Storm Brewing in Vancouver Has the Right Ideas, A Sense of Humor and Pay As You Want Samples

You can visit Vancouver from different perspectives. There’s Asian-foodie experience, where every cuisine is representative from the East. The Asian population are almost the majority in the city.

Then there’s the Hollywood North angle since a good portion of American movies (Deadpool) and TV shows (X-Files) come to Vancouver for cheaper production. Plus, it’s Seth Rogan’s hometown and now provides the voice of the transit system. Hopefully, his annoying laugh is not included.

Finally, and probably the reason I dedicated a good portion of my time doing, the city is the unofficial craft beer capital of Canada. Not many names come from Canada into the USA, the few being Vancouver’s Pipeworks, Unibroue from Montreal and the proverbial Molson macrobeer.

For my craft beer experience, I made sure to visit the city’ first, Storm. It’s a bit east of the Gaslight district among warehouses so just take the bus along East Hasting Ave. Don’t walk it, because you’ll pass plenty of homeless encampments. Once you get to the area, there five breweries within four blocks.

The set-up and philosophy is unique in my experience. You’ll notice right when you enter the space how different Storm Brewing is — there’s no taproom. There’s no bar, tables, stools, merch area, food menu or cute chalkboard of what’s on tap. It’s a production space with some space to stand. You’ll be hard pressed to find a flat surface to set your beer. Try next to the toy rat in a jar.

Then the other unique quality — pay what you like for six 4-oz. samples. The theory is that you’ll pay for growler. You’ll get a card to keep track. Since I wasn’t doing it, FREE BEER! Joking, $5CAD spot was my donation to the cause.

Without all the brewery trappings, Storm Brewery allows you to mingle with the staff and locals because there’s not much else to do besides stand, talk and drink some great beer.

And the beer is all experimental small batch concoctions. Cucumber beer? Sure! Here’s what I had:

  • Black Plague Stout
  • Highland Scottish Ale
  • Precipitation Pilsner
  • Vanilla Whiskey Stout
  • Apple Pie Ale
  • Watermelon Basil

That could be beer or an ice cream menu.

When you visit, make sure you check out the wall of their Yelp reviews — good and bad.

 

BrewDog Columbus Poised to be America’s Premiere Craft Beer Destination

Finally, my last post on my epic, career-defining beercation road trip. I end it the state capital that is synonymous with good times …. Columbus?

To back up, BrewDog is one of the reason I’m a craft beer fan. When I visited Edinburgh in 2012, my first night I visited one of their first bars and instantly fell in love with their punk rock attitude towards beer culture. Above anything, above their philosophy and design aesthetic, they make some of the best beer in Europe. Since then, every time I’m near one of their pubs I have to stop in to see if there’s something I haven’t had.

Now they are setting themselves up to take over America. Previously, you had to search specialty bottle shops to find their imported goods. Last year, they completely their first American production facility and tap room in Columbus, OH.

Welll, it’s not EXACTLY in Columbus. It’s just outside of the city in Canal Winchester. You pass a few large strip malls on the way there. It was about 20 minutes from the center of the Columbus.

When I did there, the ground had just broken of the BrewDog Hotel, which will feature a beer fridge in the shower.

More importantly, the beer brewed there was being served. In the past couple of months, the beer is being distributed outside of Ohio.

Which is why the BrewDog crew settled in that area … central location in America, and probably some tax breaks from the state.

The BrewDog Columbus tap room is the largest one I’ve been to. It has a full-service restaurant, game room, meeting center and merch shop. I threw down some coins on the Star Wars pinball game. Anytime I can drink some craft beer and pinball is alright by me.

The place feels like a wonderland of everything good about craft beer, good food and having a laugh. Case in point, you buy a $5 beer for the chefs and they will cheer in return. I did not, but somebody else did. You then hear a big holler from the kitchen. Not sure it was worth $5, but anything to lift their spirits.

As for the beer, four of the flagships are being brewed in the USA. Only Punk IPA was available to go in cans, but since then, all is available where ever craft beer is sold.

Here’s what I had:

  • Punk IPA
  • Jet Black Heart Sout
  • Elvis Juice IPA
  • Hazy Jane IPA
  • Hop Fiction Pale Ale
  • Dead Pony Club
  • Cocoa Psycho

The BrewDog Columbus also serves guest taps as well. Depending on when you go, they might import in a few special releases from their Scotland facility.

