Lake Champlain Beer Fun

Lots of catching up to do, but since I’m not being systematic, we’ll start with a couple of fun stories from my Columbus Day trip to visit with friends on the New York side of Lake Champlain.

This was the one-year anniversary of our hair-raising crash on the Mass. Turnpike, so we were cautious and didn’t leave town until Saturday morning, rather than deal with the holiday weekend traffic heading out of Boston on a Friday evening.  It was also only half the family, since one of the teenagers had to stay in town for orchestra rehearsals and needed a parent to stay with him and organize transportation, meals, et cetera.  The adults negotiated and I ended up being the one to accompany the other teenager, spend the hours in the car, and participate in indoor and outdoor diversions over what was left of the long weekend.  Travel was uneventful, and there was ample time for recreation, so life was generally good, despite the family having to split up.  (Foreshadowing–more time with a divided family in the months ahead.)

Beer story number one relates to one of the more elusive beers in New England, the Heady Topper from Alchemist Brewing.  If we’re being scientific, this probably qualifies as a “nano-brewery” since they claim to produce only 180 barrels per week, all of which gets distributed (and quickly snapped up) through a small network of stores in and around their home base in Waterbury, VT.  The web site describes the beer as a double IPA with six varieties of hops brewed with the intention of getting a unique range and intensity of hop flavors and aromas, and they have developed a loyal following, which means you have to know where and when to find the beer in order to have a hope of enjoying any.

Fortunately, my friend Philip’s family (specifically his sister-in-law) knew he would enjoy this special beer and picked some up during a trip from the western side of the lake as a birthday present, and Philip graciously shared a splash with me so I could share a report.  IMG_0695As the accompanying photo shows, the beer had a lovely golden color and a lacy head, and the hops, as advertised, were intense but balanced and not overwhelming. Maybe on some future visit I can time the travel correctly and pick up some for myself.

Beer story number two isn’t so much about the beer as about the unexpected source.  Philip’s brother Mark has been living on the Adirondack side of the lake for several years now, so he and his wife are well plugged into the local scene.  Mark pursues his outdoor recreation avidly, and one of his friends has purchased an abandoned ski area (pictured at left) to use, as nearly as I can tell, as a year-round “playground” for family and friends. DSCN1254 The rope tow still functions, and judicious use of power machineryDSCN1232 (see the photo at right) has kept the hill open for skiing and sledding in winter.  In addition, the owner and his friends have set up trails that can be used for single-track mountain biking or (for those with less of a daredevil streak) hiking.  So, since we had a lovely warm early autumn afternoon, Philip, Philip’s nephew Devon (currently a resident of the North Country while working for TSA in Burlington), my son G and I headed out to meet Mark and take a tour of the property.

Where does the beer come in, you might be asking?  Well, since the mountain has electric power for the rope tow, the power can also be used for other purposes.  The owner set up what appears to be a 1980’s vintage Coke vending machine about halfway up the mountain and stocked it with cheap beer for the consumption of his visitors.  It was a little surreal to be hiking along and spot the red-and-white glow through the trees, DSCN1243and even more surreal to press the vend button and have an oversized (16 oz) can of Stewart’s Shops Mountain Brew Ice come rattling down for my drinking pleasure, but it did provide some refreshment as we wandered up and down the mountain. (Son G was feeling energetic and jogged the circuit a couple of times while the adults took our time and enjoyed the scenery and the beer.)

A busy fall and winter didn’t leave a lot of time for exploring new beers, so I fell back on a lot of old favorites for much of the last several months, but I do have a few new discoveries to share in an upcoming post or two.  Cheers!



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