Samuel Adams Brewery Tour

I was able to make a quick trip to Boston a couple weeks ago to visit some very dear family and friends.  While I was there, I made a smidgen of time to do some touristy things.  Even though I was born in the Boston area and have been there countless times in my life, there are still many things I have never done that I have always wanted to do.  One of those things was visiting the brewery of one of my all-time favorite beers; Sam Adams.

The brewery is in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, close to the Stony Brook Station T Stop (on the Orange Line).  Tours are free, however a $2 donation is suggested.  These donations go towards local charities, including Youth Enrichment Services, preservation of the historic Granary Burying Grounds in Boston (where the REAL Sam Adams is interred), and Brewing The American Dream, which offers assistance to small business owners and startups, mostly in the beverage industry.

While you are waiting for your tour to start, you can wander around the lobby and adjacent small exhibit space.  You will find fun facts about the brewing process, information on the catalog of beer that Sam Adams has produced, and some fun photo ops.  There is also a place where you can mail a free postcard to a friend or family member.  You fill out your postcard, drop it in a mailbox, and they will post it for you free of charge.  However, I mailed one here to Tadd and it has been 2 weeks and we have yet to receive it…

Most of the tour was your standard brewery tour.  Once you have seen one tour, you quickly realize, large or small, they all pretty much cover the same stuff, and use very similar-looking machinery (just different sizes, depending on the brewery).  But it’s still neat to see.  And, we got to see the bearded guy from the Sam Adams commercials!

From that point is everyone’s favorite part, the tasting room.  We got to try 3 different beers; Boston Lager (of course), Cold Snap (the current seasonal for late winter/early spring), and Noble Pils (our tour guide’s favorite).  Cold Snap was my favorite of the three, which is an unfiltered white ale.  If you enjoy light/bright, but still very flavorful beers, you should check it out before it stops production for the season in late March.   They let us keep our sample glasses, which I thought was a really nice touch for a free tour.

After the tasting session, we stopped by the giftshop (where I went a little souvenir-crazy…good thing the prices were all rather shockingly reasonable), then took a free trolley from the brewery to Doyle’s Cafe, which was the very first bar to serve Sam Adams beer.  If you show them your tour ticket and buy a Boston Lager (or any other Sam Adams beer), they will present it to you in a complimentary souvenir glass.  More free glassware!  This glass is special though.  The shape, size, and style was specifically engineered to enhance the flavor of Boston Lager.

If beer is your thing and you find yourself with some free time in Boston, I highly recommend taking the tour and ending it with the excursion to Doyle’s Cafe.  It was a really enjoyable afternoon, and while I was already a big fan of Samuel Adams and The Boston Beer Company, I now feel even better about my allegiance to this company.  They are good people, creating a really good product, and doing great things for the Boston community as well.

Trip Recap: Asheville

Thursday, May 9

We started on our way to Asheville pretty early on Thursday morning.  The trip took about 3.5 hours, but we experienced very little traffic and the last section of it was through some beautiful mountain scenery, so it was a very pleasant drive.  After getting settled at our hotel, we walked up the hill to the Vance Memorial at Pack Square Park, where our Brews Cruise tour began.

The Brews Cruise is a bus tour of several breweries in the area.  Asheville has a large number of craft breweries (14 I think), and is often known as “beer city”, so it’s definitely worth checking out their beer scene if you are there.  However, I only recommend this tour if 1) you REALLY like beer and 2) if you have eaten something first, because you will be trying a LOT of beer.  By the end, I was so glad we only had to walk down the hill to get back to our hotel.  But we had a really fun time on the tour.  We got to visit Altamont, Highland, and French Broad.  At each stop, we got tours of their brewing facility and learned about their processes.  What was kind of neat about this tour were the variations of the breweries.  Altamont is relatively new and tiny.  Highland is HUGE and ships all over the country.  French Broad is larger than Altamont, but much smaller than Highland, and has been around for a long time.

Altamont Brewery

Highland Brewery

Highland’s brewing facility

Highland Taproom

French Broad taproom

French Broad brewing facility

After the tour, we were dropped back off at Pack Square Park and headed to Pack’s Tavern for dinner.  I was able to use a Restaurant.com certificate here ($25 off $35) and we got dinner for next to nothing!  Would highly recommend this place.  Very nice, charming, casual tavern-style atmosphere.  Also, their fried pickles were amazing.

Friday, May 10

This was our Biltmore Estate day, which I already shared with you.  But just because I loved it so much, here are a few more pics, this time from my phone.

Can’t get enough of that place!  Afterwards, we refreshed ourselves at the hotel and then decided to leave the camera behind so we could have a more relaxing evening.  We walked to dinner at Lexington Ave Brewery (yes, ANOTHER brewery!) and then on our way back to the hotel, we stumbled upon this cute, cozy little cocktail bar called Sazerac.  We liked it so much, we ended up back there the next night.  Not even really sure what we loved so much about it, but we just clicked with the place.  They had some pretty interesting and creative cocktails too.

Saturday, May 11

Our last day of vacation…So sad.  And to add insult to injury, the forecast was calling for rain.  We sadly decided to forgo our original plan of driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, since the scenery wouldn’t be quite so magical with gloomy skies and downpours.  Instead, we decided to explore Asheville a bit more.  We had breakfast at this great place in West Asheville called West End Bakery, where I had the best bagel sandwich EVER.  Herbed cream cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red onion, and sprouts on a delicious fresh-baked bagel.  So good!  Tadd loved his breakfast too.  We were happy campers.  If I lived in West Asheville, I would be here every morning.

