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Friday, March 30, 2018

New Beer Friday, Trip to Traverse Edition (March 30)

Russ Springsteen, Right Brain
Preamble by Steve Siciliano

The unseasonably warm weather we had back in late February prompted my wife and I to make the spur-of-the-moment decision to head north and spend a few days in the environs of Traverse City. We like visiting the Traverse area in the off season. The Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas are beautiful in summer and fall but I think they’re equally lovely when ice is lining the edge of the bays and the grape vines, cherry orchards and hop fields are blanketed in snow. The fact that there’s less traffic during the winter months is a nice bonus.

We took our time traveling up M-37. Because Barb and I usually take this route to our cottage, the roadside landscape has become so familiar there’s a tendency to disregard it. But the wintry hues and tones seemed to heighten my perceptions and it almost felt like I was seeing the familiar farms, barns, fields and silos for the first time. When we were just south of Baldwin we stopped at the M-37 Meat Shack and picked up a few meat sticks for me, some blistering hot jerky for Barb and a box of cheese nips that we both snacked on the rest of the way to Traverse.

We pulled into the city about five o’clock and promptly made our way to Nolan’s Cigar Bar on East Front Street. After a cigar and a Manhattan at Nolan’s we drove to Black Star Farms just south of Sutton's Bay.

Black Star Farms is our favorite place to stay when we’re sojourning in the Traverse City area. The rooms are roomy, the breakfasts (included in the price) are superb and guests can help themselves to nightly hors-d’oeuvres and estate-produced wine in the lounge. It’s rarely crowded during the off season and there was one time when Barb and I had the entire place to ourselves.

The next morning after a breakfast of fried eggs, thick cut bacon and buckwheat pancakes we strolled around the grounds and visited with the horses that are boarded on the property. Barb was slightly miffed that the horses were more interested in their breakfasts than having their foreheads petted. After bidding goodbye to the aloof, hay-munching equines we drove to RPM Records in Traverse.

RPM Records is hands down the best record store we’ve been to. The shop has a massive selection of new and used vinyl and there’s a laid back golden retriever named Leland who, unlike the horses, was appreciative of Barb's attention. We found some good buys, among them a copy of Buddy Holly's greatest hits for $7.00.

Our next stop was the Orvis store in downtown TC. I was in the market for a new fly rod and after finding exactly what I was looking for proceeded to peruse the selection of waders.

“Do you need new waders?' my wife asked me.

“I do,” I said, immediately realizing that my answer sounded more like a whine than a reply.

“Then buy them,” she said.

I looked quizzically at my normally frugal wife and restrained myself from feeling her forehead. Barb also ended up buying waders along with a gizmo that supposedly hones your fly-casting technique. She's looking forward to taking a beginning fly-fishing class next month at the Orvis store in GR.

After putting our packages in the truck we had a beer at North Peak and then took a leisurely drive up and down the Old Mission Peninsula.

“What do you think the people who live in these mansions do for a living?” Barb asked.

“I’m sure they don’t own a beer store,” I replied.

When we got back to town we decided to stop at Right Brain Brewery. “Two-dollar tacos today,” the bartender told us after we took a seat at the bar.

‘I’ll take one,” I said.

“I’ll take one too,” said my wife.

While we were sipping our beers and waiting for our two-buck lunches brewery owner Russ Springsteen spotted us and came over for a chat. After we downed the tasty tacos Russ gave us a tour of his brewhouse.

Nolan's Cigar Bar
When we left Right Brain it was just about cocktail hour so we headed back to Nolan’s. Before going into the humidor I walked up to an older fellow who was standing behind the counter in the smoke shop. “Are you Mike?” I asked him.

I had heard that Mike Nolan’s eyesight was pretty bad and he peered closely at my face. “I am,” he said.

“Steve Siciliano,” I said and stuck my hand out. Mike has owned his shop for forty years and he’s in the process of selling the business to his two managers. Barb and I had met Andy and Ben on a Perdomo factory tour a few years ago. I asked Mike how the transition was going.

“Should be final in a couple of weeks,” he said.

“Ben and Andy are good kids.”

“Oh, they’re all right,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Mike insisted on buying Barb and I a cigar. “Make sure you tell the bartender that you’re in the industry,” he told me. “You’ll get a discount.” After a Manhattan we walked the two short blocks down Front Street to Georgina’s for dinner.

It was just getting dark when we pulled into Black Star’s parking lot. Before going to our room we stopped at the deserted lounge and I poured two glasses of Black Star’s excellent Cabernet Franc. We sipped the wine and talked about music and fly-fishing. It was a nice night cap, and a pretty good way to end a pretty good day in a beautiful area of northern Michigan.

