Spring is approaching, and that means a few things: March Madness is right around the corner, and beer festivals should soon get into full swig. (See what I did there? Swig instead of swing?)

Last year, we talked about strategies to use when approaching a beer festival: what to do when there are so many choices. That still sits as one of the most viewed posts we’ve ever had. And then we did a follow-up piece on how it went. It was as much a review of the Roswell Beer Fest as it was a retrospective on the planning we had done the week before.

And now the Roswell Beer Fest (March 23) is almost here, and it’s time to revisit those strategies. (Word on the streets is that they’re looking at having over 400 unique beers this year!) This time, it’s an anticipation of what might be there. I have a good feel for the lay of the land (and love how they break up the areas based on style, rather than by brewery.) I’d like your feedback this time. There have been so many new breweries and new beers released into the wild in the last year – both locally and around the world.

What is the ‘it’ beer we need to be looking for?

If you were to name the top new breweries and top new beers (anywhere – doesn’t have to be local), what would you name? Obviously, we know all about Wild Leap and Variant and Pontoon, etc. They’re killing it, and everyone knows it. I’m talking about the breweries and brewpubs … the specific beers that are outstanding that not many people know of yet. What are the top 3 “must-have” beers and breweries for a beer fest today? Read between the lines here, you could potentially have a say in what beers are being offered! When else have you had that opportunity?

Share this post in your beer snob circles … comment below with those beers that should be at the top of my list for the event. You can always email as well. Thank you in advance – and also let us know if you’ll be at #RBF2019.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington
The Dingle Peninsula. Not a draught beer anywhere

The brewery. Why go and visit a brewery? Why did beer enthusiasts in Georgia work tirelessly to pass legislation allowing us to buy beer from a brewery last year? (Other than the fact that prohibition ended a century ago … it was time to be slightly less archaic.) I love having a beer at home – while grilling, watching the game, hanging with friends, enjoying breakfast – there is absolutely plenty of reason to visit your local package store and stock up the beer fridge at home. But what is it that creates that moth-to-the-flame attraction of visiting the local brewery? I’ll attempt to paint the picture for you …

The brewery is the US equivalent of the pub atmosphere in the UK.

Packed house at Gate City

My mom and I disagree. Now, I’ll admit that neither of us is wrong, but we disagree. Several years ago, we took a family trip to Ireland and Scotland. For a beer nerd, that’s the trip of a lifetime … sitting in the local pub, getting to know your new best friend at the seat next to you. That’s what I envision as the highlight of the trip. My mom prefers to get away from people and noise and enjoy the admittedly stunning scenery. These are two very different vacations. (And was actually able to enjoy both sides of it while there.)

But, sitting in a warm, packed pub, listening to local musicians, sipping on a pint, hearing stories from the locals … drinking in the local culture. To me, that’s the allure. But here is the point of this post … The brewery is the US equivalent of the pub atmosphere in the UK.

But why? What is it that draws us in?

Flights at Variant

  • The Vibe. We’ve talked about that in several posts (and more to follow.) It’s the warm, vibrant atmosphere that creates such a positive energy for everyone there. Hard to describe, it’s just something you feel. I think it was Martin Mull who first said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” I would say that writing about that feeling in a brewery is like dancing about architecture.
  • You never know who you’ll sit next to. It could be someone who wants a place to read. Or maybe you sit next to a guy who works for another brewery and wants to share some of his beer with you. Or what about that time when I’m enjoying a flight at Variant with my bros and bump into a pack of guys who work at Wild Leap? (Bonus when it’s their CEO and he recognizes the blog logo on my shirt and compliments my review of their newest release!!)
  • Learning from the brewers. I love saddling up at the counter and speaking with the staff about their beer. Almost without exception, people working at breweries enjoy talking about beer. This must be the nerd in me, but I love those conversations!
  • Next level awesome vibe at Appalachian Mountain
  • And maybe the most important part … the variety of beer. Yes, you can stroll into a brewery and taste the same beer that’s in cans in your local package store. And it’s even better because it’s fresh and from the tap. That’s all well and good, but I absolutely love trying the other stuff. The one-offs, seasonals, special releases, etc. A brewery may package or distribute 3-4 flavors of beer. But they may have 15-20 on the wall at any one time. It’s a great opportunity to explore new flavors.
So, what does it for you? Why do YOU love going to a brewery?
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Way.

