Billy Batson Just Became Shazam!

Sometimes when I travel for work, I go to cool interesting places like San Diego, Portland, Long Island or even international locations like Toronto and Sweden.  Then there are times when I travel for work and go to less cool and interesting places like Artesia, NM.  But fortunes tend to be good and even in the wilds of Artesia there are breweries to be found.  Often… oh so often, I find myself in Brunswick, GA.  Trips to Brunswick are great because I can drive there and because the work itself that I do there is fantastic, important, interesting, and cool.  But Brunswick itself… well, it lacks a bit in the things-to-do category.  Sure, there are beaches nearby.  But, I’m working all day and I live in Orlando where I have access to beaches any time I want.  In Brunswick itself, it all comes down to where to eat for the evening.  And there aren’t even a lot of good options in that department.  Finally, the greatest offense.  No breweries.  None.  The single place I travel most to for work and I can’t get even go find breweries at night.  Such a shame.

But… on my latest trip up there, I found something brand new.  Something with beer.  Something with hand-made pizza.  Something with a new and unique presentation.  Oh my.  It just might be a brewery.

Hop Soul Brewing Exterior

Eureka!  For this trip I had the great expectation of being able to go out and get a descent beer or maybe a flight.  What I got was so much more.

Hop Soul Brewing Starter Kit

When you walk into Hop Soul Brewing you get a beer card and a glass.  You put some amount of money on the card, say $5 or $10.  You order a slide of handmade pizza and some wings (or whatever floats your particular boat).

Pizza and Dry Rub Chorizo wings

And then you take yourself over to the “Beer Buffet” to figure out what you want to pour for yourself.

Hop Soul Beer Buffet

You choose which beer you want to drink.  In my case I cannot possibly recommend the Chunky Monkey highly enough.  Holy crap is that a good beer.

Hop Soul Chunky Monkey Description

You then put your card in a special holder and pour however much you want of the beer.  Beers tend to be in the 35 to 50 cents per ounce range.  You can decide to make your own flight, pour a few half pints, commit to a full pint, or any combination of these things.  You even get to operate one of those cool glass rinsing things.

Glass Rinsing

I’ve seen models like this for wine before.  But, let’s face it, wine is expensive and a $5 or $10 card in one of those places is going to get you an ounce of liquid at best. I’ll take self-serve beer over self-serve wine any day of the week. For that matter I’ll  take any beer over any wine.  But shouldn’t be entirely unexpected.

Often, when I visit a newly opened brewery, they might have a growler or crowler, but certainly won’t have any bottles of their own beer.  And, as always, the prime directive is really to add more bottles to the collection.  So I was even more please to find a cabinet with 2, reasonably priced bottles of their beer on the top right.

Hop Soul Beer Bottles

Now this place has everything.  Not that I needed to, but I added on a crowler of the Chunky Monkey, just because it was so damn good.

Now if only my work brought me back to Brunswick, GA on a regular basis so I could visit this place more often.  Oh wait… it does.  I’m finally going to look forward to traveling here for reasons other than work!

You put what in a what now?

I really try my best to keep the (at last count) 3477 bottles and cans organized in a spread sheet that I can access at any time.  So, when I’m buying new beer, I can look back through the sheets and avoid buying doubles.  However, dot dot dot, it happens.  Sometimes I just plain miss something in my sheets.  Sometimes I find myself in a place that only sells in 4 or 6 packs and I have to buy that way.  Sometimes I just like the bottle/can or beer so much I buy more.  And then there are times when people want to give me cans or bottles and I just can’t put them in the collection because I didn’t drink (or at least taste) them.  But what to do with those extras?  For the cans at least, I have found something at least mildly interesting.

Ever try to take the top off of a beer can with a can opener?  Of course you haven’t.  Who would?  Well, I tried it once to see if it would let me make it look like my empty beer cans were never really opened.  Turns out it takes quite a bit of modification to a can opener to get it to deal with that inward slope at the top of a beer can.  Also, it didn’t really work well as it crimped the rim of the can (http://bottlecollection.net/2016/07/10/opening-cans-from-top-or-bottom-or-is-there-a-better-way/).

