I've had a lot to drink this year... I was happy to find New Belgium Fat Tire at a hotel bar in Anaheim, I found Southern Star Pine Belt Pale Ale, New Holland Dragon's Milk, Dark Horse Plead the 5th Imperial Stout, Founders Dry Hopped Pale Ale, and Founders Double Trouble at Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati while visiting my friend Jason. I enjoyed a rare bottle of De Dochter van de Korenaar Embrasse that I got from Dawson's here at home. My friend Robin brought me back bottles of Avery Seventeen Black Lager, Founders Devil Dancer, Epic Armageddon IPA, and Coronado Idiot IPA from Charleston Beer Exchange for my birthday. Also for my birthday, my brother got me a bottle of Dogfish Head Sah'Tea (delicious!) and a 4-pack of Dogfish Head Midas Touch.
Dogfish Head Sah'Tea
I've also come to realize that Michigan is a state very much about beer. I've been out to visit my friend Michelle 5 or 6 times since first meeting her back in May. There are tons of breweries, a ton of brewpubs, and plenty of regular bars with great beer lists. Woodward Avenue Brewers in Ferndale brews a handful of their own, my favorite being the Green Bullet Organic IPA. Woodbridge Pub near downtown Detroit has a huge list of draft and bottled beers. I had several beers there the night we went, but only one I hadn't had before, North Peak Majestic Wheat. After visiting her family in East Lansing, Michelle and I stopped at Beggar's Banquet for lunch. Beggar's has a constantly rotating list of 18 craft beers, and offers flights of 4 of anything on the menu. I introduced Michelle to Stone Russian Imperial Stout there. The best part about Michigan is that two of my favorite brewers are located there, Bell's and Founders, neither of which I can get in Maryland. Bell's Two Hearted Ale is one of my top 5 favorites of this year and would be a regular in my fridge if I could get it here. When hanging out and watching movies at Michelle's house, we'd drink Bell's Amber Ale or Founders Red's RyePA (Michelle's favorite).
I've spent a fair amount of time at my friend Kristin's house lately as well (2 football games and a housewarming party). On hand during those afternoons were Bell's Special Double Cream Stout and Bell's Porter, Avery Samael's Oak-aged ale, Southern Tier Hoppe, Ommegang Cup O' Kyndnes, and Abita Turbo Dog.
Samael's Oak-aged Ale
I recently made my first trip to Churchkey in Washington DC. Robin joined me on this trip. Churchkey have at least 75 beers on tap and hundreds more bottled. I went all draft that night, starting with a glass of Stillwater Cellar Door and a pumpkin beer flight consisting of Southern Tier Pumpking, Heavy Seas Great Pumpkin, and Heavy Seas Greater Pumpkin. Cellar Door is a delicious saison style brewed with white sage. Southern Tier Pumpking was very good, like pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust and whipped cream. The Greater Pumpkin, which was on cask, was much more complex than the Great Pumpkin (regular draft), having more pumpkin flavor, a touch of honey, and more alcohol apparent in the taste. After finishing off a charcuterie plate and a cheese plate (with a flight of beer pairings), we moved on to a glass of North Coast Pranqster and a final flight of Monk's Fest, Brooklyn Detonation Ale (tied with Cellar Door as my favorite for the night), and North Coast Red Seal. Churchkey shares space with it's sister restaurant, Birch & Barley. Each have their own menus, Churchkey's being trimmed to pub fare (albeit really fancy pub fare) but a full menu at Birch & Barley. The food at both is delicious. We shared a fig/prosciutto flatbread pizza before heading back to Annapolis.
Last but not least, Baltimore Beer Week... There were hundreds of events and specials going on at various bars starting October 7th and ending with the Inaugural Baltimore Beer Festival in Canton on the 17th. I was happy with the number of events I made it to, especially considering I don't live in Baltimore. I stopped by Pratt Street Ale House on the 7th for the release of Channel Crossing #2, a collaboration between Stillwater Artisinal Ales and Oliver Ales (Pratt St's own resident brewing company). The following night I went to the Wharf Rat for '4 for $5' cask ales. I took the day off on the 11th (a Monday) to meet Brian Strumke from Stillwater at Dawson's Liquors for a tasting, then hopped over to DuClaw for the tapping of a 2006 keg of Devil's Milk. Next was a stop at Perfect Pour, then Oktoberfest/Pumpkin night at Victoria Gastro Pub (I had Flying Dog's Dogtoberfest). On the 14th I met my friend Kristin and her boyfriend Summer (yes, a guy named Summer) at Max's Taphouse for BBWeek specials on Harpoon (only 3 bucks until 9), after which I had a Nøgne Ø Two Captains, an Oskar Blues Old Chub, and Boulder's Never Summer on cask.
But my favorite event of BBWeek, the one I was really looking forward to, the only one I would have gone to if I had to pick, was the 7th Annual Real Ale Festival at Pratt Street Ale House on Saturday the 16th. The festival took place inside, upstairs & down, and outside the ale house. There were over 40 beers available on cask from dozens of brewers. My absolute favorites were My Monkey's Got Wood, High Tea, and Bishops Breakfast with Coffee from Olivers, the 7 Beauties Rye from Brewer's Art, Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA, Oskar Blues dry hopped Dale's Pale Ale, and Dogma from BrewDog.
Winter is coming, and I am fully stocked at my house. Not only do I have a bunch of Stillwater stuff I bought at the tasting plus some other beers I got the same day at the Perfect Pour, but I've still got a bottle of Schlafly Reserve Barleywine 2008, Southern Tier Cuvee, and two bottles of Sierra 30 Fritz & Ken's Ale (Pioneer Stout) from the springtime that I haven't opened yet. I have some catching up to do!