Travel

Travel | Milwaukee Trip – Part 1

Travel | Milwaukee Trip – Part 1

We had planned a trip up to Milwaukee for a while now. There is an annual Bead & Button show there, with classes and a lot of vendors, so with my wife being a beader, it provided a great excuse to head out to the midwest. We lucked out and were grateful that we had family come into town to watch our little guy and dog for the week. Our first leg of the trip was to Cleveland, which would be the halfway point for us on the way up to Milwaukee. This was a pretty uneventful ride, and we left at a decent time so traffic wasn’t that bad and we had smooth sailing. We only stopped for gas and hit up a Hardees for lunch. We apparently were a bit excited to get this trip going, and actually forgot that we were supposed to make a stop on the way. We made it to Cleveland around dinner time on Sunday. The hotel mentioned that there wasn’t a lot of stuff open at this time, but pointed us to a couple of areas where we may find dinner. Being in the truck all day, we decided to walk down to the water front and check out a few of the sites. The road outside of our hotel ended at Lake Erie and the water front area, so off we went. The lake front was undergoing some renovations, so we imagine there will be more activity there in the future, but we did manage to climb these rather large steps to see the skyline. It’s a pretty cool view, even with the overcast weather. On the way to the water front, you pass the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It was closed at the time. Truth be told, we actually weren’t really that gung ho to go in anyway.

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Cleveland skyline from Lake Erie

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View across the tracks to a train station.

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Birthplace of Rock & Roll with the Hall of Fame Museum in the background.

We headed back downtown. The majority of the city was pretty quiet. The Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors were playing in the NBA finals, though in California. However, the Quicken Loans Arena was hosting a viewing party, so we started to see the trickle of fans in their Cleveland gear. We headed to the Historic Gateway District. The main road leads to the Arena, so it was loaded with people. The Gateway is a pretty cool area, a portion of it is only open to foot traffic and there is a lot of activity happening. There were a bunch of restaurants and bars in this area that were actually open. Many bars were getting ready for the game. We saw Iron Chef Michael Symon’s Lola Bistro, though we weren’t in that state of mind, so we ended up eating at Zocalo. It’s a Mexican Restaurant & Tequila bar, and an empty outdoor seating area. With all the people walking through, we wanted to maximize our people watching. They age Tequila onsite, so when I ordered a margarita, I had to try their Zocalo. To be honest, I think this may have been a waste. The margarita tasted like many others, and thinking back, no need to use the good liquor in a mix drink. We ended up ordering way more food than we needed. We had some confusion on sizes, as we thought the menu was indicating one of each (Tacos, Empanadas, etc), yet they came out in groups. So we essentially had three of everything. The food was decent, but the location was all that was necessary.

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Zocalo – The entrance is through an ally.

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Margarita, salsa, & gaucamole.

After stuffing ourselves, we meandered back to the hotel to call it a night. We had been on the road all day, and needed to plan our next day. At this point, we had realized that we missed a stop, and wanted to make sure we coordinated the rest of the trip better. During this coordination we realized that we wouldn’t be able to hit up Great Lakes Brewing during this trip. This was high on the list, however they were not a walkable distance for dinner, and they opened later on Monday than we wanted to delay getting on the road again. Especially since we had to backtrack to stop in at our previously missed site. So after a good nights rest and solid breakfast, we got back on the road to head to this missed site, which is Smucker’s.

The beauty of going on trips and traveling through America is you learn so much. We had never realized that Smucker’s was in the heart of Ohio, that they owned a lot of other products other than Jelly (the biggest shocker being Jif Peanut Butter), and that they would have a place for you to visit. We stopped in at the headquarters first, which is located at 1 Strawberry Lane in Orrville, Ohio. I love it when business brand like that, and continue to get a kick out of the street name. Must say though, the store was a bit of a bust. We were hoping for unique items or even lower pricing, however this is not the case. The store itself is pretty cool, and there is a cafe. In the middle, there is a sampling station, where they will provide samples of some of the products. But the majority of the items available are stuff you can buy at your local grocery store for the same price. The other let down was on the designer side, as we thought the colored glass in the back of the store was going to be jelly, alas its just colored glass. We made sure to grab some JIF socks and Smucker’s t-shirts though as well as pick up a few jars due to convenience.

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Smucker’s Company Store & Cafe

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Smucker’s Company Store & Cafe Interior

We got back on the road and pushed on. Most of this leg of the trip was through America’s heartland, and mainly farms. We did stop at an Arby’s for lunch, but not much else big happened until we got to South Bend Indiana. We had to stop in at Notre Dame and see the Football Jesus, as well as get our stadium picture (here is a link to the stadium picture). We were a bit surprised at Notre Dame, granted we didn’t drive through the whole campus, but a lot of it looked fairly new. I was expecting a more historic look I guess. And for some reason, I thought the Football Jesus was right next to the stadium, it is across a lawn near the stadium. Amazing how distorted things can look on TV sometimes. After driving around and trying to secure the best angle, we got back on the highway. We got bogged down once we hit Chicago. Not sure if the expressway would have been better, but we were right in rush hour, so we got to enjoy the skyline for a bit. We finally made it to Milwaukee. After settling in the hotel, we ventured out to grab dinner. We were pretty tired at this point, and didn’t do a lot of research on where to grab a meal. We also knew we would be there for the majority of the week and had time. Rock Bottom Brewery was right around the corner and looked over the river. Rockbottom may be mainstream now, but it holds a special place to us. When we first met during a school trip, the first place we officially had dinner at was a Rock Bottom. When we moved to the DC area, we frequented the Rock Bottom in Arlington, and we have hit many others in other cities. They have a great location, with plenty of out door seating, bar, and grill space. This wasn’t open at the time, and it started raining when we were seated, but we were still able to look out at the sites. It was nice to just chill after a long two days of travel, and so we hit the sack after dinner to relax.

