I’m really the type of person to listen and pay attention to the signs out there. Not street signs, although I pay attention to those too, best as I’m able.
I mean an omen. A signal, telling me that I should go do something or go someplace. This is the beer drinkers’ equivalent of Harry Potter drinking the liquid luck and then going to Hagrid’s. You just have to go where you think you need to go and trust your instincts.
So, when you’re driving around your town, and you see a big fancy new sign on a building, on a stretch of road that is largely otherwise unoccupied, well, that’s a sign right there.
Especially a sign like this baby.
Turns out, as per their web site, this place has been making brews since 2016. Now there’s no way I missed a sign going up four years ago, 15 minutes from my house. No sir! Turns out, the tasting room just opened in the fall.
I finally made my way to this place the other night. They’re only open on Fridays-Sundays, for now, so it’s a bit tougher to work that into my schedule, but when you get that sign, you follow it!
The building that houses this tasting room, as per a very personable bartender named Joe, has been many different things, as it sits near a train crossing or some other notable junction. In any event, they’ve got some inventive decor and a real comfortable feel.
Let’s move on from the assfeel of those stools to talk about the merch that matters, the brewskis.
While their web site details quite a number of enticing sounding drinks, they had just four of their own beers on tap the night I was there. The bartender apologized that he didn’t have any of their wheat beers or other varieties to offer me. I started instead with their signature beer, the Hitch IPA.
This beer, ITBMCBB*, is best described as a “traditional IPA, hop forward, unfiltered.” I found it to be refreshing and hoppy. It’s a 7.2% IPA, which is a happy place for me to get my blur on.
Any local place should be putting their own best IPA forward as the first beer to start with, and the Hitch IPA gets the job done. This was despite the misgivings of my adjacent stool mate, who after a sample asked if they had “any beers that tasted like beer.” He was offered a Kolsch which I think he preferred (I thought less of him for saying so).
I moved from the IPA next to their brown ale. As per the bartender, the brewer was attempting to make her own take on a Newcastle. Now, why someone would want to do that is beyond me. Newcastle is some thin, watery slop. This self described “English style” brown ale, the “Loucastle,” was far more enjoyable. I think, after the fine Brooklyn Brewery Brown Ale, this is probably my second favorite of this type that I’ve enjoyed personally.
This place has much to offer. First, don’t underestimate the value of a friendly and engaging bartender. This guy was on his own impetus offering me samples of the guest taps he enjoyed the most, just as one beer enthusiast sharing his joys with customers. That’s a first for me.
Another thing is that their menu included eight beers from other local craft breweries, including both a couple of known favorites of mine from Buried Acorn as well as some others I had not tried prior. This is a very welcoming and open brewing community and the best places all seem to enjoy serving each others’ beers.
They also have some complimentary snacks for the drinking set – always a nice perk. As Ceetar would tell you, a hard crunchy pretzel is the perfect compliment to a cold hoppy beer.
All in all, the Freight Yard Brewery is a choice spot and I’ll be headed back there soon. I’m looking forward to their soon to be expanded hours (hopefully, later in 2020, to include Wednesdays and Thursdays), and to perhaps plan a running route nearby so that I can add this as a Run, Relax & Refresh spot to add to my list.
So if you’re in the vicinity of Clay, New York, do stop in and check this place out, and better yet, call or text me first and I will meet you there for a brown ale and an IPA.
Because I’m as much a sucker for a three-minute punch of guitar rock and harmony as a I am for a cold beer, I occasionally find myself visiting a blog site called Powerpopaholic to discover new music. The guy there ostensibly “reviews” singles and albums in the Power Pop genre on a scale of 10 but because he likes power pop, and the stuff he reviews has already met the conditions of the type of music he likes before he’s listened to it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him give a review of less than 7—it’s all 8s and 9s over there. It’s either really great, or really good.
I’m guilty of the same with beer. At the urging of a friend several years back I downloaded the Untappd app allowing you to “check in” every time you have a beer, photograph it, indicate where you bought it, who you drank it with, and share that info with your beer-enthusiast followers (and surely some back-end AI delivering data to ad generators and marketed to taverns and brewers). Everything is a social network today. We do things only to get credit for having done it, and wind up with personalized encouragement to do it more. By the way I have only 24 “friends” on that app. For God’s sake please follow me (springer66).