New and Returning Beer

  • Abita Hop On, $1.89/12oz - "Abita Hop-On is a full-bodied “juicy pale,” packed with Cascade, Citra and Ekuanot hops to deliver refreshing tropical and citrus notes. It pours a vibrant light gold while the unique brewing process produces a distinctive haze. It’s also super food-friendly, great with seafood ceviche, fresh fruit or a nice aged cheddar. Give Hop-On a try and enjoy our brewmaster’s latest journey" (source).
  • Boulevard Grand Cru, $4.49/12oz - "Grand Cru, a term that brewers have borrowed from vintners for years, literally translates to “great growth,” but has come to be used to represent a special blend or a release that is of the highest quality. To create our Grand Cru, brewers selected lots of Bourbon Barrel Quad and a double mashed imperial stout aged in freshly-emptied whiskey barrels to express the most distinctive elements of each beer, creating a delicious whole that’s even greater than the sum of its parts" (source).
  • Deschutes Pacific Wonderland, $1.99/12oz  - "We’ve always believed the best way to respect tradition is to brew the unexpected. So when we set out to create a sessionable lager befitting of the Pacific Northwest, our sense of exploration led us to this dry-hopped wonder befitting of everyday adventure. Citrusy Mandarina Bavaria hops combine with the crisp, bright character of a traditional lager to deliver a beer that is truly refreshing, and undoubtedly worth sharing" (source).
  • Founders PC Pils, $1.39/12oz - "Pleasantly crisp, perfectly clean and profoundly crushable, PC Pils is our take on the classic Pilsner style. While Noble hops have been the preferred choice of Pilsner brewers around the world, we went with some of our favorite American varieties. Piney Chinook, pleasantly citrus Cascade and punchy Centennial make this an easy-drinker with floral hop characteristics. Pretty cool, if you ask us" (source).
  • Great Lakes Cloud Cutter, $1.89/12oz - "Bursts of juicy citrus zip across friendly, lightly filtered wheat skies in our high-flying tribute to the historic Cleveland Air Races" (source).
  • Hofbrau Maibock, $2.19/12oz - "Hofbräu Maibock has the longest pedigree of all Munich’s Bocks. Its aromatic flavor and alcoholic content of approximately 7.2% by volume makes it one of the best creations from Hofbräu’s brewing kettles. Hofbräu Maibock marks one of the high points in the beer-lover’s calendar" (source).
  • Mikkeller SD Big Hazy, $5.49/16oz - "Imperial IPA Brewed with Lupulin Powder" (source).
  • Mikkeller SD Drinco de Mayo, $2.99/16oz - "Mexican Lager, Abv 4.8%. This special brew was made in collaboration w/ Silenus and Insurgente" (source).
  • Mikkeller SD Traeblood, $6.79/16oz - "Imperial maple stout" (source).
  • New Belgium Honey Orange Tripel, $2.69/12oz - "For this recipe, our brewers drew inspiration from Belgian Golden Strong Ale, a style we love. We sought out the very best ingredients, sourcing wild honey from the African Bronze Honey Company, a member of the Fair Trade Federation and a certified B-Corp. The Seville orange peel is freshly ground 24 hours prior to the day we brew by the Old Town Spice Shop, less than one mile from our Fort Collins, Colorado brewery. In the end, we created a big, sweet and citrusy Belgian-style Tripel with thoughtfully sourced ingredients" (source).
  • North Coast BA Old Rasputin, $23.29/500ml - "Every year we age a special batch of our much-loved Russian Imperial Stout in Bourbon barrels. The depth, intensity, and complexity of the flavor profile of this special release, like its predecessors, make it a worthy tribute to Old Rasputin" (source).
  • Ommegang Hand of the Queen, $12.99/750ml - "A beer brewed for Tyrion Lannister. As one who knows a great many things, Tyrion knows and loves wine above all else, so Hand of the Queen is a big, bold barleywine, a beer fit for those who seek knowledge and truth, both great and small" (source).
  • Right Brain Blue Magic, $1.99/12oz  - "Blue Magic Lavender Wheat Ale is a uniquely different & refreshing brew. Did we mention it’s magical too? It’s brewed with local honey from Honey Pot Priory & fresh local lavender from Light Of Day Organics. This is a straight forward wheat with dried lavender. This brew has a floral nose and a wheat finish" (source).
  • Rogue Kulture Clash, $14.39/750ml - "A clash of beer and kombucha cultures create this unique sour ale" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada BFD, $2.19/19.2oz - "There are days when you want a beer—just a beer—that hits all the right spots. Well, this is it. No snifters required, no special occasions—just an unfussy, uncomplicated, hoppy blonde ale brewed to fit in no matter where it goes. This isn’t beer for collecting, this is beer for drinking" (source).
  • Watermark Homage, $3.49/16oz - "Traditional German Hefeweizen" (source).
  • Watermark King Prawn, $4.69/16oz - "King Prawn, our New England style IPA and dry hopped twice with mosaic hops" (source).

Video of the Week | Watermark, In a Can

From Watermark to Siciliano's.


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