Friday, September 9, 2011

Labor Day Bar Crawl

It's Saturday, my wife's out of town, I'm alone. So what do I decide to do? What? Not that, sicko. I decide to do a bar crawl going to Farmer's Cabinet -> Varga Bar -> Hawthorne's Cafe -> Devil's Den. Now, I guess it's weird that I decided to bar hop by myself for hours on end, but I really enjoy sitting at bars, talking to bartenders and trying new things. I guess I'm a weird dude and I'm okay with that.

First stop was the Farmer's Cabinet. I haven't been back since my awesome birthday dinner and knew it had been too long. At 11:30am, it wasn't particularly busy which was nice. There was only one other dude at the bar plus the bartender. I started with a glass of De Molen Cease & Desist, also known as Disputin, a Russian Imperial Stout.
The name itself is a play on words since it was originally named Rasputin but North Coast sued so they changed to this. Very clever. Light roast with hints of malty breadiness in the nose. Starts with chocolate, hints of raisins, and continues with the breadiness I found in the aroma. Tasty russian imperial stout and great start to the day.

Up next a weird one, Drie Fonteinen Zwet.Be, a sour porter. I really didn't know what to expect from this, so I went with a smaller pour of it.
Sour nose with a hint of roasty vanilla in it. Surprisingly tasty. Chocolate, apples, then some vanilla. So balanced which is remarkable considering what it was. I was reticent after the Ithaca Dark Humor but man this was just really good. I easily could have finished a larger glass of it. I should know by now Drie Fonteinen only releases delicious stuff and shouldn't have been worried.

After chatting with the bartender for a while I learned he worked for East End out in Pittsburgh for a while which was cool. I was definitely jealous when he told me he had tons of Gratitude (their awesome barleywine) at one point. Less jealous when he talked about how much time he spent papering and waxing the bottles though. Really nice guy too and knowledgeable about beer. Always nice when a place has good bartenders.

The last I ordered at Farmer's Cabinet was one of their house beers, the stout. Turns out while the equipment in the back could be functional to brew at some point, the owners instead bought a brewery down in VA which allowed them to get beers out much earlier and in larger quantities most likely.
Smelled of roast mostly, not much else. Get some chocolate and roast at first which were then quickly overtaken by the taste of dark fruits. At 6.5% or so, I was shocked at how much plum and raisin I got from the beer. It wasn't a bad thing by any means, just surprising. I generally find those flavors in strong stouts so it was really interesting. The bartender thought it tasted different than the previous time he had it so I guess it's evolving slightly.

As much as I didn't want to leave because of the great conversation (although I had already been there for two and a half hours already), it was time to head to the next bar, Varga. A few minutes later I arrived and sat down for my first drink, Founders Breakfast Stout, a coffee imperial stout.
It's my first Breakfast Stout of the season so I was looking forward to it for sure. Huge coffee nose, roast and some chocolate. Starts with bitter coffee, then some roast follows and finally is finished with some more chocolate. The coffee is definitely the major component here and at times it was a bit bitter and acrid, but I still definitely enjoyed it. Nice to see it back in the area for another year.

Needed a change in style now as I had ordered four dark, roasty beers to start the day so I went with the Sly Fox Rauchbier. Also got an eggplant parm sandwich which was tasty. Needed something to keep the tank full and the bar crawl moving.
Pleasant campfire nose without being overpowering. Smoky and sweet and just absolutely delicious. It was just smoky enough to be noticeable but always stayed pleasant. The smoke didn't even build on itself like it sometimes can with rauchbiers. Quite excellent. I think this is going to be at the Yards Smoke 'Em If Yous Got 'Em event in two weeks which makes me excited as I'll be there. (Everyone should come as it sounds awesome!)

The last beer I had at Varga is one of my favorites, Troegs Flying Mouflan, an American Barleywine.
I've had this quite a few times, but just couldn't resist ordering it as I really like it. The release is back in April so this keg had a little age on it and it came through in the slightly milder hop flavors and aromas. Some slight grapefruit hop notes in the nose, just not big. Tasted like caramel covered hops and was just as awesome as usual.

Great way to end my time at Varga which was fun although not quite as interesting as Farmer's Cabinet. The only funny thing is that I apparently mislead the person who runs Varga's Twitter feed. I didn't put much thought into using the term bar crawl even though it was just me, but apparently the guy on their end expected it to be quite a few people and told his bartender to be ready for it. When I found out she was expecting a real bar crawl I kind of laughed and let her know that it was probably me and not to expect anyone else. Whoops! Oh well, on to Hawthorne's Cafe!

While I was definitely enjoying my time alone, my friends Eric and Kevin told me they'd meet up with me at Hawthorne's so I got a table for three and perused the draft list while waiting. Since nothing was terribly interesting, I decided on a bottle of Bell's Consecrator, a doppelbock, instead. While their prices may sometimes be high (although Speedway Stout was only $14), it's really nice to be able to pick up a bottle and enjoy it at the table.
Smelled of maple, bread, and apples. Taste followed with maple syrup and sweet apple. Honestly, I love most of the offerings from Bell's but wasn't super impressed with this. There was just way too much apple in this and not enough caramel for me.

At this point, Eric and Kevin arrived and I convinced them to share a bottle of Voodoo Love Child, a fruit beer. I could probably be more specific with the style, but unfortunately don't remember. Sorry!
Pleasant raspberry nose. Funky raspberry flavor with some nice caramel backing it all up. Really tasty fruit beer. I think someone compared it to Founder's Blushing Monk and I'd agree although the fruit stayed noticeable for quite a bit longer than it did in Blushing Monk.

And so onwards we went to Devil's Den, now three instead of one. At this point it was 6:00pm so I'd been going strong for six and a half hours. Not too shabby. I only got one beer at Devil's Den and it was Harpoon Leviathan Rye. Forgot to take a picture, but forgetting 1 out of 10 isn't so bad, right? Some caramel in the nose, sweeter than I expected. Taste was a rye spiciness, some caramel and some malt. I enjoyed it as I could taste the rye, but it didn't overpower. Of course, now I'm looking at my notes which are terrible and don't really remember it so who even knows.

Well, we didn't stay long at Devil's Den as we wanted to check out another place, Sticks & Stones. It was up the block, a bit farther south, but I don't totally remember where. I just followed Eric and Kevin. Nice looking place, big bar with a back area for tables. I think it's newish but don't know for sure. Decent tap list, but Kevin and I opted to split a bottle of The Bruery Hottenroth, a berliner weisse.
Sort of a funky nose, tart and wheaty. Tasted mildly tart, a little funkiness, and a lot wheat. Where the Nodding Head berliner weisse is tart and funky with a hint of the wheat base, I felt this one was the opposite. Not bad just not great. At 3.2% or so, still a good way to end the night.

So, that was my Saturday during Labor Day weekend. I left the house at 11am, visited five bars, drank ten beers, and returned home about 10pm. Oh and I got ice cream. Always a good way to finish things off. I know it's kind of odd to do things like this by myself but I really enjoy going to bars, chatting with bartenders and other customers, and just relaxing. Kevin and Eric actually showed up at just the right time since Hawthorne's doesn't have a bar so I would have just been sitting at a table by myself. Definitely going to do this again at some point. Out of all the beers, my favorite was probably the Drie Fonteinen Zwet.Be. Weird but very tasty. It's around so search it out!


  1. It blows my wife's mind that I like to go and sit in a bar by myself. But she is very inverted, while I talk to just about everyone. Sounds like you had a nice day.

  2. My wife is pretty used to it that point. Honestly, she probably sometimes prefers when I go alone since it at least means I'm not ignoring her while talking to strangers.