Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Visit to Chatham Brewing Company... Well, Sorta

We sent sometime freelancer D.G. Dunford on another beer mission, and this time we rode shotgun! Actually, it was a little day trip to Bash Bish Falls State Park just across the border in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Western part of Mass is surprisingly tolerable; the falls proved quite scenic and worth the trip. It was hot, though, and the 1/2 mile hike down a very steep, winding and rock strewn incline to the falls made for a powerful thirst in a man. The climb back up only served to exacerbate the situation. Providentially, the town of Chatham, New York happened to be on our way home...

Chatham is a charmingly preserved small town that is, perhaps, a bit too popular with folks of the Downstate persuasion. Chatham Brewing is located right on Main Street, just behind Ralph's Pretty Good (though mildly overpriced) Cafe. Since they don't have a proper tasting room just yet, we were "forced" to sample their wares at the Peint o Gwrw, a Welsh pub about three doors down on Main. Following in bold is sometime freelancer D.G. Dunford earning his keep, with our comments in italics:

The IPA, given my small sample, was quite delicious. It had a complex bitterness that was genuinely appreciated, and a smooth, refreshing finish.
This was a very, very solid IPA. Really fresh, crisp and well balanced. We'd have probably enjoyed it more, but it disappeared too quickly for some mysterious reason. It could have used a little bit more in the hops department, but we'd take this on tap anywhere, any time we could get it.

The Porter was dark, almost chocolatey in nature - it was served ice-cold, and while it might have benefitted from warming up, went down nice and easy on this summer's day. This was my favorite of the three, and I'll be interested to try it again, perhaps having let it sit awhile on an autumn's day.
Chatham's Porter won a bronze at Tap NY in April, and there is no doubt as to whether it was deserving. This immediately joined the ranks of the best porters we've ever sampled. Not to geek out, but this had incredible depth. It had flavours of coffee, chocolate, caramel, toffee, you name the tasty adjective, but without being too busy, too sweet, or losing its identity. It was creamy smooth, but with a little bitter snap to it. Can't wait to have it again. Amazing beer.

As for the Amber. Wow. For what might be the first time in my entire life, I didn't finish a beer. I've had some terrible beers before, but this took the cake. You know the verbiage with which the "Anchorman" characters describe Brian Fantana's "sex panther" cologne? This was similar to that; pure gasoline, diaper filled with Indian food, reminiscent of the member of Bigfoot - the whole nine yards. This beer reeked of vinegar. There was much speculation as to whether it was a bad batch or a bad line at the Peint o'Gwrw, but honestly, it shouldn't matter - when the brewery is a mere hundred or so yards away from the tap, there should be better quality control.
This beer had a buttery/diacetyl/Summer's Eve thing going on. Something went horribly wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

All in all, Chatham has potential - not bad for a brewery that has been in operation for less than six months, but certainly there is work to be done before they expand...
We're very impressed overall and look forward to visiting the actual brewery. This region really needs a few more good, local beers with broad availability - we've got a long way to go to even be in the same neighbourhood as Syracuse. We're chalking the amber disaster up as pure anomaly and hoping for more good things from Chatham Brewing.

No comments: