All-American April: Resurgence & Hamburg Breweries, Western New York

While the Ontario craft beer scene has just started to really pick up, the US craft scene has been alive and kicking for a good while. We can’t resist checking out the local beer wherever we happen to travel, so we decided this month we’d do an “All-American April” to feature some of the US places we’ve been.

Though we’re only about an hour from the Buffalo border, we don’t get across as often as we’d like to check out the American breweries (blame the currency exchange). That said, here’s a couple of the breweries we’ve been lucky to check out so far within a relatively brief drive from Southern Ontario, with a lot more still remaining on our wishlist.

Hamburg Brewing

In the town of Hamburg, NY, about 20 minutes outside of Buffalo, is Hamburg Brewing, a rural brewery with a huge property. The building housing the brew-works and bar is also very large, though the bar area still feels cozy, with stone and wood giving it the feel of a rustic ski chalet.

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Out back there’s a gorgeous patio with tables clustered around a pond filled with fat koi. Since we were lucky enough to have dropped by on a sunny summer’s day, we took full advantage of their beautiful outdoor patio.

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The beer list was long, with about 12 taps dedicated to their own creations. It was also more creative that we might sometimes expect from a more “local” brewery. Some of our highlights were:

  • House Dressing – an American Amber, currently vaulted (but not fully retired), this was an interesting red that certainly had high hops, but also a high maltiness that balanced it very well and gave it an overall caramel tone
  • IPA – an IPA even Jessica (a non-bitter-flavour-lover) enjoyed, with both pine and floral hops in the taste, and enough malt to even it all out
  • Irish Red – a proper Irish red, smoky and roasty with a malty smoothness despite the smoke.
  • Sweet Tang – A very light, sweet, citrus fruit beer brewed with grapefruit and Lemondrop hops, verging very closely into Radler-territory. Certainly refreshing for a hot summer day like we had.

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Resurgence Brewing

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Resurgence Brewing is in an industrial area of Buffalo, and this warehouse brewery was hopping when we were there. The large bar area, with long wooden benches, beer hall style, was packed with groups of friends and families mingling in the casual and comfortable atmosphere, playing bar games or enjoying a couple flights. The great patio out back had a bit of a thinner crowd due to the intense heat the day we were there.

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The bar menu had some great snack items on it – exactly what you’d want for beer (like nachoes, pretzels, and pizza – we went for pizza).

The beer list itself was very creative, with a pretty heavy focus on additions to your usual styles with everything from all sorts of fruit to hot peppers to sponge toffee.

Unfortunately, the Sponge Toffee Stout had just ran out when we arrived
Unfortunately, the Sponge Toffee Stout had just ran out when we arrived

Some of our favourites were:

  • Smokey the Beer – A Scottish-export style with the smoke dialed right up. As we’re both smoke lovers (see the Irish Red from Hamburg Brewing above as further proof), this was our overall winner at Resurgence
  • Mangose – As you might guess by the name, it’s a mango gose. It was heavier on the mango than either the salt or the sour, but a refreshing fruity taste regardless
  • Loganberry Wit – Neither of us are familiar enough with loganberry to recognize the taste right away, but this wit had a red berry taste with a bitter berry flavour more akin to a cranberry than a strawberry or raspberry. It was a good match to the coriander of the Wit.
  • Chipotle Cinnamon Stout – Burning but interesting. The cinnamon taste came out as the dominant flavour. We were glad we’d tried it, but and this is great as a small taster – but certainly not a particularly sessionable choice.

What’s Next?

The Western and upstate New York craft brewing scene is very hot, so we have a ton of breweries left to visit. Such as:

  • Big Ditch Brewing
  • Flying Bison Brewing
  • Woodcock Brothers Brewing
  • 12 Gates Brewing

. . .  and more.

 

Visit date: June 24, 2016

All-American April: Craft Beer in Las Vegas

While the Ontario craft beer scene has just started to really pick up, the US craft scene has been alive and kicking for a good while. We can’t resist checking out the local beer wherever we happen to travel, so we decided this month we’d do an “All-American April” to feature some of the US places we’ve been.