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University of Notre Dame – Football Jesus

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Rock Bottom Milwaukee – Our View

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Rock Bottom Milwaukee – Entry & Signage

References

Zocalo Mexican Grill & Tequileria
2071 E 4th Street
Cleveland, OH 44115
216.781.0420
www.zocalocleveland.com

JM Smucker Company Store & Cafe
333 Wadsworth Road
Orrville, OH 44667
330.684.1500
Smucker Company Store Website

University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556
574.631.5000
www.nd.edu

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery
740 N Plankinton Ave #1
Milwaukee, WI 53203
414.276.3030
www.rockbottom.com/locations/milwaukee 

College Stadiums | Ohio State University

College Stadiums | Ohio State University

Breweries | New Glarus Brewing Company

Breweries | New Glarus Brewing Company

During our stay in Milwaukee, my wife had an all day class to attend. So I decided to take the opportunity to head further west and stop in at a few breweries. One of which was New Glarus Brewing Company of New Glarus, Wisconsin. New Glarus is widely known in the brew world, and has very limited distribution. By very limited, I mean nothing out of Wisconsin. So this stop was very important and a must. My journey started late morning and I arrived around lunch time. I figured there may be food at the tasting room, so with my stomach growling I pushed on, deeper into the farming country. Heading south on State Highway 69, I saw an old building resembling something from the Alps on the left side of the road. It had New Glarus Brewing written on the side, yet my GPS told me to keep going.

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The original New Glarus Brewing location.

I would later find out that this was the original location. Currently still producing beer, mainly the fruit varieties, and though there is still an ample parking lot, I was told that beer tours are not possible here anymore. On my way out of the area, I did stop to snap a photo though. As you drive deeper into town, more of the Swiss Alp decorations pop up. Not surprising as the name is from Glarus Switzerland. It is even home to the Swiss Center of America. Fun fact, they make Jack Links beef jerky in the area as well.

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New Glarus Brewing road sign.

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Small Hop yard.

Taking a left off of State Highway 69 again, a multi-faceted Wisconsin Thumbprint for New Glarus welcomes you. Once you turn in, a small hop yard is located on the left. The driveway was longer than expected, so best to keep going straight. I got side tracked with excitement and pulled into the first right thinking that was the parking lot. After a few bends there is an opening in the trees, and a Swiss Chalet appears, with a clock tower and decent parking lot. For those coming in to pick up some beer, there is a beer depot adjacent to the parking lot. It even has a convenient loading zone if you end up picking up more than expected. Due to the cooler weather and being the middle of a week day, the tasting room wasn’t open at the moment. So I continued up the stone stairs to the Gift Shop. They have taps inside the Gift Shop and access to the brewery, so you can order a flight and take the self guided tour while sipping. They provided bracelets to keep track of how many samples you ordered, which was something I hadn’t run into at any other brewery. The flights come with a taster glass, a nice memento, and a coupon for a free pint from one of the local bars.

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Parking lot

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Sampling bracelets, three beers each.

During my first sample, I decided to check out more of the gift shop. It had a lot of Wisconsin related items, such as cow decorations, cheese, kid’s books and toys, snacks, and other items. There was also plenty of beer related items, like the Beermap, New Glarus swag, and a decent amount of clothing. With my second, I headed into the brewery. You first past the Micro Lab and Quality Assurance rooms before the corridor ends in a medal and display room. I’ve seen many other breweries display their medals, but this was one of the nicest set ups I have seen. After the display, there is a door that enters into the brewery. After a brief corridor, you enter a room with four large copper mash tuns. They don’t let you get to close, though it seems a private tour may allow for closer access. Side note, trying to take a good photo while sipping a taster can prove difficult.

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Beer Medal display.

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Mash Tuns

The tuns span the width of the building, and at each end are long corridors. The beginning of one corridor starts at the yeast propagation room, and runs down past a pilot/small batch system adjacent to stairs with a sign declaring “The Stairway to Heaven”. Heading up the stairs gives you a great view of stainless steel fermenters, however continuing higher to heaven was roped off. Continuing further down this corridor there are many other smaller rooms to each side, demonstrating various phases and processes integral to brewing. At the end of the corridor, it opens up to the bottling line. This is blocked by glass, but allows for plenty of video opportunities. The corridor begins to loop at this point and head back to the tun room. The corridors are simply decorated, some areas with glass windows, others with painted walls. There is floor tile throughout, and in one area, a cool stone etched with the New Glarus logo. The beauty of these corridors is the amount of stainless steel plumbing you see throughout. These lines are the true veins of the brewery, and it’s amazing to see the vast amount of them.

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Pilot/Small Batch system.

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Plumbing

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More plumbing, glass wall viewing area.

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Bottling line

During the course of the tour, I made sure to head back and move on to the next sample. Figured it would work best that way. However, I still had a couple of samples to finish outside of the brewery itself. The gift shop also has access to the beer garden. There is a large patio area with what look to be castle or church ruins and trellis’ covered in hops. Plenty of picnic style seating and an awesome view of farm land. There are a few other levels, and a lot of room to spread out. They even used an old brewing station to act as a water dispenser and glass cleaning station. It was pretty empty while I was there, however I could see how it would be packed during nicer days. If I visit again, I’ll make sure to bring some snacks to grab a table to hang out for sure.

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Beer Garden area.

The weather may not have been delightful, but this was a great visit. The beer is top notch (the Serendipity was phenomenal), and the brewery itself is definitely worth a visit. On my list of favorites for sure out of the many tours/breweries I have visited. For some, being self guided may be tough, but if you understand the process, its nice to be able to wander through at your own pace. I was also surprised at the size of the facility considering the limited distribution, was expecting something much smaller, and more like the original location. I made sure on my way out to head to the beer depot to stock up. The beer depot allows for make your own six packs, and since the samples didn’t cover all of the beers available, I made a few sixers to go. I also picked up a few bombers of the specialty beers, such as the Serendipity, Raspberry Tart, and Belgian Red. Seems I may have gone overboard a bit, as I had to pull up in the loading lane.

Beers Sampled: Totally Naked, Spotted Cow, Two Women Lager, Moon Man, Coffee Stout, Serendipity

New Glarus Brewing
2400 State Highway 69
New Glarus, WI 53574
608.527.5850
http://www.newglarusbrewing.com/

College Stadiums | University of Wisconsin

College Stadiums | University of Wisconsin

College Stadiums | University of Notre Dame

College Stadiums | University of Notre Dame

Hike | Redwood Regional Park

Hike | Redwood Regional Park

Whenever we visit California, we try and get a hike or at least some good walking in. During our last trip, we headed up to the San Francisco area, so before we even landed, we knew we wanted to hit some Redwoods. We met up with Linda’s friend Alexis from the area, and she knew a perfect little spot to head to. She does a lot of hiking in the area with her dog Bastian, an Australian Shepherd. So somewhat early morning, we headed out of the city and went over to East Bay. After a nice curvy ascent in the car, we pulled into the Chabot Space and Science Center, which is connected to Redwood Regional Park (you can see a map and info below). There is apparently some great science and astrological stuff to do here, as well as a nearby Archery range. Both were closed at the time. I think the Archery was due to some of the sprinkler the current micro-climate was dishing out. We had heard on the news that there was some rain sprinkles expected, but in San Fran, it seems that every mile has it’s own weather forecast. We figured a little rain, no biggie, onward.

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Redwood Regional Park – Alexis & Bastian

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Redwood Regional Park – Madrone or Redwood Peak Trails

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Redwood Regional Park – Trail Intersection

After parking we walked through the Redwood Bowl and started on what I believe may have been the Redwood Peak Trail. I know we started heading downhill for sure and eventually made it to the Stream Trail. It continued to sprinkle, but when we were down the mountain and in the deep canopy, we hardly noticed the rain. We continued along the Stream Trail, which has some cool spots with great trees and moss covered ground, the type of forest that we don’t see much of, and when we do, it’s mainly on TV. We were coming to the end of the Stream Trail, and the rain started picking up. We had to make this one clearing, and try and pick up the West Ridge Trail to head back up the mountain. At this point, the rain was coming. After a quarter to half mile, we came to the junction for West Ridge Trail. Just our luck, it was closed at this point. We started heading back down the Stream Trail to find another connection, and eventually went back up the mountain on Chown Trail. It was a steep climb up, but was the shortest path. The rain was really coming down now, to the point where we had mini water falls cascading over our feet as we continued trudging upward. We were all completely soaked. I had forgotten my coat, which would have been nicely suited for this to some degree, so my newly purchased Russian River Brewing jacket was clinging to me. Alexis, who was somewhat prepared, was also soaked to the bone, so not sure it would have really helped at this point. The Chown Trail brought us out onto the West Ridge Trail finally, everyone pretty exhausted in addition to the wetness (though Bastian seemed ready to keep going, minus the occasional annoying shake off). The West Ridge Trail is basically a fire road, so we still had a climb, but not the switchbacks we had just a little earlier. We made it back to the car, and the girls changed into something dry. None of us expected to run into a monsoon during this hike. So we headed to Drake’s Brewing Company afterwards, and you can read about that and Russian River Brewing here.