You probably remember recent posts that Russ and I shared about our trip to the 2018 Beer Bloggers Conference in Sterling, Virginia. Along the way, we regaled you with stories of the visit to Dogfish Head, Farm Brew Live, and other awesome experiences. There was also a brief hint that I checked in 106 new and unique beers into Untappd. In other words, I sampled 106* beers that week that I had never tried before. One-hundred and six.
* These are only the ones that I remembered to check in. Who knows? There may have been more.

May I also point out that the majority of these were samples. I don’t think it’s advisable to try to drink a case of very heavy beer every day for four days. I’m assuming that if I did that, I’d be writing this post from the great beyond. I found it quite interesting that I didn’t see people interested in drinking a lot … trying to get drunk. These were people who legitimately wanted to experience as many different beers as possible. And I truly didn’t see anyone getting in trouble or getting out of control. But that’s a story for another day.  For today … here’s the list (my Untappd ranking in parentheses).

  1. 2 Silos Brewery
    1. Bill-iner Weisse Sour (2.75)
    2. NOVA Witbier (3.25)
    3. Old Dominion Imperial Stout (3)
    4. Planet Druidia Galaxy IPA (1.5)
    5. Silobration Marzen (3.75)
    6. Virginia Cream Ale Cream Ale (4)
  2. Adriot Theory Antithesis DRANK (red punch) Sour – Gose (3)
  3. Alewerks
    1. Pumpkin Ale (4)
    2. Weekend Lager Helles Lager (3.25)
  4. Ardent Craft Ale IPA X NE IPA (3.5)
  5. Aslin Double Orange Starfish DIPA (4)
  6. Barnhouse Quarter Horse Porter (3.75)
  7. Bear Chase Mr. Pink Belgian Blonde (4.25)
  8. Bearded Iris
    1. Ever Clever NE IPA (3.25)
    2. Homestyle NE IPA (4.25)
    3. Offbeat NE IPA (4.5)
  9. Belly Love 50 Shades of Gold Belgian Strong Golden (3.75)
  10. Beltway Brewing 1776 Stout (4.5)
  11. Bike TrAle Yellow Jersey Pilz Pilsner (3)
  12. Black Hoof Island Pond Hefeweizen (2.5)
  13. Blue Mountain
    1. Dark Hollow Imperial Stout (4.25)
    2. Raspberries on Acid Witbier (3.75)
  14. Bolero Snort La Taureau Tripel (3.5)
  15. Brothers Craft The Admiral DIPA (4)
  16. Canon & Draw Welchers IPA (2.25)
  17. Crooked Run
    1. Heart and Soul IPA (3.75)
    2. Katana DIPA (4.25)
  18. Deschutes
    1. Fresh Squeezed IPA (4)
    2. Mirror Pond Pale Ale (3.75)
  19. Devil’s Backbone
    1. Black Lager Schwarzbier (3.5)
    2. Gold Leaf Lager (3)
    3. Mile 842 India Pale Lager (3)
    4. O’Fest Marzen (3.25)
    5. Pear Lager Fruit Beer (4)
    6. Trail Angel Weiss Hefeweizen (3.5)
  20. Dirt Farm Som Peach Fruit Beer (3.25)
  21. Dogfish Head
    1. 120 Minute (2008) IPA (4.75)
    2. Ball Peen Hamster Kolsch (3.5)
    3. Covered in Nuggs IPA (3.75)
    4. Firefly Pale Ale (3.75)
    5. Flesh & Blood IPA (3.5)
    6. Fruit-full Fort Strong Ale (4)
    7. Green Light Means Go Belgian Pale (3.75)
    8. Liquid Truth Serum IPA (4)
    9. One-Eyed Cheshire Pale Ale (3.75)
    10. Outdoor Shower “other” (3.5)
    11. The Grownups Are Talking Pilsner (2.75)
    12. Wood-Aged Bitches Brew Imperial Stout (4.25)
  22. Finback Telephone Lines Pilsner (3.25)
  23. Free Will Ella Quadrupel (4.25)
  24. Garden Grove Tri-Lemon Saison Farmhouse (4)
  25. Heritage B-A Kings Mountain Scotch Ale (3.5)
  26. House 6 El Bombero Kolsch (4)
  27. Jackie O’s Herringbone Sour (4)
  28. Kindred Spirit Orange Dream Cream Ale (3.25)
