[Note: This post has been languishing in the “drafts” section of the blog for months, waiting for pictures as a finishing touch. Rather than just leave it sitting here, I will go ahead and post without pictures and, now that cross country season is almost over, try to get back on a more regular blogging schedule. Cheers!]
The volume of travel has dropped off slightly over the last few weeks, but the household continues to be unbalanced due to various members spending time out of town.
Three of us took an overnight trip to Ithaca, NY (with one of the teenagers staying overnight with one of his friends here in town and otherwise enjoying having the house to himself). This was a dual-purpose trip; primarily we needed to drop off the other teenager on Sunday for two weeks of music camp at Ithaca College, but coincidentally the Cornell University research group of Dr. Mrs. Dr. Dave was having an informal reunion on Saturday. Given such a unique opportunity, we arranged to stay overnight with the family of a camp friend near Binghamton, NY and make a weekend out of it.
Ithaca is probably where I first tried beer that wasn’t trucked in from some large faraway brewery, so there are some fond beer memories here. In particular, I remember spending many a Friday afternoon after weekly research group meetings at the Chapter House, a bar on the downhill slope from campus that had just started brewing some of its own beer in the late 1980s. Looking online, it appears that the brewpub phase was short-lived, but the bar did continue to feature a wide variety of local draft beers and to serve as a popular grad student hangout until very recently. In a cruel twist of fate, I see that their building was destroyed by a fire in April, though there are reports on the possibility of re-opening in a year or so.
Ithaca also has the reputation (somewhat deserved) as a haven for 60s-era counterculture refugees and their “crunchy” spiritual descendants, so I appreciated the self-deprecating humor in Ithaca Beer Co. giving the name Flower Power to the beer I enjoyed at the Saturday afternoon picnic. The name, of course, is actually referring not just to aging hippies but more pointedly to the generous hops in this citrusy IPA. I also enjoyed a couple of lengthy beer conversations with hanger-on spouses that afternoon (since I couldn’t talk biochemistry with the lab members) before we decided we needed to head back to our hosts. To our son’s astonishment, we hit it off beautifully with our hosts (who we had met for about a half hour at pick-up the previous summer), conversing animatedly while enjoying a casually whipped-up supper of grilled salmon and assorted summer vegetables. The Lake Placid Ubu Ale that I had picked up as a host/hostess gift didn’t impress me as much as it had at Thanksgiving—maybe it wasn’t cold enough (since it spent close to an hour in a hot car), or maybe the journey from the Adirondacks to the Southern Tier meant it wasn’t as fresh? I may have to try again sometime to figure this one out.
Back home, I’ve been working on the Sam Adams Beers of Summer mix pack which included, in addition to the ever-present flagship Boston Lager, the Summer Ale (for which my impressions over the years are inconsistent), the Rebel Rider session IPA (which struck me as kind of wimpy for what is supposed to be a West Coast style IPA), and the Downtime Pilsner (which went nicely with a spicy meal of Cajun-style black-eyed peas on a steamy summer evening).
I’ve also been enjoying a selection of double IPAs, one a splurge for bringing to a party, one on sale, and one local just for the sake of comparison. All of them are a little sweeter and with a more viscous mouth feel (maybe that’s the extra alcohol?) than a typical IPA, and all really enjoyable. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried the Two Roads Road 2 Ruin before, and I will definitely pick it up again. I was so impressed by the Firestone Walker Double Jack that I tried to go back for another four-pack, only to find that once again I didn’t seize the day quickly enough and other bargain hunters had beaten me to the punch so the store was sold out, but even at full price this is a beer worth splurging on. The local was the King of the Yahd from Foolproof (in Pawtucket—I definitely need to plan a field trip) and though not quite as spectacular as the Firestone Walker, it was still a really nice beer.
On a non-beer note, grad school buddy Chris stopped in town on his way from his home in PA to a photochemistry research conference and gifted us with a bottle of Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin. (His twins just graduated from college, so he and his wife are expanding and experimenting in the area of home bar-keeping—at least that’s his excuse for seeking out interesting booze.) I’m normally pretty straightforward with my gin drinks (G & T or a standard dry martini), but this one seemed to demand something more interesting, so I looked at the distiller’s web site and have been muddling lime and fresh mint, adding some simple syrup along with the gin, and then topping with club soda for a light, refreshing spritzer. (Since my twins are still living at home, I’m not yet ready to invest in large amounts of liqueurs that might get used twice a year—this recipe didn’t require anything more exotic than fresh mint which I could harvest from the side yard.) I can also report that Uncle Val still goes well with tonic, and I may yet find another use, since I’m entertaining myself in the evening for a few days while Dr. Mrs. Dr. Dave is pushing back the frontiers of biochemistry pedagogy at a meeting in Missouri.
I’m in the rare situation of not having anything “on tap” in the cellar, so it’s fortuitous that the internet just today delivered a list (courtesy of the Daily Meal, via the aggregation of msn) of 50 top craft breweries of 2015. Lots of familiar names in this list, and some that I know aren’t available here in New England, but still some inspiration in the form of either new breweries or new styles from old acquaintances, so it’s time for some research and a trip to the beer store this weekend. Cheers!