All posts by Merideth

Quick Australia Visit

No one accuses us of wasting time on our trips. We use every minute possible to visit as many breweries as we can and drink as much beer as our bladders can handle. So before moving on to New Zealand, we took a few days in Sydney to get acclimated, celebrate a friend’s birthday, and add a few more Australian breweries to The List.

An early morning arrival in Sydney allowed for a full day of beer travel. After a quick shower at the home of our good friend Todd (from Beermen.TV), the three of us hit the road heading north. The first stop was Six String Brewing Co. in Erina, a town about an hour from Sydney on the New South Wales Central Coast.

Getting the trip off to a good start….

Located behind a day care center and a gym, the brewery is non-descript from the outside. However, once you step through the door of the industrial building, you’re transported to a haven of sudsy goodness. Six String has been open for less than a year, but you would never know it. They had a strong line up of beers, including the usual suspects such as a Brown (a strong contender for our favorite) and a Saison, as well as their Pale Ale on cask and a session IPA.

Despite being in Australia, my top choice was the Hefeweizen. Light and refreshing, it was full of that true Hefe flavor. Six String also had a menu of tasty nibbles and I had a chance to snack on their tasty shrimp spring rolls.

Chris was happy to be the cameraman

Continuing up the coast with Todd at the wheel, me as navigator and Chris as the trusty passenger, our next stop was in the Hunter Valley, an area best known for their wine. Potters Hotel Brewery Resort, among several other things, is home to Hunter Beer Co.

The weather was a bit drippy and a few claps of thunder greeted us as we arrived, but we still opted to take our taster set (or “sample paddle” as they call them in Australia) outside to the large covered patio. We sampled 10 of their beers, which ranged from a 4.5% Kölsch to a 10% Belgian-style Ale. They also had a smoked Doppelbock and a black, Belgian-style IPA. By far the standout was the Ginger Beer. Big in Australia, ginger beers are usually quite spicy, something that comes from the use of real ginger. The one from Hunter Beer Co. was lightly spiced and refreshing with a reasonable ABV of 4.5%.

Lovedale Brewery

A short distance away, we moved on to the Lovedale Brewery, located on the ground floor of the Crowne Plaza Hotel & Resort Hunter Valley. Newly opened, they had two beers for us to try: the Paddo Pale Ale and Glama Rama Summer Ale (remember, it’s summer down there). The beers were solid for such a new brewery and we all went for pints of the Glama with our lunch.

Our pizza and pork scratchings hit the spot and with our table’s view of the large pool, the atmosphere was fun. With Todd’s connections, we peeked into the brewery and chatted briefly with the brewer. Look for good things to come in the future, including a distillery and cider.

Having made it all the way to Port Macquarie the night before, we enjoyed a bit of brekkie and a walk at the water’s edge before visiting Port Macquarie’s two breweries.

We reached Black Duck right before the cellar door opened, but owner/brewer Al was nice enough to let us in early, so we could get our beer day started. This, of course, was after being greeted by a very friendly, but rather large Great Dane in the parking lot. We tried 8 beers, including an Australian Pale Ale, ESB, Golden, and an Irish Red Ale. Without a doubt, our favorite was the Dark Ale, an easy drinking 4% beer full of chocolate notes. Black Duck sells full pints and even has a Ploughman’s Platter, but it was 10am and we had a long day ahead.

Little Brewing Company

The other Port Macquarie brewery, The Little Brewing Company, is more of a veteran in the New South Wales beer scene. The brewery opened in 2007 and co-owner Kylie Little shared her seasoned views of the Australian beer scene and the local politics of opening a brewery while we sipped a few of their beers.

Four beers were available for tasting, including a Pale Ale, Pilsner, Porter, and Wit. While all were good, we especially liked the Pale Ale and Pilsner. They also have a line of Belgian-style beers (Dubbel, Tripel, and a Christmas ale), but we didn’t have an opportunity to try those. Despite their big reputation and excellent beers, the cellar door does not sell full pints, so our stop was a fairly quick one.

Our last stop before home was Murray’s Craft Brewing Co. in Bobs Farm. (Yep, that’s the name of the town!) While the property was somewhat farm-like, much to our disappointment we did not meet any Bobs. The brewery is set on 35 acres and shares a home with Port Stephens Winery. Be forewarned, the spot has become a destination for tour buses. They have a large café/tasting room (for both the wine and beer)/gift shop and it is all best enjoyed without a crowd of milling tourists unsure of why they’re there.

Reminds us someone we know…

We lucked out and were able to try several beers and order lunch before the first bus arrived. The woman who helped us was friendly and patient as we tasted several samples from their wide offering. I enjoyed the Rude Boy Pilsner with my tasty German-style sausages while Chris drank the  Angry Man Pale Ale with his salt and pepper squid. As we were leaving, two more tour buses pulled up…

That night we celebrated Todd’s birthday at Flat Rock Café. A fun and, judging by the crowd, a local’s favorite, Flat Rock almost missed getting added to The List.

They had one of their beers hooked up on cask, but the manager had decided not to serve it because it did not meet his standards. Todd saved the day by asking if we could taste it anyway. The beer tasted fine, just very green. While they had a nice selection of yummy tapas and a solid list of Australian craft beer, I would love to go back and taste their beer for real.

There were more than four pines…

The next day we had a few hours to sight-see and check out one last Australian brewery before leaving for our Big New Zealand Adventure. Located a short ferry ride away from Sydney in Manly, we had high expectations for 4 Pines Brewing Co. A friend in California was extremely insistent that we make the time to go there and we were so glad we took his advice!

Four Pines lived up to every bit of the hype! This brewery/restaurant overlooks the ferry harbor and the outside deck was great for people watching. They had a large selection of beers and there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. With a large sample paddle, we had time for one quick pint, a Kölsch for me and Pale Ale for Chris.

And thus concluded the first leg of our trip. (Thanks to Todd for all that driving!) A brand new adventure awaited us…

View all the images from our quick stop in Australia

Halifax Urban Beer Hike

Not all Urban Beer Hikes are created equal. Some include numerous breweries, making great contributions to The List. Others offer length, contributing much to our health. Our recent Halifax Urban Beer Hike added a little bit of everything, including six breweries to The List, a pinch of exercise, and a great way to see the city.

Need beer…

We started our UBH with a warm up from our hotel to Propeller Brewing. Well, it wasn’t so much a “warm up” as it was a very hot and humid 15-minute walk. I was so looking forward to an air-conditioned tasting room and a pint, but alas, that was not to be. Sweating away, we tried Propeller’s standard line up of beers (Pale Ale, Bitter, Porter, Honey Wheat, Pilsner, IPA) plus a special seasonal Double IPA. All of the beers were cleanly brewed and tasted great. In a rare moment of beer agreement, Chris and I both especially liked the Bitter. Having the classic malt backbone of the style and a bit of hop kick, the beer was refreshing. As the brewery likes to say, “Our most popular brew is not really a bitter beer, it’s a better Bitter!”

Propeller is a tasting room and bottle shop, no full pints for sale. So, if you aren’t lucky enough to attend one of their special catered events in the banquet room, plan on tasting and picking up your favorite bottles to go. Which is exactly what we did.

Beating the heat with a Double IPA

A short distance away (if you don’t get lost) on the touristy Waterfront Boardwalk, we found Hart & Thistle Gastropub & Brewery. We sat outside on the patio shaded by a brightly colored Budweiser Lime-a-Rita umbrella. The weather had yet to break, so while we were happy to be in the shade, we continued to sweat bullets. Once again, I was looking forward to a refreshing brew to cool off with. Unfortunately, my choices were Columbus Double IPA (9.1%) and Ironhead Smoked Porter (7.2%). They don’t offer tastes, so we both went for the DIPA. Yes, even I did.

I admit that between the touristy location and the forest of lime green Bud umbrellas on the patio, I wasn’t holding out much hope. We were pleasantly surprised, however, and the DIPA was very nice. More specifically, it was nice for Chris. I enjoyed one bitter sip, enough to appreciate it as a well-brewed beer. Chris was very happy, indeed, but a 9.1% beer was not exactly what he planned on for only the second stop on our UBH.

The service was friendly and attentive, the view was nice and the beer done well. We also enjoyed our lobster salad and 3-dip plate.

Much better…

Hart & Thistle’s limited beer choice left me a bit deflated. So, with the recommendation from a friend, we hit Cow’s Ice Cream. So cool and creamy, it really hit the spot! I was now ready for our next brewery–-Alexander Keith’s, North America’s oldest brewery and now part of the Anheuser–Busch InBev dynasty.

You may be asking why we bothered visiting a macro-brewery. Well, there are several reasons. 1) We’re completists and it would be hard to know the brewery was there and not visit. 2) This was the original brewery and therefore historic. (We’ve also been to Coors in Golden, CO). And 3) Several people told us we HAD to do the brewery tour; that we’d love it!

The eyes say it all…

Chris blames me for making him go on the tour, but the fact is, we were both a little curious. Here’s why: the tour is conducted by actors in period costumes and takes place in the year 1863. Luckily they stuck to the script and didn’t really expect too much audience participation as we learned the brewing process, played period pub games, listened to singing and watched dancing. I’m thinking of two particular friends who would totally love working this gig! (Let me know if you think I’m talking about you. I would love to see if you can guess…)

The tour lasted about 45 minutes and also included two small beers. I enjoyed (as much as one can) the Dark and Chris the Cascade Ale. Not sure it was worth the $19.95 each we paid for it, but as Chris says, at least we supported a few local actors.

Walking further down Lower Water Street, we struggled to wrap our heads around what we had just witnessed. A beer was definitely in order. Fortunately, we were heading in the direction of Garrison Brewing.

The longest leg of our UBH, our journey to Garrison Brewing gave us an opportunity to walk along the water and enjoy the view. The brewery was located at the end port where a cruise ship was docked.

A happy UBH-er

We relaxed at an outside table while drinking our taster set and watching people return to the boat. We tried 7 beers at Garrison, including all of their year-round brews (Wheat, Amber, Pale Ale, Irish Red, Nut Brown, American Red, and Imperial IPA).

All of the beers were well-brewed, but of course, Chris liked the citrusy Imperial IPA (7% ABV, 81 ABV) best.  I actually don’t remember which beer I liked best, but we did buy a few bottles of the Irish Red and the Hop Yard Pale Ale, so I imagine it was one of those.

Walking all the way back to where we started earlier in the day, our next stop was Rock Bottom Brewing, right around the corner from our hotel. And no. Not that Rock Bottom.

The Rookie…

The cellar-level pub was a little dark and we weren’t sure what to expect from Rock Bottom’s beer. We sat at a cool booth-style table at the end of the bar. The first thing I liked was the logo, a mermaid with a pint. So much so that I think it may be my next tattoo. Then they had a Happy Hour boneless chicken wing special ($4 for 10 Thai chili wings). So far so good. Next came our 6-beer sample set…all I can say is that the beer was great!

We tried the Wheat, Stout, IPA, and Brown, plus two seasonals: The Rookie and Broken Down SOB (Special Old Bitter). The Rookie was a hoppy American-style mild. Chris went wild for this Citra/Simcoe hop bomb, especially since it came in at a sessionable 3.3% ABV! I enjoyed the malty, biscuity SOB with our boneless wings.

After 2 baskets of wings and a few beers, it was time for us to move on. We had one last stop to complete our halifax UBH.

A final sample flight at Rogue’s Roost

For our final stop of the day, we went a few blocks further from our hotel to Rogue’s Roost. A bit drained from the heat and humidity of the day, we decided to have a quick taster set and call it a night. It included their five regulars: Red, Brown, Raspberry Wheat, Cream Ale, and IPA. The nautical themed atmosphere was pleasant and the other customers mellow, making it the perfect ending to a long day.

In spite of the humidity, our Halifax Urban Beer Hike was exactly what a UBH should be. We experienced the breadth of Halifax breweries, saw different parts of the beautiful city, exercised a bit, and added breweries to The List. All in all, another great beer travel adventure.

View all the Halifax images…

Quick Stop in Portland

“So you’re going to Portland?! I LOVE Oregon!”

“Yeah, we do too, but we’re not going to THAT Portland…”

Our Portland tradition…

This trip, we headed to the East Coast. And our first day’s agenda had us doing a quick afternoon in one of our favorite cities. Yes, THAT Portland.