  29. Legend Imperial Brown Ale (3.25)
  30. Lithermans Limited One Hit Wonder IPA (3.25)
  31. Lost Rhino
    1. Dawn Patrol Session IPA (3.75)
    2. Final Glide Hefeweizen (3.5)
    3. Meridian Kolsch (3.25)
    4. My Imaginary Girlfriend IPA (2.25)
    5. Pumpernickel Honker Rye IPA (3.75)
    6. Rhino Chasers Pilsner (3.25)
    7. Shooter McMunn’s Irish Stout (3)
  32. M.Special  Barbeerian Special Belgian Strong Dark (4)
  33. Mast Landing Wessie IPA (1.75)
  34. Monocracy Riot Rye Pale Rye IPA (3.25)
  35. Moonlight Meadery
    1. Breathless Mead (4.25)
    2. Indulge Mead (4)
  36. New Glarus Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Beer (4)
  37. Odd Sides Pineapple Tangerine Fruitsicle Fruit Beer (3.25)
  38. Old 690
    1. Oktoberfest Marzen (3.75)
    2. Gnarly Boar Pale Ale (2.25)
  39. Old Bust Head
    1. Table Talk Witbier (4)
    2. Vixen Red Ale (3)
  40. Old Ox Funky Face Sour (1.75)
  41. Ono Brewing Island Time Brown Ale (3.5)
  42. Phase 2 Thank You, Babe Cream Ale (4.25)
  43. Port City Oktoberfest Marzen (3.75)
  44. Quattro Goombas Resistance is Fruitile Pale Wheat (4)
  45. Reason Saison Grisette (4)
  46. Rocket Frog Angry, Angry Alice DIPA (3.5)
  47. Rogue
    1. Combat Wombat NE IPA (3.25)
    2. Dead Guy Maibock (3.25)
    3. Honey Kolsch (4)
    4. Hot Tub Scholarship Helles Lager (3.75)
    5. Marionberry Sour (3)
    6. Paradise Pucker Sour (2)
  48. SingleCut Beersmiths Softly Spoken Magic Spells DIPA (3.5)
  49. Sinistral
    1. Hello Sunshine NE IPA (4)
    2. Jackson’s Fish Taco Lager (3.5)
  50. Solace Partly Cloudy NE IPA (3.5)
  51. Starr Hill
    1. Grateful Pale Pale Ale (3.5)
    2. Last Leaf Brown Ale (3.75)
    3. Raspberry American Sour Fruit Beer (3.25)
  52. Strangeways Woodbooger Belgian Brown (2.25)
  53. The Farm Brewery
    1. Acoustic Science Belgian IPA (3.75)
    2. Cherrydactyl Fruit Beer (3.5)
  54. Three Notch’d Ghost of the 43rd Pale Ale (3.5)
  55. Twinpanzee
    1. Galaxy of the Apes IPA (3.25)
    2. Galaxy of the Chimps IPA (2.75)
  56. Vanish Farmwoods Andre Brut IPA (3.75)
  57. Waconia Chocolate Peanut Butter (4)
  58. Water’s End
    1. HopDrop White IPA (3.25)
    2. Sauvin Saison (4)
  59. WeldWerks Brownie Batter Milk Stout (4)

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

If that title makes you say “Gesundheit” – I wasn’t sneezing, I’m talking about the German Beer Purity Law. If you don’t already know what it is, it’s a 502-year old law that only allows for four ingredients in the production of a beer: water, barley (or malt), hops, and yeast. Beer brewed in Germany must have nothing else in it.

This law was first created to protect citizens from beer that may have included toxic ingredients that were causing sickness and even death. (Delicious stuff, like wood shavings, nightshade, poisonous tree roots, etc.) The law worked and continues to still today. Having attended a very authentic German Oktoberfest celebration, the quality of the ingredients led to no nasty side effects of excess indulgence the next morning. So, it definitely has its advantages.

On the other hand, US brewers are quick to throw just about anything into a beer in an effort to create recognition and break new flavor barriers. Chocolate, every fruit imaginable, pizza, bacon, smoke, wads of cash, habanero … basically anything. It would seem that German brewers and US brewers are on different sides of the aisle.