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Redwood Regional Park – Damp Redwood branch

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Redwood Regional Park – Crossing the stream along Stream Trail

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Redwood Regional Park – Stream Trail

This is a great park. The parking we chose was covered, and it was a great area to access a lot of the trails, though on the upper ridge portion of these trails. The park was a dog friendly park, and Bastian was allowed to be off leash for most of the time. Apparently this is more common place in these parks. We ran into a couple of dog hikers, literally vans full of dogs, heading out. It’s a well maintained park, and with the many trail heads, presents a lot of variety lengthwise and scenery. We enjoyed the Redwoods and some of the little stops along the way, such as the Fern Dell and Old Church. There are several areas that you can picnic and even restroom stops along the easier gentler routes. We went during the weekday, so wasn’t too busy, but was told that the weekend would be packed. If you are ever in this area, and want to get away to nature for a bit, this park is worthwhile.

Redwood Regional Park Map

Redwood Regional Park – Map

Redwood Regional Park
7867 Redwood Road
Oakland, CA 94619
http://www.ebparks.org/parks/redwood

Breweries | Russian River & Drake’s

Breweries | Russian River & Drake’s

We were recently in California for my cousin’s wedding, so we took the opportunity to piggy back a few activities onto this trip. Our little guy was going to be able to stay with his grandparents, allowing some free time for us to head up to San Francisco to spend time with one of Linda’s friends, Alexis. Alexis had a huge list of breweries and hikes planned, however when we arrived we were able to surprise her with the news that we were expecting another little guy. This was made even more ironic, as the last time Linda visited, she was pregnant with Eli. So we whittled the list down. We loaded in the car and headed north to Santa Rosa, it was our opportunity to hit Russian River Brewing. There is a lot of hype surrounding their IPA Pliny the Elder, and they are considered to be one of the early stalwarts of the craft beer industry.

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Russian River – Sign

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Russian River – Packed bar area

We arrived with a little bit of a line, but it didn’t take us long before we were inside. Wanting to grab something to eat, but figured we would grab a Pliny as we waited for our names to be called. Wasn’t long, and we had a table.  The pub serves the standard fare for brewpubs, salads, pizza, sandwiches, and wings. We started off with a spinach salad and beer bites. Beer Bites are definitely a great idea and I could easily find myself eating these all the time if I was a regular. Go great with a flight or a few pints. Along with ordering our flight, we added a pizza. I’m thinking it was the Omni, but honestly, I can’t recall which one we had. I think the Beer Bites overshadowed the pizza somewhat in my memory.

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Russian River – Flight

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Russian River – Beer Lists

When the flight arrived, I must say, it was one of the largest I have ever had delivered. I’ve been at plenty of breweries that will have a cap of samples in the flight, with the option of returning for a second flight. This is not an issue at Russian River, as 21 tasters were dropped off in front of us. One side was as they call it “traditional aggressively hopped California Style Ales” while the other side were the Belgian inspired and barrel aged. I think the latter side became the more appealing to me, though I’m sure some would disagree. We of course hit the shop on the way out, grabbed a couple of Plinys to bring to the east coast, and some cool swag (opportune due to my forgetting my jackets further south in warmer climates).

Beers Sampled: Pliny the Elder, Aud Blonde, OVL Stout, STS Pils, Dribble Belt, Hop 2 It, Segal Select, Row 2 Hill 56, Blind Pig IPA, Porter, Redemption, Perdition, Damnation, Defenestration, Rejection, Salvation, Sanctification, Compunction, Supplication, Consecration

The next morning, after a filling breakfast, we met up with Alexis again to go hiking. We headed to Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, and you can read about the hike here. All that hiking made us thirsty. So our next stop would be Drake’s Brewing Company. I feel like I’ve heard of Drake’s and their logo looked familiar, but not sure. As it was continuing to rain, we decided sitting in the outdoor area was not an option, eventhough we were already soaked.

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Drake’s Brewing – Brewing

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Drake’s Brewing – Brewhouse

Once in the barrel house, I ordered a flight as we reviewed the menu. They have a food truck outside that was very capable. The fries and club sandwich really hit the spot. We ran into the flight limit here, with only eight allowed at a time. I had grand plans of trying all of their offerings, however ended up calling it quits sooner. I thoroughly enjoyed the balance of the Hop-U-Rye, the roastiness of the Black Robusto, and the punch of the Wheatwine.

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Drake’s Brewing – Outdoor seating & Brew Kitchen

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Drake’s Brewing – Tasting Bar

It was nice to be able to relax and chill out in the barrel house. We must have been there around the time the staff get off work, as a lot of them headed inside for a beer before heading home. Near the food menu resides a couple jars of pickled eggs. Not sure why, but they are there. Wasn’t crazy about jumping into the Habanero, instead opted for the Jalepeno. May have needed more pickling time, as it tasted like a normal egg with Jalepeno taste to it. Oh well, the reason for stopping in didn’t disappoint, so no worries.

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Drake’s Brewing – Beer List

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Drake’s Brewing – Barrels

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Drake’s Brewing – Flight

Beers Sampled: Winning Lager, 4×40, Quasar Imperial IPA, Hop-U-Rye, Black Robusto Porter, 1500 Pale Ale, Foraging Raccoon, Denogginizer, Drake’s Grisette, Hefeweizen, Ludwig’s Scorn Wheatwine, Black & Orange Robusto, Hopocalypse (Green Label)

We did stop by another brewery earlier in the week while in San Diego, we didn’t actually sit down and order a beer, but I figured I would still share a couple of the pics. We had been to Stone Brewing’s Bistro & Beer Garden in Escondido, but I believe their Liberty Station location may be bigger. Felt like there were rooms heading in every direction. Lots of big granite and metal of course.