It’s true: you can get craft beer in Las Vegas. Here’s our take on what breweries and beer bars were easy enough to visit from a casino/hotel on the Strip.

Sin City Brewing

Sin City Brewing

With four locations serving up their own beer list on The Strip, we’d venture to say that Sin City Brewing is the easiest Vegas brewery to locate. We visited the location inside the Grand Canal Shops, a stone’s throw away from the canals, gondoliers and palazzos of “Venice”. To our Canadian eyes, the walk-up bar within a mall (with to-go beers as well) was both peculiar and should absolutely be a thing here.

Sin City Brewing

Sin City serves up five beers + a rotating seasonal. We found that they were all pretty basic or traditional styles – but done quite well. We were even surprised by their Light Lager, which we tried with some serious hesitation, as light lagers are not a style either of us is generally a fan of. But we found it quenching, and much more malty than your average light lager, and both of us enjoyed even that.

Ellis Island Brewery & Casino

Ellis Island Casino & Brewery

One long block off the Strip, on Koval Lane at E. Flamingo Dr, Ellis Island Casino & Brewery is what’s often described as a “neighbourhood casino” – meaning it’s not on the glitzy Las Vegas Strip, and their clientele is primarily the locals. The slots were low value (heavy on nickels and pennies), and it had a more casual atmosphere than the rest. It’s also a brewery, with a window you can peek into on-premises to the see the inner workings.

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The beer was also dirt cheap, for Vegas or anywhere. A $7 flight, which included 6 beers and a root beer, was a great deal. Like Sin City, they focus on 5 key styles that are relatively traditional and common-place, and a rotating seasonal. The standards were decent, but our major winner was the seasonal – at the time, it was a Winter Spiced Ale which had the taste of cinnamon and mulled cranberries.

Banger Brewing

Banger Brewing

If you decide to take the Deuce from the Strip and head up to see the Fremont Street Experience, find this neon among all the rest and don’t miss Banger Brewing, located right on Fremont Street.

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Banger went into fully inventive craft territory, with a long list of their own beers and some local guest taps. Josh loved the Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout Dark Angel, and we both found the Morning Joe, a kolsch with hazelnut and caramel coffee, really tasty. And that’s saying something, considering Jessica doesn’t drink coffee – it was more like a beer version of a Coffee Crisp than a cup of coffee.

The vibe was that kind of industrial-hipster aesthetic that you see in a lot of breweries back home. We were into it. Felt like a good hang-out place, appropriate for locals and tourists.

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BEER BARS

Public House

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Inside the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shops, not far off the casino floor is this gem of a gastropub. Prohibition-themed with a look that’s kind of industrial meats swanky, Public House’s menu looked good (we were between meals), and the beer and liqour lists were fabulous.

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We were delighted in trying US craft from all over, with a special focus on Vegas and the surrounding area. Since we were between meals, we sidled up to the bar, conveniently located near their interior entrance, and chatted with the bartenders on beer, beer regulations and politics.

Yard House

Advertised as having the world’s largest selection of draft beer, even though Yard House is a chain, we couldn’t resist heading over to the Vegas Strip location, which is in the row of outdoor shops at The LINQ. After all, we don’t have any of them near here! The food was pretty good, and seemed to have a sort of Mexicali focus (we enjoyed the fish tacos), and the staff was particularly friendly.

A bartender hams it up for the camera
A bartender hams it up for the camera

And yes, the beer list is pretty amazing. Multi-page and organized by stylistic tendencies, it also featured a lot of the US craft beers we’d hear about but would never be able to try. Too bad that the closest installment of this restaurant from our house is all the way in Ohio.
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MISSED THIS TIME

There’s a few more breweries in Vegas, but we found them a bit further afield and trickier to access as a non-car-having traveller staying on The Strip (e.g., Tenaya Creek Brewery, Hop Nuts Brewery, and Big Dog Brewing Co)

We know there’s some good beer bars in Vegas, but again some were further out and we just couldn’t see everything! Two on our wishlist included: Aces & Ales and Atomic Liqours. And then there’s Hofbrauhaus, a classic German beer hall like it’s namesake in Munich . .  but as we’ll be at the original in May, we decided we could leave it off.

