Our first Illinois brewery to visit during our trip last year was Scratch Brewing Company located on some farmland about an hour and a half southeast of St. Louis, MO. Scratch was one of the most distinctly unique, beautiful, and remote breweries that we saw all year and remained that way through to the end. With a focus on locality, the people at the brewery forage and/ or grow ingredients on their land to use in the beer recipes; mushrooms, roots, pine needles, multiple herbs & spices, and hops for example. During our time sampling in their taproom, we got to try some Gruits, a Gotlandsricka, a Licorice Basil Schwarzbier, a beer made with maple sap instead of water, and a handful of other beers that prove this is not your everyday brewery; the best part is they are brewed well and we enjoyed each and every one of them! The Scratch crew also told us that they were planning to only enter beers that do not have hops in them at GABF in Denver later in the year and when we ran into them at the festival a few months later they had done just that. Do not miss out on an opportunity to visit the amazing people, location, scenery, and beers that make up Scratch Brewing Company – it’s the full package!
Our first Arkansas brewery visit back in May (2014) was to Vino’s Brewpub in Little Rock. We met with Josiah Moody who was the head brewer at that point in time, but he has since moved on to his own project as a gypsy brewer under the tag Moody Brews. Josiah informed us about all kinds of cool things Vino’s has done, like hosting live music multiple times a week from local bands as well as bigger acts like Queens of the Stone Age. A cream ale, pale ale, IPA, and stout are the four year-round beers they offer for you to enjoy with their excellent pizza, but they also have specialty releases such as the blood orange saison we tried. The environment at Vino’s is top notch and we highly recommend a trip there next time you’re in Little Rock!
While we were in Pittsburgh, we heard many great things about a new brewery in town called Hop Farm Brewing Company, so we called them up and made a visit. The owner and only brewer, Matt Gouwens, took time out of a brewing day to speak with us and we were lucky enough to try a beer that had not been released yet called ‘Margot’ along with four other beers of his. He has many unique things going on, including growing some hops on his property and working with local farmers to grow hops locally (with plans to use them in Hop Farm beers in the future), nifty manual addition of labels to cans, plans to add a pub-like space with locally sourced food, and a goal to can condition some beers. Matt went through the American Brewer’s Guild program which shows through in the beer, so make sure to stop in and check out his brewery next time 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.
When it came time to think of what I wanted to do for my 30th birthday in Philadelphia, the first thing that came to mind was try a Philly Cheesesteak and naturally the second was to try a beer made with roasted goat brains. Luckily for me, Dock Street Brewing Co in West Philadelphia just happened to be releasing their beer known as Walker that day – an American Pale Stout brewed with roasted goat brains and conditioned over cranberries – so we made an bonus stop there. We ended up thoroughly enjoying everything the brewery had to offer, so we got in contact with them and went back two days later for an official stop on Tuesday, 4/1/14.
After a visit to the packed taproom of Philly’s Yards Brewing Company, we decided to make the short drive out to the northwestern suburb of Ardmore, PA and continue the rainy afternoon at Tired Hands Brewing Company. During our stop we were able to sample a few of the available beers and speak with co-owner Jean Broillet IV. The name Tired Hands was always what Jean called his homebrewing operation and serves as a nod to the “inevitable culmination of a hard day’s work”. The brewery functions under the label of a brew-café. Belgian and French farmhouse inspired beers crafted by the three brewer team in small batches, averaging about 12 kegs per brew, are served with a variety of charcuterie – meats, cheeses, and some sandwiches with breads made in house. The brewery values locally sourced ingredients, accomplishing this by partnering with about a dozen local farms to source its food.
The day before my 30th birthday was a rainy (yet awesome) Saturday that started at Yards Brewing Company during their public hours on 3/29/14. As soon as we walked in the door, we were given a free sample of their IPA as well as a wooden chip which was to be redeemed later for a tour of the brewery; the color of the chip determined what time our tour was. Rather than join that tour, we purchased a $5 flight of their beer and met up with brewer Andrew Rutherford who first sat with us to go over a few facts about Yards before taking us through the brewery on a private tour.
After waiting out another winter storm, on 3/4/14 we headed east from Greensboro to our first brewery visit in North Carolina’s ‘triangle’ which, for those unfamiliar, consists of the area between Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. We were very happy that afternoon for the opportunity to speak with Les Stewart, head brewer for Trophy Brewing Company. Trophy is a 3 bbl nano-brewery that was founded by Chris Powers and David Lockwood who also own Busy Bee Cafe, a popular Raleigh beer bar. The brewpub just celebrated their one year anniversary before our visit with a party in the roped off parking lot featuring some special release beers and has been seeing expedient growth since its inception. The restaurant and bar area are fairly limited in space and they were previously only open for dinner, however, have opened up their doors for lunch on the weekends to accommodate demand. While Les and his assistant brewer, Josh Wing, are certainly making some great beers for the area, he was quick to give a lot of the credit for the success and quick turnover in beers to the pizza. “Those guys do an amazing job,” he said about the kitchen staff who are busy turning out pies with many locally sourced ingredients as well as a meat and veggie feature pie every day – they even utilize the beers in the dough and sauce.
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.