A Tale of Three Cities

So my plan was to focus this post on the idea of eating and drinking locally, but I got side-tracked a bit and the “local” connections maybe aren’t as strong as I originally thought, due at least in part to a faulty memory.  Even so, there’s a local angle on two of the breweries that I’ll discuss here, and each one has a clear association with a locale, so that constitutes a theme for a blog post.

The faulty memory has to do with a business trip to Portland, ME, a few years back.  I remembered having lunch at a local brew pub that also marketed beer regionally, but I must have mis-remembered the name, so that when I picked up a mix pack of Geary’s last month, I thought I would be revisiting that brew pub experience. Some research, however, reveals that I am probably remembering Gritty McDuff’s (since Geary’s doesn’t seem to operate a pub in downtown Portland and Gritty does), spoiling that angle of the story.

That said, the beer from Geary’s was generally quite enjoyable, with four different styles in the mix pack: their flagship pale ale, a winter ale, a London porter, and a brew they call Hampshire Special Ale.  IMG_0224The winter ale was probably my favorite with a nice amount of maltiness.  My impressions of the Hampshire Special Ale were inconsistent–it seemed to go best with a spicier meal and I don’t think I would enjoy it much on its own.  The porter was pretty standard and flavorful, but I am coming to realize that among the dark beer styles there is something that leads me to consistently prefer stouts over porters–I feel like I’m expecting more body than I actually get in most of the porters which seem almost watery by comparison.  There wasn’t anything particularly memorable about the pale ale, either positive or negative, which I suppose means I won’t be searching it out, but might give it a try again in the future.

City number two in this itinerary is Brooklyn, with two entries from Brooklyn Brewery.  One of those is their Black Chocolate Stout, a seasonal offering that comes in a four-pack which immediately broadcasts the impression that this is supposed to be something special.  IMG_0222Just to be clear, when a beer is identified with the word “chocolate” there isn’t any actual chocolate present,  but a flavor reminiscent of chocolate is imparted by darkly roasting the grain.  The dominant flavor note I got from this beer actually reminded me most strongly of blackstrap molasses rather than chocolate, but it’s definitely in that bittersweet sector of the flavor palette, and this beer also definitely falls in the category of beers that are worth enjoying on a winter evening.

The other Brooklyn beer that I re-visited this month was one of their “big bottles” known as Brooklyn Local #1.  I first came across this beer with my friend Philip at the beer festival downtown a couple of years ago, and we both agreed it was one of the highlights of the day.  This beer is a Belgian style Golden Ale that is bottle-fermented, so it comes with a champagne-style cork and is best enjoyed with friends at a single sitting–it’s a lot of beer for one person to finish unless you’ve got a quiet evening at home without any plans.  For me it was an evening spent in the condo where I was packing up some of my mom’s belongings as she relocated to a smaller assisted living apartment not far from where I grew up outside Cleveland, Ohio.

Which brings me to the third city on this itinerary, and the one that truly does reflect my desire to seek out local color. Great Lakes Brewing Company is headquartered in Cleveland, and they are among the top twenty or so craft breweries in terms of volume in the country.  As a Cleveland native, even though I haven’t lived there for more than 30 years, I love the playful names they have given to several of their year-round offerings that fully own some of the unique facets of Cleveland history.  As someone who grew up when Cleveland was something of a national joke, I especially enjoy the somewhat perverse pride they take in naming their American Pale Ale “Burning River” after one of the most infamous events in Cleveland history when the Cuyahoga River was so badly polluted that it actually did catch fire and draw the nation’s attention to issues of water pollution in 1969. IMG_0221(You can read more about the facts and fiction of the Cuyahoga River fire courtesy of the Cleveland Historical Society–it wasn’t as bad as it was made out by the media and Cleveland got a bad rap.)  I shared a six-pack with my brother and sister-in-law over pizza in my mom’s new apartment after we got her somewhat settled and moved most of her belongings out of the apartment and onto a truck on their way to storage–there’s a bit of a story there but I’ll save it since it’s not really related to beer.  On my way home from Cleveland, curiously enough I came across another Great Lakes beer in the Philadelphia airport.  Since I was still in a Cleveland mood, I chose the Commodore Perry IPA to accompany my Philly cheese steak.  (I did say this post was about eating and drinking locally, and you can’t get much more local than a Philly cheese steak in Philadelphia.)  Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry was a naval officer whose most famous actions were in the Battle of Lake Erie during the war of 1812.  His dispatch to General William Henry Harrison “We have met the enemy and they are ours,” is a famous piece of American folklore, and Perry is memorialized with a monument well-known to many Ohio residents on South Bass Island (roughly between Toledo and Cleveland).  (As an interesting side note, I learned that Perry was born in South Kingstown in my current home state of Rhode Island.)  Unfortunately, Great Lakes doesn’t distribute their beer to New England, as I enjoyed both beers and feel like Great Lakes definitely deserves their status among the larger craft brewers in the country.  On my next trip back, I’m looking forward to trying some of their other brews (and sharing the Cleveland history that their names celebrate).

This entry adds eight new beers to the total, getting the tally up to 27 with a few more to write about when I can next find the time.  Hope that there are some interesting beers in your neighborhood.  Cheers!

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One thought on “A Tale of Three Cities

  1. Hey Dr. Dave, as a fellow Ohioan I got an extra kick out of this post, remembering Cleveland’s flaming river (and the subsequent Randy Newman song…) but what caught my attention wasn’t Ohio at all, it was that Philly Cheese Steak. It may be barely 8am, but I have a huge yen for one of those artery-cloggers RIGHT NOW.
    Thanks for a fun blog!!

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