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Stone Brewing Liberty Station – Dining Area

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Stone Brewing Liberty Station – Main Bar

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Stone Brewing Liberty Station – Water feature table

Russian River Brewing Company
725 4th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
707.545.2337
http://www.russianriverbrewing.com/

Drake’s Brewing Company
1933 Davis Street #177
San Leandro, CA 94577
510.568.2739
http://www.drinkdrakes.com/

Stone Brewing – Liberty Station
2816 Historic Decatur Road
San Diego, CA 92106
619.269.2200
http://www.stonelibertystation.com/

Off-road | Twin Mountain Offroad Adventure & Meadow Knob

Off-road | Twin Mountain Offroad Adventure & Meadow Knob

It is becoming an annual custom now that FORCE (Frontier Off-Road Club East) hosts a MLK Jr weekend event. This year, it was a joint even with VAXC (Virginia Xterra Club – http://www.vaxc.org/). It was to visit a relatively new off-road park in the hills of West Virginia, Twin Mountain Off Road Adventure. This park was created by John Bradshaw, who has been off-roading his entire life and has been competing in many overlanding trophies. He decided to build this park to continue his passion.

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John’s Unimog

The event was set, and we had a decent group signed up go. The days before were to have crazy weather however, and due to that weather, a potential requirement for chains. Many of us did not have chains, and though they are great to have, I wanted to use the money for other modifications to the truck. So the days up to the event were a big question mark for some, and it was up until the few hours before leaving that we weren’t completely sure we were heading out. After some conversations with other members, we were a go no matter what. The park had temperatures drop in the negatives for windchill, and the ground was frozen solid a few days before the event. This meant that the upper layer was essentially slick mud on ice. As we arrived, John wasn’t even recommending hitting the trails with chains, as most hills were off camber and cut into the mountain side. Meaning, if you slid, you slid hard, and potentially over the side of the mountain. The park has a camping site, big fire pit, and facilities. Some of the members camped the night before, and it looks like something to remember for the future, as there is nothing else close by.

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Some of the mud picked up in the skills portion.

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Group photo.

So to make something out of nothing, we decided to play on the skills portion of the park. There are a few water/mud pits, step inclines, off camber areas, log bridge crossing, and plenty of ground to play on. We had a few guys get stuck in various locations and one even centered on the logs. The biggest pride moment was to take it to the steep grade hill, made much more difficult with the mud layer. After cresting, the vehicles just slid down the remainder of the obstacle. Though we only got a few hours of wheeling in, it was great fun, and we all agreed that we needed to come back when conditions were better. With this park only a few hours away from DC, we have much to look forward to in it’s development. Big shout out to John for letting us wheel, and for breaking out the Unimog a few times.

While grabbing something to eat, the group was discussing what to do next. It was decided that a late afternoon to evening run was going to be made in the George Washington National Forest to set up for the following day’s ride. After gassing up, we headed down interstate 81, picked up a few passengers from JMU, and continued to the trail head. We took Union Springs Road up the mountain. It was a bit of a bumpy ride, had some areas of snow and ice, but didn’t have too many obstacles. There were a few rocky and steep incline areas, but the majority of the ride was smooth sailing. We did hit a small play area that had a few frozen over puddles. After breaking the ice up and running through a few times, we pushed forward. We made it to Meadow Knob, which is a clearing on the ridge. From what I understand, a bunch of people camp here. It was pretty dark, but looked like a solid camp site for future rides. Great view of Harrisonburg, and so we decided to take a group photo.

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Playing in the mud. Photo by Ian Barry.

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Rock climbing.

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Group photo at Meadow Knob. Photo by Ian Barry.

We ran into a few more obstacles. One of which was a rock drop off. Those of us who didn’t have the correct armor and ground clearance decided to go around, but there were a few who went over. Cell phone video capabilities just weren’t there, and so what we captured wouldn’t provide enough detail to what actually happened. We had another rocky incline requiring some spotters, and once everyone was up, we took the opportunity to bid farewell. Part of our group was going to continue camping in the forest that night, while the rest of us headed into Harrisonburg. We headed down the mountain on Dunkle Hollow and exited around Switzer Lake. It was a shame to leave the comforting darkness of the woods and enter back into cell phone service, but it was late and time to grab dinner and beers.

During this trip, we did stop at a fair amount of breweries and beer centric restaurants. Feel free to read about it here.

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The next morning before heading home.

Twin Mountain Off Road Adventure
N 39 11’34.73″ W 79 00’36.89″
Williamsport, WV
304.257.3493
john@twinmountainadventures.com
http://www.twinmtn4x4.com/

 

 

Breweries | Escutcheon, Backroom, Lost River, Three Notch’d, & Pale Fire

Breweries | Escutcheon, Backroom, Lost River, Three Notch’d, & Pale Fire

We were heading out to visit an off-road park for the weekend, so of course, we made sure to hit some breweries and beer spots along the way. You can read about the off-road portion here if you like.

