It was an idea we kicked around for several months.
Dad's Weekend Out! We'd pick a weekend and do an early-fall camping trip. Just the dads. And beer. The idea morphed into renting a cabin somewhere upstate. To this, we threw in the notion of taking in one or more of the Mid-Hudson Valley's fine breweries. Then we threw in the notion that we could have some beer tasting sessions during the weekend and have something to show from our efforts. Then the idea grew to include giving awards to the best Beer-of-the-Year and even the best Joint-of-the-Year!
By the time things began to gel, and we actually got down to booking the cabin, either the campground was closing too early in the season, or the cabin was already booked. We put a call out to the brotherhood, hoping to find a weekend home available. Brother Dan was gracious enough to offer his Poconos home. Great house, but not exactly in a hotbed of brewery activity. After some research into Pennsylvania breweries, we planned out a road trip to Weyerbacher Brewing Company in Easton, PA., about 60 miles from Dan's place, with the further possibility of a couple of brewpubs just a bit down the road. We settled on the second weekend in November. Dan, Kevin, David and I all signed on.
I developed a beer-tasting rubric using information from the highly recommended Beer for Dummies and the American Homebrewer's Association. We agreed to each bring four six-packs of our favorite beers, one in each color category:
Sometimes, though, things don't go exactly as planned. Kevin had some emergent family business to take care of Michigan, so he dropped out a few days before. On the first day of DWO, David's wife became ill, and he was reluctant to leave her home with the kids. On the plus side, "P" agreed to come up Friday after work and stay for a night. "P's" a great hefeweissen fan and Scotch lover, too, but he's not a fan of dark beer... So, the lion's share of the tasting fell to Dan and I.
The weather was great! Warm days in the sixties were followed by chilly dusk and cold nights. Things got underway on Friday afternoon with a Dundee Honey Brown. This one was just for pleasure—it went unrated. Dan's neighbor was walking the dog and joined us. The temperature on Dan's deck dropped suddenly around 4:30, so Dan and I moved inside for some food and beer.
We assessed the beer situation to plan out the tasting sessions:
Not a bad selection of bottles!
If memory serves correctly, we started in earnest with a bomber of BPA, Ommegang's Belgian Pale Ale, a pleasant and hoppy golden ale. It scored well on our rubrics. This was followed by Ommegang's Three Philosophers, a blend of a strong malty ale and Lindeman's Cherry lambic. It sounded fantastic, but it turned out to be too strong! At 9.8% Alcohol by Volume (ABV), it was easily the strongest beer we tried. It was also a little light on the mouthfeel. Between the strong alcohol fermentation, the sourness of the cherries and light weight, it scored relatively low at this tasting—although in fairness, we were still getting used to the rubric. The brewery suggests that this is a good beer to cellar; it has a three-year shelf-life. Given that it's bottled-conditioned—active yeast is added when the bottle is corked—it might make sense to let it mellow before drinking.
I believe we tried the Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale and the Keegan's Mother's Milk stout on Friday night (Dan?). Both of these scored well. The Smutty had a smooth and pleasant malty nose, while the taste was balanced well with pronouced hoppiness. The Keegan Stout had a big aroma and a huge smoky, toffee, malty flavor and a great balance of malt and hops! There was another beer, a stout I think, that we tried, but it really didn't grab me, and neither of us rated this. Dan and I knew that P was on his way, so we saved the Southampton Double White Ale for his arrival. This spicy Belgian-style wheat beer had fantastic flavors including orange, lemon and coriander. It took the prize for the Best Witbier.
Yummy venison stew and Scotch soon followed. We also marvelled at James Brown's TAMI Show performance—he killed the audience!