As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, my wife recently became a travel nurse. For her first assignment, we left our home in Milwaukee and drove to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We took three days to get out to the East Coast, and took the scenic route, with stops in places such as Cincinnati, Niagara Falls, and a small town in Vermont. I managed to find time to hit six breweries during this trek. Below, I select and describe my four favorites. Not surprisingly, the breweries were all distinct and each had enjoyable aspects!
- Urban Artifact Brewing: Cincinnati, OH
- Rhinegeist Brewing: Cincinnati, OH
- Lock 32 Brewing: Pittsford, NY
- Hermit Thrush Brewing, Brattleboro, VT
Located North of downtown Cincinnati in historic St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, this is a unique brewery. Urban Artifact is relatively new to the craft beer scene, but between their location and their funky beers, they are making a name for themselves. My father is a Lutheran pastor, so going to a church to drink was quirky and fun. Entering through a door in the side, you walk into the basement. A cool natural wood bar sits in one corner, along with some high tables. Along one wall is a row of church pews, which plays well with the location. A curtain to the right of the bar leads to a live music spot, which they use often. It is dimly lit, which gives it kind of a steampunk/grunge feel (in a good way).
So I’ll admit, I indulged myself here. I normally get a diverse flight, but with the plethora of sour ales here, I did not. Whirligig was an incredible American Wild Ale. Brewed with Michigan blueberries, it was pleasantly tart up front before allowing some funk to come through in the back. Flashlamp and Key Punch were my other two favorites. A tart white ale, Flashlamp allows tartness and coriander to meld perfectly. And Key Punch was an excellent Gose, with lime and salt on the tongue. Finn is one of their bigger names. This Berliner Pale Ale is what I imagine a 50/50 Berliner Weisse/Pale Ale mix would be. For those not into sours, there are other options. Their tap list is constantly rotating, but beers such as Wheats Up (Hefeweizen) and Hippodrome (DIPA) make sure everyone has something to try.
Sour fans will love this place. That said, the constant changes to the tap list will keep everyone intrigued. Plus, you’re drinking in a church basement. Cool factor through the roof.
According to their site, Rhinegeist means “Ghost of the Rhine”, which refers to the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District in Cincy. Located in an old bottling plant, Rhinegeist is another Cincinnati brewery with a unique location. It is a large brick building, and you must climb 3 flights of stairs. Then you emerge into a humungous, expansive taproom/brewery. The open warehouse-feel serves the spot well, with plenty of space for tables, games, brewing equipment, and of course the bar. Large skylights tower above you, and it appears much of the original structure is intact. There is a main bar in the far left corner, as well as a roof top bar with views of the city. A neat feature is that the previously mentioned stairs are covered by stickers from breweries around the country.
Rhinegeist has a large selection for patrons to choose from when they visit. Hop heads will have plenty of choices. My IPA for the day was Astro Dwarf, a hazy IPA with tropical notes on the nose and a nice dankness. Knowledge is for those wanting to go a step further. This Imperial IPA hits hard with 98 IBU and 8.5 ABV. To no one’s surprise, their Gose, Peach Dodo, was my favorite. Tart, but with some sweetness, this one hit the spot. Chester, a cherry saison, was a fascinating brew. Cherry notes are subtle, but definitely present, and are stronger initially before letting the farmhouse qualities take over. Finally, Bertha was a milk stout served on nitro. Creamy is the key description here, and coffee is the most prominent flavor, although I found it rather lacking.
I would say this is a must stop for craft beer fans visiting Cincinnati. Plenty of beers, a sweet tap room, and a roof top bar ensures you will have a good time. Plus, walking up all those stairs burns calories, which means you can have more beer!
Pittsford, a suburb of Rochester, is home to one of the finer taprooms I’ve been to (sorry the pictures don’t do it justice). Located in a quaint downtown strip, Lock 32 is quite literally ON the Erie Canal. It’s a small space, but the large opening in the back looks directly out to the Canal. Above the opening hangs a large paddle, which goes along with the water theme. It appeared there was a patio outside by the water, but there were no tables there. An L-shaped bar takes up most of one wall, with small tables taking up most of the remaining space. Interestingly, a spiral staircase leads up to the coolers and keg storage. There was also live music in one corner. The space was not overly fancy, but had a slightly upscale feel.
Besides sours, one of my other preferred styles is the pumpkin beer. The Eerie Canal (awesome pun name), is one of the better examples of this style I’ve had. Truly, it felt like I was drinking pumpkin pie. The spices were perfectly done, and a sweet finish capped off this delicacy. For those that enjoy a floral bouquet, their IPA Flower City is for you. It also goes down surprisingly easy, with only mild bitterness, so watch out! If that isn’t enough floral, you can also get those characteristics from their crisp SMASH ale Widewater. For those warm summer nights, Goldie-Lock is a drink you can toss back. This quaffable drink is your to-style summer golden ale.
Lock 32, and by extension Pittsford, is what many would imagine when they think of a small-town brewery in the Northeast. If you are in the area (especially during summer), I would stop by. Having a beer and sitting by the open window looking at the canal sure is nice.
So here’s the scoop. I love Hermit Thrush. They ONLY brew sour beers. But more on that later. Located in the beautiful town of Brattleboro, Vermont, this small brewery packs a punch. Their taproom is fairly small, with an L-bar and a few small barrels providing seating. Wood is the main element used inside, which seemed to go well with their atmosphere. There is one brick/plaster wall to break this up though. A small window to the left looks into a space with brewing equipment, and next to it is a pinball machine. Because they are in somewhat tight quarters, they have an addition space in Dummerston, VT which provides an area for storage, packaging, and beer aging. But let’s get to the good stuff: their beer.
Sours. Sours everywhere. They brew basically every kind of sour you can imagine. IPAs, Amber Ales, Pale Ales, Barrel-Aged, Kettle Sours, you name it, they do it. There were nine choices on tap, and I was able to try 5. Silverberry Sour was my favorite. This sour saison is aged for 10 months in barrels with wild silverberries. Close behind on my list was one of their mainstays, Brattlebeer. A sour pale ale made with apples, it had a medium tartness, with just a hint of apple. Green Street SIPA (sour IPA) and Party Guy (sour session amber ale) are both styles that are less common. They are also both what you would imagine they would be. An IPA and an amber ale with a nice tartness added to them. Finally, we had the most complex (in my opinion), of the bunch. Supah Phunk #6 is another sour saison, but aged in white & red wine barrels. The wine qualities were more present on the nose than the tongue.
If you are a sour fan, a trek to Brattleboro is 100% worth it. And if you are not, I would recommend going to try the wide variety of styles, as you more than likely have not had them anywhere else. I hope to return in the future to see what they have brewed up!
This was the first article where the breweries were in completely different places. Sour ales were the focus at two of them, but overall they each provide a different experience that shouldn’t be missed. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip out east, and am looking forward to describing all the breweries I visit out here.
I plan for the next two articles to look at the breweries along New Hampshire’s coast. Most fall in or around Portsmouth, but some quality names are located to the south, close to the border of Massachusetts.
Current Brewery Count
105 breweries across 55 cities in 15 states. Numbers are current as of 9/10/17. For an up-to-date count, follow my adventures on Twitter: @brewerytravels