We left Friday afternoon and headed out towards Winchester. Luckily the traffic wasn’t that bad, and we made good time. We prolonged grabbing a bite to eat, as some of the breweries we had planned for the night were closing earlier than we initially thought. We arrived in Winchester between 6-7pm. The darkness was sitting in, making our first stop more foreboding than we had hoped, as there were no lights to great us. The farthest north stop on our trip was going to check out Winchester Cider, however they were closed Friday night. A bit of a surprise to us, however we pushed on and took it as a good way to save some time.

So our first stop was Escutcheon Brewing Company. It was raining hard and dark by the time we pulled up, so their sign was a beacon of hope (there was a car accident just down the road as we pulled up, and the sign apparently drew them in afterwards as well, they were fine and in decent spirits). The tasting room is decently sized, with bar tops and bar seating. Plenty of nautical decorations around and cool bottle chandelier. There is a window that looks into the brewery itself, though most of the action would be hard to see as it is behind fermentation tanks and the cold room. There is also a small area with games in one corner. They had Route 11 chips and nuts to snack on, so the hunger pains were starting to creep in.

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Escutcheon – Outside signage.

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Escutcheon – Tasting room.

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Escutcheon – Brewery

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Escutcheon – Flight of beers.

Beers Sampled: Growler Kolsch, John Riggins 4th and 1 Pilsner, Agonic Line Lager, Bowditch APA, Plimsoll IPA, Blackstracke Stout

After our flight, we pushed on. Our next stop had an early closing time, so we skipped checking into the hotel and went straight there. Nearly missing the turn off the lonely back road, we realized we were in the right spot when we saw Steve’s rig, a member of the off-road group. We had been keeping in touch during our trip, so that we could coordinate meeting up, as they are also beer heads. The darkness eliminated many possibilities of me being able to describe what it was I could see, and the rain was not letting up enough to allow me to take an exterior picture. We realized that there was a screened in porch, as we headed into the main building. Backroom is a farm brewery that grows herbs. They use many of these herbs in their beers, making for some unique flavor profiles. The tasting room definitely felt like it’s namesake, and had a loft area that looked to be used for storage. The tables and seating were pretty homey, and there was a fire place in the corner. Flights were served on what looked like a ping pong paddle on steroids. They did serve food, and we were lucky to grab some pretzels and sandwiches before the kitchen closed. The pricing was a bit more than we expected (especially after Escutcheon), but definitely worth finding your way out to this place if you are in the vicinity.

160115 - Backroom Brewery - 02

Backroom – Tasting Room

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Backroom – One paddle of a flight.

Beers Sampled: Backroom Blonde, Golden Strong, Rosemary Orange Amber Ale, Holiday Market Ale, Hop Harvest Party Ale, Black Truffle Pig, Oatmeal Stout, Peter Peter Pumpkin Drinker Porter

We headed to the hotel afterwards, and resorted to a few beers we brought along as we caught up and chatted (Backroom didn’t have any growlers left). This of course resulted in a horrible idea to walk over to McDonald’s for a completely unnecessary late night snack.

The next morning we woke up at a decent time, as we had the rest of our group over at Twin Mountain Off Road Adventure Park. It was going to be a bit of a drive into the mountains. After spending a few hours at the park, we headed back down the mountain and stopped in Lost River, West Virginia. There is a small brewpub taking over the town’s name, Lost River Brewery. Not sure if we caught the brewery at a bad time or not, but they only had two of their beers on draft. Didn’t seem like they had many others on tap either. So we sampled the two they did have and got some food for a late lunch. The space looks to be a small house that had been converted into a pub. It is deeper than it looks, and has low ceilings which contributed to how dark it was inside.

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Lost River – Brewpub

160116 - Lost River Brewery - 02

Lost River – Gotta love kegs in the window.

160116 - Lost River Brewery - 03

Lost River – Wait only two beers?

Beers Sampled: Black Ale, Pale Ale

Leaving Lost River, we hit I-81 and went south. We decided to do a trail ride in the George Washington National Forest before calling it quits. After spending a few hours in the woods and riding a ridge line, it was time to head into town and find a few libations. Town was actually Harrisonburg, Virginia, so after checking in at the hotel we visited Capital Ale House. I had been here before on a previous off-road adventure, and it’s pretty solid. Not only does the impressive beer list draw me in, but they have some of the best ketchup I’ve ever had. The wings are solid as well. Getting close to closing time, we retired back at the hotel for the rest of the night. The next morning, we decided to hit a couple of the Harrisonburg breweries before heading home. They opened later than we were hoping for, and so we stopped in at Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint for lunch. This is a cool little dive bar that really only does burgers, fries, and fried oreos. The beer list is on point, and they have a beer club. For each beer, you get a notch, and once you hit a certain number, they put your name on the wall on a plate made of a beer can. I always love places like this, as you can’t make up the atmosphere. The burger and fries hit the spot, and now some of the breweries were open.

