Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012 Beer Travel in Review

The BBA crew in front of the Steam punk Tree House at Dogfish Head
This was quite a year for beer travel for the Better Beer Authority and myself.  We had our first official BBA road trip in February when we interviewed Sam Caligione at Dogfish Head in Delaware; followed by a Southwest Michigan Beercation in April when we interview the two owners, Mike and Steve, of Founders in Grand Rapids, MI.  I visited breweries and beer bars from Michigan to Bulgaria.  Below is my list of top beer spots that I visited during 2012.
Bar Hop.  Oysters and Beer!

Best Beer Bar Visit:
Bar Hop Toronto, ON. If you read my Toronto travel beer blog, you will know I loved this place.  With 24 outstanding Canadian craft beers on tap and fresh oysters shucked in front of me; this is a no brainer!  From the cask ale I had to the triple chocolate stout, I was in heaven.
Honorable mention goes to Capital Ale House in Richmond, VA, for its good food and killer beer list.

Best Brewery Visit (a tie!)
awaiting beer at Troegs
When I went to Troegs' new digs in Hershey, PA in early March, I was only familiar with a few of their beers.  By the time I left, I was well acquainted with all of their beers; including Scratch #58 (see below).  For anyone who visits the Hershey area, Troegs is a must visit, even more so than the Hershey Chocolate Factory tour.  And I hear the food options have only gotten much better!
Inside Dark Horse

The other brewery that stuck out was Dark Horse Brewing Company in Marshal, MI.  This was the second brewery we visited on day two of our Michigan Beer trip.  I could have stayed at the brew pub all weekend.  Everyone we met at Dark Horse was awesome; and their beers fantastic.  We even voted their Plead the 5th the #1 beer reviewed by our panel!.

Bottle Shop (a tie!)
During our Michigan beer trip, we met up with a BBA follower, Daniel, who works at Tiffany's Wine & Spirit Shop in Kalamazoo, MI.  I went there shortly before flying home and was able to pick up almost any beer from Michigan that I wanted.  There was also a good representation of craft beers from around the country.

Michigan beers at Tiffany''s
Lizardville in the Cleveland area was recommended to be by a number of Better Beer Authority Facebook followers. I went to the Bedford Heights location.  They are owned by the Winking Lizard, an Ohio craft beer bar/restaurant chain.  Lizardville has a great concept.  It is a bottle shop, beer bar, and whiskey bar all in one.  The staff was extremely helpful, the taps extremely desirable, and prices were reasonable.
please note I have yet to write my Cleveland beer blog, but it should be published within a week of this blog.

Best beers I found traveling:
Last year I didn't include my favorite beers I had while traveling, but two beers really stuck out to me that I feel need to be mentioned.  For this, category to work, it can only be beers I find while traveling that I can not get anywhere else.  So Pliny the Elder or Hopslam could not be on this list.

Troegs Scratch #58 triple mango IPA

Troegs has a Scratch Beer series which they brew small batches of semi-experimental beer on a small brewing system and share it at their brewery.  These are often collaborations of some sort.  Some Scratch beers do make it to tap take overs.  Scratch #58 was on tap the day I visited Troegs.  To this day, I swear it to be the best beer I have ever had.  It was a triple mango IPA that punched you in the mouth and kissed you on the lips.  This is a link to a video about the beer.

When I stumbled across this year's number one beer bar in Toronto,  I also stumbled into an amazing beer from Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery that would set a new standard on chocolate stouts...and musical collaborations.  The beer, a triple chocolate stout collaborated with musical act Bare Naked Ladies; Flying Monkeys BNL Imperial Stout!  This beer just seemed perfect to me.  I usually can only drink a little bit of stouts like this; but not this one.  I was ready to consume the entire keg!  If anyone can get me a bottle of this, I sure I can make a more than worthwhile trade!

So that's my beer travel in review.  25 breweries, 3 countries, hundreds of beers and lots of great people.  This year is lining up to be just as fun.:
San Diego (again)
Mexico City
.....who knows!

Happy New Year!
Richard Hartogs (BBA travel writer)


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