I don’t use Untappd to record every beer I have. Wait, you had 4 Budweisers, in an hour, in your backyard? Not telling. What I think it can be useful for is to track variety—both in the beers I try and the places I try them. That’s the best kind of beer anyway: evocative of the moment you drank it, the places you were, and the good times associated with it. That’s another reason my reviews of them can’t be trusted: If I feel good enough to tell the world, or at least 24 people, that I just drank a particular beer, I probably also liked it.
So when my friend Ceetar asked me to write about the beers I had on a recent trip to France, Brussels and the Netherlands on his excellent blog, I was hesitant in the sense that if you want to know anything particularly technical about the beers I had there, you’re following the wrong guy: my reviews are pretty much worthless. According to Untappd, over the 16 days I spent in Europe I had 10 different beers in 10 different cities—which between us is a huge motherf-ing lie—and all of them, according to me, scored a rating between 3.75 and 4.25. They were all good! But to the extent variety, experience and unique places count, I have a story to tell.
France: We Drank Some Beer Here
We (me, my wife and 13-year-old son) left our Brooklyn home on Friday August 16, arriving in Paris the following Saturday afternoon.
I actually don’t have a lot to say about Paris, beer wise. For one thing, I figured there I’d do what the locals do and drink wine with our meals; for another, I wasn’t much using the phone then and so didn’t actually Untappd the beers I had there. Beyond all that, we discovered France is basically closed for business in August and it was only us tourists there anyway. I’m not joking: most of the shops were closed, and a plumber to fix a malfunctioning toilet in our hotel room wasn’t even available for two days. That’s a good way to thrust oneself into local culture and a foreign tongue: puis-je utiliser vos toilettes?
We had some enjoyable beers there at cafes, though the only brand I remember was the ubiquitous Budweiser of France, Kronenbourg 1664. I can recall being hopeful that this Continental export lager would somehow reveal itself to be something special when consumed locally, as we’d experienced with the impossibly fresh and delicious lagers we drank when we visited Germany five years before, but it wasn’t really the case.
The only other beer I recall having in France, thanks to this photo we took on the luxurious Thalys train, wasn’t a homeland beer, but one originating from our next stop on the trip.
A Great Place to Drink Beer and Pole Vault
Belgium. It’s a totally underrated country. About all I knew about Belgium before we arrived came from war movies where it’s always cold and desolate with Germans shooting at you. I also knew a girl from Belgium once, and she dressed drably–not that I wouldn’t have given her the exact same impression about Americans.
But Belgium in fact was lively, fun, safe and attractive, and the weather was gorgeous: Bright blue skies, never too hot. We also had a ton of delicious beers here that highlighted both Belgium’s great tradition of brewing and also, influences from the craft movement that we hadn’t seen much of in Germany or in France.
Brussels is a gorgeous old city, plenty to do and see; not completely overwhelmed with tourists and just large enough to explore by foot. We did a little research to find where we might experience good beer and found a fantastic bar called Moeder Lambic just in time for a sun-soaked happy hour after a long day of sightseeing. Here, I had a super fresh Californication double IPA from Brussels’ L’Emeritage brewery that was dynamite. Afterwards we hiked on a restaurant called In’t Spinnekopke where I asked our waiter to recommend something to accompany our mussels and out came a bottle of Wikap Pater Stimulo, a mellow Belgian pale ale with a very cute logo.
Just outside of the central train station plaza in Brussels you’ll find a symbol of craft beer’s growing globalization—an outlet of the Brewdog franchise that grew from the Scottish beer bros who established a brand through a reality TV show. Very nice hangout for the after-work crowd, and a convenient meet-up space where our friend Otto trained in and joined us. Long story, but my wife’s parents were friends with Otto’s folks through work and many years ago, she spent a summer babysitting a then-young Otto and his brother in their home in the Netherlands. Grown-up Otto lives in Belgium now and after our happy hour (your standard Brewdog lineup that were just fine but I can I also can now find in my local C-Town supermarket), the four of us hiked to a Brussels restaurant where we ate pork products and enjoyed the less widely-distributed Karmeliet Tripel, a fruity distinct Belgian style ale that really reminded me I was in Europe.
Inspired by what I’d seen in the movie, we spent the following day “In Bruges” which just as depicted in the film was a fairy-tale like old city inhabited nearly entirely by tourists. Like American elephants we climbed to top of the bell tower where Brendan Gleason had his ultimate misadventure, had one of our better meals, and popped in a pub to down the brightly shining locally brewed Brugse Zot IPA. I spent most of the day quoting the film: “Back off, Shorty.” “You heet the Canadian.” Etc. Good times.
