Beer Now! Cross Country Days 4 – 6

Beer Now! Cross Country Days 4 – 6

Beer now! Day 4 – 6

Day 4 started and we headed to the lake at the campground to check that out before heading out on to the road. When we got there the gate was locked. As I went to turn the BeeRV around, a woman signaled me to stop. She said she was with the local news and was doing a story about how the weather was ruining Memorial Day weekend. I said I would be happy to, but my weekend was fine so far… Here’s the result of me talking for 10 minutes. The ice cream girl got more time than me!

Wet, cooler weather impacting visitors, businesses that thrive on sunshine

Next stop –  Boulevard Brewing, where they had a new release Double IPA! We hung out there a bit and then walked over to Alma Mader. We wondered about the name, but it turns out it’s the owner’s last name. No big story there. The location was really crisp, and the beer was good.

Boulevard Brewing

We walked to there and back to where we parked the RV. Again, there needs to be more RV parking at breweries…

Then we went to the Bier Station for lunch, another of Craftbeer.com’s Best Beer Places from 2018. The beer selection there was excellent as was the food. While we were hanging out there, a random guy told us we should stop in Emporia at Radius Brewing

Good food and good beer, bier?

As we headed out of town, we were keeping a close eye on the weather after the previous evening’s events, and everything looked great. We were headed for Wichita, but had the Radius in our GPS. As we approached Emporia, the weather turned dark. The sky was greenish, and we had to turn on the headlights just to see. Lightning bolts were double tapping water tanks and trees.

We started to just head on down the turnpike to go through the storm, but our GPS software said it was closed! So we reentered the Radius into the GPS and headed into town.

Coming down the main street the rain began to pick up and become heavy. I could hear what sounded like a siren. We weren’t sure what it was. It had a steady noise but was changing volume slightly. The Weather Underground was still saying heavy thunderstorms.

We turned at the brewery, but it was slant parking and the BeeRV doesn’t fit in those types of spaces, more on that later… So we pulled around the corner did a u-turn and parked ½ a block away in a lot. It was raining extremely hard by then, so we decided to wait it our a bit. I thought I had hit a sign post parking the BeeRv,  so I put on my raingear and went out to check.

The sign was fine, but I noticed the sirens were obviously coming from several directions. I’m a bit dense but not stupid. I jumped back in and we started looking online. Liz realized there was a tornado warning on the National Weather Service site. The radio was saying take cover immediately in certain counties. We had to look that up, and sure enough, we were there. Here’s a live video I did.

About then it started to hail, so I decided to drive to the brewery. I slowly ran the red light at the corner. The streets were deserted and we just pulled into four diagonal spaces, on wrong side of the street, by the brewery.

As we exited the BeeRV, a lady was holding the door open at the beauty supply shop next to the brewery so we ran in. After a minute, I asked if the brewery was next door, and she said it was, so we made a break for it. Once inside, the place looked deserted!

The bartender was in the brewhouse above us and said we were welcome to come in for shelter. He allowed that most of the patrons had headed across the alley to a wine bar that had a basement. We asked why he stayed, and he said he had lived there all his life and was watching the Doppler radar and as far as he could tell, it didn’t look like it was going to hit there. He said if it turned he was going to go in the walk-in Cooler. Liz inquired if we would be welcome as well and he said sure!

That sounded good to me, I’d like to see what’s gonna kill me anyway! Liz was not as enthusiastic but with a little bourbon and coaxing, she hung out at the brewery.

Our shelter from the storm!

It was a bit eerie since all the table had food and beers on them like Great Expectations, but the customers were all gone.

Soon after the all clear was sounded, if it ever is in Tornado Alley, and people started returning to the bar. We finished out beer and bourbon and headed back out on the road to Wichita.

There was an amazing amount of flooding all along the Turnpike and many exits were closed.

Bad picture of the flooding…

The storms had mostly moved on, and by the time we got to The Anchor, it had stopped raining.

The Anchor is another bar on the list, so I went in and had a couple of beers and some good food. Liz was a bit upset because of the tornadoes, so she went to bed in the BeeRv down the street. My bartender, Zoe, took good care of me. The meat market was closed as of 8pm and I was looking for a steak, so she suggested the filet, sliced with sides, and it was excellent.

Nice food and beer at the Anchor!