160116 - Capital Ale House

Capital Ale House – Beers

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Jack’s Brown Beer & Burger Joint – Outside

160117 - Jacks Brown - 02

Jack’s Brown Beer & Burger Joint – Inside

Not too far from Jack’s Brown in the downtown area is Three Notch’d. It wasn’t quite open when we got their, but they were kind enough to let us in as it was freezing outside. It’s a nice open tasting room, with a variety of seating types. It seems that they have food provided by outside vendors, we didn’t see much else. They do have games and are dog friendly, so that’s always a plus. Though Three Notch’d is from Charlottesville, this is a small extension of the bigger brewery. They carry some of the flagship beers, but also have their own brew system and brew locally inspired beers. They have a cool system for picking your flight, as they have these tabs that you put on your flight paddle. Nice way to help the server and for you to remember what you ordered. Some of the beers are bottled and growlers are available for purchase, so we picked up a Java Espresso Stout to take home.

160117 - Three Notchd Harrisonburg - 01

Three Notch’d – Outside

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Three Notch’d – Tasting Room

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Three Notch’d – Beer list & Swag

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Three Notch’d – VA Beer Map

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Three Notch’d – Build your own flight

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Three Notch’d – My built flight.

Beers Sampled: Ghost of the 43rd, “Yam Mon” Sweet Potato Jamaican Curry Ale, Shenandoah Alley, Hydraulion Red, No Veto English Brown, Oats McGoat’s Oatmeal Stout, Jack’s Java Espresso Stout

We hung out for a bit and were enjoying hanging out, but knew that we had to get moving. Just a little ways down the street was Pale Fire. Reading through reviews, this one was high on our must list. The brewery is built into a not so typical strip mall. It is an old converted Ice House, complete with big metal insulated doors. I always love the reuse of old spaces. The interior has plenty of garage doors that open to the outdoor seating, and has a family entertainment area. It comes complete with TV, bookcase, and couches. They also had a variety of other seating types, and opposite the garage doors is a storefront allowing a view of the brewery. Honestly, the first thing I noticed upon walking in was the huge pile of bagels near the front entry. Appears these get dropped off and are up for grabs to nosh on while sampling. Other food available were more Route 11 chips. We met some interesting people (a hop farmer for instance) in the brewery, and we recommended that they needed more kid’s toys with the setup they had. Sounds like they are running a decent size system and are even doing collaborations with other breweries, Adroit Theory for example.

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Pale Fire – Ice House

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Pale Fire – Tasting room

160117 - Pale Fire - Brewery - 02

Pale Fire – Brewery

160117 - Pale Fire - Brewery - 03

Pale Fire – Flight & Bagel

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Pale Fire – Beer List

Beers Sampled: Saving Grace, Red Molly Irish Red, Electric Sheep, Deadly Rhythm, Loop & Lil, Salad Days, Village Green Double IPA, Momo Belgian Chocolate Stout

At this point, we had to call it quits. Hanging out had gotten the best of us, and it was starting to get later than we intended on staying. It was recommended that we stopped in to a few of the other breweries, so looks like we will need to come back. Harrisonburg definitely left a lasting beer impression on us though, and we are looking forward to another visit.

Escutcheon Brewing Co
142 W Commercial Street
Winchester, VA 22601
540.773.3042
http://www.escutcheonbrewing.com/

Backroom Brewery
150 Ridgemont Road
Middletown, VA 22645
540.869.8482
http://www.backroombreweryva.com/

Lost River Brewing Co
155 W Main Street
Wardensville, WV 26757
304.874.4455
http://www.lostriverbrewing.com/

Three Notch’d Brewing Co
241 East Market Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
540.217.5939
http://www.threenotchdbrewing.com/

Pale Fire Brewing Co
217 S Liberty Street
Suite 205
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
540.217.5452
http://www.palefirebrewing.com/

Capital Ale House
41 Court Square
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
540.564.2537
http://www.capitalalehouse.com/

Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint
80 S Main Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
540.433.5225
http://www.jackbrownsjoint.com/

Breweries | Ballast Point, Intergalactic, AleSmith, & Saint Archer

Breweries | Ballast Point, Intergalactic, AleSmith, & Saint Archer

We were visiting family for the holiday, and as normal always try and hit a few breweries while in the area. This trip had the addition of family from Germany so four of us headed out for some sampling. One of our party wasn’t feeling so well, so we had our designated driver. We decided to head north of Miramar (this is the base where Top Gun was based off of), as there is a cluster of breweries in the area, some of which are consider craftbrew leaders.

Our first stop was at Ballast Point. Driving up the road, it appears as a beacon. Finding road parking, being shared with the other industrial buildings adjacent has the potential to be more daunting on other days, but we found a spot not too far away. The smell of roasting malts hit us while still in the car, and after a quick walk, we were inside. The space inside is a bit smallish, with a keg pickup and merchandise area off to the left, and the tasting room off to the right. The outdoor seating area is larger, and on nicer days, the best place to post up. They had just had their Victory at Sea event, with a lot of specialty brews on tap (all of which were 10%), but we decided to hit their standard offerings. They did have a few snacks, such as nuts for purchase, but we didn’t see any food. It was a bit chilly for us, so after hitting the sampler and picking up some swag, we carried on.

151221 - Ballast Point

Ballast Point Brewery

151221 - Ballast Point - Tasters

Ballast Point – Samples

151221 - Ballast Point - Brewery

Ballast Point – Brewery

Beers Sampled: Longfin Lager, Even Keel Session IPA, Wahoo White, Pale Ale The Original, Grunion Pale Ale, and Calico Amber Ale

Our next stop was Intergalactic Brewing Company. This is a smaller brewery, but had some great reviews so we threw it in the mix. Located a short distance away we initially thought we may be able to walk. However, that would have required crossing a highway, so driving was the best option. Took us a minute to find the location, as it was hidden on the back of a maze of industrial/office buildings. Luckily there are many flying saucer signs pointing the way. This is a small brewery, open to the public by a roll up door leading directly into the tasting room. The tasting room has a bar and some bar tops, and is covered in plenty of space themed decoration. The propane heaters weren’t working this day, so the chill crept in the entry. They had a large fun assortment of beers, so we requested some recommendations to help build our flight. Cake is A Lie truly smells like cake by the way.

151221 - Intergalactic

Intergalactic – Building

151221 - Intergalactic - Entry

Intergalactic – Entry

151221 - Intergalactic - Samples

Intergalactic – Samples

151221 - Intergalactic - Bar

Intergalactic – Bar

Beers Sampled: Terran Sour Plum Ale, Galactic Milk Stout, The Cake is A Lie, Space Oasis and Coconut Porter

Onward and upward, after a quick drive down the road, we ended up at AleSmith. I’ve been familiar with their beers, but was in for a surprise when we pulled into their facility. It is always nice to see a brewery take design seriously, and AleSmith definitely does. They even had renderings located throughout showing some of the plans for the future. Walking up, you are first greeted a large outdoor patio with plenty of heaters and a food truck (Gwynn Gourmet Food Truck was there this day). The main entrance takes you into their retail space, where you can buy bottled beers and merchandise. Continuing through brings you into the large high ceiling tasting room. The volume of the space truly has a bit of an awe-inspiring effect, with the tasting bar anchored by the fermentation vessels behind. There are a variety of seating options, from the more loungey to bar tops. They have a kids area in the back, and even allow dogs to come on in. Surprisingly, with a volume such as this, it still felt cozy. The flights are broken up into a variety of profiles, for example, if you are into Belgians, they have a flight for that. We picked up a couple extras in addition to the Belgian flight, as they had some Xmas Specials going on. We were starting to get hungry, so the food truck provided a nice sustenance boost. It was a bit harder to leave our comfy couch seating, but we knew we had a few more stops.

151221 - AleSmith - Brewery

AleSmith – Building

151221 - AleSmith - Tasting Room

AleSmith – Tasting Room

151221 - AleSmith - Samples

AleSmith – Samples

Beers Sampled: Lil Devil, Horny Devil, Grand Cru, Quad, Lemon-Ginger X, Nut Brown Ale, and Old Numbskull.

Another brewery that I have run into is Saint Archer, since it was nearby, we made sure to stop in. In a typical industrial building, and somewhat assuming (at least it was at night) is the entry. To the left of the entry is a small outdoor seating area for sampling. Inside comes off as a raw brewery space with a tasting room in the middle. There are some partial height walls and bars, clad in a mix of metal and rustic reclaimed wood. One bar sports some of the merchandise options, and there are a few bar tops for seating. The look is one that I have seen replicated a decent amount. They had a good mix and line up for options to sample, with one side being more pale malts and the other more roasted. Seemed to be a lot of stout and coffee options.

151221 - Saint Archer - Brewery

Saint Archer – Signage

151221 - Saint Archer - Tanks

Saint Archer – Brewery

151221 - Saint Archer - Samples

Saint Archer – Samples

Beers Sampled: Nelson IPL, Hoppy Pilsner, Wee Heavy, Gose, English Brown, and Coffee Brown Ale

At this point, we were ready to call it a night, but since we were in this great mix, figured we would try and hit Green Flash. We arrived a couple of minutes after 8:00 pm, and they were closed. Parking lot was already pretty empty by then. Was a shame, but I guess we can save it for the next time. It was a good time hitting this breweries, and offered a good mix of options and styles. I believe my family enjoyed exploring this wide variety of flavor profiles, some of which are not at all what they are used to. We picked up an updated Brewer’s Guild map, and will continue to check off more as we visit.

Ballast Point
10051 Old Grove Road
San Diego, CA 92131
858.695.2739
http://www.ballastpoint.com/
Intergalactic
9835 Carroll Centre Road
San Diego, CA 92126
858.750.0601
http://www.intergalacticbrew.com/
AleSmith Brewing Company
9990 AleSmith Ct
San Diego, CA 92126
858.549.9888
http://alesmith.com/
Saint Archer Brewing Company
9550 Distribution Ave
San Diego, CA 92121
858.225.2337
http://www.saintarcherbrewery.com/
San Diego Brewers Guild Map – https://www.sandiegobrewersguild.org/maps?b=y&p=y