The next day we traveled by train to Lueven to meet Otto at his place there. Lueven is beautiful old college town that you probably know as the home city of the Stella Artois brewery, which has a giant facility along the highway and rail tracks. We checked out surrounding abbeys where for hundreds of years monks were the original microbrewers. One of these abbeys, maybe it the one pictured here but not certain, got out of the beer business some years back when it sold the recipe for its brew to the no-frills German supermarket operator Aldi. Aldi you may know is a vertically integrated retailer famous for its German efficiency– coin-released shopping carts, cashiers who also stock and sweep floors, and low priced, indifferently merchandised but high-standard food. If you buy their abbey-style beer thinking it’s some knockoff, know this: it actually originated here in the 16th century.
Lueven’s historic downtown is lined with streetside cafes fronting stunning old buildings on cobblestone streets, lots of students, and a lively town square where, on a Saturday evening, there was a rock-and-roll pole-vaulting contest going on. We grabbed some chairs, and drank strong Belgian ales (the rich, reddish La Trappe Quadrupel) while eating fried food and watching athletes from all over the world launch themselves 20 feet in the air for our amusement. A truly insane and magical evening.
A Great Place to Drink Beer and Ride Bikes
From Lueven we continued north into the warm, watery and flat Netherlands, and the tiny North Sea beach town of Petten, were Otto’s parents have a summer residence where we set up for most of the next week. Germans love the Netherlands beaches, filling “camping” fields all around with closely-packed caravans along the dikes and on one evening, whooping it up in a town-square festival complete with an Abba cover band and Amstel on tap.
In Petten we mainly drank beers from the local supermarkets—Amstel, the lager which you may know is not marketed as “light” beer in its home country, and a pilsner called Hertog Jan. They were okay. We also used Petten as a home base from which we did day trips and stop-ins throughout North Holland—some by train, others by bike, visiting Haarlem, Alkmaar, Amsterdam, Zaandam, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Uitgeest (pronounced OW-kaste), and Den Helder (which is also the name of my new Van Halen cover band), among other places, having at least one beer in all of them. I’ll speed through here as this post is getting pretty lengthy already.
I rented a bike, and can’t say enough good things about the cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands. Almost all roads have separate bike lanes, including the highways, and cycle-specific signage that makes it almost impossible to get lost. I can’t ride more than 20 miles here in NYC without constantly consulting a map (and getting doored); in Holland I found my way around the entire country never having been there and without a clue as to the language. The lanes are all flat, proceed through beaches, farmlands and forests, and thanks to the wind, you can go pretty fast. If you like to cycle, go do it in the Netherlands.
I made several long rides, catching up once with the family at Zaanse Schans, the historic “old Dutch” neighborhood north of Amsterdam you see in the all tourist films and postcards. Here I enjoyed the local roadside delicacy—a herring sandwich—and washed it down with a local micro IPA called Hoop Kaper.
In Haarlem, we had Jopen beers at lunch and later that afternoon, encountered its brewery—stunningly set in a restored church. That’s my Northsea IPA in the foreground ahead of Wifey’s beer, which I believe was a pilsner (can’t be sure of that), and the ever-present frites. Nice place!
In Amsterdam, we hung out with Rembrandt and Van Gogh, and fought off 90-degree heat with this Ijwit wheat beer in a super-cool bottle. The beer endorsed by an ostrich. Refreshing.
In Alkmaar, we visited the famous cheese market, gorging on very good gouda, saw a crazy Beatles museum, and tried this Punt IPA brewed in the far northern town of Groningen.
Like many of the so-called IPAs we had here (the Hoop Kaper, the Brand we had in Den Haag) this beer wasn’t exactly what you’d consider an IPA here in the U.S., but they’re in the ballpark in the same way you might consider Rainbow’s “Since You Been Gone” a Power Pop song (it is, only one not by a brand-name power pop manufacturer). There are no doubt some Power Pop Cops and Pale Ale Police out there who might disagree, but like I said, it’s all good to me.
We spent our last night in a hotel in Den Haag, where bringing us full circle, the toilet malfunctioned. There was beer, and it was good. But it was time to fly home.
Decided to take the team out for a team builder/happy hour, and to do that, what’s better than a darts tournament? We discovered a relatively new brewery/winery in town, just south of the Brockport campus: RG Brewery and Five Sons Winery.
The setting was fantastic; a small tasting room with a porch overlooking a large yard. (Hard to set the outdoor scene, as we were in the middle of a snowstorm at the time. Also, bonus: we were greeted at the door by a couple of friendly dogs.) The tasting room has a back door, which leads through the kitchen into the production facility, which features a wall of dartboards and made for a nice relaxed office outing.