Side note: German brewers ARE starting to brew with crazy ingredients and bowing to the pressures of craft beer enthusiasts. But there’s a catch … they cannot refer to the final product as beer. They have to market it as “mixed beer drinks” (Biermischgetränke). And as it turns out, Germans are choosing to stay with the traditional beers, leaving the ‘mixed drinks’ for visitors and tourists.

I attended a Beer Bloggers Conference last week and was able to hear from the founder and CEO of Dogfish Head, Sam Calagione. He said that DFH’s stance was to almost fly in the face of the half-millennium old Reinheitsgebot … focusing on bringing in flavors that you wouldn’t expect in beer. They took a lot of arrows, especially when they were doing this in the years before craft’s big boom in the US. Once told, “Fruit belongs in a salad, not in your beer, a**hole,” Sam and the team ventured on, believing in what they were creating. They now stand as one of the preeminent craft brewers in the world … and have not changed that stance. (Read an article by Sam himself on what he calls ‘beer censorship.’)

Listening to the presentation, I found myself torn. Part of me was in love with the nostalgia and the quality borne of the Reinheitsgebot. And part of me was excited about the almost brash nature with which Dogfish Head eschewed it. Which was right? Who was right and who was wrong?

After a few days of reflection, something amazing occurred to me. What if they’re both right? We don’t have to live in a binary society where there has to be a yin and a yang; an up and a down; a hero and his foil. Isn’t the world a better place because of the variety that we have these days? I love that I can go to Germany and order a traditional lager with only those four magical ingredients. But why shouldn’t I be able to slide down the road and have a “mixed beer drink” that includes coriander and orange peel? And then I can fly home and have Terrapin’s Raspberry Truffle Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout!

So, who’s right? The German purists or the Dogfish Heads of the world? If you ask me, the answer is yes.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

If you’ve been following our adventures for the past few days, you may have noticed something interesting about this conference. On Day 1, we drove to Delaware and drank beer. On Day 2, we drank beer in Delaware and then drove home and drank beer in Virginia. There hasn’t been a “conference” yet … no sessions! That all changed on Day Three. It was time to get some learnin’. (If you want to don’t want to read about the day, skip below and see our pictures from Day Three.)

First speaker out of the blocks was Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director for the Brewers Association. This one is a fireball. Tons of energy, she shared a lot of facts and figures about the continued growth of craft beer versus mass-produced; and also the dominance ber has over wine and spirits in the American marketplace. Next up was a panel discussion on diversity in the brewery world. .Julie Verratti (Founder, Denizens Brewing), Bev Armstrong (Founder, Brazo Fuerte Artisinal Beer), and Dr. J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham (Diversity Ambassador for the Brewers Association) discussed the evolution of increased diversity in the brewing industry. The quick takeaway … don’t ask a person of color or a female brewer what it’s like to be a minority in the beer world. Ask them the same questions you’d ask any brewer.

For lunch, we had two food truck choices. Pro tip … Dave’s Dogs was the way to go, especially if your order the Old Bay tater tots. Yes!!

The afternoon was off with THE keynote of the event: Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head. He speaks with great passion about his company, why they’ve always been a little different and have stuck to their ways in the face of criticism. He’s an incredible evangelist for his brand (something I would like to do better as well.) We finished his session with a Facebook live Q&A – really interesting media.

The learnin’ portion of the day was capped off with an expo … there were about 10 exhibitors placed around the room, and many of them brought beer for us to enjoy. Let the revelry commence! (Side note – if you see a trivia contest poop up during the sessions, run over and answer as quickly as possible. I did and scored two bombers of Rogue Dead n Dead.) Thank you to Rogue, Terrapin, Devil’s Backbone, Dogfish Head, and others for a great afternoon!

And finally … the evening reception. Yet another bus ride took us to Vanish Brewery, or more like a farm with a brewery hidden in it. You can see in the pictures below, it was a beautiful setting, and they had representatives from 19 local breweries serving one of their beers. (One group brought two, so 20 total beers.) Stickers, hats, glasses, bottle openers … the SWAG is seemingly endless here. Below the slideshow, I’ll list the 19 breweries and the beers they were pouring. And that’s a wrap on Day Three!