A lot of people around me now have been getting into planting succulents into anything they can fit them into.  So, of course, I figured this would be a great thing to do with my extra beer cans.

Succulent in Tractor Brewing IPA Can

 

Succulents in Clown Shoes Beer Cans

Not bad huh?  I think they come out pretty well.  And, because I work in such a cool office environment, they let me spread them out on the window ledges!  Have I mentioned that I love my job before?

Succulents on the Window Sill
More Succulents on the Window Sill

Next up I have some bottles I want to do this with.  But first Mrs. Usedhair has to find her glass bottle cutting kit that we’ve hidden in a box somewhere deep in the bowels of the house.

Help!!!!

I have made a fine show of what the collection looks like at it’s best.

Nice picture of collection 1
Nice picture of collection 2
Nice picture of collection 3

However… the reality is that all the wall space is completely taken and there are a good 60 cases of bottles and cans that won’t fit any more.  The collection has grown to over 3000 containers and looks something like this…

What the display has become

This is not what I want for the collection.  But, I simply don’t have the space to keep it all to myself anymore.  I’m looking for someplace to display the collection.  Preferably a brewery, brewpub, or bar that is in need of something that will look fantastic on their walls.  Are you such a place?  Please let me know so we can discuss how/when we could arrange such a display transfer.

Have a Beery Christmas

I was recently faced the fun problem of finding something to do with vacation time when I don’t have the money to travel.  Why not build a Christmas tree with cans that haven’t been put on display yet?

Christmas Can Tree

In case anyone is interested, there are 452 cans in this tree.  It started with a single row of all of my tall cans and a stack of boxes.

Boxes of not-yet-displayed cans

I could tell as I got near the top that the first attempt was a bit too small, so I had to add on more rows.

First attempt was too small

I ended up with 9 rows before I ran out of cans.  Then I ransacked my toy collection to decorate.  And, of course, I had to top the tree with the most Christmas themed can and toy I have.

Christmas Story themed can

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and/or a Happy Holiday Season.

 

Déjà Brew

A glorious fact of life that makes this blog possible for me is that I travel a lot as part of my job.  about a year and a half ago, I went to San Diego across two work trips and did a series of posts about a brewery run on my last day there.  The story at the time focused on a one day journey specifically in San Diego.  But that definitely wasn’t the only set of breweries I went to on those two trips.  Some of the most memorable brewery visits for me are the surprise trips where I stumble upon a brewery.  Despite all my research of San Diego before my trips, I never really thought to look into the area where much of my actual work was being done.  I was working with the U.S. Border Patrol on this set of visits, and we met each day at their sector headquarters in Chula Vista, CA.  After working there a few days, one of the agents mentioned that there was a brewery literally only one block away from the headquarters office.  So, of course, on the way back to the hotel that very same day, I had to stop in at Novo Brazil Brewing Co.

Novo Brazil brewing equipment

There was almost no indication from the road as to what the place was (which explains why I missed it on the previous days).  And inside was mostly brewing equipment with a small-ish tap room area.

Novo Brazil bottling equipment
Novo Brazil barrel aging
Novo Brazil taps

It was a great brewery with quality beer and several unique styles.  I was especially pleased that I was able to get a bottle of their Brazilian Style Ale for the collection.

Novo Brazil Brazilian Style Ale

Although Novo Brazil had a goodly amount of equipment, they definitely didn’t seem big enough that I would expect to see anything from them clear across the country in Central Florida.  But, guess what I discovered at my local beer stop yesterday?

Novo Brazil cans

Crazy… just crazy.  I don’t know how they got to such a wide distribution so fast (especially in the San Diego market that is absolutely jam packed with breweries), but I couldn’t be happier for them.  I hope I see a lot more from them at my local beer shop.  I also hope I keep seeing more from other breweries that didn’t strike me as being the type to make it to national distribution levels.  I want to experience déjà brew again and again.

