Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Cape Cod Beer

A Vacation in Every Pint

Cape Cod Beer has been around for three years and it certainly seems to be a growing success. They moved about a year ago from their original location in downtown Hyannis to an expanded, 3,000 square foot location in what we would call a light industrial business park. Cape Cod's draft accounts have surged more than 50% since the end of last summer (to 130), and growlers are available in 60 stores across the Cape. It is a small enough operation to offer a decidedly personal touch. Our informal tour was given by owner and brewmaster Todd Marcus' wife, Beth. She started us off with some small samples and then showed us around the warehouse that houses brewery.

The strength of the tour was Beth's interaction with the group and the tidbits of inside information she could give us. Much better than your standard, forgettable, stick-to-the-brochure tour led by community college student. Or half-assed effort where a sweaty, disinterested guide is clearly going through the motions before calling it a day and grabbing a beer of his own (we're looking at you, Shipyard). But we digress.

Beth Marcus told us that the brewery had always been her husband's dream, not hers, but the enthusiasm was obvious as she talked about fielding a call from someone interested in distributing their product in Viet Nam, only to have to explain that she was more worried about getting beer across the bridge into Plymouth. Or the logistical difficulties of delivering both a child to soccer practice and a keg to a local restaurant account in the same trip.

She knew that they had increased from three fermenters when they moved into the new facility a year ago to seven now, and the new excess holding tank came from the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory. She told us about early branding missteps and other lessons learned while building a company literally one tap handle at a time. We are a big fan of the craft beer movement in general, but a tour like that should make it difficult for anyone not to feel at least some connection with a small brewery and what they are trying to do.

It didn't hurt that the beer was damned tasty as well. The year round offerings are Shark's Tooth IPA (It's got a Bite!), and Channel Marker Red (Red, Right, Return). The IPA was a pleasant surprise, strongly hoppy up front, with a smooth, sightly citrus finish. The Red was pretty fine in it's own right, balanced, with an underlying bit of hops to keep things interesting. We must say that it was much better than the pint we sampled with lunch at a nearby overpriced and overly pretentious clam joint before visiting the brewery. The seasonal, Summer, was a very good rendition of a Hefe-Weizen. We imagine that one will only grow more enjoyable in direct proportion to the amount of sun on Cape Cod this summer. Our group took home a growler of each, and two of the IPA.

The Good: Plenty to like here. The tour. The beer. A bunch of friendly dudes from the local home brewing club were boiling up a delicious pot of something while we were there. Just a great overall experience.

The Bad: The samples were tiny. We're talking a couple of ounces. Your beer is good, make sure we have no doubts of that by the time we walk out your door. No distribution "off Cape," and no real plans to do bulk bottling anytime soon. Guess we'll have to visit again.

Notes: Information taken from Ale Street News, Yankee Brew News, Cape Cod Beer, and our head. The picture at the top is from the beach at the end of Paine's Creek Road, directly above is the reflection of a Cape Cod Beer pint glass on the arm of a wooden deck chair in Brewster - how's that for authentic!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Weekend Teaser

We're headed to Cape Cod for an exhilarating weekend of reenacting the late, lamented sitcom Wings. Will our journey take us to the Cape Cod Brewery (Cape Cod Beer: A Vacation in Every Pint) in Hyannis? We certainly hope so. With any luck, we'll make the Saturday tour. We're not sure what, exactly, the draw is, but there is something very appealing about a small brewery whose distribution extends only for a twenty mile radius from their home base and includes only draught beer and growlers. Cape Cod Brewery currently offers their perpetual Red and IPA, as well as the sensibly current seasonal, Summer. They claim to offer the freshest beer on the Cape, and we have little reason to doubt them at this point.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Andirondack Pub & Brewery

There is something oddly enchanting about driving steadily north into the beginnings of the Adirondack Park. This is especially true if you avoid the higher speeds and relatively heavy traffic of the Northway, and take the decidedly more scenic Route 9. The elevation is the most obvious change, but soon the plants and trees begin to look different. Even the sky takes on a new appearance. Spring, which has finally begun to take firm root in the Capital Region, is still a few weeks from full bloom up here. All of this happens within the first 50 miles of the drive north. And then we step out of the car...and it is, somehow, five degrees warmer up here. Not that that's a bad thing.

The Adirondack Pub & Brewery in Lake George is probably the nearest brewpub that we had somehow never managed to visit. Davidson Brothers is located just ten miles to the south, and that has become a semi-regular destination. One reason for the lack of experience with this place may be that it is open only seasonally, choosing to close from late October to early May. Our inaugural visit came shortly after this year's opening, and consequently gave us a mere five beers to pick from, while we were led to believe that eight seems to be more the norm. No matter, we found a way to enjoy the experience. Perhaps it was the panoramic mountain view, or the fresh, clean air. Then again, unlike a suburban strip mall, maybe the Adirondack lodge theme actually works in this setting. Whatever the case, the flagship Bear Naked Ale we started with certainly hit the spot; light and clean, but with no shortage of flavour. Even faithful companion enjoyed it, and Keystone Light is oft her drink of choice. The hot prime rib sandwich with horseradish mayo was pretty enjoyable as well. It paired quite nicely with the doppelbock, even if this one did taste a bit underage. We're willing to forgive this small transgression, due to the fact that it is still so early in the season for the Adirondack Pub & Brewery.

Final verdict: We plan on making several trips to this establishment before it closes in late fall. It also just happens to fit quite nicely into our hypothetical Ultimate Brewpub Run (more on that later).