CLICK the picture below to see more photos from the day …BBC Day Three

The beer from the evening (along with the score I gave it on Untappd):

  • Adroit Theory Antithesis D.R.A.N.K. Hawaiian Punch Gose (3 out of 5). This stuff was so odd. Smelled, looked and tasted like straight Hawaiian Punch. There was legitimate debate between on us whether it was beer or just Hawaiian Punch. It’s the pink beer in the pictures.
  • Barnhouse Quarter Horse Porter (3.5)
  • Bear Chase Mr. Pink Tart Cherry Ale (4.25). It wasn’t tart … really nicely balanced.
  • Belly Love 50 Shades of Gold Belgian Strong Pale. (3.75)
  • Beltway 1776 Rye-aged Stout. (4.5). Powerful and tremendous.
  • Bike TrAle Yellow Jersey Pilz (3)
  • Black Hoof Island Pond Hefeweizen (2.5)
  • Crooked Run Katana Double-IPA with cherries and vanilla (4.25)
  • Dirt Farm Som’ Peach seasonal. (3). I was very hesitant, as I don’t like peach beers. But this was surprisingly pleasant.
  • House 6 El Bombero Kolsch. (4)
  • Lost Rhino Dawn Patrol session IPA. (3.75)
  • Old 690 Gnarly Boar Pale. (2.25)
  • Old Ox Funky Face Hibiscus Gose. (1.75)
  • Phase 2 Thank You, Babe Cream Ale (4.25). Add a smashed basil leaf to it. Seriously.
  • Quattro Goomba’s Resistance is Fruitile – Mango Passionfruit Wheat Ale. (4)
  • Rocket Frog Angry Angry Alice Double IPA (2.75)
  • Solace Partly Cloudy NE-style IPA (3.5)
  • Twinpanzee Brewing:
    • Galaxy of the Apes IPA (3)
    • Galaxy of the Chimps IPA (2.75)
  • Vanish Andre Brut IPA. (3.75). Very interesting and quite refreshing. As the name implies, it had a champagne quality to it.
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

After our epic day 1 of the Beer Bloggers Conference, day 2 started off with a sunrise walk along the beach in Lewes, Delaware (pronounced “Lewis”, not lose…and they will tell you). This quaint little seaside town is very important to the Dogfish Head family and you can see why. We stayed in the Dogfish Inn (yes, they own it) and the experience was amazing…but we’ll save that for a future post.

We boarded the bus and headed south to Rehoboth Beach and the Dogfish Head Brewing & Eats complex, and it is definitely something to see. The good folks at DH really rolled out the red carpet for the BBC and reserved an upstairs dining area for us. They served us an amazing lunch (I had a four cheese grilled cheese with bacon…yes, it was as good as it sounds) and Bryan Selders, their Brewmaster, led us through a flight of four beers that are exclusive to the Rehoboth Beach brewpub. All were on the lighter side and refreshing summer beers, and Bryan’s descriptions of his inspiration for each of them helped set the stage for the experience. After lunch, we toured the brewing and distillery area, shopped for more DH swag (I got some stuff…Mike went crazy) and boarded the bus back to Virginia and the start of the conference.

After getting to experience DC area traffic, and it seriously may be worse than Atlanta, we had a quick half hour to check in and jump back on the bus for the opening party kickoff at Farm Brew Live.

The party was sponsored by Visit Prince William County, 2 Silos Brewing and the Farm Brew Live venue. So I’ve been writing a series of posts about the Brewery Vibe and I turned to Mike and said: “We found it…the ULTIMATE vibe”. Bloggers from all over the country were all saying how we wish we had a venue like this. The campus is 8 acres and has a craft brewery (2 Silos), local food and food trucks and stages for live, local bands. It’s everything that craft beer lovers and foodies love all in one place situated in the beautiful Virginia countryside.

Three other breweries joined the party and served up some of their best as well. Prince William County truly was showcasing their area as they also had a local winery and two distilleries handing out tastes. So many reasons to visit this area as I honestly just thought of before as the home of Dulles airport.

We returned to the hotel and joined an impromptu bottle share with other bloggers who were sharing their favorite beers that they had muled across the country. Fun night getting to talk beer and everything else with others from all different backgrounds.

The sessions start today, so day three should be all about learning…oh, and tasting beers from about 2 dozen different breweries. Best. Conference. Ever.

CLICK the picture below to see more photos from the day …

BBC18 Day Two

And so this trip started with a bang.