By a strange coincidence, none at all is exactly as much suspicion I had that I would visit this brewery

The side trip that Mrs. UsedHair and I took to Atlanta resulted in us taking an odd route to our normal travel destination.  Hence, we wound up on Interstate 20 traveling through an unknown (to us anyway) area of South Carolina somewhere around dinner time.  The area didn’t look like it was going to offer us much in the way of non-fast-food dining options so my hopes weren’t that high.  But, I’m very much a “just in case” kind of guy.  So, I pulled out my phone and did a search on Google Maps for food options. To my surprise one of the places that seemed to be right in our line of fire was the Old Mill Brewpub.  A quick look at their website checked off two important criteria.  They would have food that Mrs. UsedHair (notoriously picky eater) would like, and they did serve their own beer.  That was enough for us.

Walking up to the place, the entrance certainly had a standard appearance.

Old Mill Brewpub entrance

But, it always pays to look a little more closely to find the oddball stuff that gives each place it’s own personality.

Old Mill Brewpub Spock flyer

After walking down a nicely decorated hallway, you get to the main tap room area.

Found Old Mill Brewpub almost by accident off a highway in South Carolina. Made my day. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Old Mill Brewpub tap room area

I, and I know this will come as a complete shock, really like collections.  So, I was definitely drooling over their tap handle collection.

Old Mill Brewpub tap handle collection

I have a tendency to get food with a local flair, so I had to got the most southern US burger I could find.  It has pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, and pepper gravy.  The only thing that would have made it more southern would have been to put grits on it.  I also, of course, got a flight with 5 out of their 6 current beers.

Old Mill Brewpub flight

This was no cut and dry selection of beer.  Between the Cookies & Cream Milk Stout and the Hoptimize Strong Ale, I had a hard time figuring out which beer I wanted to walk out of there with.  In the long run, the Cookies & Cream Milk Stout won out.  I did find it interesting that their growlers and pint glasses have stickers for labels rather than something printed.  But, the growler is a very unique style, so I’m still very happy to have it in the collection.

Old Mill Brewpub unique growler with sticker for a label

Sometimes I find myself struggling to get to great new places.  Then again, sometimes they almost find me.  This trip was an extremely happy accident.

Made in Georgia

Most of the time, I travel for work and slip my own activities in where I can.  But, once in a while I get to travel for myself.  On our way to somewhere else, Mrs. UsedHair and I decided to make a stop for a day in Atlanta.  First up for the day was just a bit to the south of Atlanta in Senoia, GA.  We are huge Walking Dead fans and we decided to take a tour of the town that people will recognize from the show as “Woodbury”.

Senoia, GA – Woodbury from the Walking Dead

On the tour, we found out a number of interesting facts.  For one, the town of Senoia, GA is very much an East Coast version of Hollywood and has been used is a much larger range of film and TV shows than just The Walking Dead.  There is also an area of the town just around the corner from the picture above where many Walking Dead shots that take place in neighborhoods (such as the pudding house) are shot.  I think the one that took us most by surprise is that if you turn your body 180 degrees from where the picture above was taken, you see…

Senoia, GA – Alexandria from the Walking Dead

Yup.  That’s Alexandria from the Walking Dead.  Giant rusty wall and all.  We had no idea both locations were so close together.  We learned a lot, had a great time, then moved a little north for our next phase of the day’s adventure.  We don’t really watch the news and soft drinks are fun to consume, but hold no super thrill for us.  So we had no interest in visiting CNN the World of Coca-Cola that seem to be such touristy draws for so many others.  We prefer the odder things in life.

Fortunately, someone pointed out to us that there is a nature trail just south of Atlanta called the Doll’s Head Trail.  The trail was made on land that used to be highly littered and, apparently, there was still a lot of debris around the trail for some time after it’s construction.  People started taking the debris and making super creepy decorations out of whatever they can find on the trail.  It’s super critical to the culture of the trail that the decorations are made only from things that are found on the trail and there are signs everywhere asking that people not import their own decorations.

Doll’s Head Trail – doll head with lamp shade
Dolls Head Trail – drunk rockin’ Elmo decor
Doll’s Head Trail – doll in the sunset

But, the Doll’s Head Trail closes at dusk.  And, as the last picture shows, we were really pushing it and were worried that we were going to get locked in for the night.  It was time to head on down the road into Atlanta proper and move on to my choice of places for the day. Nice and close to the highway we would have to hit in the morning (and the hotel where we would spend the night) is Torched Hop Brewing Company.

