Eastern USA Road Trip 2016, Day 4: Lunch in New Hampshire, and a last look at Vermont.
Lunch was planned for Keene, New Hampshire, for the sole reason of it being located inside a state I've never visited, and thus in urgent need of adding to the "visit all 50 states" list. Among the ways to declare a state conquered is to drink a beer. This proved quite easy.
Elm City Brewing Company (founded 1994 in Keene) is part of a shopping mall in a renovated former factory called Colony Mill Marketplace. The bartender and midday regulars were friendly, and when the lunchtime crowd began subsiding, one of the customers told me the quality of the beer had improved with the arrival of a new, young brewer.
I've no way of comparing, and can say only that my two pints were thoroughly enjoyable, as was a nip of Diana's Hefeweizen.
First came a better-than-average Kölsch, then at the bartender's recommendation a seasonal Black IPA. For the most part, I don't drink Black IPAs, because for the most part, I think they're bogus.
However, I usually accept the earnest advice of staff, and the bartender was absolutely right. The Black IPA was balanced, absent any roastiness, and very good. It went wonderfully with my Buffalo wings.
After returning to Brattleboro for a late afternoon of movable food court roaming downtown, it finally was time to experience the Hermit Thrush Brewery. We'd parked the car in the nearby public lot in anticipation of carry-out beer. It proved to be a wise move.
To stupidly generalize, Hermit Thrush does Belgian-influenced sours. Yes, not all Belgians are sour, and the term "sour" has long since embarked on its devolution into the nonsensical. Still, it's stylistic shorthand and suitable for my purposes.
Evidently Hermit Thrush is renowned among the beer cognoscenti, and my wife who understands me very well refuses to believe that I did not know this all along. She persists in thinking that our stop in Brattleboro was for the sole purpose of my visiting Hermit Thrush.
It was not, I tell you. Absolutely not. However, since we were in town ... I'd peeked in the door the previous day, and saw a tasting room that is exceedingly rustic, as though the interior of a barn had been stripped and transported from countryside to city, then reinstalled in a commercial brick building where such decor would absolutely horrify the contractor who built the structure decades ago. Well, times have changed.
So, kindly permit me to fast forward and divulge the 5-star review I submitted to Facebook.
I came to Hermit Thrush Brewery determined to be annoyed by what I imagined would be a pretentious hipster vibe, and yes, elements of it are there, but the staffer was pleasant and knowledgeable, and the beers just lovely. To review a brewery is to ask the question, "how well do they execute their game plan?" Very well, indeed.
Two flights were sampled, in addition to a nip of the Gin Barrel Saison, which is outstanding.
Flight 1: Supah Phunk #5, Po Tweet, Hoppy Smalls and Party Guy
Flight 2: Silly Friar and three infused variants: Rosy, Minty and Sprucy
As of this writing, I still haven't researched the brewery's reviews and ratings, and probably won't. Don't ask me to provide a detailed review of the beers, whether consumed in flights or from the case of cans purchased to take home, which was gently depleted a tad while in Massachusetts.
The quality of the beers I tasted was uniformly excellent, and yes, you must enjoy "sour," and this shouldn't be a problem. Delicious, indeed, and there is no reason for me to leave the house for a couple of weeks, though I'll try to be judicious in my dosages.
An unexpected high point came upon striking up a conversation with a young man at the bar, who turned out to be an employee of Shelton Brothers, who'll be attending the importer's festival in Louisville this October. The world continues to shrink.
By the way, I really enjoy these Hermit Thrush beers ... and in closing, the hermit thrush is "a medium-sized North American thrush. It is not very closely related to the other North American migrant species of Catharus, but rather to the Mexican russet nightingale-thrush."
Just in case you were wondering, or bird watching.