The list of beers is small, but complete and varied enough; I tried their Dragon’s Breath Stout, which had a little more heat than I like in my beer. I’ve tried a few “hot” beers now, and as much as I like my food spicy, I don’t want that stuff in my drinks.
Their Hopperhead IPA and All America DIPA however, were much better. The Hopperhead actually had a little more bite than I expected – it’s listed at 125 IBUs. The All America a little less, and it was definitely smoother.
Food is available as well. They have what can really be described as typical pub fare; burgers and quesadillas and whatnot, all fresh-made in their small kitchen in the back.
But what caught my eye was their ice cream! They use their own wine and beer to make fresh ice cream. And yes, it was snowing, but there was no way I was passing this up.
I tried a flight of four: the Scotch ale, an Apple Pie torte (which I believe was one of their wine offerings), a porter, and the Hopperhead. As anticipated, the apple one was the most traditional flavor. The porter didn’t seem to have much kick at all, and the bitterness of the Hopperhead overpowered any sweetness in the ice cream. But the Scotch ale ice cream was outstanding. Just enough kick, just enough sweetness.
All in all, a solid visit from me. Worth making a special trip? Probably if the weather is nice, yes, to sit outside on the porch. Looks like they’ve got some events planned, including an oyster night and a chocolate pairing night, coming in the next few weeks, so I’d anticipate keeping an eye on their site for future things that might make it worth a special trip.
Time for another installment of Run, Relax, Refresh, where our intrepid blogger combines a post-workday run with a stop at one of Syracuse’s fine local craft brewing establishments.
This day’s journey took me along route 11 in North Syracuse, New York, to some residential side streets, and then spat me back out along the narrow shoulder of Taft Road, plus a couple of detours tacked on to get me to the 30 minute mark (my normal weekday exercise goal).
The route 11 portion of this run wasn’t bad, thanks to there being a sidewalk available set safely away from the road. I was able to run past some of the town’s more quirky local businesses, such as Earthbound Metaphysical. I was hoping that this was a “Ray’s Occult Books” style shop of necromancy and paranormal resources, though it turns out they just sell fancy coffees and tees.
When I realized my route as originally designed was going to clock in at around 2.75 miles, I decided to tack on a couple of small detours. One was to run down the access road at Hinerwadels, a famous local clambake joint that has sadly closed their doors this year (luckily, their gravel driveway remained accessible). I also detoured over to the local junior high school and added a quarter mile by running a lap on their local track. These both had the added benefit of getting me off of Taft Road, where the shoulder is about as wide as Kate Moss’ torso.
The intermediate roads on this route, through residential North Syracuse neighborhoods, did have a nice display of foliage out for enjoyment.
A good workout, overall, not the most scenic path I ever traversed, but it conveniently started and ended at the Full Boar Brewery and Tap Room.
This awesome little joint opened in 2016 in a local shopping plaza — always a plus, ensuring that there’s plenty of parking and that it’s not too conspicuous to leave my vehicle in front for 30 minutes without shopping, while I get my run in.
This place has a lot to offer, first off — each table has a caddy of individual sized snacks, chips and pretzels.
I personally went with the Dipsy Doodles, which are like Sun Chips’ sexy naked cousin in the snack world.
Lots of comfortable seating abound as well as snappy decorations, as you can see.
But now, let’s remember, this isn’t an HGTV decorating show. I’m not here to comment on the feng shui, I’m here to partake.
They have a great selection of brews, of all colors and flavors. Not to mention these tricked out growlers converted into hanging lights (OK WE GET IT DECORATOR-BOY).
I sampled the peanut butter and jelly flavored blonde, which was just a bit too odd, and then had a sour mango, which was a refreshing enough beer (though I prefer my sour mango beers to be sourer and mangoier).
The real star of this “triple R” was the chocolate peanut butter stout.
It seems all too appropriate to enjoy one of these beers on the week of Halloween. After a couple of days spent “borrowing” from my kids’ trick or treating haul, this stout was scratching me right where I itched (not in the sweaty runner crotch kind of itch, more of the emotional yearning sort of way). It’s basically a Reese’s peanut butter cup, only in beer form (which is candy for the liver).
As per the menu, this beer is a 6.6% ABV choice and ITBMCBB*, it’s “smooth and sweet with a deep roast flavor. Nice peanut butter nose balances well with the dark Chocolate.” At $5 for a 16 oz portion, it hits my wallet’s sweet tooth as well.