Visit date: February 2017

All-American April: Courtyard Brewery & Uptown New Orleans Beer

While the Ontario craft beer scene has just started to really pick up, the US craft scene has been alive and kicking for a good while. We can’t resist checking out the local beer wherever we happen to travel, so we decided this month we’d do an “All-American April” to feature some of the US places we’ve been.

New Orleans is known for cocktails, bourbon, food, music, revelry. . . but craft beer? Not particularly. That said, NOLA and surrounding areas have some amazing breweries. When Jessica went with her friends for Jazz Fest 2016, they were able to pop by a couple neat places on their limited schedule. From Jessica:

Even without Josh, I can’t stop myself from searching out the craft beer wherever I end up. There’s so much to see in New Orleans that I couldn’t also visit all the breweries, so along with my travel-partners, we focused somewhat on Uptown (though you can bet we were in the French Quarter as well!).

Hop on the green St Charles streetcar line from Canal Street (yes, it will be filled with tourists, but the photo opportunities will be worth it), and head over to the Garden District and Lower Garden District for these craft beer stops.

Courtyard Brewery

IMG_20160425_173057849_HDRDown a quiet industrial street in the Lower Garden District, is the lovely little Courtyard Brewing. It’s full of colour, quirk, and (to my Canadian eyes) a very tropical flair – it must be the palm trees. Generally, it’s the sort of brewery you want to hang out in. And it seemed like many people were doing exactly that.

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The beer itself is a mix of local craft and their own creative styles. Last April, the list reflected the sours and juicy beers that are only really picking up here in Ontario now, as the US tends to be ahead of the craft beer trends.

The food is supplied by food trucks that rotate based on the day of the week. All in all, a place all of us wished we lived closer to so we could hang out more often.

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The Bulldog

If you’re browsing antique shops and other independent stores down Magazine Street in the Garden District, a great place to pop in for a little refresher is The Bulldog Uptown.

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A proper old-fashioned English style pub with a long beer list focused on semi-local craft, and a beautiful tree and hanging lamp-lined patio, it was another perfect place to hang out.

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The patio also had a pretty unique fountain, with all the old tap heads as spouts.

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NOLA Brewing

The Bulldog is not a far walk from NOLA Brewing, on the banks of the Mississippi. You won’t see the River because of the walls, but you can’t miss the big red brewery.

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Unfortunately for us, the day we happened to walk on down they were having a ticketed Jazz & Crawfish event. That would have been amazing if we weren’t already occupied in seeing the city all day. Luckily we’d been able to try some of their beer at The Bulldog.

What Did We Miss?

I didn’t see enough of the New Orleans craft beer scene. If I had more time, I would have checked out:

So these are all on the list for the next time!

Visit Date: April 2016

All-American April: Drinking (Beer) Around the World at EPCOT, Orlando, Florida

While the Ontario craft beer scene has just started to really pick up, the US craft scene has been alive and kicking for a good while. We can’t resist checking out the local beer wherever we happen to travel, so we decided this month we’d do an “All-American April” to feature some of the US places we’ve been.

Disney World may seem like an odd choice for two adults, but once we heard about “drinking around the world” at EPCOT’s World Showcase, when we happened to be in Orlando, we knew we had to try it. Here’s our best bets for craft-beer-lovers in EPCOT.

To start, the World Showcase is a ring of eleven “countries” surrounding a lagoon. In true Disney fashion, the attention to detail in each one is exquisite (from food to architecture to the staff that come to work there, everything fits the regional themes), but there’s a bit of generalization in most of the pavilions. E.g. Canada consists solely BC and Quebec. You can start the ring at either Canada or Mexico, but we opted for the familiar first.

