It isn't a month ago. We are firmly embarking on the month of September and I am a bit tired of lamenting the lost time. I could write up a post about how wonderful my beer vacations were (they were really awesome) trying to recreate the excitement and fun but we all know it just isn't the same.
Instead I will give you a run down of the highlights of the summer away. I cannot simply skip over them because there were some really amazing places we visited, great beers we tried and fun people we met. To glance over the summer adventures would not do justice to the people and places that treated Barley and Wort so fantastic.
So without further babbling here is our rundown of the summer beer highlights:
Shipyard Brewing- A special place as it was the first place we visited upon arriving in Portland, Maine. Top that off with a guide named Bear plus a huge list of beers to try and this brewery is definite pit stop for all beer travellers in the area. Shipyard has a special relationship with Ringwood Brewery in England. They share barley and yeast. They brew the Double Old Thumper together as well. We tried an impressive twelve beers from them at the brewery.
This is Bear. Knows his beer.
Bourbon Aged Monkey Fist- Mellow citrus nose, bourbon brings out some lemon on this beer.
Smash Blueberry- A Scotch Ale/Porter hybrid with a great blueberry nose and overall fantastic balance.
Apricot- Sweet but dry beer with light lingering apricot flavour.
Sebago- This brewpub has a four locations and at first I admit to being a little wary of a 'chain' type experience. I was happily wrong. The beer list was long and of good quality. The food as well was fresh, tasty and filling.
Heffeweisen- Crisp, clean with a bit of tang up front. Great on hot day.
Frye's Leap IPA- Lemongrass on the nose. Lingering grassy notes on the finish.
Lake Trout Stout- Good but mild stout. For those that prefer chocolate to coffee in their stouts.
Allagash Brewery- I cannot say enough about this place. Their beers are of a very high quality and their facility is clean, bright and has an industrial touch that is not as cold as one would think. We had their beers before but it was nice to finally go in and see where it all happens. They are New England's first Belgian style brewery.
Coolship Cerise- This beer is one of my top beers, ever. Normally sours hit my palate in all the wrong ways. This beer doesn't. Sour up front but the finish on it is what makes the beer. The end of this beer tastes like roasted cherries in cinnamon.
Curieux- A light bourbon flavour with lots of caramel notes.
Golden Brett- Made with yeast that is typically used in sours this beer carries a hint of strawberries on the finish.
Novare Res Bier Cafe- This place came recommended by everyone in the area. It was one of the places on the list to visit when planning out the itinerary. They boast 25 rotating taps, 500+ bottles and two hand pumps. A beer lover's dream? Yes, yes it was. Is it easy to get overwhelmed by the selection. Yes, yes it was. Does it help to have a couple of friends with you so everyone gets something different? Yes, most definitely.
Kissemeyer's Saison du Poivre- Amazing pepper notes on the nose and after taste but not overpowering. Fan of pepper? This beer is for you.
In'finiti's Mar gose Rita- Tart, salty with a floral citrus from the kefir limes.
Rising Tide's Entrepot Figue Cask- Easy drinking as most casks are but also had delightful hints of sweetness.
In'finiti Fermentation and Distillation- The atmosphere in this brewpub/distillery is cozy without being oppressive. The lights are dim but not dark. Their food was high quality and extremely tasty.
Sorachi Rice- Rice and lemongrass are the standout flavours. Subtle herb on the end.
Sour Trouble- A sour brown ale. All the malt of a brown but the punch of a sour. Also definitely trouble at 7.4% since it went down rather easily.
Infinitly- This DIPA was all hops up front and unlike other beers the hops stayed strong on the finish.
Nickel Brook Brewery- One of our favourite breweries but sadly we had never had the chance to visit. A big thank you to head brewer Ryan Morrow for showing us around this unique space. We stood and sampled quite a few beers, including their ginger beer and root beer.
Bolshevik Bastard- Nice, strong Russian Imperial stout. Sneaks up on you.
Naughty Nick's Ginger Beer- Okay so not a beer but definitely gingery and definitely great tasting. (Note this helped us tremendously when we were battling food poisoning.)
Babbling Brooke's Root Beer- Again not a beer per say but you won't find a better root beer. Real ingredients make this root beer very tasty.
Tully's Beer and Wine- Nestled in a strip mall in Wells, Maine this place is a beer lovers dream. They carry hundreds of varieties of beers. T-shirts and glasses line shelves. Their owner is a knowledgable woman who has helped at numerous festivals. The selection is amazing and it was hard to decide on what to buy. We didn't buy a lot given that we had to watch our limit for crossing back at the border but we did purchase Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana. The verdict? Yuck. Fake banana flavour up from, no peanut butter and bad quality chocolate flavouring. Maybe there are some out there who enjoy it but the three of us who shared the bottle reached the same conclusion-never again.
Maine Brew Bus- Portland, Maine is a hub of brewery activity. There are lots in a very short distance of downtown. For those of you who have toured breweries you know that a lot of the fun is in the sampling. Sampling and driving from place to place not the best of ideas. Solution? Maine Brew Bus! Now it didn't fit into our schedule to take one of their many tours but we did spend a great deal of time talking to Zach and Don as they waited by "Lenny" their bus for a tour to get started. They hold 14 passengers and they do all the work. Your job is to show up, enjoy the ride, maybe answer a trivia question or two, tour a brewery or three, sample and purchase some beer to take home. They have six tours and they run private tours as well. They even provide you with water. They are top of our list for the next trip to Portland.
Zach and Don with 'Lenny'
Kit for the tour.
Southern New Hampshire Brewer's Festival- This is not an ordinary beer festival, at least in my books. Head brewer and owner of White Birch Brewery, Bill Herlicka is pretty picky about his beer festivals. When he decided to start hosting one at White Birch he had a list of things he wanted and didn't want. They stock bins of water bottles. The portable toilet facilities are clean. Chairs are allowed outside the tent. The main tent has fans blowing to help keep things cool should it heat up and the food is great and plentiful. Pork tacos and sweet potato ones too. Beer floss, bacon floss and beer cupcakes for dessert. Breweries also had to send one of their own people.It had to be someone who knew the beer. All these things culminated in what turned out to be my best beer festival experience ever.
I spy Bill Herlicka in the background. Also way to represent Ontario!
We bought a pass for both days. There were breweries who were only attending certain days and in order to maximize our tastings but not the results we felt attending both days were a good fit. For those of you who know Barley and Wort you know we like to do beer festivals in a group of three. Doing this means we were able to taste 42+ beers each day and were still able to walk and talk at the end of the night.
Ottawa's own Turtle Island Brewing making an appearance in NH.
Needless to say we had a lot of really, really good beer. Unsurprisingly we also met some great people. Andy, a brewer with White Birch spent a great deal of time talking brewing, beers and breweries with us.
Jeff Nelson from Stone Brewing was kind enough to save us the last of the keg from Cluster's Last Stand, the collaboration brew with Smuttynose Brewery. A highlight for us came when Jeff produced a bottle of Stone's Wootstout. For those that don't know it is a collab beer with Wil Wheaton. We were very grateful that he opened it to give us a taste and I won't lie, I fangirl squealed a little. (Note-not a top beer of the festival since it wasn't for the festival but it was a great tasting stout)
Another friendly face that we were overjoyed to see was Bill Harris from Smuttynose. If you read our post on Portsmouth Craft Beer week you know that Bill was great to us. We had been hoping he would be there and we were told on Friday that he was at another event. There was talk that he would be there Saturday. When we got to the booth, not only was he there but there were loads of smiles, hugs all around and pictures taken. Not only does Bill work for a company that makes tasty beer but he is just good people.
Our little trio closed out the festival both days.
Everett, Bill, Wort (aka Chuck) and Barley (aka April)
Top Beers of the Festival:
Flying Goose Brew Pub's Ed's Honey Basil Ale- A very interesting beer with the sweetness of the honey and great basil notes.
Throwback Brewery's Spicy Bohemian- This pilsner has a kick of local jalapenos.
White Birch Brewery's Cask of Berliner Weisse- The dry, tart berliner had an addition of blueberries.
Earth Eagle Brewery's Gruit- Called the Sage Goose, this gruit featured a strong sage nose and oat taste.
Newburyport Brewing Co.'s Plum Islan Belgian White- Very refreshing. Lovely white beer with citrus and coriander.
Stone Brewery/Smuttynose Brewery's Clusters Last Stand- A historic IPA that comes in at a whopping 8.3% abv. Very tasty, nice hoppy balance.
White Birch Brewery's Crown of Gold- Like rye beers? I highly recommend this smooth and well balanced rye beer.
Other things that I won't go into detail on:
Gritty's- A staple of Portland. Great standard brewpub
Session Muskoka- A good time with lots of Ontario craft beers.
We beat the crowds! Got there 15 minutes after they opened.
Neustadt Brewery- Quaint building and tasty beers.
Trafalgar Brewery and Mead Works- Love their mead and English style beers. Don't forget to pop into the Bouncing Bomb next door.
Rising Tide Brewery- Right next door to Maine Craft Distilling. Great friendly brewery.
Bunker Brewery- Love these guys even if the place is a bit hard to find. Tucked behind another building their small set up produces great beer.
Maine Craft Distilling- Gin, rum and vodka? You bet! Small batch, craft spirits
Maine Meadworks- Like mead? Check this place out. They do spiced, lavender, strawberry and their own cider.
Portsmouth Brewery- One of our favourite brewpubs. Both the food and beer are fantastic.
Church Key Brewery- Brewery in an old church. Very quaint.
Bellwoods Brewery- Go early as they fill up quickly. Plan to eat there as you don't want to miss their food.