, one Adam Watson Esq from Against the Grain. They left me to my own devices, which means I had several beers alone before I befriended the guys from Foothills, Ithaca, and Terrapin.

There was another event at Churchkey, this time North (Ithaca and Allagash) vs South (Terrapin and Foothills). After meeting several great people, I realized I was starving. The entire place was beginning to fill up and be uncomfortably crowded, so I started to walk back to the hotel. On the way I found a Philly Cheese shop that made their sandwiches on Amorosa bread, a company my mom’s close friend’s family owns. I had to have one and it was yummy. Certainly not health food but definitely filling.
Back in the hotel, the trio of Kentucky brewers were eating cheese, bread and meat while consuming beers. Easily the best part of it all was when I discovered one of the guys, who shall not be named directly but uses his last name as an initial he is called by, had purchased parmigiano reggiano and was trying to eat it like it was a slicing cheese. Keeping it classy. We drink everything available and passed out for a couple of hours, only to be woken up by two more Country Boys who were in for SAVOR. I was done with DC. It had been fun but I needed to leave before I spent even more money.

Published: May 13, 2014

Lost Kegs and Found Friends

The nice part about sleeping in a basement is that it’s dark, which means later sleeping. Unless you wake up as soon as the house does. Which is my problem. So I woke at 7:30 and fell asleep (barely) until 10, and then was ready to start. The fine gentlemen from Country Boy were already in town and ready to have a beer. An important note: when touring beer places (bars, breweries, etc) it’s always better to have someone who owns or works at a brewery. It lends authenticity to what you’re doing. And when you put Evan Coppage and me together, we can talk our way into whatever (yes, ladies, yes). I was excited to see my friends and to visit DC. We met at Capital City Brewery, located in a large office building downtown with limited signage. Google maps did me no favors on finding this one. After the hugs and tears subsided, we got down to the daily itinerary. Evan and I bullshitted, while DH ensured the kegs were delivered for the event that day. Bad news: the carrier wasn’t sure if the kegs would make it on time. The kegs were “out for delivery” which could be a good thing unless your event is in a couple of hours, as was the case.

As it turns out, the kegs weren’t out for delivery, and they weren’t in the area. They were in Baltimore at the carrier’s warehouse. But where in the warehouse, no one seemed to know. The kegs weren’t lost, but misplaced temporarily. As panic set in (not having kegs at an event in DC where some brewery big wigs would be is not good news), we devised a plan. First, we need a car. Second, drive to Baltimore. Third, find kegs. Fourth, return. After numerous text messages to the four people I knew in Baltimore, Tully graciously loaned us his car, which was located at his house, ten miles away. So we cabbed it to his house, only to be told by the carrier (who DH was on the phone with most of the time) that the beer was still not located. Turns out the truck was checked in but not the beer. The beer was in Ohio, so no chance of getting that back. We turned around the cab and headed back to give Tully his keys, with the Country Boys feeling a little depressed. Then Evan had a grand scheme, which ended up working, and the lads went to institute said scheme. I left as there was little I could do to help, and would rather go have a beer or five. So I went back to Bluejacket.

No one was at Bluejacket compared to the previous night, until an hour before the baseball game. It got crowded, and I rolled out. I did have the pleasure of meeting some real interesting people, including a guy who went to UGA the same time I did, and a Navy Seal who lived in Alaska. After Bluejacket I decided I wanted to be filled with patriotic amore, so I walked to the National Mall. It is truly beautiful and spectacular. The Capital Building, all the museums, the Washington Monument (which was closed until four days after I left, so I never got to climb it, yet), Lincoln Memorial, and all the damn eighth graders in the US. Seriously, I think 65% of the nations youth were there with their schools. It influenced how I toured and made me ready to leave, to go get another beer.

A quick cab ride and I was at Smoke and Barrel ready to imbibe with my friends from Lexington who had found two kegs of their beer. There, I had the pleasure to meet the brewery ambassador from Schlafly, Stephen Hale, where I was hoping to tour in a month. He was pleasantly surprised that I knew one of his brewers, Jared, who is going to be my guide around St. Louis. I did my damnedest to get him to like me, and I think it worked. We will know when I get to St. Louis. The event was fantastic, and the bar as well. I immediately fell in love with the bar: it’s a whiskey and beer bar with great food, and, most impressive to me, they own a recirculating line cleaner!!! It’s a super nerdy thing to get excited about but it means they care so much about the quality of their beer they are willing to purchase the equipment and train their staff how to use it. That was amazing.

I then convinced the lads and Stephen that we needed to go to Right Proper. My selling point was that they brewed a Gotlandsrika, an historic style no one really knows about. We arrived, got beers and cheese, and as I was with brewer’s, we were offered a tour. Post tour, we paid and made to leave. I had been in contact with two friends from Louisville, one (Zach Everson) was living in DC freelancing; the other (Lori Mattingly) was in town to support her mom during a meeting with delegates. As we left Right Proper, these two arrived in what looked like a clown car, except for the paint job. Stephen was done; DH and Evan had no choice but to head to Churchkey with us. Churchkey had tapped several Firestone Walker beers that I was anxious to try and the group humored me by joining. When we arrived, it became apparent that Evan was done, a product of a long travel day, numerous beers, and a lack of food (he eats all the time). We sat down, Evan excused himself, and made for the door to walk home. DH held out longer and eventually we all left. I decided to take the long walk back to the den I had been calling home, and reflected on the days events. I thought about how I needed to get out of DC, but, hell, this is my tour. I had decided to stay for one more day.

Published: May 13, 2014

%d bloggers like this: