Thursday, August 11, 2005

Road Trip!

In Mid-July, my son and I went on a 4542-mile road trip. We drove to and toured Spokane, Seattle, Portland, and did a straight shot to Colorado and back. The purpose of the trip was to see family, move my sister, go to my 30th High School reunion, forget about work, and have a f*cking good time!

On the way up, during a 977-mile first day, we stopped for a lunch/dinner at the Firehouse Brewing Company in Rapid City, SD. We stoped there last year, as well. Good food and OK beer, (a little on the lighter side). Their IPA is a British-style IPA. It was 107 degrees outside, but Matt and I sat outside (in the shade). Being used to brewing in my garage at 94F with 80% humidity, 107 at 5% humidity was not that bad, as long as you were in the shade. We enjoyed a couple of nice cigars after dinner, then got back on the road.

We stayed in Sheridan, Wyoming that night, then resumed our trip the next morning. Sheridan is an interesting one-horse town with meth-head waitresses. We found a nice Java bar downtown, in the morning, though.

At lunch on day two, we stopped in Missoula, MT, at the Ironhorse Pub. They had Bayern Pilsener on tap, and a decent food selection. Before leaving Missoula, we stopped at a drive-through espresso hut. The coffee shop was named "Special Cause Coffee", or something like that. My son asked what the cause was that we'd be supporting if we purchased cofffee. The gal at the counter said that the place supported women who used to be on drugs, by giving them a job. To which I replied, "but I don't believe in women." She was stunned & speechless, but she didn't spit in my coffee. Then we headed out for the 3 hour trip to Spokane, WA.

Spokane only has 1 real brewpub, now. When I lived there 9 years ago, it had 7. I used to do a lot of side work for 4 of those brewpubs, back in the day. That's where and why I met a lot of the NW brewers, and why I started homebrewing all-grain, instead of extract. It didn't make sense to ever do an extract brew when I was bartering for free grain, hops and yeast!

Northern Lights is the name of the last surviving Spokane brewpub. Mark Irvin, the brewer, bought it outright in 2000, and has made a decent go of it ever since. He and I used to ride MTB bikes together, and he is one of the brewers in the photo of Michael Jackson (with me and Dick Cantwell). He brews some decent beers, including: Crème Ale, Pale Ale, Amber, Crystal Bitter, India Pale Ale, Chocolate Dunkel. His not-to-style Crystal Bitter is a very interesting variant that I may try to reproduce.

Seattle: The absolute first stop in Seattle was at Elysian Brewing Company. My old buddy Dick Cantwell wasn't there for our first visit. He was at the Smithsonian (in DC) giving a 3-hour talk about beer. His brewpub won the Large Brewpub of the Year award and Dick Cantwell was awarded Brewmaster of the Year in 1999, 2003 & 2004 at the Great American Beer Festival. In Dick's absence, his partner Dave showed us a good time (on the house). These were the brews we enjoyed at the brewpub:

The Immortal IPA
The Wise ESB - Cask Conditioned version
Avatar Jasmie IPA - yum, yum
Bete Blanche Belgian-style Tripel
Yuzu's Belgian-style Golden Ale
2-y.o. bottle-conditioned version of the Saison Elysee

Dick was there a couple of days later, and we got another "good guy" tour of the beverages, and caught up on local and Midwest brew-news & rumours.

While in Seattle, we also went to the Bigtime Brewpub, and to Brouwer's Cafe. The Bigtime is always spot-on with great beer brewed at a small-quantity brewpub. I used to spend a lot of time there in the early 90s, and some of the best brewers in the world had their start there.

Brouwer's Cafe is beer lover's heaven, with and incredible amount of quality brews on tap, mainly from America and Belgium. Their bottle selection from Belgium was unbelievable, as well. First Class, all the way.

More tales of the trip later...

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