We started things off with a bite of lunch at J’s Oysterhouse in the Old Port area. A bit touristy perhaps, but no trip to Portland would be complete for us without it. We prefer sitting outside, but on this nice sunny day, everyone else did, too. Nothing could deter us from getting our afternoon off right, though, so seats at the bar suited us just fine. Besides, there could be nothing better than a lobster roll and Allagash White to get us ready for our walking beer tour of the city.

From J’s, Bunker Brewing was only a 20-minute walk into the East Bayside area of the city. Housed in a small red brick building, Bunker is a hidden gem. On the day we went, they had 3 beers to sample. However, our host informed us that they have brewed around 30(!) different beers in the 17 months since they opened.

Enjoying the Pils at Bunker

Our three choices were Holdfast Black Ale (nicely brewed with a heavy roast flavor), Black Pearl (a surprisingly mellow yet robust smoked oyster stout) and Machine, a tasty Czech Pils with a pronounced grainy/bready character.

The weather was sunny and pleasant, which made the darker beers tough to choose. We both enjoyed our Pils served in the ever-popular mason jar out on their deck. With such a deep recipe book, chances are you may not taste the same beers twice during a visit to Bunker and you’re bound to find one you like.

We highly anticipated our next stop, Rising Tide Brewing. They had expanded since our last visit to Portland in 2011 and it is now conveniently located right around the corner from Bunker. It’s always nice to see good breweries grow.

The new Rising Tide…

Our last visit included watching owner/brewer Nathan Sanborn standing over a large homebrew kit stirring his brew. We couldn’t sample the beer that time, which meant the brewery was not added to The List. We simply chatted with Nathan, bought a few bottles and left. During this visit all that would change!

We walked into the new brewery to see Nathan off in the corner of the good-sized warehouse peering into his kettle. What a difference 2 years can make! Rising tide had 6 beers going, including Daymark and Ishmael, the two beers we were already familiar with. Joining the line-up were Spinnaker (German-style Hefeweizen, 4.5%), Maine Island Trail Ale (American Pale Ale, 4.3%), Thing Two (a new pilot Roggenbier), and Zephyr (IPA, 7.2%).

Plenty to chose from at Rising Tide…

Tasting room manager, Stasia, was very friendly and helpful as we sampled the beers. I especially enjoyed Spinnaker and Chris, of course, leaned toward Zephyr. The Maine Island Trail Ale was also tasty and we bought a few bottles to bring home. The beer was described as a “hoppy American ale.” I found it to be a refreshing balance of malt backbone with accents of pine and citrus. The other great thing about the beer is that it celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Maine Island Trail Association, a group dedicated to combining access with stewardship of Maine’s wild islands. A portion of proceeds benefit the Maine Island Trail Association, so you can drink great beer while contributing to a great organization. There were so many exciting things about this visit to Rising Tide, but the most special of all is that it was finally added to The List, #808.

In’finiti Fermentation & Distillation

With a music duo and a food truck out front, it was hard to leave Rising Tide, but we scheduled a meet up with the guys from the Maine Brew Bus at In’finiti Fermentation & Distillation back in the Old Port area.

In’finiti is the sister brewery/distillery to Novare Res, the famed awesome beer café in Portland. There we hooked up with Zach and Don from the Maine Brew Bus, the original beer tour company in Portland. We discussed beer growth and politics over pints of In’finiti’s Mar-Gose-Rita (a traditional Gose) and their Belgian table beer. Both were very tasty. They also had the Blk Abt (Belgian Royal Stout), War Dark, and Rauchbier on, but without a taster set available we didn’t get a chance to taste these.

Mar-Gose-Rita

In’finiti feels a bit upscale and pretentious, but is still very comfortable. The décor is beautiful—from the shiny brew kit and distillery to the repurposed furniture. The food was also good. We were told we HAD to try the chicarrones, which, as basically fried pork belly bits, did not disappoint. I also got a taste of a green hummus-type dip with flatbread, which was also very good.

We especially enjoyed talking with the Maine Brew Bus guys and their significant others. Super nice guys, they are very knowledgeable about beer, Maine beer in particular, and Portland beer history, which I thought made for especially good beer tour guides. Be sure to check them out when you visit Portland.

After our time with Zach and Don, we were on the move again to the last stops on our quick trip to Portland.

