Friday, September 19, 2008

Hey Barkeep! Where Can I Find A Good Beer?

On Wednesday I went through some tips regarding traveling and finding good beer: 1) Do Research Ahead of Time, 2) Plan Ahead, 3) Be Flexible, 4) Bring Beer With You, 5) Carrying Beer on a Plane is a Pain in the Ass, 6) Make It An Adventure. The first two, planning ahead and doing research, can be hard if you don't know where to look. So today, we'll look at some places online to look for good beer spots.

Georgia On My Mind
by Ray Charles

Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you
The first place to look is BeerAdvocate's BeerFly directory. Beerfly lets you search any city in the US and it will turn up the bars, retailers, brewpubs, breweries, and homebrew shops in the area. For example, I'm traveling to Albany, NY. Beerfly turns up 15 results: 3 Brewpubs, 10 beer bars, and 2 beer stores. And here's where we run into one of the weaknesses of Beerfly - it purports to rate these things, but only 5 of them have more than even only 10 ratings - not particularly large sample sizes with "scores" highly variable on individual preference. The other issue is that 4 of the 5 have A- or higher scores; while I have no doubt as to the quality of the Albany brewing scene, this strikes me as a bit skewed. Nonetheless, it provides a good ballpark to pick from: CH Evans and Maher's seem like particularly good choices.

Another drawback is the lack of a "radius" feature, so you need to be exact in your search. For example, I will be visiting Hudson Falls, NY a small town in the Adirondacks. A search of Beerfly doesn't reveal any results. Yet, a search of nearby Glens Falls, a mere 4 miles away, turns up two results - a brewery and a brewpub, neither of which have scores with sample sizes that I trust, although Davidson looks promising.

So, after searching Beerfly, we have three places: CH Evans and Mahers in Albany and Davidson in Glens Falls. Two brewpubs and beer bar. This works well - I need to eat in both places and I will probably want to get drinks at night.

Another useful tool is the Beer Mapping Project, an open source map of beer bars, beer stores, brewpubs, homebrew shops, and breweries. A search of the Beer Mapping Project, also turns up CH Evans and Maher's in Albany. What's nice is that you can search for other places of interest with 1, 5, 10 or 25 miles of a given place. So, I can see that there are 6 places within 25 miles of CH Evans, including Chatham Brewery. By having the map, I can see that it is the wrong direction. But I can also see that Olde Saratoga Brewery is right on the way from Albany to Hudson Falls in Saratoga Springs.

By clicking on the map, I can then click through to the brewery's website. I find out there that I have to call ahead to book a tour, if I want one. They have a tasting room open until 10pm, which is good. But, after clicking through the "About the Beer" link, I see that it is actually owned by Mendocino Brewing Company out of California and contracts in about a third of its production. Given that this is not a beer tour for me, this puts it distinctly in the "unlikely" category - not only am I not interested in visiting a "slave" brewery, but I'm not a huge fan of Mendocino in any event.

One other place to check is BeerMe! A comprehensive directory and up-to-date resource on breweries. This is nice, because I can see that George De Piro is the head brewer at CH Evans in Albany - good information to know when I visit and it lets me search the internet for him to see if there's any biographical information or news stories about him that might make some interesting conversation if I should "happen" to run across him.

One other thing to look for. I know I'm going to be in Upstate New York so, it would be foolish to not think about going to Ommegang. If you are anything like me, you have zero idea of the geography of New York. A quick review of Google Maps shows that Cooperstown is only 1.75 hours away. If I weren't there for a wedding, making a 2 hour trip out of the question, it is highly likely that I would blow all of my traveling-beer goodwill on such a trip (especially since Cooperstown is also home of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame). But, alas, it just is not possible this time around.

Those are just a few of the sites you can check out to make the beer you drink when you travel just a little bit better.


  1. Check out Cooper's Cave brewery in Glens Falls, and the Adirondack Pub and Brewery in Lake George Village. Both are close to Hudson Falls. So is the Parting Glass in Saratoga Springs which has one of the best selections of beers in the region.

    By the way, I believe that Mahar's (in Albany) still closes at midnight. The Troy Pub and Brewery is a better option, and closer.

    My favorite local beer is the Ubu at Lake Placid Pub and Brewery which is only about an hour and a half from Hudson Falls and Lake Placid is a great option for your less-than-interested-in-beer companions.

  2. Hey, if you are in Albany email me and we can have a pint.


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