Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Flexibility Mantra

I apologize ahead of time if this ends up off-topic. This is the third part of the Traveling Series. As you'll recall, last week we posted some hints to keep in mind while traveling, and we looked at some of the more useful beer-related travel sites.

As we had hoped, we even got some great comments from the region about where to visit and even an invite to meet up. Which, serves as a useful reminder. One thing I forgot to mention on Friday - another great online source is contacting bloggers in the area. Most of the people that run these blogs are normal folks like you and I and they are more than happy to answer questions and get you pointed in the right direction. In this case we got some excellent suggestions.

Unfortunately, I didn't end up going to any of the places I had planned on going.

You will recall, tip number 3 from last week is: Be Flexible. Tips 1 and 2 work as a background knowledge to implement number 3. If you are well-prepared and do some planning you will know that when you find yourself short of time, the beer bar you wanted to visit is closed, and the brewpubs you wanted to visit are inconvenient, that when you do have the time there just happens to be a brewpub nearby. And sometimes you just get a little lucky.

It started inauspiciously when we got into Albany at just before 11pm and were standing out front of Mahar's at 1230am and it was closed for the evening. So, remember Rule 3: Be Flexible. We went next door. Beer special: Harpoon Octoberfest. We're in business. $3.50 for a 12 oz bottle seemed like a pretty darn good price. It was on the light side for the style and had a nice hoppy bite to it that was reminiscent of what one might expect from a brewery like Tyranena; there was some hint of the banana/clove flavor of the hefe, but I suspect that this was a result of the hops selection (Tettnang and Willamette) and not from the yeast. It was just what one would want from the style - nothing fancy or over-bearing, just some caramel malt sweetness with a hop bite to clean up the back end.

Over the course of the next three days we intended to hit: Davidson Brothers Brewery in Glens Falls, CH Evans Pump House in Albany, and The Parting Glass in Saratoga Springs. Well, we didn't have time in Glens Falls for Davidson Brothers (the wedding was in nearby Hudson Falls), Saratoga Springs was a disaster (holy touron hell), and Guitar Hero robbed us of a chance to get to the Pump House (those of you who know, know how this happens).

So, keeping in mind the mantra: Be Flexible. We did manage to stop at Brown's Brewing in Troy, NY. Since this is a beer website, we'll not make a big deal of the less-than-ideal service at 2pm on a Sunday, and focus on the beer, which was quite good. Between the two of us we had the Whiskey Barrel Porter and the Pilsner. The porter was heavy-bodied and full in the mouth. The bourbon aging was surprisingly muted with more of a roasted and woody flavor coming out; a great fall afternoon beer for wings and football game. For as good as the porter was, the pilsner was even better. Typically light, it was a little crisper than most and the hops were a pleasant focal point. In general pilsners are "soft" - modeled after the very soft water of Pilsen, just south of Bavaria, where the beer originated. I tend to avoid using the term "crisp" because the flavors are clean as a result of the work of the lager yeast, but not really sharp or brittle. In this case, the water was a little harder than typical and paired with the generous helping of saaz hops, definitely lent a sharpness that was pleasant though not overwhelming for the style - a nice variation, without the "big"-ness of going all the way to an "imperial" pilsner (whatever that is).

So, again, the moral of the story: Be Flexible.

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