Canada

Totem poles, mountains, Butchart Gardens. And a couple of beer choices: you could go with Moosehead, Moosehead Light, or… a Unibroue! Try La Fin du Monde from the little cart out front, or from the cozy steakhouse, for the certainly superior choice.

The UK

It’s a charming little village with a mishmash of UK shops, restaurants, and staff. Based on a recommendation, we popped into the Rose and Crown Pub for some excellent, hearty pub grub – we heard the fish and chips stand out front is also very good – and went for pub blends as our beer. The whole beer-blending thing was relatively new to us but the Black Velvets were delicious. There was also a decent UK beer list available in the pub.

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France

The real country isn’t exactly the biggest beer country and the Disney version wasn’t much different. The only beer option was Kronenbourg. We opted out of beer on this leg of the trip, and instead went for boozy slushies made with Grand Marnier and Grey Goose – delicious, and extravagant. And try the ice cream, it’s delicious (you can also meet Belle from Beauty and the Beast here if that’s what floats your boat). Josh particularly liked the salted caramel ice cream.

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Morocco

Morocco was probably the prettiest “country” with its colourful tile-work and shops tucked away in corners. We sat on a ledge at the edge of the country with an overly familiar squirrel and split a sangria and a Turkish beer – Efes Dark from Anadolu Efes (unfortunately, there were no Moroccan beers available). It was a thin-bodied yet malty, nutty, and roasted offering, good for hot weather.

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Japan

The bulk of Japan is a store, but each section of it has a different theme and exuberant Japanese staff that seem to really enjoy what they’re doing. We’d done our research and knew that we had to make our way to the very back of the store to the sake bar, where in addition to trying sake, we could try Ginga Kogen, a Japanese Hefeweizen. Certainly one of the more unique beers to us at the showcase.

American Pavilion

Like a 19th Century small town city hall, flags and all, the American Pavilion is appealing American. The Block and Hans booth right front and centre has everything a craft beer lover would want, with a nice little selection of rotating US craft beers, all of which we’re unable to get at home.

Italy

An interesting amalgam of various Italian town squares, we spotted references to several famous cities. You might not expect Italy to be a beer country, but the Moretti La Rossa that you can get from Via Napoli is definitely worth a try.  A malty doppelbock, much different from the more common Moretti lager you see regularly.

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Germany

Not a surprise, Germany was a beer drinking destination. It was also overwhelmingly Bavarian in theme, with cuckoo clocks and steins everywhere. The beer list is solid at every food vendor, but we went for an Altenmunster Oktoberfest, which he had yet to see in Canada. Nicely balanced between light and rich.

Soon enough, we'll be in the real Bavaria!
Soon enough, we’ll be in the real Bavaria!

African Outpost

Not an actual “country” in the World Showcase (and really not a country at all – why not choose a country instead of a continent?). We chose not to include it as an official stop on our drinking around the world, as the beer selection also wasn’t very exciting!

China

Apparently you can also get a draft Tsing Tao (which we only ever see in bottles at home), but we were entranced by the idea of trying plum wine. It was so good, we decided to take a bottle home with us.

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Norway

Norway seems to stand in for a generic Scandinavian/Nordic country, with one section of the “country” being replaced with a Frozen ride while we were there (it might be ready by now). The drinks stall out front had the beer that would become our winner at the park entirely: Einstok White Ale, a crisp, clear, fresh and fruity Icelandic beer. You could also have a Carlsberg, but you may find it for a lower price outside the showcase.

Mexico

We chose to go with a non-beer offering again. Modelo was a decent option to try, but we’d had it before, and had heard the margaritas at La Cava del Tequila, inside the Maya pyramid, where not-to-be-missed. We agreed! We had an amazingly juicy mango margarita rimmed with cayenne pepper.

When the trip was over, we surprised ourselves by agreeing that we’d come back some day! Maybe ten years down the road. We’d recommend it to adults travelling to Orlando who want a trip around the world without leaving Disney.

