A Shot at Beer from a Place

I have been following Stan Heironymous religiously since “Brew Like a Monk” was released, including his blog, Appelation Beer. A very common theme is understanding Beer From a Place, and how we consistently misunderstand the point when inundated with marketing, beer styles and myths (see marketing). So, in honor of Stan, here’s my take.

Beer From a Place, to me, is that perfect beer moment, integral and symbiotic to the sensory memory and impression. Maybe the beer is the vehicle that defines the moment, but mostly it is a supporting actor, but an Oscar winner to the moment. That is – I remember the beer, the taste and the moment lucidly. Hopefully, that memory is positive, but not always. I believe that Stan H expects that sense of place to be more substantial, less ethereal. I am less sure. A beer made in my garage with a yeast from Belgium, malt from Texas and hops from New Zealand fits into an international melting pot, not my garage. Still, as the brewer, I have put thought and consideration and lots of sweat (Texas summers can be rough).

I have been traveling a lot these last few weeks, both internationally and domestic. It has seemed that while my expectations are often dashed, great surprises are found in the remote, unexpected places.

Goodmanham Ale Taps

Goodmanham Arms Ale House – I had the fortune during a recent Sunday morning in Yorkshire to be treated to lunch here. Across the street is a 12th century Norman church and graveyard, crumbling. An unassuming stone building, surrounded by cottages and English gardens set the scene. Outside, a few smokers huddled in the late morning mist, while we started with ciders and a Theakston’s Best Bitter (no Old Peculiar on tap). Inside was hot, cramped with crickety tables and benches. Above the entrance, certifications from CAMRA and even Blacksheep Brewery, promised REAL real ale. We had to wait to get a seat, but was promised a proper Yorkshire Sunday meal. And the beer was perfect.

From next door, with a brewery the same size as my garage system, Goodmanham All Hallows brewery had a dedicated handle. Perfectly conditioned and cellared ruby ale shot through the sparkler producing a thick cream head. Ragged Robyn poured a distinct ruby red, full of fruity esters and caramel malts.

The fellowship made the day, visiting and laughing with new friends. We sat next to the fire and tucked into roast vegetables, beef and lamb piled against puddings and dark onion gravy. Outside a couple rode up on an antique Norton motorbike and parked next to a fully restored WW2 period Triumph. A quiet country England – filled with flowers, foggy mist and great beer.

Westmalle Tripel

Restaurant across from The Druid’s Cellar, Brugge – another defining experience, getting to know our hosts after two days of walking through Brugge and about 1000 snaps of my camera. We intended to have a few at ‘t Bruges Bierje, and got there 10 minutes after it opened to find it swamped with a several hour wait. So we moved on. I was very disappointed – Bierje is a highly regarded pub. We walked around a bit, and let the ladies stop and shop, and sat down outside of a cafe just across from The Druid’s Cellar. That I don’t remember the restaurant name, nor can find it on Google Maps, is irrelevant. A mist was forming, but was refreshing as clouds meandered and the Bell Tower tolled in the dusk. Trevor had a Kasteel Donker and I nursed a Westmalle Tripel and at a table next to us, a little tyke plowed through a chocolate covered pancake, squinting a sticky grin. We decided to stay and have dinner – as the aromas around us peaked our appetites. The mist turned into a sprinkle and we moved inside – ate amazing mussels, more tripel, a geueze and more lovely company and conversation that went fairly late. Frittes to die for – seriously heavenly – transcendent. We were perfectly fortified for the 40 minute walk in the light rain back to the hotel.

Pints Pub

Pint’s Pub, Denver: A little place downtown, that claims to be one of the first real ale houses in the US. I was there for a meeting, and got in just as they opened. The proprietor was cleaning the bar when I sat down, and I asked about the beer engines. There was a bitter and a dark ale on cask, and I asked for a Dark Star, a rich Yorkshire brown ale modeled after Riggwelter from Black Sheep Brewery. Surrounding the bar is the most amazing collection of malt whiskeys I have ever seen. The proprieter/brewer and I started talking about brewing, and he gave me the nickel tour – a little 5 barrel system, scrapped together into cramped quarters. As we talked, it was clear he cared about brewing true cask ales, and was incredibly proud of his cellarmanship. It showed in the beers and in the food. The lunch business was productive, but the beer stood out, as did the brewer!

Bierworks Sampler

Bierworks Brewery, Woodland Park, Colorado: I remember seeing the tanks being loaded into this facility a few years back. Previously a repurposed gas station, Bierworks is tiny and cramped, all spare space stuffed with brewing bits of hardware. Outside is a little beer garden and a food truck (BBQ). A tap room opens up to the outside. We had intentionally postponed lunch so that I could eat after a ride up toward Victor and Cripple Creek – and the beer was such a surprise. Another tribute to quality brewing skills, Bierworks beers are solid and well executed – no triple IPA or cucumber ales here.

So little places, some experiences expected and mostly unexpected. The experience comes together to create an event – centered around a nice malty pint and great company. Prosit!