As for the flavor, well, it’s sweet without being “cloyingly sweet.” (Note: that phrase is borrowed from every single episode of the show Chopped ever to air on the Food Fatty network). And it’s a stout, with delicious roasted flavor. I enjoy many stouts and this one ranks very high on my list. Shout out to the great pint glasses that the Full Boar uses, too. That groove at the top is perfectly contoured to my fat beer loving lower lip.
The Prose-inator loved it too! No surprise there. How would you describe it, Prose-inator?
“This beer tastes like what it would taste like if a
made love to a
in the middle of a
while listening to the Greatest Hits Album of the world’s greatest band, ever, that being of course
and then together raised a baby with their shared feelings of
I’m a man with many ideas. Some of them are more practical than others.
One idea I had recently was a line of greeting cards where every message, happy or sad, was followed by the phrase “ya jackass” or “ya big idiot.” Because the juxtaposition of emotions is, of course, wildly funny.
“Happy 25th Wedding Anniversary, Ya Jackass!”
“Condolences on your Family’s Loss, Ya Big Idiot.”
I’ll let the reader judge the value inherent in that concept.
Another idea I had was for a brewery to open here in Syracuse where I live, only, instead of being downtown, where parking is at a premium, and requiring more driving time to get to, instead, that brewery would open in the northern suburbs, perhaps even adjacent to one of my regular running routes, and serve up all kinds of delicious local beers.
Well, lo and behold, this second idea has come to pass! In the form of the brand new Buried Acorn Brewery and tap room. The tap room features “16 draft lines pouring Barrel-Aged mixed-fermentation sour Ales, classic and long-forgotten Farmhouse styles, as well as some monogamous hopped up offerings.”
Sixteen draft lines. That’s a respectable set of choices!
Open since July 13th, I meandered down to the new joint after work and after a humid four mile run, thirst buds locked and loaded for a sudsy replenishment. The initial beers available at the time (a few more have since been added) is shown below.
I decided to start my de-thirsting by ordering a pint of the Oatmeal Stout. They have both a regular and Nitro-charged version on tap; I went with the regular only because I failed to notice the Nitro until after my order was in.
The bartender was prompt and friendly and, of course, I love her! She gave me this! (Reasonably priced $5.50 pints, by the way, not too much of a crotch kick to the wallet…)
I have had a few other oatmeal stouts and they all speak to me. I’m an oatmeal guy, it’s one of my go to breakfasts, and the mellow sweetness of the other oatmeal stouts I have had (Ommegang’s, for one, and also a cappuccino oatmeal stout by the Blue Moon folks) have all been a treat.
I think of it as a “breakfast beer.” Not that I’m drinking beer with my breakfast, I mean, I have things to do! However, on nights where my family and I are having the ever popular “breakfast dinner,” scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon, etc., then the oatmeal stout is a winning choice.
This particular oatmeal stout (5.5% ABV, 23 IBU) is excellent. Rich and creamy and cold and frothy. It also contains, ITBMCBB*, “notes of chocolate and coffee,” though, I mostly just taste the deliciousness. If it were any more oatmealy, I’d be topping this with maple syrup and a pat of butter.
I then moved on to the Alpha Bender IPA (7.3% ABV, 23 IBU).
It’s a golden, delightful treat, much like a Disney princess’ hair. This particular IPA is described by the Buried Acorn site itself as being full of “soft bitterness with ripe tropical fruit on the nose and a crisp dry finish. Crafted with NY State grown hops and barley while employing revolving hop editions from around the world.” Doesn’t that sound pleasant?
To me, and perhaps this is why I’m not writing copy for breweries full time, the IPA tastes like “what it must taste like if a mythical dragon pee’d a rejuvenative cold mythical magic dragon pee drink into a pint glass.”
The bar is also hosting other local brewery products on some of their 16 taps.
I am likely to try the Critz Farms Pig City Porter on my next visit, as I’ve had that one in cans before but not in draft, and know it to be a treat as well.
The Buried Acorn is also now selling cans of some of their beers, to go, as well as growlers. I’ve not ever purchased a growler of beer in my life but those branded ones are pretty slick.
The tap room itself is also a very pleasant joint in which to sit down and beer up. They have bar and table seating, and board games, and the service was prompt despite there being a good sized weekday crowd present.
And the chairs have a delightful “assfeel” to them.
I’m looking forward to returning to the Buried Acorn and sampling some of their newer choices (the Ghoster Blanc and Hot Whip were not ready at the time of my initial visit, but now show on the company’s web site).