Lake George’s Brewery

One brewery dominates the beer scene in Lake George.

I spent Labor Day weekend in Lake George, which is a lake upstate New York that’s a popular getaway in the region. It’s a small summer town in the Adirondack Mountains, much like many lake or beach type communities across the country, and as such is prone to much of the same cliches and ‘Disneyified’ downtown featured elsewhere. Fudge, funny t-shirts, arcades, mini-golf, etc. At least it avoids the costumed characters begging for tips that litter places like Times Square and the Las Vegas Strip.

It’s not a beer destination, but there is beer. The town isn’t big and while it’s not super far from Albany, it’s still pretty rural. There’s access to plenty of beer, and let’s not forget that Vermont is very very close, but one brewery dominates the landscape in Lake George and that’s Adirondack Brewery, brewed right there in town.

Seemingly every restaurant has a few Adirondack taps, and it’s one of the beers you can reliably find at Stewart’s, one of the gas station convenience store chains prevalent in upstate New York. It’s a nice experience to have a brewery well integrated into a town life. Like a cozy companion wherever you go.

It was late when we first arrived, as we’d all worked that day. Our first meal was at a BBQ joint a short five minute walk away that could seat us right away. The first beer of the vacation is a lot of pressure; can it deliver?  I opted for Adirondack Brewing’s Lake George IPA (Wave #5) to pair with a sampler of various forms of meat. It hit the spot.

photo by CeetarAs is proper for any vacation, we stopped at a convenience store on the way back for snacks and drinks, and beer, to have in the hotel room. We stopped at the aforementioned Stewart’s; Ice cream for the kids, beer for us. I picked up a six-pack of Adirondack Bear Naked Amber. A good, shareable, easy-drinking beer. I opened the first one sitting outside an electric fire the hotel has while sitting in, fittingly, an Adirondack chair.

photo by Ceetar

Later on that weekend we found ourselves at a themed restaurant that featured hats for the kids with Moose Antlers. We were downtown waiting to see the fireworks, it was the unofficial end to summer, looking forward to fall. What better beer to celebrate that with than the NYS Oktoberfest?

My favorite of the bunch was the Bear Naked Amber Ale. I’m glad that’s the one I had a six-pack of that made its way back home with me. My only regret was that we never actually made it to the Adirondack brewpub itself.

photo by Ceetar

It pours a beautiful copper color.

It’s got some nice caramel notes, but plenty of estery/fruity notes, specifically cherry.

It’s a scrumptious tasting beer, with some light biscuity notes. It’s on the sweeter side but it’s balanced nicely by hops with some nice spicy bite to them. Like you’d get if you made that biscuit was made with some rye or other non-wheat grain.

The mouth feel is slick; it coats the tongue and leaves that dry stickiness that has you begging for another sip.

Overall this is a well-done and delicious amber ale, on the malty end of the fairly wide spectrum, and a good companion to a wide variety of drinking circumstances.

Follow BarleyProse on Twitter and me on Untappd. You can email me at beer@ceetar.com. I’ve been drinking Oktoberfest almost non-stop since that first one. 

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Review: Buried Acorn Brewery

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).

These folks also do have an active Facebook page and Instagram account, announcing specials and new offerings.

So, come bury your liver at the Buried Acorn.  I’ll meet you there.

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Come for the Chile, Stay for the Beer

New Mexicans, it can be safely stated, are culinary innovators. The Frito pie*.  The sopapilla. The green chile cheeseburger.  Borne of hunger and New Mexican ingenuity, with local New Mexican chiles chopped by precise New Mexican hands, the green chile cheeseburger is the most famous example of the edible imagination of the people of the 47th state.  Take a thing that is good and make it our own – bigger, bolder, spicier.

The Spanish brought chiles to the Native Pueblo tribes in what would become northern New Mexico in the 1580s.  Being ancestors to future New Mexicans who will want to amplify every last flavor they encounter, the Puebloans gravitated to a particular style of pepper, and modified it to the long, fiery chile pod generations of New Mexicans would masochistically devour, setting fire to our mouths while sweating through our insanely delicious meals.  We’re a little loco like this.

The New Mexico-style IPA follows in this tradition. We were drawn toward classic hop-forward profiles like Bear Republic’s Racer 5 and Green Flash’s West Coast IPA. While we thought the style was great, just like the chiles our forebears fell for in the 1500s, we needed MORE. The west coast IPA is cleaner and lighter by comparison. The Colorado-style (whatever the hell that is) seems something of a hybrid of west coast and New England styles. To drink an IPA in New Mexico, though, is not to drink a crisp or light beer, no. To drink an IPA in New Mexico is to submit your palate to an aggressive, punch-you-in-the-mouth, full-on assault by hops. See? We’re kinda loco.

