Our stay in Lexington, KY led us over to Country Boy Brewing on a Sunday afternoon. This brewery has a rugged feel both inside and out on their back patio and completes the mood with country music playing in the background. There are 24 tap handles at the bar: 11 of which were in-house Country Boy brews that ran the spectrum from a blonde to a gose to a barrel-aged stout during our visit, while the other 13 were guest tap handles from various breweries in the area as well as across the country. These guys have made themselves stand out by barrel aging beers right from the start, doing collaborations with multiple other breweries, and even growing their own peppers to add to their beers. The bartender, Zac, will help direct you in the right direction for your tastes and mood, so don’t miss out on a trip to their taproom!
During our time in Pittsburgh, we received multiple recommendations to visit Roundabout Brewery while in town, so we made our way over there on April 23rd, 2014. Husband and wife, Steve & Dyana Sloan, are running the operation on their own in the Lawrencville area of Pittsburgh utilizing a 6 barrel brewhouse. Steve has been working at breweries for years – one in Florida, one in Hawaii, three in California, one in Colorado, two in Missouri, three in Pennsylvania, plus a winery in New Zealand – and the time came to finally open up his own. Roundabout recently celebrated their one year anniversary in July with an event at the taproom where they had live music, BBQ, and Ice Cream. Their brews can only be found on tap in the taproom, as they made the decision to not distribute off-site in order to have full control over how their beer is served. You won’t want to miss out on the deliciously unique New Zealand & American themed beers that Roundabout is brewing, so definitely make time for a visit to the brewery when you’re in Pittsburgh.
After getting in touch with Mark, the owner/ head brewer/ sole-operator of Relic Brewing, we visited with him on a rainy Tuesday morning. The brewery was not open to the public that day, so we talked with him while he kept himself busy brewing away. Mark is very well traveled and has been to over 50 countries across the world, so we first spent some time talking about our travel experiences. He ended up ordering a pizza later on, so we all indulged while tasting some of his unique, delicious, small-batch beers and talked about which breweries we need to visit later in our trip. If we weren’t on such a tight budget, I would have definitely walked out of there with some of the artwork hung in the taproom for sale, but alas, we are, so we said our goodbyes and ran out to the van in the rain.
After spending a few days in Lancaster, PA with the guys behind The Blind Tiger Podcast, we made our way over to Tröegs Brewing Company on Friday 4/4/14. We learned a lot about the brewery during our visit by talking with Jeff Herb, their marketing coordinator, while sampling a flight of all the beers on tap, followed by taking a detailed tour of the facility with Andrea Bernardo, their brewery tour coordinator. Tröegs is always blending the organic and mechanical aspects of brewing. John Trogner (one of the owners and the brewmaster) is big into the brewing and tech side and is always looking for new equipment, while the other owner and John’s brother, Chris Trogner, does more of the business side.
We spent a few days off to celebrate my birthday in D.C. and for some much needed time catching up on our blog, not to mention avoiding the 6-8 inches of snow that fell overnight and shut down the government for a day. After the weather had cleared up and returned to its typical cold and gloomy self, we took to our sole brewery visit in the District of Columbia at Bluejacket on 3/19/14. High rent and limited warehouse space nearly drove them to the suburbs before they found an exciting space in 2008 and they have rented 7,000 sq. ft. of a nearly century old 73,000 sq. ft. boilermaker facility in the D.C. Navy Yard’s Annex. After several years of detailed planning, the brewery opened in late 2013. We met with Greg Engert, beer director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, an organization that is responsible for over 18 different businesses in the area including the popular craft beer destination ChurchKey/Birch & Barley.
Our earliest appointment so far was at 9 am on Wednesday, 3/12/14 with Midnight Brewery, who we met after slamming down some coffee and making our way from downtown Richmond over to Rockville. Upon our arrival, we spoke with brewer Becky Rudolf and owner Trae Cairns who told us that “We have a passion for craft beer and really take the beer personally. If somebody doesn’t like it, I want to know why. If people love it, that’s great, but if they don’t like it, I want to know why. To me, that’s really an extension of our craft, and when you find a beer that people like, you stick with it.”
On Wednesday, 3/5/14 we randomly ended up at Fullsteam Brewery on the same day that Brew Dogs was filming the first episode of their new season. I’ll touch on that a little bit at the end of this write-up, but the brewery has so much to offer that I don’t want that to be the main focus. Fullsteam’s beers are often nuanced and balanced and for the most part they don’t have in-your-face recipes (although there are some exceptions, like the Sour Working Man’s Lunch and the First Frost winter seasonal). They really strive for complexity through simplicity, and Carver Sweet Potato Lager is a good example of that – sweet potatoes are used in the recipe but, rather than going overboard with spices in an attempt to make sure it tastes like sweet potatoes (which would instantly turn it into a seasonal beer), they instead strip it down to the essence making it something more interesting that also pairs very well with food.
We took a drive through the Smoky Mountains after leaving Knoxville to spend some time checking out the scenery, then made our way over to Asheville, NC on Friday, 2/21/14. For four years (2009-2012) Asheville was voted “Beer City USA” with a national poll, and our first stop there was to Burial Beer Co. This small yet ambitious brewery was started on June 15, 2013 by Doug & Jess Reiser and their friend, Tim Gormley.