Smuttynose Brewing Company

Heading home from vacation sucks. But drinking Smuttynose does not. Fortunately for us, their brewery is tucked in the woods of Hampton, NH which happened to be right on our route home. This one huge brewery handles all of the brewery’s production and distribution.  Additionally, visitors can head over to the Hayseed restaurant adjacent to the brewery. A historic home with outdoor seating, it offers the perfect setting to get pints of a ton of Smutty beers and well as some guest taps while enjoying a bowl of smoked New England seafood chowder.

Where are we? Smuttynose Brewing Co. Hampton, NH

What are we drinking? We tasted everything that they currently have in their taproom: the Finest Kind IPA, Octoberfest, Really Old Dog brown ale, Rhye IPA, Pumpkin Ale, Robust Porter, Weizenbock, and the Orville farmhouse ale.

Standout brews: You can never go wrong with their flagship Finest Kind IPA, but two of our other favorites were the Orville and the Wiezenbock. Both are productions of the Smuttlab, an experimental branch of Smuttynose that focuses on unique, small-batch beers. The Orville is a farmhouse saison with a rich complexity of sweet, tart, and peppery notes. The Weizenbock is a pretty traditional dark wheat beer with a pleasing yeast-y backbone. We also had the DIPA #4 at the Hayseed which was a hoppy, piney double IPA well worth a try.

How’s the vibe? This is a big, regional brewery with highly refined beers. The tasting room area is a little small and gets packed, so time your visit to be during off-peak hours. The outdoor seating at the Hayseed is a great place to hang out for lunch or just a few pints.  Overall, an excellent brewery to visit if you’re in the area!

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Yazoo Brewing Company: A Nashville Classic



This past weekend, one (of two) pints went for a girls’ weekend (guess which pint!) in Nashville, Tennessee. Amidst copious amounts of incredibly good food (looking at you, Pinewood Social), fantastic live music (hey there, Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie), and plenty of catching up with old friends, we made it a point to visit Yazoo Brewing Company, which is nestled in the hipster-meets-industrial neighborhood of Nashville known as the Gulch. Yazoo is a clearly well-established and well-loved brewery, with a wide selection of classic and experimental beers that are available throughout Tennessee and Mississippi. They are currently expanding towards the coast with distribution in Charleston, South Carolina beginning this month.  The craft beer scene in the south is on the rise — but hasn’t quite had the exponential growth that it has up north. Owner Linus Hall noted that some recent changes in Tennessee legislation for lowered taxes and increased alcohol cap through the TN Craft Brewers Guild has begun to open more doors for small breweries in the region. It indeed took time for Yazoo to build its reputation.

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Linus Hall, Owner and Brewmaster

As a former engineer, Linus was drawn to brewing beer due to its mix of science and art. He started with a small homebrewing kit and soon discovered his immense talent for making good beer.  Yazoo opened its doors back in 2003, and after expanding their offerings and adding a bottling line, Yazoo moved to its current location in 2010 where it remains a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. Yazoo now boasts a 40-barrel brewhouse with a generously sized taproom (and fantastic gift shop to get your Yazoo swag!). Linus’s commitment to high quality, classic beer is clear; if he were a style of beer, he would be a pale ale – “not flashy or trendy, but steady and reliable, and it goes well with pizza!” However, Yazoo is no stranger to more experimental brews, evident in their seasonal releases and Embrace the Funk series.

 
img_8267The Yazoo staff were knowledgeable and had all the Southern friendliness and charm that you hope to find down in Tennessee, and they set us up with two large flights of both flagship and seasonal options. The weather was downright balmy for January, so we were lucky enough to enjoy the brews outside on the front patio. The beers covered an impressive range of styles; year-round they offer the Pale Ale, the award-winning Hefeweizen, Dos Perros Mexican-style beer, Sly Rye Porter, Hop Perfect IPA, Daddy-O Pilsner, HOPRY Double IPA, and the Sue (my favorite!), a smoked porter. For the winter months they have a seasonal Winter Scotch Ale, and they are also experimenting with some funky sour beers for their Embrace the Funk Series. Their offerings were excellent – the group had trouble deciding on the favorite ones. However, some of the standouts for us were the Sue, Hop Perfect IPA, Hefeweizen, and the Pale Ale. Yazoo’s brewery and beers are brimming with fun, funk, and a whole lot of promise for expanding the southern craft beer scene in a meaningful way.

Let us know if you’ve checked out Yazoo for yourself!

Cheers!
Bethany

Lehigh Valley Brewers Guild Beerfest 2016

We have been blown away by the rising craft beer scene right at home in the Lehigh Valley. Not only are fantastic small breweries opening everywhere from Easton to Emmaus, but the beers are truly remarkable with unique, mature, and complex flavor profiles that rival many breweries that have been operating for years. This past Sunday, we were thrilled to attend the Lehigh Valley Brewers Guild Beerfest, which celebrated the Lehigh Valley craft beer scene. This is the first festival of its kind – with only local brewers featured – and it was a huge success. The weather was perfectly cool and crisp for this festival held right outside of Two Rivers Brewing in Easton, PA. There was a great crowd – enough for a fun atmosphere but not so much that you had to wait in lines to get your glass filled. The live music was fantastic, and the food options were perfect. We got to see some of our old favorite local breweries, including Bonn Place Brewing CompanyLost Tavern Brewing Company, and Yergey Brewing, and we started planning blog posts for other awesome local breweries, including Cave Brewing CompanySole Artisan AlesFunk Brewing, Hijinx Brewing CompanyWeyerbacher, Two Rivers Brewing, Fegley’s Brew Works, and for a beer alternative, the Allentown-based (and excellent!) Colony Meadery.

Now, let’s talk about the beers. Each brewery poured a few different options ranging from classic brews from each brewery to seasonal or unique small-batch brews. We tried nearly all of the options and will share our favorites from each brewery. Check it out below.

Bonn Place: We have raved and raved about Bonn Place for their fantastic beers, cozy atmosphere, and incredibly friendly owners. Sam’s excitement to share his beers and connect with patrons at the festival was tangible – mid-way through the festival, he told us,”this is what it’s all about!”. Their Beerfest offerings did not disappoint, including Colin’s Irish-Breakfast Stout, the Lapin L’Orange Double Farmhouse, and the Gose Busters Lacto-Cooler (that name!). Mike was all about the Colin, a collaboration beer developed with Keystone Homebrew, due to its malt-forward, oaty taste. I was surprised to find that the Lacto-Cooler was a hit for me; I am not big on sour beers, but I found this gose to hit the spot. It has a mild saltiness which cuts the acidic sour, producing a slightly tart but well-balanced brew.

Cave Brewing: Cave is close to the top of our list for a full blog post feature. They are a nano brewery located near Bethlehem, PA with plans to eventually open their brewery doors to the public. Despite not being open just yet, their beers are popping up all around the Lehigh Valley and are garnering a loyal following. They poured the Gourdolious Spiced Pumpkin Ale and Drew’s Hand Stout. The Gourdolious is a single-batch heavy-hitting pumpkin ale, made with two pounds of pumpkin. Crazy. Meanwhile, the stout has sweet notes of cocoa and roasted coffee that complement the malt-forward taste nicely without being too overpowering. Mike was a big fan of the stout and was craving more after the festival ended. Can’t wait to check Cave out again in the future!

Lost Tavern: Lost Tavern has a special place in our hearts. It opened only a few months after we bought our first home in Hellertown, and we couldn’t wait to check them out. It has now become one of our regular stops for local craft beer due to its energetic and fun atmosphere, unique brews, and crazy good live music. They did not disappoint at the LV Brewers Guild Beerfest, pouring the Hop Air Balloon American Pale Ale, Fall Spiced Cider, and Maple Bacon Amber. Mike loved the hoppy bite of the pale ale and I was smitten by the cider. Many hard ciders are very dry, but this one is semi-sweet and much more juicy and full bodied than others we’ve had. The Maple Bacon Amber brought lots of smoke and sweetness for a unique fall beer.

Funk Brewing: Funk Brewing became a popular Lehigh Valley brewery right off the bat when it opened in 2014 in Emmaus, PA. Their beers pop up in many area restaurants and are highly sought out in the valley and beyond. They have even opened a second location in Elizabethtown, PA due to their high demand. While we plan to do a full blog write-up of Funk in the coming months, we can tell you that their brews are not to be missed. They poured the T-Rex IPA and the Falliage Chai Saison at the Beerfest. We sampled both, and the T-Rex was the front-runner for us. While bitter with the classic IPA hoppiness, it packed a juicy, fruit-forward brightness that left us craving more. The Falliage was a unique saison with its notes of chai tea and a bitter finish.

Hijinx Brewing Company: Hijinx is another small local brewery that first opened in Allentown, PA in 2011. Over the years, Hijinx has amassed a steady following and has since upgraded their brewing space from a 400 square-foot garage with a single-barrel brewing system  to a 4000 square foot space with a 10-barrel brewing system. Mike and I visited Hijinx last year and were very impressed not only by their beers but by the friendliness of the staff. We were also thrilled to find that this unassuming building also hosts the Colony Meadery as well as County Seat Spirits distillery – what more could a proud lush want? Hijinx had some great pours at the Beerfest, including my favorite of theirs, the Barista’s Choice, which is an ultra cozy porter with Honduran coffee beans roasted by the Taylor Roasted Coffee House in Northampton, PA. There’s nothing we love more than seeing local business collaborate and support one another. Keep an eye out for more blog action featuring Hijinx in the coming months.

Two Rivers Brewing: Two Rivers, the host of the festival, opened in 2013 in Easton, PA. A full-service restaurant plus brewery, it is a great place to enjoy a gastropub menu (hello, duck fat fries with truffle oil!) while drinking excellent craft beer. Two Rivers recently blew up in local media for winning a gold medal (one of only two golds in the entire state of Pennsylvania) for the Six Fingers Sam at the Great American Beer Festival this year! They have a lot to be proud of. At the Beerfest they poured the Bomb Maker Bock and Sixth Street Sour, and we were lucky enough to snag a sample of the Six Fingers toward the end of the event. The bock was a big hit with Mike with a load of roasty, malt flavor laced with a bourbon kick from being aged in bourban barrels. The Six Fingers Sam was incredibly unique – a true farmhouse saison with a major funky streak from the Brett hops balanced by more delicate notes of chardonnay and lemon. A big congratulations on the gold medal win!

Sole Artisan Ales: We have heard about the enigmatic Sole Ales but hadn’t had the chance to taste their offerings or meet brewer Joe Percoco until this event. Currently describing themselves as a “Gypsy Brewery,” Joe and his wife brew their beers at an already well-established brewery but plan to open their own brewing space in Easton in the coming months. Despite their current lack of a brick-and-mortar brewery, their beers already have a cult following and have garnered great respect in the local craft beer community. Mike and I were blown away by the Turbo Nerd, an incredibly smooth, juicy, melon-forward X-IPA. They also poured the Electric Velvet, an Imperial Latte Stout they concocted using cold-brewed coffee from Electric City Roasting. We can’t wait to try more from Sole!

Yergey Brewing: We are big fans of Jim
Yergey and his newly opened Yergey Brewing in Emmaus, PA. Jim’s approach to brewing reflects maturity and a fine-tuned, well-honed craftsmanship due to years of homebrewing. His passion for his beer is clear in his interactions with customers and excitement to share his brews with others. He poured a couple familiar favorites, the Hoptileitious Double IPA and the Friend of the Devil Belgian Dark Strong, for the Beerfest. You can’t go wrong with the Hoptileitious – although it packs a lot of hops, it has a smooth maltiness that makes it go down easy. Friend of the Devil is the quintessential fall/winter beer with notes of winter spices, caramel, and dark fruits. Partway through the festival Jim poured some of the Hot Chocolate, a chocolate porter laced with spicy chili peppers. Mike and I missed the boat on the Hot Chocolate since it was tapped out in 15 minutes! Also, how cute are these new double-walled beer tumblers they are selling?

Totes adorbs.

Weyerbacher: Ok, time to be honest here. Weyerbacher is one of the most well-established breweries in the Lehigh Valley, founded in 1995 in Easton, PA.  Its beers are found far and wide, especially their big sellers like the Merry Monks Tripel and the Imperial Pumpkin Stout. Weyerbacher is also active in giving back to the local community with food drives and supporting home brewers in the area with yearly competitions. Despite its popularity, Mike is just not a fan of their beers. He claims he has tried many of them and has yet to find one he likes. While I haven’t yet been totally smitten by any of their pours, I have been pushing us to sample them whenever we can to find that elusive Weyerbacher beer that hits the mark. At the Beerfest, I was pleasantly surprised by the Easton Brown and Down, a roasty chocolate brown ale that was a great pairing for the cool, crisp weather. Mike enjoyed it as well, though he remains skeptical. This could be a turning point in our relationship with Weyerbacher – only time will tell.

Fegley’s Brew Works: Brew Works is another well-established Lehigh Valley brewery + restaurant with two locations in Bethlehem and Allentown. Their beers are frequently found throughout PA and NJ and have received multiple awards at national beer festivals. Mike and I have sampled their beers regularly over many years and can attest to the quality and growing diversity of their selection, including the Black IPA and Devious Imperial Pumpkin. They poured the Pumpin’ Ain’t Easy Dry Hopped Kettle Sour and the Fall Bock at the Beerfest. Since you know about our feelings about sour beers, we both went for the Fall Bock and weren’t disappointed. It’s an easy-drinking, toasty fall beer with warming malts and notes of vanilla and cocoa nibs. It would go down especially easy with an order of their soft pretzels with beer cheese soup!
We have to give a quick shout-out to Colony Meadery who produce a wide range of meads right in Allentown, PA. If you haven’t had mead, you should give it a try for something a little different! Made from fermented honey, we love its smooth texture and versatility for mixed drinks or enjoying on its own. The Better Sasparilla variety, which they offered at the Beerfest. is downright addictive.  Another special thanks to Porters Pub for offering an incredibly good sauerbraten sandwich and cheddar ale soup to keep us warm (and relatively sober) during the event.

We could go on and on about our excitement for the craft beer scene in our region, but you probably already stopped reading a while ago. So we’ll pack it in and see you next time!

Cheers!
Bethany

Two Days, Six Breweries: Keuka and Broken Dreams

As promised, we have two more breweries to review from our Finger Lakes trip. We already reviewed one of our favorites, a couple of relative newcomers, and two other Finger Lakes standouts.

For beer adventurers like ourselves, we recommend that you try everything and seek out all of the local breweries in the Finger Lakes and taste everything you can. But if you only have a limited amount of time or if you are not so obsessive about drinking everything in sight as I am, I recommend that you make a visit to these two a priority.

Alpha Predator Double IPA, Anyone?

Keuka Brewing Co.

Keuka Brewing seems to be a pretty popular place along the trail which makes sense considering that they did win an award for best craft brewery in NY state for 2014, which is a pretty high honor in a state that includes Southern Tier and Ommegang. They also won a regional award for their Mocha Imperial stout. I know all of this because I blatantly plagiarized all of these facts from their website which you can visit here.

Keuka brews one of the finest double IPA’s that can be found in the Finger Lakes, the Alpha Predator Double IPA was very impressive for a small local brewery! The balance and the drinkability were on par with any other high quality brewery in the country. It has a high ABV at 9.6% but still has a great hoppy punch at 86 IBUs. It is not too malty and sweet as many other double IPAs can be. The New Zealand hops were really allowed to shine, giving this a crisp bright flavor. I have had a lot of double IPA’s and this one is definitely a winner.

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Keuka Brewing Selection

One of the more interesting selections on tap was the aptly named Afterburner Habañero Ale; a fairly light ale brewed with habañero peppers. I have had this style of beer before and I am not a huge fan so it is really not fair at all for me to review it. Sorry Keuka. I love spicy food and don’t mind sweating and panting when I eat wings but when you drink spicy it seems to hit you in the back of the throat and not on your palette. But in fairness, what we love about touring breweries is seeing all of the creativity and unique takes on different beer styles, so we love that Keuka is going outside of the box and playing with different flavors and ingredients. So, if you like spicy beers than I am sure that you will like this one, but if you are like me, stick with the awesome Alpha Predator.

Besides those two beers Keuka does have a nice selection of other ales, lagers, IPA’s, and the aforementioned, award winning mocha imperial stout which I did not get a chance to try. They have a fun outdoor seating area with some games, umbrellas, and space to set up your own lawn chair and enjoy a growler.

 

So sad, but so good.

The Brewery of Broken Dreams

The Brewery of Broken dreams was another standout on our Finger Lakes trip that really impressed us. They are a newer brewery that opened about a year and a half ago. The name stems from the owners’ long sought after dream of opening their own brewery and all of the heartache they endured before their dream finally became a reality.

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Impressive Variety

Depressing names aside, we are glad that their journey was a long one because it seems that those obstacles and delays gave them time to truly refine their craft. Brewing is like anything else in that it takes time to perfect. As a former chef, I have made the same dishes hundreds of times and I continue to tweak processes and ingredients every time to continually improve the final product. For a newer brewery, The Brewery of Broken Dreams has a very well refined product that tastes like it has been tweaked as much as my world famous hot wings. (not really, but they’re pretty good)

I really enjoyed each and every one of their beers. They were well-balanced and drinkable but still very unique and flavorful.

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Dreamy Beers at Broken Dreams

I loved the Wise Old Ale, partially because I have never had an old ale before and I have a curious desire to taste everything that exists as my waist will confirm. Beer Advocate, being the wealth of beer knowledge that it is, says that old ales are, “low attenuated beers with high levels of dextrins.” I have no idea what any of that means but I can assure you that it tastes way better than it sounds.

Besides the old ale, they had a number of other beers on tap that were just as good as the next. The taproom is in a historic building that was once a wine cellar and its design and style are as refined as the beer itself. I highly recommend stopping here if you are going to be in the area.

Check out their website here.

If you have visited the Brewery of Broken Dreams or Keuka Brewing Company and have stories to share or beers to rate, we would love to hear from you!

Cheers!
Mike and Bethany

How many goats? Two Goats!

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RedX, Hefeweizen, and the best view on Seneca Lake

If there is a finer place in the world to enjoy a pint than Two Goats Brewing in Hector, NY, we have not yet found it. If you take a trip to the Finger Lakes region and don’t sit on their deck overlooking Seneca Lake with a pint of Goatgasm on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I seriously question your judgement.

Bethany and I have been to Two Goats on several occasions and it has always been a calm, quiet scene. The deck has never been crowded and the view is so captivating that Bethany and I would often just sit in silence for long periods of time (normally I’m the only silent one when we’re together), perfectly relaxed and watching the sun set over the lake.

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Two Goats is solar-powered!

If you go, try the Goatgasm , which is a blend of their XIPA and their Ultra Pale Ale. It is a refreshing blend with just enough bite to remind you that there is a pretty strong IPA in there but drinkable enough that it won’t disturb your zen-like state of peace.  Other winners include their Heffeweizen, which is wheaty and refreshing without being too light-bodied, and the Goat Master Pale Ale, which packs a nice hop punch with citrus tones.

If you come hungry be prepared to drive a little drunk somewhere else because all the food they serve is roast beef sandwiches that are actually quite good and free fresh-popped popcorn. (Just kidding about driving drunk–don’t be a jerk. Just get the roast beef sandwich.)

On our trip this past weekend to the Finger Lakes we were so excited to get to Two Goats to enjoy a quiet, relaxing sunset and a few delicious pints.  However, when we turned into the driveway we saw that the deck and parking lot were packed with rowdy people. I was suddenly flooded with painful and unexpected emotions. It felt like I had just pulled up to my girlfriend’s house who I hadn’t seen in a very long time and there was another man’s car in the driveway — but instead of it being another man, it was a party bus full of frat boys peeing in the yard and bachelorette partiers screaming “wooo” at just about anything. We were both devastated, but what did we expect? It was Saturday afternoon on the Seneca Lake beer and wine trail on a 4th of July weekend.

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Best seats in the house

After a brief survey of the scene we decided to turn around with hopes of returning the next day, Sunday, when it wouldn’t be so crowded to catch our sunset. After 24 hours of cognitive dissonance, we returned the next afternoon. It was packed again, and there was a band playing. However, this time we forged on, recognizing that a place this special couldn’t be kept secret for long. We grabbed our pints and joined the masses on the deck, strategically positioning ourselves to snatch our favorite place to sit – a corner cocktail table with commanding views of the lake – as soon as the opportunity arose. When we saw the couple sitting there beginning to get up we bolted over to the table like bratty, entitled children trying to beat out the other kids for the first eggs in an Easter egg hunt. I was a little embarrassed by our behavior but after we got to reclaim our favorite table and watch the sun go down over the lake I quickly forgot about my shame. Of course, the four pints of their RedX (red ale mixed with XIPA) that I drank also helped with that.

 

Check out Two Goats for yourself: http://www.twogoatsbrewing.com/

Cheers!

Mike and Bethany