The Next Destination — Denver, Colorado

John Denver’s was born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. Bob Denver’s real name is Robert Denver, but Bob Denver never sang “Rocky Mountain High” as far I know.

After getting my fill of fresh Canadian air, I’ll be inhaling some Rocky Mountain air in-between pints. Denver won out over Chicago for a second destination on my trip this weekend into next. I had never been to Denver and since the weather will not be deathly cold, it was a good time to visit a city that’s known for several things.

  • The mountains
  • The Broncos
  • The beer
  • The athletic residents
  • The omelets
  • The legal weed

Weed tourism has been a boom for local business. Unfortunately, I’m not a weed guy because my allergies and my displeasure of smelling like weed.  In any event, it was inevitable that the Mile High City would be the Mile “High” City.

Denver has always been a beer city even before the craft beer boom of the past decade. Golden and the Coors facility is 20 minutes out of the city. Dare a craft beer guy go to the place where crappy, watery beer is made? Hell, yeah. If anything, it’s chance to look at old timey beer cans.

There’s a confounding amount of big names in Denver and in neighboring towns  — New Belgium, Oskar Blues, Odell, Left Hand and Breckenridge are in the Top 50 of Craft Breweries in America. Then you have Great Divide, Crooked Stave, Avery, 10 Barrel and TRVE. My hope is I find the next big craft brewery to come from the area. There are only 100 to choose from. It’s why the Great American Beer Festival, the Super Bowl of beer, is held in Denver every October.

While the weed, beer and omelets are all well in good, Denver is one of the most psychically fit cities in America. This is due to the mild summers, low rain fall, low humidity and 300 days of sunshine. Then, the city, by design, is filled with public parks, bike lanes, running tracks and sports areas. As a result, it brings in young professional to study sports medicine, tech companies build offices there to appeal to fit people and obesity is at low levels. Let’s not forget that Colorado is one the great ski destinations in the world.

I’ll be spending 3 nights in the joint. I have to tell myself that I won’t be able to drink at all the breweries, but damn it I will try.

The Next Destination — Vancouver, Canada

Me and Deadpool are going to do some damage in Vancouver.

I haven’t even finish writing up my posts of my extensive road trip through the southern United States, and now, I’m heading out again. Try to keep up, snitches.

My Chase Sapphire Reserve points aren’t going to spend themselves, so I figure I put them to good use before I re-enter the workforce with a new full-time gig at the end of the month.

Imagine my dilemma — I have a full week and two weekends with $2,100 of travel credits to use and 3 days to plan. I gave myself four possible scenarios.

  1. Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina
  2. Vancouver and Denver or Chicago
  3. London and Milan
  4. Reykjavik, Iceland

No. 1 is possible to book something quick and I calculated the flights to be $1,200 with hacky-type tricks. The hotels/AirBnb are another story, but overall, an extensive trip to South America takes some more planning to do and I didn’t want to feel rushed. It’s better to do it properly, have more time and plan a more elaborate trip where I can visit other cities while I’m down there like Lima, Bogota and Machu Pichu.

No. 3 — There were no available reward flights on short notice using my Virgin Atlantic miles, which I have 210K worth. Even if there were, I would have to pay $1200 worth of service fees. With Milan, cheap flights are available on a whim, but I would have liked, again, to have more time to visit Turin, as well.

No. 4 — $550 non-stop round-trip flight from Newark. Sounds good right, until you are landing at 4am in Reykjavik.

The best bet and last-minute deal on American Airlines was $266 with a stopover in Phoenix. Even better, I leave at a normal time from Newark, 1pm. Most of the cheap flight leave at ungodly early hours or on shit airlines like Spirit or Frontier and then you have 2-3 stop overs in random cities. I’m not making that up.

In all, the three flights are free with the miles, but will only eat up only $695 of my rewards with plenty leftover and more to earn. It’s a great deal considering I’m going across the continent and back.

Now, why Vancouver. It’s the craft beer and foodie capital of Canada. Plus, I wanted to visit a country again that actually has a democracy. If you remember, I paid myfirst  visit to Canada last year when I visited Toronto.

I did get a little push over the edge with the New York Times last 36 Hours article. Especially, the picture of the Purebread pastry shop. I will be having everything there, thank you.

Vancouver is one of the best international eating cities in the world, with every cuisine represented. With that, they need an equally impressive craft beer scene.  British Columbia has 130 breweries in all, with 22 within Vancouver. All of them are new names to me, so I’m looking forward to discovering my new favorite Canadian brewery.

The other big thing that Vancouver is known for is the movie business. The nickname “Hollywood North” is appropriate because of the cheaper production costs and tax breaks. This started in the 90s when The X-Files filmed in studios and locations there. Since there, a good portion of movies have Vancouver doubling for another city and making use of their cheaper studio productions. Right now, The Rock is filming Skyscraper, a big budget action movie that suppose to be set in China, and Robert Zemeckis is directing Steve Carrel in the drama, The Women of Marwen.

So I fly out in two days, time to start organizing.

 

Beer Voyage — New Belgium, Asheville, NC

Forgive my intrusion in the main image of the post. When I visit a large beer factory, I can’t help my excitement.

While the New Belgium facility in Asheville, NC is not the original location, the grounds and brew house has the new beer smell that makes it a must visit for beer fans. Opened last year, it allowed New Belgium to become the fourth largest craft in America and eighth biggest of all.

For a long time, New Belgium was not distributed around the Northeast. It wasn’t until last year when I got to drink Fat Tire, one of the most important craft beers ever created. It’s the one that made the Fort Collins, Colorado brewery into what it is today. Co-founder Jeff Lebesch was inspired by a trip through Belgium where beer is a lifestyle. He fell in love with local beer. From Wikipedia:

The Fat Tire recipe originates from a co-founder’s bicycle trip through Belgium from brewery to brewery. The company promotes its Fat Tire ale locally by the public placement of colorful vintage bicycles outside its brewery, which is located adjacent to the public bike path along the Cache La Poudre River.

At the Asheville facility, which is within the city limits near the River Arts district, you can take an extensive free tour where you get a few samples along the way. While I’ve taken my fair share of brewery tours, and they are all the same, this one is worth it. You can reserve in advance, we were able to get on the next available tour.

The highlights of the tour include a tube slide that is surprising fast and thrilling, which is what you want after drinking a 8-oz. of Fat Tire. 

Along the way, you’ll see some neat beer and circus themed art. Make sure you notice the details like the lighting shaped like hops or the tiles shaped like beer bottles. On the hand, be aware of the creepy sad clown.

While it was a blistering hot day, the grounds have bike paths along the river that they plan to expand. Eventually, it will connect all the big name breweries in the area and other points of interests.

For the tap room, they have pretty much have everything and then some. The important thing for tap rooms from the big name craft breweries is to have beers you can only have there. It makes the trip more appealing and worth it when a brewery has pilot beers or brewery exclusives. They have their beers in bottles and cans to go, plenty of dopey merch, but not large format limited releases bottles.

In any event, here’s what I had in my flights:

  • Oscar Worthy Coffee (sour ale)
  • Tart Lychee (Lips of Faith)
  • Juicy Mandarina IPA (Hop Kitchen)
  • Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA (Passion Fruit)
  • Voodoo Ranger 8 Hop Pale Ale
  • 1554 Lager
  • La Folie (Lips of Faith) (2017)
  • Pilsener
  • Juicy Watermelon

Stuff Your Pie Hole With Hole Doughnuts in Asheville

I have a semi-tradition when I’m about to leave a city. I try to squeeze in one last quick activity or breakfast before I venture on. It’s a little thing I cribbed from the forgotten Comedy Central travel show Insomniac with Dave Attel.

With Asheville, my “last thing” was to chow down on some freshly fried doughnuts from Hole. That’s right, in case doughnuts are not guilty enough of an indulgence, Hole will fry them right in front of you and then glaze or dip them in a flavor. Yes, my friends, dreams do come true.

The Hole people forsake the globs of obnoxious toppings associated with local craft doughnuts with simple toppings. Above, on the left is cocoa nibs, on the right toasted almonds and sesames. That’s all you really need. They also offer honey glaze and a seasonal rotation.

All this sounds amazing, and to make it even better, it doesn’t take long from order to fryer to your stupid face. That’s breakfast done right.

Buxton Hall in Asheville is a BBQ Joint That Was Once a Roller Skating Rink

The Carolinas is one of the four epicenters of American barbecue — Texas, Memphis and Kansas City being the others. Within the Carolinas itself, the north and south have different styles, techniques and flavors.

When I think of “American” food, I think barbecue, even though it’s origins can be traced to Europe, the flavors, traditions and culture were grown in the Untied States. This makes discovering new school and old timey barbecue places in the south and midwest so fun. I’m sure there are “authentic” places in New York, Los Angeles and Des Moines, but I like my Carolina barbecue to be in Carolina.

Which takes me to Buxton Hall in Asheville, a new school place made from an old school roller skating rink. You can even sit some of the place in the interiors

The toughest thing about barbecue joints is trying to sample everything on the menu and avoiding what in the BBQ circles called, “the meat sweats.” The condition is where you have to unbutton the top button of your jeans, a few on your shirt and maybe take a few notches off the belt. Meanwhile, you don’t want to see food for another 24 hours.

The solution for sampling everything is go with a big group of people and make sure everybody orders something different. If your solo or with a partner, then you just have to suck it up and dive into the sauce. At Buxton, it’s a vinegar-based true to Carolina tradition.

I ended up going twice to Buxton, once for lunch and the other to eat all the pies. The lunch I went with chicken and my bud went with pulled pork. Sides is another scary territory because I can’t refuse mac and cheese or macaroni salad. I can just fill up on sides and be a happy mofo.

With Buxton, they also up their BBQ game with superior cocktails. On a 95 degree day, their boozy slushy drinks was mightily welcome.

If anything, I’ll remember Buxton Hall for the mother fucking pie — a seriously strong pie game. We’re talking next level, leave your woman for this pie. The Smores pie restored my faith in humanity. I could have stole these pies, got arrested and it would have been worth it.

Buxton Hall is located in the middle of the breweries in Asheville, a couple of blocks south of downtown. It’s in the same building as Vortex Doughnuts and Catawba Beer. Unlike the other popular BBQ in town, 12 Bones, Buxton is open for dinner. Both BBQ joints sell merch and cookbooks.