At Torched Hop brewing in Atlanta, GA. Love the hops decor hanging from the ceiling. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

The first thing that struck me as we walked in was the hop decorations hanging from the ceiling in the lobby (and how much I would like for the ceiling in my bottle collection display to look the same way).

Hop decor on ceiling at Torched Hop Brewing
Hop decor

In fact, most of the decor at Torched hop seemed to be well made and pretty intricate.

Intricate decor abounds at Torched Hop Brewing
Interesting lighting decor at Torched Hop Brewing

I got myself a flight of beer with the Nightmare on Penn Street, Steve Enkel, Dubbel Maple, and Miss Scarlett’s Guilty Pleasure. Of course, they were all excellent.  While I was enjoying the flight, I noticed some interesting containers behind the bar.

Alcohol infusions at Torched Hop Brewing

Turns out someone there likes to make their own alcohol infusions.  I only wish I was going to be there longer so I could have tried one.  As it was, Mrs. UsedHair and I were getting tired from the long and adventurous day.  Fortunately, they had growlers, so I was able to abscond with a 32 oz of It’s 8 O’clock Somewhere Milk Stout, so the collection did not suffer this day.

The one was constructed on the ruins of the other

Time for my last stop in Pittsburgh.  I dove deep into the historic Deutschtown neighborhood for this venture.  The historic feel was punctuated by an old, yet seemingly still functional, Heinz factory across the highway.

Heinz factory

But, this visit was not about ketchup.  Oh no.  I was here for the beer, make no mistake.  And my destination was certainly no hole in wall with a tiny sign that you had to search for.  Due to the somewhat congested nature of the building layouts, you don’t see it from very far away. But, when you get to Penn Brewery, you definitely know it.

Penn Brewery exterior

Before I even went inside, I got a camera full of interesting information just walking around their cobblestone biergarten with… I don’t even know what to call them.  They look like archway tunnels or caves that have been closed off at one end.  Although, now they have been set up as drinking/dining areas.

Penn Brewery archway area

Whatever they are, they are really cool.  The rest of the cobblestone biergarten was also interesting.

Penn Brewery cobblestone biergarten
Penn Brewery entrance to cobblestone biergarten

And the inside was certainly no less fascinating.

Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

I ordered myself a plate of pierogi, the Mash Paddle Vs. Hipster beer and settled down to take in the atmosphere and chat with the bartender.  I found out that the building was not just a historic landmark for being an old building.  It was actually a brewery that had started up in 1884.  Penn Brewery apparently still has lagering caverns still in use from the old E&O Brewery days.  I’ll bet the odd outdoor areas used to be an entrance to those cavers.

Penn Brewery historic landmark sign

As I waited for my pierogi I wandered the inside and got some additional pictures.

Penn Brewery decor
Penn Brewery awards

I also checked out the ratskellar where you could see brewing equipment that started in the basement and was situated under the brewing equipment you could see by the bar.

Penn Brewery basement brewing equipment

Penn Brewery was absolutely worth the trip, and I managed to score a 2013 bottle of St. Nikolaus Bock Bier that they had squirreled away.

Penn Brewery 2013 bottle of St. Nikolaus Bock Bier

Quite the score for the bottle collection.

Someone saved my life tonight

Wow!  I just realized how far behind I am with some of the visits I’ve made.  In case anyone hasn’t noticed, I travel A LOT.  So I have a lot of breweries to write about.  Still to come are trips I’ve made to Portland, Baltimore, and New Mexico.  On top of that, I have a lot of local-ish breweries to get to.  There is a lot on my plate (42 breweries to write about at last count).  So, hopefully, I’ll start churning out a reasonable amount of new content to keep up with the pace.  I recently spent a significant amount of time organizing all of the pictures and videos I’ve accumulated (which reduced the amount of time I had to write, see how that works).  Seems I have a few visits that slipped through the cracks.  Let’s make sure they get the attention they deserve.

Remember when I went to Pittsburgh and wrote about The Church Brew Works and Insurrection?  Well, that was not all there was to that trip.  Somehow I got pulled onto other stories.  But there are some Pittsburgh stops we still need to look at.