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As a bonus, Orlando Brewing

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We also had time for one local craft brewery on our trip, and opted for Orlando Brewing. Totally worth the cab out to the brewery, it has a nice tropical feel to it, both inside and out, and a long beer list. Some winners for us were the Eminent Domain Scottish Ale and Blackwater Dry Porter.

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 Visit date: February 2016

On Your Marks, Get Set, Gose!

About a year back, we here at Hoppily Ever After had a chat about what we thought would be the next big trend in local craft. Our guess? Sours. Turns out we were partially right.

GOSE (that’s like “goze-uh”) seems to really be picking up steam in the Ontario craft beer world and we couldn’t be happier. This odd little brew of German origin is often considered a sour, but that’s over-simplifying it a bit. A Gose will also often have the coriander tastes of a Witbier, and possibly also with fruity tangs. What makes it unique:  it’s also brewed with salt.

If you haven’t tried a Gose, you might not think salt would be a tasty (or refreshing) addition to a beer. And you’d be wrong on both counts.

Gose is originally from the German town of Gostar, where it gets its name. Due to the salt, it doesn’t meet the standards of the Reinheitsgebot (the German Beer Purity Law), but it got an exception because of being a local specialty. These days, we’re seeing them local to us as well! Here’s a few Goses we’ve been able to find so far:

Nickel Brook‘s Ceres Cucumber Lime Gose

Nickel Brook Gose - Hoppily Ever After BlogOne of Nickel Brook’s “Lab Series”, this Gose entered the world in July 2016. It tastes like everything you want it to taste like by reading its name. Very cucumber. Very lime. Even quite fizzy. But that sour-salty classic Gose taste evens it all out and turns this into a very drinkable and innovative experiment .

Where to find it: We got ours right from the Nickel Brook Brewery in Burlington. But we’ve also seen it on tap at the beer garden of their sister brewery in Hamilton, Collective Arts.

And speaking of Collective Arts…

Collective Art‘s Collective Project: Gose

Collective Arts Gose - Hoppily Ever After Blog

They went for the classic Gose taste with this one, also categorized as a sort of experiment (or “project”, at least), this beer succeeds perfectly. If you are new to the Gose world and want to try that beautiful salty sour taste in its original style, go looking for this. Great for hot weather.

Where to find it: The brewery and beer garden in Hamilton is, of course, a good bet. But they’ve got these canned. We haven’t seen them in the LCBOs, but we have seen them in local beer-bearing grocery stores!

For something quite different again….

Refined Fool‘s You Are Lazy Susan Rosemary Gose

Refined Fool Gose - Hoppily Ever After Blog
Photo Credit: Katie Hurst

It has a salty pucker and a strong rosemary taste. Josh, who grew up on homemade French and Italian cuisine, thought this was amazing (one of his winning sample at Because Beer). Jess associates rosemary a bit too much with roast turkey, but still this beer managed to impress her.

Where to find it: We found it at a local beer festival. Then, there’s always the brewery in Sarnia.

The Ghost of Gose Past

  • Beau’s made two gose, neither of which are currently available (at least where we can find them):
    • Opa’s Gose apparently even came with an attached sea salt bag. Jessica would have loved to try this, isn honour of her own Opa.
    • Boom Gose the Dynamite was in last year’s Oktoberfest mixpack. Perhaps we’ll see another one day! (But not in this year’s Oktoberfest pack).
  • And we’ve heard about Muskoka’s mysterious Moonlight Kettle. Apparently they made a mysterious Gose called “Gose ‘Round” in March of this year

Gose Just Across the (Buffalo) border

We’ve also ducked across the Buffalo border and found some Gose at breweries beyond:

  • Mangose (a mango gose, get it?) at Resurgence Brewing right in Buffalo, NY
  • Blackberry Gose at Hamburg Brewing Company, in an idyllic farm-brewery setting 20 minutes out of Buffalo