This is a new beer mecca in USA, alongside Hill Farmstead, all of Portland, Russian River, Stone, Sierra Nevada, etc. Once the hotel is built, the place will surpass any other brewery operation.

Cincinnati’s MadTree Brewing Offers Crazy Beers in a Chill Setting

Unfortunately, there is no WKRP in Cincinnati museum, landmark or point of interest in Ohio’s second city (or third or fourth depending on who you asked). So if you found your Cincinnati-style chili, then beer is always a good alternative.

Rhinegeist Brewery was going to be my destination because I’ve heard of them, but a few of my beer travelers I met along the way that I was mad to not visit MadTree. Thus, I made it my second stop while passing through.

My first impression was that the place was huuuuuuuuuge. I didn’t even go outside. When I did, I was like, dammmmmnnnn, you people got space. So you won’t have trouble finding a place to enjoy your beer.

The five-year old brewery is quickly just as popular as Cleveland’s Great Lakes or Akron’s Hoppin’ Frog as the go-to beer for locals. MadTree has amazing array of beer selections.

That’s why I had to get two flights and a couple of six-packs to go to be all in of MadTree.

Even though they had a full food menu, I stuck to the beer:

  • Axis Mundi Russian Imperial Stout
  • Basic Batch Golden Belgian Blonde
  • Shade Gose
  • Happy Amber Red Ale
  • Cuppa Coffee English Mild
  • I’m On An Oat!!! Oatmeal Stout
  • PSA (Proper Session Ale)
  • Lift Kolsch

Against the Grain Brews at a Ballpark in Louisville

As mentioned before, the great city of Louisville is known for several neat things — the baseball bat Louisville Slugger, the Kentucky Derby, bourbon, Muhammad Ali and J.Law.

For us beer geeks, we know Louisville as the location of beloved craft brewery Against the Grain. The breathe of their selection is staggering. They pretty much cover every style and offer up unusual takes on standards.

To dive deep into all things Against the Grain, you head to their brewery and BBQ restaurant located on the main drag in Louisville, ummm, Main Street.  Even better, it’s attached to Louisville Slugger Field, home to the minor league team, the Louisville Bats. A mile down the road is the Louisville Slugger factory and museum. You see a pattern here?

While the grain in the name is the wheat and not the wood, the brewery does some wild things like ramen brewed beer and lot of barrel-aged and smoked porters and stouts. While I didn’t eat there, it was a tough choice to figure out what 20 drafts to samples.

Some of the beers in their line-up do distribute outside of the state like Citra Ass Down and Kamen Knuddeln, so I went with the brewery exclusives.

  • A Beer Pale Ale
  • Bloody Snow Pilsner
  • Flex-Arcana Stout
  • Sigurd Vos Smoked Ale
  • Low-Key ESB
  • Aunt Claudine’s Salty Melons

I’m pretty I picked my flight based on the funniest names. To go, I got their Jackyale barrel-aged porter. “Double brown ale aged in bourbon barrels in honor of the greatest rock and roll band on this or any other time: JACKYL,” said the description.

For the beer  people, this is a must-visit if you find yourself in town. It’s a big beautiful space that overlooks a lovely ball field.

Wiseacre Brewing in Memphis is Where You Should Buy Cases of Everything

My day-trip to Memphis from Nashville concluded at a brewery … of course.

I actually hadn’t planned to do any breweries after Graceland, since it’s a 3 1/2 drive back and wanted to beat rush hour. When I was told by a few people in Nashville that I was driving to Memphis, more than a few said, “You really should go to Wiseacre.” Advice taken, and executed.

Wiseacrew Brewing is located 20 minutes from Graceland, it’s a straight shot up on Rt. 69 and eastbound on North Parkway. You’ll pass the zoo and Overton park, then find yourself in a little up and coming area filled with converted warehouses. You’ll park in the back of the brewery that overlooks a vacant lot, but there’s art all around so I’m sure in completely safe.

I got there just after opening and had the place to myself. While they don’t do flights, the nice boy gave me samples of everything. Because of his act of kindness, I bought 3 cases of beer, a few specialty bottles and random six-packs.

Yes, it was that good, the best I had in Tennessee. Their best known beer is the Ananda IPA, which is dry-hopped with Casade. It’s actually one of the most crushable IPAs I’ve had, and more sweet and smooth than you’re normal IPA.

The other beer I was blown away with is their Gotta Get Up To Get Down, a coffee milk stout brewed with oatmeal. It’s a low ABV beer that velvety and robust.

The last case was their Belgium IPA, Boomslang. A lot of banana, spicy clove and citrus notes and extremely clean drinking.

As for six-packs, I took home their Special IPA and Tiny Bomb Pilsner.

Here was drank full pints:

  • Lightning Rod British Bitter
  • Avast! Pirate Porter
  • The Beach Within Reach Sour Berliner Weisser
  • Azazel With Rangpur Lime Strong Golden Belgium Ale

It’d a neat space where you can walk around and check out can art from previous releases. If you’re feeling spendy, you can buy the framed art. I just stuck with stickers. Out back is large deck, which is obviously great on summer nights.

Two Breweries to Visit in Nashville, Bearded Iris and Smith & Lentz

As somebody who will always search for a city’s best coffee, hamburger, donut, pizza, record store and breweries, it’s no surprise that Nashville hits all these notes. In the end, the city has so much more to offer a traveler.

Being that my time there was a Sunday through Wednesday, many of the breweries were not open on Monday through Wednesday. So on Sunday, when I arrived late in the afternoon, I had to make a quick stop-in to these two places before they closed early. Dammit, open longer on Sunday, peops!

As I pointed out with super cool coffee place Barista Parlor, Main Street into Gallatin in East Nashville is a hub of trendy shops and old school places. Two blocks away from Bolton’s Hot Chicken is Smith & Lentz Brewery. Opened in 2015 by two guys names … ummm … Smith and Lentz, it’s open seven days a week. It’s neighborhood joint popular with young families and beer idiots like me.

Super friendly people working there who pointed me over to the next brewery in this post and to confirm the best beer bars and bottle shops I was going to visit.

Here’s what I had:

  • Coffee Stout
  • Away In Bruges Belgian Pale Ale
  • German Cologne Kölsch
  • German Pils

A Lyft took me to my next destination, Bearded Iris. While we driving there we passed construction upon construction along the Cumberland River. It’s all going to be upscale mixed use commercial and residential mid-rise buildings.

I hope Bearded Iris owns their building because when they get big, they can sell it for triple the money. Cha-ching. In any event, it’s a bit out of the way in a warehouse area, but the space is amazing as you can see in the photos.

The first thing you’ll notice is the bar and back bar. Sure it looks like they moved a vintage church inside, but in fact, everything was built new and aged. The only aspect they re-used were the columns. Everything else was made by skilled artisans.

Even the floor which looks like marbled tile. It’s not, it’s painted linoleum. Along the walls, you can admire the local art work.

In the huge space, you’re likely to talk to a musician who will drop the name of the band or bands they’ve played with and opened for. I have feeling that happens a lot in Nashville.

As for the beer, it was the best I had in Nashville. It’s all simple IPAs and pale ales. No flights, but you can get half pours. It’s great cold beer to down on a warm day.

Here’s what I had:

  • Pipsqueak Session IPA (Enigma, Simcoe and Palisade)
  • Scatterbrain New England IPA (Simcoe)
  • Homestyle New England IPA (Mosaic)
  • Noisemaker Pale Ale (Citra)

Atlanta’s Orpheus Brewing Is Heavy on the Sours and IPAs

While Atlanta can garner wildly different opinions, we can agree that there’s plenty to do in a two-day period. A whole week? Hmmmm, not so much.

Now that Georgia has new beer laws, craft breweries like Orpheus don’t have to jump through hoops to serve and sell beer. When I visited over the summer, there was a narrow window it was open. Now, it’s seven days a week and open late on the weekend.

The location is a little tricky in that you have to walk behind the building through a narrow walkway and up a few levels to get inside. On a humid summer Saturday, the outside deck was jammed and you had to rub nuts to ass to get inside. Inside, there was long lines and clusters of people jockeying at the bar to get beer samples.

If you can tolerate the chaos, you’ll get some funky sours and hop heavy IPAs. The sours were especially interesting and complex and hoppy IPAs will satisfy all hop heads. I’m all about variety, so I could have used a few dark beers. After a while, all those sours will wreck your palette.

They do distribute throughout Georgia and bottle a few one off sours. The design riffs on Greek mythology as you’ll see on elaborate and artful cans of Life.Death.Life.Truth IPA.

Here’s what I had:

  • Transmigration of Souls — Double IPA
  • Lyric Ale — Saison
  • Serpent Bite — Sour
  • Atalanta — Saison
  • Noise and Flesh — American Wild Ale
  • Over & Over — Pineapple Sour