That brings us to the New Mexico IPA Challenge, the Royal Rumble of IPA elimination tournaments. Preliminary rounds in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos led up to the championship, which was held on Saturday at the gorgeous new Bosque Brewing Co. location in Bernalillo, New Mexico.

the new Bosque North in Bernalillo, NM

The premise of the competition is simple. For 20 bucks, you are handed a tray with a dozen or so clear, plastic cups, each filled with 3-ish ounces of beer. You are also given an (empty) souvenir pint glass. You don’t know what the beers are. Under each cup is a number. Drink the cups of beer. On a piece of paper, write down the number of the beer that was your favorite and give that piece of paper to the bar-keep. They will pour you a pint of beer that corresponds with the number you chose and record your written vote. Drink that pint in your now full souvenir glass. Be happy, because beer. At the end of the day, the votes are tallied and the names of the beers are revealed, and you find out which you voted for, and which you roundly mocked like an arrogant jerk.

15 delicious, anonymous beers

We attended the Albuquerque prelim and final rounds in 2017 (won for the second year in a row by the excellent Boxing Bear Brewing Company and their Bear Knuckle IPA). We went to the first elimination round in Albuquerque this year, where 44 breweries submitted entries for the best IPA in New Mexico. There were, to me, a surprisingly high amount of hazies as the state has been a relatively slow adopter of this trend. Would our hop-heavy palates allow for this softer, fruity invasion?

NMIPAC standings before the final round

The previous 3 rounds whittled the 44 breweries down to a tidy field of 15 deserving finalists. At approximately 3 ounces per cup times 15 entries, plus an additional 16 ounces from the souvenir pint glass, each of us would be “tasting” the equivalent of a Super Big Gulp of boozy suds that day. Pretzels would reset our taste buds between sips. Lyft would cart our drunk arses home.

Aside from straight-up guzzling, there’s really no wrong way to do the blind taste test. I started sequentially, would jot down a few observations, work my way through all 15, and then start again at #1, noting the changes in each as both the temperature outside and the beer got warmer under the hot New Mexico sun.

Like a Joco Pastorius bassline, a few of Albuquerque’s premier beer makers have unmistakable hop profiles. In the elimination round, I knew La Cumbre the second that danky IPA hit my tongue (and also realized I spend way too much time and money drinking La Cumbre). It was the same in the finals with my #6 beer (which I guessed correctly to be Bosque’s bitter Just Bearly IPA) and #10 (AlbuMurky, the New England-style entry by the aforementioned Boxing Bear). I also guessed the Red River Bad Medicine Honey DIPA, but only because of the reddish color and caramelly finish. (We met the brewer later at the event and he described his recipe as the same hops used in Pliny the Elder, plus a ton of local honey. It’s not Pliny at all, but it tasted… unique.)

I liked the hazy #10 on my tray, but leaned more heavily toward the classic, hoppier offerings, deciding ultimately on #5, which was in this reviewer’s humble know-nothing opinion, the most well-balanced IPA on my tray. My brother went #5, too, and my girlfriend went on her own with #11. The votes were tallied and we walked through to the back of the brewery to await the results.

Wandering through Bosque

The announcer, shooting for some dramatic flair, slowly and agonizingly announced the third place winner as AlbuMurky, the hazy brewed by two-time defending champ, Boxing Bear. Another Albuquerque heavy-hitter, Marble Brewery, was announced as the second place finisher (my beloved #5 beer, which would turn out to be the Safeword IPA). Steve Harvey actually got the order wrong as it was Boxing Bear second, Marble third, but that was a small detail. He had one more chance with the winner yet to be announced.

So which storied Albuquerque brewery won the championship? None! It was Blue Corn Brewery out of Santa Fe (#4 on our trays, but apparently #1 in our hearts), the first non-Albuquerque brewery to win the competition since none other than Blue Corn back in 2013.

My girlfriend, to her credit, described the eventual champ as “not bad/top contender/got malty.” I described #4 as “bitter/too skunky,” proving definitively that I know jack shit about this beer-tasting thing. We did make the trip to Santa Fe on Sunday and stopped in Blue Corn to try a pint of the champ (named Gatekeeper IPA), but they didn’t have it on yet. Presumably, it’s a special or one-off recipe, so we’ll have to wait til they make a bigger batch before we can get reacquainted with it.

As for the hop versus hazy debate, Boxing Bear did comment in a classy concession post on Instagram that their hazy was a “risky” move. I can’t disagree too much with that and credit them for trying something different with a three-peat on the line.

The votes at the end of the day did lean heavily toward sledgehammer heavy hops, but like chile peppers, west coast IPAs, and tourists’ stolen cars, maybe the New England-style beer will be the next thing that New Mexico takes and makes her own.

*  the late, great Anthony Bourdain disagrees with the greatness of the Frito Pie

PS – Come visit us in New Mexico and drink our awesome beers!  New Mexico Ale Trail

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