I returned to the BeeRV and after a few minutes of looking at options, I decided we were good where we were. There were no cars that I saw all night, or people walking, since it was Saturday of the holiday weekend. Unfortunately, the trains coming through downtown Wichita, had to blow their whistles all night long at the crossings. Not just short blows, but long drawn out horns. I looked on the internet and it’s a big problem. Even with earplugs it was a rough night, plus worrying about being parked in downtown Wichita…

Up on Day 5 with no casualties and earlier than usual. We just took off with out coffee or anything headed to Oklahoma City. We stopped at a lake just north of OKC, and it was closed as well due to all the crazy weather. We found a fisherman’s parking lot that was empty and stopped to get cleaned up and organized for the day.

Our first stop in Oklahoma City was another best-of-all-the-states bar, the Oak and Ore. The beer was good and they had the best fried okra. So far the list has been good to us. A bit challenging area for the BeeRV…

Oak and Oar bar in Oklahoma City.

Prairie Artisan Ales was the next stop and we happened upon an in-progress bottle share in the parking lot.

The random bottle share guys at Prairie…

Had a nice chat with those folks and we headed in the brewery. Excellent beer there and we had a great conversation with the bartender. Unfortunately, I missed his name. He hooked us up with a couple of beers for the show. The bottle share guys directed us to some other places, so we headed out. One was in walking distance, but unfortunately was too busy for us to get served.

Small but good!

Next stop – Stone Cloud, which came highly recommended by several people. It did not disappoint! The only bad thing is I couldn’t talk the guy out of a bottle of a house-only barley wine…  guess my Huck powers aren’t what they used to be.

Great bartender at Stone Cloud!

Elk Valley Brewing has a rooftop patio that looks the city. They also had hopped water for hydration. That’s the first time I’ve seen that! Step up, other brewers!! The beer was very diverse and tasty.

Apparently a poorly placed mirror over the urinal with an effective solution…

View from Elk Valley

We stopped by the Oklahoma City National Memorial our way out of town.

Oklahoma City National Memorial

We left Saturday afternoon, and tornadoes hit there Saturday night!

We headed out for Amarillo and once again, here come the dreaded tornado warnings. As we approached the storm, the weather service was pinpointing it at Elk City. We stopped at Clinton for water as the storm began to hit and the clerk at the store said to try the Kmart. The manager said fine, so we joined several other RVs and trucks at the tree line in the parking lot.

Unfortunately, the storm changed course and came right at us. Fortunately, no tornado, but that was one huge thunderstorm.

Day 6 started out with rain, grey and cloudy.

We stopped at the Route 66 Museum and walked around, even though it was closed. Cool place!

Sculptures at the Route 66 Museum.

Route 66 Museum.

To cheer ourselves up we headed to the Canyon Texas Imperial Taproom, another best state bar. We were concerned because we got a slow start and the kitchen closed at two. They were quite gracious about it, and we had an excellent Steak Benedict! First one for me…

Cool kitchen sign.

Quote!

Steak Benedict

The vibe there was very positive, and I can see why they were selected as a best beer bar.

The beer selection lived up to the hype and they suggested another brewery on our way, Pondaseta. This place had some interesting stuff. Their mead was good, but I couldn’t get a crowler of it. Sorry.

 

Nice stop on the way at Pondaseta Brewing

After all the excitement of the previous few days, we decided to head to Tucumcari and get an early night and some rest. When we hit New Mexico, I kept seeing these coachwhip snakes. They were too fast to get a picture but are about 8 feet long and very thin and fast.

Tucumcari is a cool little town mentioned in the Little Feat sing “Willin,” so we had to go there.

 

Best store in Tucumcari!

What do you think happened?

Yep, Tornado watch… we were at a RV park called Blaze-in-Saddles so what could go wrong?

It passed quickly and we got a great night’s sleep with full hookups!

Huck was here!

 

 

Beer Now! Cross country journey days 1-3.

Beer Now! Cross country journey days 1-3.

Journey to Beer Now!

We started on Tuesday the 21st of May and drove from Blacksburg to Louisville. Of course our first stop was the Buffalo Trace Distillery! It’s my favorite bourbon these days. There’s plenty of choices on the bourbon trail, and I’m a firm believer in to each their own…  The tour was everything I’d hoped it would be, and I learned a lot about the making of one of my other favorite beverages. I have to say I was a bit surprised that even at the source, you can only buy a limited amount of the product. We arrived late in the day and were only able to secure one fifth. Still, I highly recommend this tour or any of the other ones they offer.

Standing with the Angels.

That evening we stopped our first “Great American Beer Bars 2018”, The Holy Grale (a play on words for “great ale). Those folks were great to us and we did a Facebook live from there on Huck’s Beer Buzz Facebook page.

We ended up spending the night at Mile Wide Brewing. Those folks had great beer and made us feel especially welcome.

We all wanted to go in there but, OSHA and all that BS…

Matt from Mile Wide gave us several pieces of good advice. First, he suggested that we should go to Sergio’s World Beers. We headed over there, and it turned out to be the best beer store I’ve ever seen. It’s not for everyone – ratings can be subjective. He had beer dating back to 1956. He estimated he had 1700 different beers with a total collection of 25,000 bottles and cans. We saw at least six walk-in coolers of differing temperatures, and there was a whole other building we didn’t see. Also, all available wall space was filled with coolers full of beer.

The tap list at Sergio’s

One note – Sergio even carries Bud Light. The thing is, it’s $80 a bottle. I’ve always said craft beer places should have Macro beer, just price it accordingly.  A 10-oz. draft of Bud heavy for $18 would be appropriate.

Day Two started at Churchhill Downs and a tour of the racetrack and grandstands. That’s a must-do in Louisville!

Tourists!

We headed to St Louis and the second suggestion from Matt. Two of the folks at Mile Wide used to work for Schlafly’s, so he suggested we try to stay there. We headed that way and were disappointed to see a no-overnight-parking sign. We went in and asked around, and one of the managers, Charles, came up and assured us it would be fine. He also gave us some good advice about where to go in St. Louis and Kansas City and on the way.

A Huck flight…

Classic craft beer place!

We hit up Perennial Artisan Ales and they were releasing a new beer as we came in the door, so we got a free sample. One of my favorite beers is free beer!

Not just great beer!

Next on the list was Square One Brewing. The building at Square One started out as a pub for Budweiser employees, and it is the longest continuously open bar in the city. It’s a restaurant, brewery, and distillery.

Double flights, that’s how we roll…

We also hit Rockwell Brewing, which is a great new brewery. Jordyn hooked us up with some beer that’s going to be featured on a future Brewsday Tuesday show!  This place had the best bathrooms so far.

Best bathrooms!

The brewery was built using some shipping containers and had a great look to go with their great beer!

Huckette is ready to party!

That night there were massive storms with tornadoes not too far from us. We slept through most of it and had no damage. Thinking good thoughts for those affected.

We hit the Gateway Arch in the morning and saw the flooding on the Mississippi. We rode the trolley up and checked out the view. Very nice!

View of the Mississippi from the top.

View from the park.

We had our good morning beers at 4 Hands Brewing, which came highly recommended and did not disappoint! There may be a little something to be shared at Beer Now…

4 Hands Brewing

On our way to Kansas City we stopped at Walmart for provisions and realized that Logboat Brewing was one mile away in Columbia, MO. It was also highly recommended by several folks we met in St Louis. It was overrun with celebrating teachers, which is appropriate since the owner used to be a teacher! They were handling the crowd very well and made time to discuss the operation with us. They had really good beer.

Cool random stuff in the upper windows at Logboat!

We tried to hit two more downtown breweries, but the BeeRV was unable to find a landing strip big enough. Note to breweries: Have some big parking spaces. or directions on your website to the same!

At this point we were ready for a  break so we stopped at Blue Springs Campground just outside of Kansas City. Nice, quiet, cheap, and pretty!

Relaxing after a long day of touristing and tasting…

Huck was here!

Dogfish and Boston Beer – What’s the Deal?

Big news with the merger?! Purchase of Dogfish Head by Boston Beer. Lots of speculation about what is going on. Here’s my read. As an official old guy, I have a bit of a different perspective than most young writers. My read is that Jim Koch realizes that he’s at the a point in his life that he needs to figure out what’s going to happen after he’s gone. He is one of the great innovators in the craft beer industry!

How can his legacy be best continued into the future? Jim Koch is 69 years young and Sam Caglione is 49 years old. They both grew breweries from nothing to something in the early years of the craft beer movement. Sam is certainly one of the greatest innovators of craft beer with his off-centered beers for off-centered people!

My read on this is that Jim is looking to replace himself over the next couple of years. Sam is the perfect subject for that scenario. With his lovely wife Mariah, he grew Dogfish head from a small brewpub to the craft beer powerhouse it is today. They are the perfect team to take over the helm at Boston Beer Company and bring craft beer into the big boys’ territory.

We could be seeing history being made and the beginning of the transition from micro beer to macro beer. To be more clear, micro beer is about to transition to macro beer.

I’ll just leave that there…

Huck’s been doing some art!

Huck’s been doing some art!

I went to a Wine and Design function at the Wine Lab in Blacksburg and painted this:

Huck's first painting.
Huck’s first painting!

The instructors for Wine and Design are first rate and do events around town as well as at their studio!

The Wine Lab is a really cool new concept bar in Blacksburg with lots of events and great wine from around the world. Of course, they have some beer as well!

Check it out! Tell them Huck sent you. If you want to see more of my art, check out my art page.

Is there beer in Las Vegas? Yes, and no…

Is there beer in Las Vegas? Yes, and no…

I recently returned from a trip to the Sin City and was a bit surprised and disappointed that there’s not more beer there. The craft beer scene has not really changed that much over the last 5 years. There’s several decent breweries and brew pubs, but they are not seeing the growth that seems evident in other areas.

I get that there’s a bunch of distractions…gambling, shows, music, reefer, and hookers, but why not more small breweries? Ok, I’ll hazard a guess. It’s hard to compete with free…

If you go to a casino and put $20 down, chances are you will get a free drink. And in places like Main Street Station, downtown near Freemont Street, that might be a craft beer.

Ellis Island casino is another place where gambling and quaffing go side by side. Strangely, the 4 Queens hotel and casino have a brewery, but they don’t share freely with the gamblers. Several other casinos are in the same shape with great multi-tap bars but no overflow or even regular flow onto the casino floor.

I’ll shout out to Tenaya Creek, Hop Nuts, and Banger Brewing, who are continuing to provide some craft beer in Vegas.

I decided to head out to to Death Valley, where I heard there was a new brewery.

Sight seeing on the way! Seven Magic Mountains.

A brewery called Death Valley Brewing? Seriously way out there in the desert, they are in Tecopa, CA. Not even in Nevada, but making craft beer in the most hostile of environments! Also, best logo ever, “When you are dyin’ for a cold one!”

 

It gets better. They told me about another brewery a couple of miles away, Tecopa Brewing, where they only have one beer available at a time due to the small size of the system and only having one fermentor. As soon as they put a beer on tap, they start the next one. Problem is, they always sell out before the next one is ready! 30 gallon system… don’t ask me how that works. This place has hot springs. Most places that’s pretty cool, aka let’s go check out the hot springs and get rejuvenated. Not so much here. Might get cooked! Remember, it’s Death Valley! Or close enough to count. The “season” is in the winter. The water is too hot in the summer to bathe in or use to make beer. It’s kinda a ghost town, if you know what I mean… But they persevere and do the best with what they have.

Hanging with Westley the Brewer!

Then there’s getting there. Google took me down a single track gravel and sand road through the desert in my nice compact rental car. Bastards!

4-wheeling in a rental car in Death Valley…

Actually, it was kinda fun. I’ve always joked that the best 4×4 vehicle is a rental car since if you get stuck, they will bring you a new one! Probably need phone service for that though. I met a camera crew at Death Valley Brewing, and they said they came down the same road. The guy said his buddy was driving and was going 60 to 70 mph. I said, well, you kinda have to to keep up out of the sand. We had a beer and a laugh!

They also have a mug club there, and the mugs are glass skulls. It *is* Death Valley!

It was was a three-hour drive each way. Fortunately, I broke it up with a couple of side trips. First, on the way there, I went ATV driving in the dessert with ATV Adventures. Great folks, check them out. Then I stopped at the saloon for a ghost hot dog and some beer. On the way out, I circled around to Pahrumph for a little gambling. A day well spent, and I didn’t die!

Eat my dust!

Huck was here!

