Monday, January 20, 2014

Beer # 83-115 / Day 16-19: I Found My Thrill On Brewer's Hill

I did ease up on the beer consumption the middle of last week, knowing full well how severe the level of self-abuse would be on my three day trip to Baltimore.  On my last evening at home, I opened only one beer, NORTH COAST BREWING COMPANY BROTHER THELONEOUS - Beer #83.  A reliable classic on the North Coast roster, and just enough to help me get enough sleep before waking at 5am for our flight.
Leinenkugel's.    Gesundheit.
Despite the incompetency of nearly every United Airlines employee, we hit our departure from LAX unscathed, and with the early hour of the flight, we weren't inclined to indulge in our usual plain, plane beers until the very end, when I went for a run of the mill HEINEKEN - Beer #84, which was still the best of the three offered on-board.  There was a noticeable 50 degree difference between SoCal and Baltimore, and as metrosexual as they can be, I immediately regretted not bringing a scarf.  We hit the venue, and I grabbed one of the two standby Baltimore beers, a YUENGLING TRADITIONAL LAGER - Beer #85.  People like it because it's local, and I understand the rationale.  But honestly, like most regional cheap beers, this brew really does effing suck bad.
So many opportunities not taken this evening. *sniff*
I met up with my East Coast co-hort Dave Witte at the venue, Baltimore Soundstage.  I had a good four hours before our band played, so Dave and I headed across the street to Douchebag Central aka Power Plant Live, a super cool, old, industrial brick complex that is now a framework for cheezy neon restaurants and clubs.  But they have a decent brewpub called Leinenkugel's.  There was an acoustic duo playing '90s covers in the corner of this massive gathering spot, yet for some reason it was deemed necessary for this off-key duet to be amplified at full volume through speakers from every corner of the room.  It was close to impossible to carry on a conversation, but I desperately needed a good beer and some food, since I hadn't eaten for about 10 hours.  I chose the LEINENKUGEL BIG EDDY RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #86, the first time I've had one of their proprietary beers, and it was surprisingly good.  Dave and I are on the same page with our selections; if possible, we always try to order something we wouldn't order anywhere else, whether it's good or bad.  But Dave had the misfortune of choosing the SHINER HOLIDAY CHEER - Beer #87, a complete failure of a dunkelweizen.  He knew it wouldn't be great, but we both tried it, and agreed it was underwhelming in every regard.  I didn't want to get too drunk before playing, so we cut it off, and went back to finish off the show at the Backstage.  Infest had a good time playing, despite a few flubs.  Playing for and hanging out with people who are genuine is my favorite part about our shows out of town, and this was no exception. Many thanks to Dom from A389 Records for making this happen.
Looks like a Dischord promo pic.
The show was over by 1am, which was only 10pm my time, and I was ready to drink.  Dave and I went back to the house of our old pal Blake Harrison, best known for his skills playing the ironing board in the band Pig Destroyer.  We walked to a nearby bar and I tried THE BREWER'S ART BIRDHOUSE PALE ALE - Beer #88, which made me happy since I didn't get to hit Brewer's Art on this trip. Last call arrived quickly so we retreated to Blake's house, where Dave unveiled a plethora of beers that are not obtainable in SoCal.  We started with one of the latest he has been raving about, the WESTBROOK BREWING ONE CLAW RYE PALE ALE - Beer #89 from South Carolina.  I was surprised this one was in a can, as was the HARDYWOOD PARK CREAM ALE - Beer #90.  Hardywood Park is a flawless brewery out of Virginia, and I've tried a ton of their output thanks to Mr. Witte.  Next I chose yet another Virginia beer, DEVIL'S BACKBONE SCHWARTZ BIER - Beer #91.  Blake was willing to let us open his last 3 Floyds Dark Lord, but it was now 3am, and I was finally feeling the affects of being awake for almost 20 hours.  It was snowing, my hotel was on the other side of town, and regretfully I turned in for the evening.
Faidley's and Natty Boh:  Breakfast of Champions

In advance of this weekend, my favorite part was knowing Infest would play on Friday after we arrived, meaning I had all day Saturday to drink beer and hang with friends.  Joe Denunzio tagged along with me, so we hopped in Dave's car and headed out to Lexington Market.  We started out the day right, with crab cakes (well, "crab lumps" as they call them) from Faidley's and a Natty Boh, aka NATIONAL BOHEMIAN LAGER - Beer #92. In spite of the freezing weather, the whole indoor mall was bustling with live music and loud people.  Super ghetto, super fun.  Everyone wants spare change, and everyone's got an angle.  I love this place.
This lady knows how to have fun.  Especially after I gave her change.
Next, we headed out to Brewer's Hill, location of the Natty Boh Tower.  Directly across the street was a spot I missed when we played Maryland Death Fest last Memorial Day:  Of Love And Regret, the wheelhouse for all things Stillwater.  We wasted no time diving headfirst into the inimitable tap list, a mixture of Stillwater Artisinal creations, collaborations, and like-minded output from fellow, respected brewers.
Cheers-ing at Stillwater central.

