FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK :: A New Trip Through the South

by Harvey Gold on November 25, 2014

So a new trip to the south. The difference this time, is that, as opposed to a one stop straight shot to our beloved but isolated burg of Okeechobee Florida, this tour had more stops and, thus, more opportunities to try some brewage.

First up, Winston-Salem North Carolina. We revisited a watering hole we’ve reported on before, First Street Draught House. Nice people, interesting selections on the board, tastes freely offered, and a nice terrace on which to sip, talk, and relax.

Boxcarr

Boxcarr

My first draught was Boxcarr, a pumpkin porter, from Starr Hill brewery out of Charlottesville, Virginia. As we all know, I’m not big on pumpkin seasonals that inspire one to run to the fridge for Cool Whip, and I made that position clear to the bartender before going with it. Turns out, this is, first and foremost, a tasty English style porter that happens to be brewed with pumpkin and spice. The nose was definitely sweet, a little floral and, yes, spicey. No head to speak of, with decent lacing, the dominant impression from the sip was a sweet malt taste, almost milk sugary, over that trademark English toasted malt edge. At a very British 4.7% ABV, a good choice as the first beer supped after dinner. I’ve tried a number of beers from Starr Hill, all of them respectable, none of them standing out from the crowd, but Boxcarr broke the mold. This is a lovely, highly drinkable brew with real personality and style. Gets me to thinking, sometimes maybe it isn’t the brew, but maybe it’s me at a moment in time. As a result of my experience with Boxcarr, I’ll revisit some Starr Hill offerings sooner rather than later.

photo credit : beer47.com

photo credit : beer47.com

Inspired by the kind of sweetness and mouthfeel I got from the Boxcarr, I then ordered up a Milk Stout from Duck-Rabbit, about 175 miles east of us in Farmville, NC. Also an excellent choice. The award winning best seller for Duck-Rabbit, this offered up similar impressions as had from Boxcarr, but in a much different beer. I have no info to confirm that Boxcarr used any lactose, though the sweetness inspired by the spices suggested it. Duck-Rabbit definitely uses said milk sugars in their stout. There was a sweetness and a full bodied mouthfeel over… again… that great toasty , almost burnt malt flavor, giving it depth and edge. Also distinguishing this stout was a fruitiness that joined all the other flavor notes as it warmed a bit. No wonder it’s won “best in show” multiple times. At 5.7% ABV, I was able to head back to the wonderful Summit Street Inns happy, and with a clear head.

Next up, Savannah, Georgia. Last time there we wrote about Moon River Brewery. We planned on returning, but they’ve expanded with a impressive outdoor beer garden and were just too busy when we went by. Instead, we had dinner at Churchills Pub and Restaurant, where we learned a couple fun bartender tricks. Sitting upstairs in the intimate open air roof bar of this sprawling pub, restaurant, and catering venue, the food was fine but the drink was delightful. I started with a Churchill’s Ultimate Bloody Mary : “Cucumber Vodka, Zing Zang bloody Mary mix and a few secret ingredients rimmed with cajun spices.” I requested additional horseradish. I’m not normally a mix guy, and prefer my BMs thick. This was quite opaque and yet extraordinarily delicious.

The wife had their Old Fashion Savannah Style, consisting of Savannah 88 Bourbon, muddled orange, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, angostura bitters, club soda and ginger ale. This is not my drink, but it should be noted she loved it.

Experience the Magic: Jameson's and Pickle Juice

Experience the Magic: Jameson’s and Pickle Juice

As we conversed with our server/bartender, we learned the interesting factoid that more Irish Whiskey is consumed in Savannah than anywhere else in the country. I can’t confirm this but I have learned there are a LOT of Irish Pubs in Savannah. As we expanded on this conversation, he asked if we knew about Irish and pickle juice, which we, in fact, did not. The idea is that if you follow a shot of Irish immediately with a shot of pickle juice, there’s no evidence on your breath of whiskey. In a festive mood after my two previous drinks and, of course, driven by journalistic fervor, I gave it a go. Absolutely true. A little brine on the breath but that was it. I figure this was, first and foremost, a trick to be used by your wiley alcoholic, stopping by the pub for a couple on the way home from work, in order to go totally undetected by the spouse… or the boss, I would venture to guess, after a quick duck out at lunch.
Also a great moment of salesmanship by the bartender. First you buy a shot to try the trick. Stuck with the taste of pickle juice on the tongue, you then have to buy another shot to rid yourself of THAT! Genius, I tellya!