InBev’s The High End vs. Brewers Advocates Independent Craft – Thoughts on Independence Day…

InBev’s The High End vs. Brewers Advocates Independent Craft – Thoughts on Independence Day…

People are talking about the new “Independent Craft” label offered up to brewers by the Brewers Association. You can only use it if it you meet the BA’s craft brewers definition, have a valid TTB brewers notice, and sign a license agreement. If so, they can freely display it on their advertising and packaging.

The new Independent Craft logo. (Image courtesy of the Brewers Association.)

They quietly released it through craft beer news folks, and it was received by many craft beer aficionados favorably…mainly because, in today’s confusing craft beer market, it’s hard to tell which beers are true craft and which ones are fake craft, or no longer independent.

Why does it matter? There are two reasons. First, since the beginning of craft beer, the large brewers, using the power of their distribution networks, have attempted to limit, and in some cases destroy, the burgeoning craft beer industry. Recently, that has extended to purchasing popular regionally situated breweries. They say it’s to expand their market. Some feel they are doing it to avoid or prevent the diminishing sales of their primary brands, which could cause a write-down of the goodwill generated by purchases on their balance sheet.  Here’s a good article about that: http://goodbeerhunting.com/blog/2017/5/5/watch-the-hands-not-the-cards-the-magic-of-megabrew. This weekend there was some Goose Island beer one my friends bought for $5.99 a six pack at a c-store. The bad news for big beer is that this person usually drinks the Sliver Bullet. Bought the “craft” beer because it was cheaper…

Others feel it’s just good hard business practice to beat down the competition. In Texas Holdem, it’s common practice to go all-in against a smaller stacked opponent to force them out of a hand. Many craft brewers believe in a more community approach. It’s common for small brewers to share items if one brewer has enough and can help a fellow brewer out without material damage to themselves.

We’ve all read stories about pay-for-play and sure, both sides do it. It’s more of a China vs. the dissidents kind of thing in those contests. The tank rolls forward and there’s 30 different package styles of Bud Light or Shock Top on the shelves and two lonely local craft brewers sideways in the corner at the Walmart. The BA action is intended to make it more of a David vs. Goliath sort of thing by providing weapons. I’m pretty sure folks won’t be checking Miller Lite for the label, but there are many times seeing some sort of confirmation it’s a “real” craft beer would be helpful. There’s the added bonus for new craft beer enthusiasts to be sure they are actually drinking craft beer.

Secondly, we are not talking about Budweiser purchasing craft breweries. They were arguably the first brewery purchased. Once the deal was done, cost-cutting measures were taken and continue to be taken. The company is based in Belgium and controlled by Brazilians. We can’t say if the austerity measures will continue with the purchases of additional breweries, but there have been incidents. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout comes to mind…

One party that took offense to the new badge was The High End, InBev’s corporate division that owns and controls the purchased breweries. Some evidence of their control is this video that came out almost immediately after the debut of the independent craft label.

Six Viewpoints from the High End.

Not to get personal, but these six brewers from around the country were summoned by their overlords to gather together and make this slick film about their reactions. Interestingly, Walt Dickenson, of newly purchased Wicked Weed, speaks of the invading beers from across the seas and they are the ones making the film. He also goes on about a civil war, and again, that’s the battle. The logo may help the smaller army win.  Felipe sounds like he might be one of those foreign invaders. I have friends and followers all over the world, so I’m not picking on his nationality, just being observant.

I get the feeling David Buhler thinks he knows better than the rest of us what is good about and for beer. I’m not sure that’s what he was going for, but it sure came across as pretentious.

Then there’s Garrett Wales…your little bottles don’t mean shit to him. Kinda says it all, doesn’t it?

The craft beer world is moving towards a complete separation, with major distributors dominating the market and small beer stores and brewpubs being the best model going forward. It’s not clear that the breweries that have been purchased are no longer making good beer. It is apparent that they are a clear and present danger to breweries that want to expand beyond a local footprint. The farther away the consumer is from a particular brand, the more difficult it is to find shelf or tap space when distribution is so controlled by the big guys.

Hurrah for stores and bars who keep their selection to the best beers available. I, for one, believe that the Independent Craft Label is a great tool to help us decide what to buy, tap, and drink.

On this Independence Day, join the fight and get yourself some yummy “Independent” Craft Beer! Don’t let the aliens win! Wait, that was the “other” Independence Day movie…

Huck was here!

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