I started with the OXBOW BREWING  FREESTYLE 20 - Beer #93 and SINEBRYCHOFF PORTER - Beer #94, but before I knew it Mr. Witte was bringing in growlers from Virginia for a bottle share (with the blessing of our hosts, naturally).  Witte pulled no punches and treated our table of 10 to the EXTRA BILLY'S CITRA ASS DOWN - Beer #95, a truly exceptional IPA, created by a homebrewer for this Richmond-based BBQ spot.   Denunzio wanted something dark, but received a saison by mistake, so he gave it to me & my next beer was the amazing STILLWATER STATESIDE SAISON - Beer #96, apparently one of the earliest releases in the Stillwater stable.  Witte delivered another one-two solar plexus combo by cracking open a new growler of the EXTRA BILLY'S KONG KRUSH - Beer #97, the imperial IPA version of the Citra Ass Down.
I burp.  He brews.  It's a win-win.
As if we weren't having a good enough time, Stillwater brewer and mastermind Brian Strumke sat down with us for quite a while.  I had an awesome time nerding out about beer, but also finding we had similar backgrounds in music, as we both ran independent record labels in the 90s.  We discussed the many analogies that can be drawn between the underground music and beer scenes. He explained the business model is the same as his label, and each new beer is a new release.  The discussion was fascinating, enlightening, and much appreciated, not to mention accented by mind-blowing ales.  One of my favorites was the STILLWATER FOLKLORE - Beer #98, a Belgiany dark, earthy ale.  Followed by the excellent STILLWATER / DC BRAU / PUB DOG COLLABORATION TIME & PLACE STOUT - Beer #99, and a sip of the STILLWATER A SAISON DARKLY - Beer #100, one of the first dark saisons I recall being brewed.  Thanks to a sip from my buddy RJ, next I tried the PUB DOG BREWING WILD CHERRY PORTER - Beer #101, unexpectedly refreshing, desserty, complex.  Wow!  And the "Wows" weren't subsiding, especially after Witte continued the bottle sharing with the phenomenal JACKIE O'S BOURBON BARREL OIL WITH COFFEE - Beer #102. I've only had the pleasure of trying two Jackie O's bottles, both courtesy of Mr. Witte, but they are hands-down one of my new favorite breweries.  This release as well as their Dark Apparition are the stuff of legend, in my book.  After five solid hours of beer nerding and couple final samples of the STILLWATER AS FOLLOWS BELGIAN PALE ALE - Beer #103 and STILLWATER DEBAUCHED FARMHOUSE ALE - Beer #104, it was time to move on through the icy night winds.
 No trip to Baltimore is complete without a visit to Max's, in Fells Point.  This place could easily be douchey, considering all the neighboring bars and establishments, but it's thankfully accessible, not to mention one of my favorite beer bars in the country.  I loved the TERRAPIN WAKE-N-BAKE COFFEE OATMEAL IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #105, and had a sample of the related TERRAPIN CINNAMON ROLL'D WAKE-N-BAKE - Beer #106 (I liked the standard Wake-N-Bake better).  I ordered the AGAINST THE GRAIN BREWERY KENTUCKY RYED CHIQUEN - Beer #107, which seemed a bit sweet and cloying for a rye beer.  Sadly I didn't love it.  But I did love the straight forward MAINE BEER COMPANY PEEPER ALE - Beer #108, a no-nonsense American pale ale that I could drink anyday & everyday.  Mr. Strumke actually made an appearance while we were hanging out, and treated us to a 2012 bottled version of his Saison Darkly.  Oh hell yeah....
You stay classy, Baltimore.
We stumbled over to the Soundstage to catch the second evening of the A389 Hardcore fest.  Before heading in, Witte, Harrison, RJ Ober, Denunzio, and myself decided to be real classy and enjoy a round of VICTORY BREWING HOP RANCH - Beer #109 in the parking garage.  This is a truly tasty IPA, courtesy of Mr. Ober.  Victory cannot brew a bad beer.  Inside the club, I was treated to a FLYING DOG SNAKE DOG IPA - Beer #110, MILLER LITE - Beer #111, and a FLYING DOG K-9 CRUISER WINTER ALE - Beer #112.  Someone bought me another beer, but I didn't know what it was, but it was a watery lager so I assumed it was Yeungling.  Several hours later, I was wrapping it up in a hotel room at 4AM with large, bearded, flannel-clad Canadians from the brutal band Haymaker, surrounded by close to 100 empty cans of Natty Boh.

It goes without saying, my Sunday morning was a bit rough.

On the flight home, I had Dewar's and a BUDWEISER - Beer #113.  A quick liquor store run after landing at LAX resulted in a majorly tasty LAGUNITAS A LITTLE SUMPIN' SUMPIN' ALE - Beer #114.  And relaxing with the family once again, safe & sound at home, was rounded out by a GREAT DIVIDE YETI IMPERIAL STOUT - Beer #115.  A deep, rich, wool blanket of a beer, which is exactly what I needed to wrap myself up in after three solid days on the go.

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