My flight to DC left at 7am. But with a bump into first class, I had to start off with a Sweetwater 420, right? (No judgment!)

Russ landed a little after I did and we made our way to the hotel. With a few hours to kill and a LOT of breweries in the area, we picked one that also served lunch and made our way there. Lost Rhino Brewing was a great choice. The ‘Spicy Mike’ sandwich is a really nice option, if you happen to be in the area. I mean, I had to get that, right? We both ordered flights, and I’d say that the beers were mostly good, one not as much, and we had one clear winner. The vibe in there is very cool (beautiful chalkboard menu). Russ and I would both tell you that the Pumpernickel Honker was the best one of the bunch.

Back to the hotel to get ready for the bus ride to Delaware. We met Lars, who would be our best bud for the rest of the day. Lars is with Dogfish Head and was our bus entertainment/trivia guy for the ride. We loaded up with about 15 other bloggers and headed down the road. We stopped at the brand new Guinness location in Maryland (massive, beautiful facility) to pick up the rest of the bloggers. We got a few minutes in the gift shop and then started down the road to Delaware.

It’s kida hard to put it into words. I’ve been a big fan of DFH for a long time, so it was going to hard for them to live up to my expectations. Hint: they exceeded them. From climbing to the top of the Steampunk Treehouse, starting with a cheese and Flesh & Blood pairing, grabbing a flight of some stuff you can’t find elsewhere, the exhaustive tour of the facility, dinner in the tasting room. It was a-mazing! But wait, there’s more! We finished the evening sipping 120 Minute IPA brewed in 2008 while having a fireside chat with Sam Calagione, DFH founder, and his wife. Just an unbelievable end to a pretty tremendous day. If you like beer, and specifically DFH beer, this is a must visit.

Going to try something a little different today. We have so many pictures from the day, I’m throwing them into a Flickr album to make it easier for you to live vicariously through the bloggers!

BBC18 Day one

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington
And I get to stay here …
I first saw it a few years back. But I failed and didn’t pull the trigger. I saw a reminder that it was set to happen again this year, and I made a point to register. I just had to go. And Russ is going to join me!
It’s the 2018 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference, or BBC18 for the millennials. Yes, there’s an association and/ or conference for everything. I mean, everything.
Included on the agenda, pre-conference excursions to nearby breweries (I’ll come back to that); kick-off celebration at this phenomenally-cool and unique place; lots of sessions (including from the head dude at Dogfish Head); a 2-hour beer expo with tastes from several breweries … all before we get to the Friday reception and dinner. There will be 24 breweries pouring beer for us that night. Yes … twenty-four. And now we’re at the end of the first full day. 
Day two has a series of further sessions about how to grow your online presence (BabyGotBeer is about to blow up!); an Ignite-style series of rapid-fire presentations (Russ and I are applying to be on the docket); and the mother of all sessions … Live Beer Blogging. I’m just going to steal the text from the #BBC18 website:

You will have the opportunity to try 10 beers in 50 minutes. In each round, a brewery representative will have five minutes to pour his or her beer, describe the beer, and answer questions before moving on to the next table. It is a fast, fun, and crazy beer tasting experience that helps writers practice their tasting and reviewing skills and helps breweries distill their message.

Yes, please. HINT: Look for lots of rapid-fire posts coming from us in mid-August!
But wait, there’s more. We finish the evening with another reception and dinner, this one featuring 13 additional breweries. Why have I not gone to this thing before? Someone, please remind me that I should never not go again!

Pre-game excursion. I told you I’d come back to this. On Wednesday, August 8th, we get to go to a pre-conference excursion to … Dogfish Head in Delaware. Not only is it one of absolute faves, it’s also in a state I’ve yet to visit. Double bonus. The agenda includes a tour of the facility, tastings and dinner under a tent at the brewery, and then a fireside chat with the founder, Sam Calagione. I cannot tell you how pumped Russ & I are for this trip. Oh, by the way, we’ll be spending the night at the Dogfish Inn. 6 weeks from today … we’re so close I can taste it!
Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington
Welcome back, former-guest-contributor-but-now-official-BGB-team-member Russ Webb for another post on his beer-ventures. You remember Russ from giving us insight into Tasting Beer’s Holy Grail, Wesvleteren XII, not long ago. 