We drove around, and shopped around a little bit, eventually ending up at The Grove Arcade, a beautiful historic building full of interesting little shops.  We bought a few souvenirs and just enjoyed the charming ambiance.

We eventually decided to check out one of the local theaters and see The Great Gatsby (which we both loved).  Turns out they sell craft beer in the movie theaters too!  After the movie, we headed back to the hotel, walked back up the hill and had some unremarkable sushi for dinner, followed by a lovely time at Sazerac once again to have a few cocktails while we relaxed and reminisced about our trip.

The next morning, we packed up the car, and drove the 10 hours back home.  The end!

Ommegang Brewery

While we were on our little Albany-to-Cooperstown trek last week, we made a stop at Brewery Ommegang for a beverage and bite to eat.  I have had Ommegang beers before at a few places around Orlando, but it was neat to get to visit the actual brewery itself.  It’s situated in a very scenic spot, in the hills just outside of Cooperstown, NY on the grounds of an old hop farm.

We did not do the brewery tour, but we did have a delicious lunch in the Ommegang taproom.

I can’t say enough good things about the food here!  Tadd and I shared the frites with truffle aioli and honey mustard dipping sauces.  The honey mustard was good, but I could have skipped that and had two ramekins of the truffle aioli, as it was one of the most delicious items I have tried in a long, long time.  I also had a spinach crepe that was really good too.  Tadd had the croque madame, which he loved, and Kerry & Bryon (the bride & groom) shared the beer cheese fondue with apples, bread, and sausages for dipping.  Every single thing we ordered was excellent!

I failed in taking pics of our food (too busy enjoying it!), but I did manage to snap a pic of the beer we tried.

The boys both had the BPA (Belgian-style pale ale).  I tried it and was surprised by how much I liked it.  I’m not normally into overly hoppy beers (when the hops are too plentiful, I feel like it makes the beer taste too herbal and flowery), but this one was quite good.  I had the always-delicious Hennepin Farmhouse Saison, which according to Wikipedia, was the first saison in America.  And Kerry chose the Abbey Ale, which is a richer dubbel-style beer.

Definitely recommend stopping at Ommegang if you happen to find yourself near Cooperstown, NY.  I would like to go back someday and take the brewery tour!  And maybe get more of those frites with truffle aioli…

Cigar City Brewing: A tour and a pint!

I have one more place from my weekend that I want to share with you.  On our way out of the Tampa area on Sunday, we stopped for a 1pm brewery tour at Cigar City Brewery, which is in a warehouse off of Lois Ave near the airport.

For a mere $5.35, you get a brief but interesting tour of the brewery, a pint of beer of your choosing, and a souvenir pint glass.  If you are at all into craft beer, this is a great cheap thing to do while you’re in the area.  Cigar City has some of the best beer in the state, if not the country!  They do all kind of fun experimental things with beer.

We arrived about 10 minutes early and started off in the tasting room, where we paid our tour fee, chose our beers, and grabbed a seat to wait for the tour to start.

Tadd and I both got Maduro Brown Ale, my brother Ryan got a Minaret ESB (pictured above, with his complimentary souvenir pint glass), and my friend Carrie got a Xenu Cream Lager.  I love Maduro!  I get it often when I’m at Oblivion Taproom.  It’s a very deep dark brown ale that is full of flavor but not as heavy as you would expect from a darker beer.  Everyone else seemed to enjoy their selections.

Before we were finished our beverages, we were called to the brewery entrance to start the tour.  We were provided with classy eye protection, and anyone with open-toed shoes was required to wear blue sanitary booties over their feet (TIP!  Wear closed-toed shoes!).  Also, we were allowed to take our beer with us to enjoy during the tour.

The place isn’t very big, but it’s still interesting to see how it all works.  It was especially neat to think that every Cigar City brew I drink will originate right there in that room.  Our tour guide was really friendly, informative, and funny.  I loved that the tour was surprisingly multi-sensory, as we were allowed to smell a canister of hops and chew on a few of the malted grains that are used in beer production.

We were also allowed in the freezer store room to see all of the kegs ready for shipping as well as other ingredients waiting to be used in the beer-making process.  For example, we saw a large shipment of a particularly rare type of hop that was awaiting experimentation in future brew batches.  My brother (who has done some home brewing) had lots of questions and ended up coming away with several tips for his next round of beer-making.

Every single bottle of Cigar City beer is bottled right on this little machine!

I love that they name their kettles…Below are “Barbie” (there is also a “Ken”) and “C3PO”.

We also discussed the merits of canned vs bottled beer.  Apparently the canning process is not only more efficient, but it’s also better for the beer (keeps the light out and keeps the beer fresher longer).  We got to see prototypes for their soon-to-be released canned versions of two of their most popular beers; Jai Alai IPA and Maduro Brown Ale.

All in all, for what we got, it was $5 well-spent.  I think most of us would have stayed for another round if we didn’t have to be on our way back in Orlando so soon.

On our way out we bought a 750mL bottle of their experimental Cucumber Saison to take home with us, which turned out to be astonishingly cucumbery.  Very different from any other beer I had ever tried, but refreshing and great for summer.