Finishing the night at Novare Res

We swung by J’s again for our second lobster meal of the trip before ending our evening at Novare Res, an absolute must stop during any visit to Portland, Maine. We had yet to drink some Maine Beer Company beer, so a stop at Novare Res guaranteed that we’d be able to do so. We enjoyed a bottle of Another One and Weez, as well as several other tasty beers whose names I cannot recall right now. You know what beer travel is like and this was one of those blurred evenings…

We tried to make an early night of it, as we had come into town on a red eye flight and were operating on only a few hours sleep. With such an amazing beer list, that’s no easy feat at Novare Res, but we did manage to tear ourselves away from the bar at a reasonable hour. Besides, we needed our beauty sleep before our first ever live TV interview the next morning at 6:30am.

View all the images from our day in Portland

Cruzin’ the Coast

Going on beer hiatus brings with it a certain amount of heartache. Usually, it’s because we miss out on some really cool beer events. During this year’s hiatus, a couple of new breweries opened near us. Luckily, our yearly beer-free month didn’t make us miss out, only delay, our first visits to these great new breweries along the Highway 1 corridor in the Santa Cruz area.

Highway 1 Brewing. Aptly named

The first stop on our outing was Highway 1 Brewing Company in Pescadero. The opening of this brewery seemed to come out of nowhere. No buzz beforehand. No waiting with baited anticipation for opening day. Jeff Page, the brewer/owner, later explained it to us. The whole endeavor came together in just six months. With speed like that, there wasn’t any time to get the word out. But make no mistake, this brewery would definitely live up to any hype a PR marketing firm would have built had there been time.

The view from the bar at Highway 1

An hour and a half from our house, the views along Highway 1 north of Santa Cruz are gorgeous. And so is the view from the brewery. Although it’s on the other side of the highway, the views of the Pacific Ocean are unimpeded and the large front windows allow the beautiful scenery to come through. Wherever you sit at Highway 1 Brewing, the bar or restaurant, you’ll be delighted with what you see. Even the cars driving along the road proved to be only slightly distracting.

Beer…

This husband and wife operation (Jeff does the brewing, while Melissa oversees the kitchen) is cozy and inviting. In addition to the great beer, the food and the wooden interior reflect a comforting, welcoming feel. On the day of our visit, Highway 1 Brewing had 3 of their own beers on tap and several guest craft beers. I especially enjoyed the Knuckle Down Brown, with its smooth milk chocolatey flavor. With no IPA on tap, Chris opted for a pint of the Pepper on the Rye, a 6.1% malty rye brewed with peppercorns. The peppercorn flavor was forward without being overbearing, giving it a spicy flare. We also tried the Rock Queen Pale, described on the menu as a “pale ale with an overdosing of Centennial hops.” All of the beers were very well done and very tasty.

Lunch…

A bit too early in the day for a full meal, I chose an appetizer of beer battered green beans with spicy aioli. Wow! Had my mother prepared these when I was a kid, I would have definitely eaten more veggies. Chris enjoyed his chile verde pork street tacos, which also looked very good. I really wish I had been hungrier, though, because one item on the menu stood out like no other: Hop-Fried Chicken, buttermilk marinated chicken infused with whole cone hops. I guess that means another visit is in order. Next time I’ll go on an empty stomach.

Conveniently located right on Highway 1 just north of Año Nuevo and the Pie Ranch, it’s easy to make a whole day of going to this brewery. There’s no tweeting in real time, however, because there’s no service up there.

Discretion Brewing

Making our way back south, our next highly anticipated stop was at Discretion Brewing in Soquel. We had two people on our KRML radio show from the brewery, Dustin and Michael, during our beer hiatus which just built the anticipation more.

All shiny and new

Set back from 41st Avenue, the building just screamed new. And not in a bad way. I especially like their motto (“Wisdom. Wit. Kindness. Beer.”) and the logo of a man with gears crankin’ inside his head. This, is a thinking (wo)man’s brewery!

The exterior is a vibrant red color and the soon-to-be re-opened outside seating area is just to the left of the entrance. A permitting issue misunderstanding caused the closure, but they are busy rectifying it. I look forward to having Porter and Stout join us out there.

Inside, we found a bustling tasting room. Thankfully our friends Sean and Fran from Hollister Hills Taproom & Brewery had arrived earlier and saved us some seats at the bar.

Sample flight at Discretion Brewing. Extra credit for muffin tray

We started out with a flight of 5 beers. While all the beers were very good, I quickly discovered it was a Brown kind of day for me and I ordered a pint of Song in Your Heart, a 4% British-Style Mild Brown Ale. The German-style Pilsner, Shimmer Pils, was also at the top of my list at Discretion. Chris was happy as they had an IPA, Uncle Dave’s Rye IPA to be exact, coming in at 7% ABV.

Beers with friends at Discretion

I would be remiss if I only talked about the beer at Discretion because the food was also amazing! They partnered with Main Street Garden & Cafe to develop a menu of up-scale, small plates made from fresh, local and organic ingredients to pair with the beer. Sitting near the kitchen, we watched as bowls full of Chili (served with cornbread) and succulent-looking bangers went by. We tried the Pilsner-battered halibut fish bites. Served with arugula, avocado, radish, and blood orange, it was a fresh, light take on the pub standard fish and chips.

With multiple people behind the small-ish bar, the service was attentive and friendly. My only complaint is that they were temporarily out of growlers, so I was unable to buy one of the Brown. Last I heard, however, Discretion Brewing is back in the growler business. I think that calls for a return visit.

The happy family at Sante Adirius

Not finished with our beer day, the four of us decided to make a stop at Sante Adairius on our way back to the other side of the Monterey Bay. We’ve written about them before and I could go on for days about my love of Sante Adairius, so I won’t go into it again. But I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed my Bernice Batch #3 and my absolute favorite of theirs, Joe Chavez. It was a dog-filled afternoon, with Porter and Stout joining several other pups in the tasting room as Chris sipped on his 831 IPA.

Easily located along Highway 1, these three breweries made the perfect beer tour route. Whether you’re a tourist or a local, cruzin’ along this coastal beer trail is fun and relaxing, indeed!

View all the images from our day…

To Beavertown!

We may have hit 800 breweries the day before, but our London trip wasn’t over. There were still beers to drink, people to see and more breweries to add to The List.

Hanging at Brew Wharf on a Friday morning
Photo by Phil Lowry

We started our Friday with an early morning meet up with our friend Phil Lowry at Brew Wharf near Borough Market. Phil asked us to join him and Angelo Scarnera, Brew Wharf’s head brewer, as they brewed up something tasty. In the end, we didn’t help much (except to confirm that using Pioneer hops was a good idea), but we had a lovely morning catching up with Phil, debating American beer politics, and discussing the explosion in the London beer scene.

While hanging out at Brew Wharf, we talked with Phil about our day’s plans which were somewhat in flux. All Chris and I knew was that we wanted to end up at Duke’s Brew & Que, home to Beavertown Brewery. Phil suggested we walk the almost three mile route. Taking up his suggestion, we headed out into the cold. It was a great way to get a bit of exercise and see more parts of the city, especially the up and coming Shoreditch area.

Stumbling upon a beer festival

From a number of friends, we had heard about an inaugural beer festival, Craft Beer Rising, that was happening Friday and Saturday. As luck would have it, our path to Beavertown took us past the festival.

Forty-five minutes after leaving Brew Wharf, we arrived at the historic Old Truman Brewery in East London’s Brick Lane. In the last dozen years, the vacant and derelict buildings on the 10-acre site have been refurbished and transformed into spectacular office, retail, leisure and event spaces. We were initially confused about where to go, but a security doorman pointed us in the right direction. Up a short set of dark stairs, we found ourselves at the entrance of a large white-washed warehouse.

My beer of the Fest… Thornbridge Tzara

Similar of our experience at Great British Beer Festival, we were initially confused by the unfamiliar selection of beers. While there were familiar names like Brains, Brewdog, Fullers and Thornbridge, we were completely at a loss with Two Cocks, Penpont, Offbeat and Dorset. Wanting to try new beers, we ended up randomly guessing based mainly on brewery or beer names catching our eye.

In the end, we sampled over a dozen beers. And despite trying a number of new beers, our stars came from a brewery we were already familiar with. Being a good Californian, Chris’ favorite beer was the keg version Thornbridge Halcyon, a very West Coast Style 7.4% ABV Imperial IPA. With a tagline of “hops, hops & more hops,” Chris also liked the 5.5% ABV Thwaites Thirteen Guns, which was served in the cask room. True to my love for German-styles, my star also came from Thornbridge: Tzara, a wonderfully crisp 4.8% ABV Köln style beer.

A great bar policy

Having had our fill of English craft beer, we strolled down Brick Lane passing Shoreditch’s numerous hipster vintage clothing shops to arrive at the Brewdog Bar. I admit that I would have loved to stop in those shops, but Chris was on a mission and I know better than to interrupt a beergeek on a mission.

Despite not being a big beer-type of girl, I was looking forward to going to the Brewdog Bar. It seemed my best opportunity to try some of their not-so-wild-and-crazy beers that I know they have. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way, but it was a great stop nonetheless.

My first Brewdog bar

The bar was spacious and the wall of large windows added to the light feel of the place. I imagine it can get pretty packed, but on this late-Friday afternoon, there were only a handful of people chatting quietly over pints. Being Brewdog, there was the potential for this ultra-hip bar to be pretentious. While the bartenders were very hip looking and could easily fit in at Toronado, they were also surprisingly patient and helpful. With their help, I opted for the Libertine Black Ale. At 7%, it was a dark, rich and roasty beer with a heavy mouth feel. The bite of the Simcoe hops came through with a bitterness that proved too much for me.  Chris helped me finish it after polishing off his Punk IPA.

Our stop at Brewdog was short and sweet and after just one beer, we were on our way to the final stop of our day: Duke’s Brew & Que, home to the Beavertown Brewery. Earlier in the day, Phil had confirmed that it was a great place to go. We hit the pavement to head to De Beauvoir Town.

Pint please…

We arrived around 4:30pm and food (awesome tasting Southern BBQ) didn’t start until 5pm. No worries, though. We sat down at a table near the bar and warmed up a bit over a few beers. Chris started with a beer from their regular line-up: Neck Oil, a 4.3% Black Country Best Bitter on cask. With some of the highest ABV’s we’d seen on the whole trip, I opted for the  6% Saison 34, a recently released experimental beer from the brewery’s Alpha Series. Using the Dupont strain of yeast, this beer was great!

Cheers to Beavertown!

I can’t say enough good things about Duke’s and Beavertown Brewery. With rustic wooden floors and the smoky smell of BBQ, the atmosphere was warm and inviting. The bartender Elle was super friendly and very helpful (even before we broke out the bottle of Pliny the Elder). As 5 o’clock approached and the dinner hour was commencing, the place started to fill up. It is very family friendly without being annoying and it gives you the sense of hanging out at a friend’s party.

Tight quarters in the Duke’s kitchen

We had a chance to chat with owner/brewer Logan Plant. He was very humble and spent probably 30-45 minutes chatting and tasting beers with us.

Among the tasty treats were Black Betty (7.4% black IPA), Smog Rocket (5.4% smoked porter), and 8-Ball Rye IPA, a 50 IBU 6.2% beer described as being a “mash up of sweet Carapils, spicy Rye and zest West Coast hops.” All of the beers were top-notch and the amazing thing is that the 4bbl brewhouse sits in the kitchen across from the BBQ smokers. (Note: The brewery has recently moved to a larger space, but Duke’s will continue to be Beavertown’s official tap.)

Dinner!

For dinner, we chose the BBQ platter called Duke’s Greatest Hits. It included beef rib, pork rib and pulled pork served with coleslaw, pickled red onions, 2 different BBQ sauces & Texas garlic toast. Everything tasted great and although it was very filling, we couldn’t pass up the “Chocolate Salami” dessert. Cheeky sounding, I know, and we really had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be slices of chocolate rolls, one black and one white, both delicious!

It was a wonderfully cozy end to a fun day. Overall, our London trip had felt like one big meet up with friends, whether the people were new friends, acquaintances or longtime mates of ours, we thoroughly enjoyed sharing beers with everyone. Before our trip, I had thought that London was not one of my favorite places to go (primarily because real ale is not my preferred beer), but my opinion has completely changed. With such an explosion in craft breweries, there is something for everyone’s taste. Even mine. Cheers to one and all for the warm hospitality and a jolly good time!