The story so far.  We had a rental car for the first day of the trip (which got me to The Church Brew Works, Insurrection, and Penn Brewing), but then we were on our own.  We were staying at a hotel with a shuttle to the airport and we were working at the airport.  No need for a rental car for most of the week long trip.  The down side of that situation was that we were limited to eating within walking distance of the hotel.  On top of that, we were working crazy hours at the airport and we were exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel every night.  I was sure I would never find enough breweries, brew pubs, or even good craft beer bars in the area to keep me satisfied during the week and I just didn’t have the energy to go exploring.  However, on the way back to the hotel on the first night, we saw a sign within walking distance that said “Industry Public House“.  Seemed worth checking out.

Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Holy crap!  What a cool place.

Industry Public House beer list

They did have “Industry” beers listed on tap.  I asked if they brewed on site (as I couldn’t tell if the equipment behind the glass was brewing or distilling equipment) and they were very up front about letting me know that their beers are brewed by Full Pint Brewing.  I definitely appreciated the honesty, and Full pint is a great brewer.  So, no complaints on my end and certainly nothing to be ashamed of on their end.  I was also impressed with their drink listing which included an indication of how full the keg was and a link to Untapped so that you could see what people were writing about.

Link to Untapped

I am a 5 year old at heart, so I got a kick out of seeing my name pop up on the board when I tracked my beer.  Obviously, I got the Hot Blast Habanero Pale Ale, because I like things hot, hot, hot.  Before you get all bent out of shape because these systems are showing up all over the place, keep in mind (as I stated at the beginning of the post) that this happened a while back.  It was new to me at the very least.

Normally, I’m all about the beer. But, this place had so much more going for it.  They also had a list of whiskys and bourbons about as long as my arm and smoke infusers on site.  You picked your whisky/bourbon and your flavor of smoke (e.g., apple wood) and they smoked your whisky/bourbon right before bringing it out to your table.  I’m not normally a whisky kind of guy (or a heavy smoke flavoring kind of guy for that matter).  But I had to try it anyway. I got a Southern Comfort with a cherry wood smoke added.  It really was pretty good.

And to top it all off, they had some of the most unique food options I’ve seen in quite some time.  That lead to Industry becoming out nightly stop all week long.  The first night, I got some wild boar bacon.  The second night,  I got sausage croquettes with a whiskey sauce and butternut crisps.  The next night, I got the roasted duck pot pie.  On the last night there, I got the kimchi shortrib burger and the bourbon bread pudding.  The saddest part is that I only scratched the surface of what they had available.

I once had a similar week-long work trip where the only place to eat near the hotel was a Waffle House.  I can absolutely say that having Industry so close at hand was a far, far better experience.  And I did mange to get a “growler” of that Hot Blast Habanero Pale Ale.  Although “growler” is a strong term considering what they gave me was really a 12 oz mason jar.

Industry Public House “growler” that is really a mason jar

Even that worked out well for me, as it’s easier to transport and to display than a 32 oz or 64 oz growler.  And space is definitely tight for display right now.

It’s a double header!

The more bottles and cans I add, the harder it is to hit numbers that allow for a better description (such as 1000 bottles or 500 breweries).  In my latest cataloging session I hit two of these within a few beers!

First up, I now have 750 breweries represented in my collection. The beer/brewery that topped it off was Tiny Bomb from Wiseacre Brewing Co.

Tiny Bomb from Wiseacre Brewing Co.

Within a few more beers being cataloged, I came across container 2500.  The beer that got me to 1/4 of 10,000 was Fireberry from Shipyard Brewing Co.

Fireberry from Shipyard Brewing Co.

The collection has grown to staggering proportions.  I have gone far past filling the shelves in my office to a point where I literally sit surrounded by cases of empty bottles and cans.  I’m either going to have to suck it up and pay for off site storage somewhere, or find a brewery somewhere that needs a display idea (and a ton of room).

Here is where the collection stats stand at the moment.

Containers Added 2504
Repeats 80
Size Difference 19
Still to drink 64
Cans 655
Bottles 1849
Unique Beers 2405
Breweries 752
Classic Cans 44