The other bit of magic he offered up appealed to the Missus. Her favorite breakfast comes in the form of pancakes or waffles. She likes to say she enjoys having some flour with her sugar. Well this cute combo was a shot made up of half Irish and half Butter Shot schnapps immediately followed (preferably without taking a breath) by a shot of orange juice. The end result should be the mouth tasting pancakes. This, miraculously, worked as well. The downside for the bar was that my wife loved this flavor and didn’t require the purchase of anything further to change things.

The next night in Savannah was dedicated to food, pecans, pralines and iced tea.

Myrtle Beach, our next stop, offered up a lovely beach, nice folks, and at least 75 pancake houses and another 47 Calabash Seafood buffets per 1/10th mile. The good news, of course, is that Spring Breakers will NOT go hungry here. Had wonderful Italian at Villa Romano, a throwback big, noisy, red sauce, cloth linens indulgence.

Audrey Junior?

Audrey Junior?

Moving on to Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington, NC, we met up with an old school chum, a newspaper writer who has been in the are a for decades.  First stop was Flytrap Brewing, a cute little out of the way place located in the Brooklyn Art District. With friendly faces and an interesting selection, my first round was the Flytrap Hoppy Tripel. I love a good, hoppy IPA, and I love a good Belgian, so it’s nice to enjoy the big hops with the yet greater variation in flavor notes brought about by distinctive yeast and spice recipes used in Belgian concoctions. At 8.2%, a “real” beer, yet not too heavy, sporting a nice hop aroma with a little sweet bread thrown in, refreshing and flavorful with a proper back end bitter. I finished up my wife’s Flytrap Belgian Blond, a nice “craft session” beer (5.9% ABV) with that layer of sweet flavor that distinguishes the Blonds from their, to me, less interesting German Weissbier counterparts. Picnic tables out back, named after the Venus Flytrap (remember “Little Shop of Horrors”?), which, amazingly – I did not know this – ONLY lives in the greater Wilmington N.C. area, a great place for a pre-dinner drink. Mike Barles, the brewmaster there, has mad chops, to be sure.

bacon-swansonOur little gang then moved on to downtown Wilmington for more beer and some eats, hitting the Front Street Brewery, a two (or three) level, clearly popular eatery in town. I went with a mug of their 80 Shilling, a Scottish style ale, a little bigger and leaning more towards the chocolate/coffee malt flavors prevalent in the American craft lexicon, than the dryer, toastier malt tastes found in the traditional Scottish Heavies. Yet at 5.1% ABV, a terrific, flavorful quencher and accompaniment to our dinner. We started with appetizers in the form a of a plate full of fried green tomatoes (which I don’t eat, but everyone else loved) and the famous “Mug of Bacon,” which I, of course, ordered. This made no bones about it. It was a clear glass mug stuffed with tasty bacon. No dusting of scallions or dipping sauces. It was a real “Parks & Recreation” Ron Swanson offering. I followed it with a Crawfish Po’ Boy while Miss Dolli went with the brisket and melted smoked gouda on grilled sourdough. Everything was plentiful and delicious, and the 80 Shilling did the trick on all fronts.

By the time we made it back down to our old, usually relatively beer bereft haunt of Okeechobee, I just concentrated on the 160 proof Hooch, with oak chips and rose petals in the jar, whipped up by my personal mash chef, only (to protect the …um… guilty) known here as “Boo”

unnamedThis was a great trip. Many dear friends and, really, family. Some great Fall weather in the south. I even took this pic on Wrightsville Beach!

Epilogue: As I proof read this to my wife, when I came to “…prefer my BMs thick,” she completely lost control and came very close to laughing herself into one herself, giggling “who doesn’t like their…” as she headed off into another paroxysm of laughter and strangled coughing.

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