Scotland. The home of golf and whisky (please note, no ‘e’ in whisky…it’s a thing with them)

Flight: Innis & Gunn style

I’m lucky to have lived in Scotland in the past, and because my wife is from there we go home to visit regularly. When I tell people we are going, or have just returned, the questions I get inevitably revolve around golf, scotch and castles. Rarely does someone ask about the beer scene there and that’s a shame because it’s exceptional and getting better. As recently as 15 years ago there were just a handful of Scottish brewers, but now there are more than 100 and that number is growing all of the time. Here’s a ‘taste’ of my recent travels:

Innis & Gunn – Yum is the first word that comes to mind. People in the states know Innis & Gunn’s oak and rum aged ales, but their Beer Kitchens in Scotland have so much more to offer. From full flavored red ales to complex barrel aged stouts, Innis & Gunn is evolving rapidly into one of the best brewers in the world.

6 degrees of separation … from me

6° North – This little brewery in northern Scotland likes the Belgian styles, and they do it well. Their  name comes from the fact they are 6° north of Belgium, but their styles are right there. I enjoyed each of their selections, but the Tripel was especially good. If you’re headed across the pond, be sure they are on your agenda.


BREWDOG

BREWDOG –  Lots of people have tried BREWDOG because of their unique business model. Not only are they crowd sourced, but their popularity spread like wildfire and their beers match the hype. Most of their offerings lean to the hoppy side of the beer spectrum, but their stouts are stellar, including the 16.5% Tokyo Intergalactic Stout which is one of my top 5 beers ever. Brewdog is now brewing in the US, but their Scottish base is something they at proud of and I think they will continue to expand their offerings.

Belhaven

Belhaven – Belhaven has been brewing forever…no seriously, since 1719, but they have been branching out from their traditional styles recently and their beer lineup is fantastic. From special craft brews to occasion beers, Belhaven is taking nearly 300 years of brewing experience and making it better every day. 

Are there more? Oh yes, plenty. If you get a chance to visit the magical country of Scotland (their national animal is a unicorn), be sure to check out the outstanding beer scene…I promise you won’t be disappointed.

I have lots of friends who share my love affair with beer.  We meet; we discuss; we share – and then rinse and repeat. Sometimes we recommend certain beers we’ve tried; sometimes it’s a new cool restaurant or bar.  In this instance, I owe this brewery option to LKS.  She told me it was a must when visiting Asheville.  As always – she was spot on.

When we found Burial Beer Company, it almost snuck up on us.  You almost have to know exactly where to look and what you’re looking for. Burial is in a very understated building and it’s kinda on a side street – not really on the main drag.  But that fits their personality perfectly.  They’re so laid back and casual – it was maybe the coolest atmosphere we saw on the entire trip. More on that later.

The beer was awesome.  It took a second to get someone’s attention at the bar to order a beer … only because there were a dozen people ordering at the same time.  It wasn’t overcrowded – just had some thirsty folks there, like me. There were so many choices I wanted to try, but I only had time for two.  I guess that means a return trip is in my future! Hacksaw Dark Lager – wow. It’s a Dunkel-style beer, amber/dark in color, but still light.  Great flavors going on in that one.  Highly recommend!  But then there’s the Reaper – a Tripel.  You know how much I love a good Tripel, and this one didn’t disappoint.  They use local honey, that adds a very subtle extra sweetness to the thick yummy elixir. Nice and thick with deep, sweet flavors.  This is a very good representation of a Tripel.  (By the way, if you need to do some drooling, go to the Burial Beer list online … they have so many flavors and so many options (obviously not all at the same time.) But these folks KNOW their beer.  They make very high quality beers and cover a very wide variety of styles.  It’s the ultimate beer lovers place, partially because …

That laid back atmosphere bleeds over to the clientele.  We walked outside next to the building and discovered that it was a local hang out. Young couples were there with their kids (and I mean young

kids – babies); dogs were playing.  And there was a cornhole set waiting for us to play.  And by ‘next to the building’, I mean that it was a tiny little gravel and dirt area right next to the building.  It was almost like a vacant lot where people were hanging out.  It was such a relaxed and inviting feel.  If anyone cares – I think I won the cornhole matchup.  And yeah – I bought the mason jar glass.

Next week, the 4.5th in the 4.5 part series.  It’ll make sense when you read it – I promise.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington