Friday, February 24, 2012

A Series of Unexpected Beery Events

As much as I love beer, I'm not much of a beer "pursuer." Michael Jackson travelled to the end of the earth to find great beer, and that dedication earned him the nickname the Beer Hunter. I fall on the opposite end of the spectrum. While I might be as enthusiastic about beer as the good Mr. Jackson, I most often take the path of least resistance. In fact, I'm downright lazy. That's not to say I don't, occasionally, look for specific beer, I just don't look very hard. Saratoga Beer Week starts this upcoming weekend in Saratoga Springs. Honestly, I can't be bothered to go. Sure, I like beer fests, but they always seem like a hassle. I prefer to have beer just, well, just happen. But every once in a while the beery gods smile down on me, and this past Monday was one of those whiles.

Thank you Brattleboro Co-op.
Due to the President's Day holiday, I had the day-off, as did Amy, and we thought we'd take a day trip to Vermont. Just the two of us. We weren't looking for a romantic getaway, but more of a quiet car trip that didn't involve toy monster trucks and Barbie. We packed up the kids the night before and dropped them off at Grandma and Grandpa's house—slowing down just enough, so the kids could roll out without having to stop—and we were on our way.

Brattleboro was our ultimate destination, neither of us had been there, and the drive along Vermont's Route 9, through The Green Mountain National Park, is a pretty one. The trip out was pleasant, with the sun shining brightly through bear trees. The CR-V rolled along the winding road, following rocky streams that showed more river stone than water. We arrived in Brattleboro around 10:30 and proceeded to meander through the little city's downtown area. We trolled the antique shops, bookstores and outdoor outfitters, sipping coffee while the wind bit at our cheeks between stores. We were directed to Kipling's* on Elliot Street for lunch. Kipling's is a little pub that serves not only fantastic food, but great craft beer. Unexpected beery event one took place here. The chili cheese burger called to me, as did a malty Red Ale. Lyndonville, in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom (aka the Northern northeast part of Vermont) is home to Trout River Brewery, makers of Rainbow Red. Not only had I never had any of Trout River's beer, I've never even heard of them, and there's nothing like coming across a new beer to put a smile on my face. The sweet and fruity Red Ale was the perfect match to the beefy burger topped with gooey cheese and spicy chili. There was one, odd bit about Kipling's—It was right next door to McNeil's Brewery (which doesn't open until 4pm), but they didn't sell any McNeil's stuff. The bartender was more than happy to send us in the right direction as to where to acquire a bottle or two of McNeil's brew—and we walked, unknowingly, into unexpected beery event number twos' waiting arms.

Brattleboro has an edge to it, a hipster-enviro-stick it to the man, kind of vibe. What kind of happening place, like that, doesn't have a food co-op? I expected the Brattleboro Food Cooperative to have beer, but not the beer they had. They had the big, 22 oz bombers of McNeil's—in all their flavors, and I grabbed a bottle of Champ Ale and one of their Oatmeal Stout. But, of course they're going to have McNeil's, they're the home town brew. They also had an amazing selection of, not only Vermont craft beer, but craft beer from all over the country—everything from North Coast's Old Rasputin to, just about everything, Berkshire Brewing Company makes. I grabbed a six of Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale and Green Flash West Coast IPA (both unavailable in New York) to go along with the McNeil's, and out the door we went.

The beautiful chaos that is the Man of Kent.
I have to disclaim that the last of the unexpected beery events was actually expected. On the way home, we stopped for dinner at the legendary pub, the Man of Kent Tavern, in Hoosick Falls, just inside the New York border. This place rates, in my mind, as one of the beeriest places in all of human civilization. The Tavern is eclectic to say the least. There's a fare amount of English pub fox-hounds-near-short-tailed-horses-ness, but there's also a crazy array of soccer jerseys, militaria, golf flags, beer paraphernalia—and anything else that could be held from a nail—dangling from the ceiling, like clothes drying in the breeze. It's almost amazing at the amount of things to look at. The Man of Kent exudes beer, it is nearly the perfect personification of what drinking beer is about. It's fun, it works at its own pace, its a little off center and it has amazing beer. The Man of Kent let me top off my day—a day spent with my wonderful wife—and nothing could have capped the day better that a crock of French onion soup, a grilled turkey and cheese sandwich and a pint of Fuller's London Pride—with a pint of Greene King's Abbot Ale for dessert.

That's how beer happens for me, and that's what I love about beer—its unexpectedness.

*Rudyard Kipling, Imperial Britain's go-to penman, built a house outside Brattleboro and lived their for a number of years, hence this pub's name

Thanks to for the pic of Man of Kent.

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