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Honey, I'm Home!

A lot of what I do depends on travel. I got some excellent advice from John Hansell, publisher of Malt Advocate, who got it in turn from Michael Jackson. You can't write about a place if you haven't been there. So...I travel. I won't deny it's fun, and it often makes a good story, though I'm usually glad to get home to Cathy and the kids. 

Here are the archives, followed by my Latest Big Trip.


Way Out On The Edge of New York: Barker, Beer, and Bourbon
The Electric Pale Ale-Powered Mini-Van Urine Test:
What I Do When I'm Not Working
McMenamin's Edgefield, the Amusement Park For Adults:
Taking My Beer For a Walk
Beer's Gonna Make Me a Big Star: Media Exposure, Pittsburgh, and Stephanie
And I Scarcely Think We'll Get A Drink, till We Get to Buffaloooo:
A thousand mile marathon of bars, breweries, and a malfunctioning minivan.
A Memory of Bert Grant: the 1997 Yakima Hop Harvest


























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3/15: Mark Thompson with Pale Ale, his favorite.


























































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Cows in the mist, very Irish.

























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3/17: Roger Brashears, who claimed that his desk looked "normal."

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3/17: Jimmy Bedford with ricks of  sugar maple.


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3/17: The source of all Jack Daniels















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3/18: ROAR!!! The mighty blower- driven brewkettle at BBC







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3/18: Eric Plowman, doing the "brewer on the platform" pose


A Yankee in The Valley

March 15-18, 2004

In which our hero visits five breweries, two distilleries, and more bars than it would be smart to number, while enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Shenandoah Valley in the company of his father.

3/15/04: It's a sunny day as I set out in the Jetta, headed west. Things get ugly quickly, though, as the damned car starts to spit and choke. Feels just like it did when I had catalytic converter problems three years before. I call ahead to my father, and once again, transfer to his Oldsmobile. How embarrassing. This had just happened not a month before, when I tried to do a two day trip to Baltimore with Sir. Arghgh.

Still, it hardly even caused a ripple in the schedule, except for Sir's 62 mph speed limit on driving his car. They last longer that way, he says. So does my life, but needs must when the old man drives, so...we drove out to Carlisle, stopped for a quick donut, and headed southwest on I-81.

I suppose I should explain the Sir thing at this point. I call my father Sir. It's not out of respect, although I do respect him deeply. It all started when I used to go along with him on bus trips. My father is a retired school teacher, and he used to drive bus for athletic events and field trips for extra money...and because he enjoys driving, and he gets paid for sitting on his butt reading a book while the game goes on. Anyway, I got to going along with him just to spend some time with him, and I soon found that when I wanted his attention, calling out "Sir!" really caught his ear. It stuck, and now my wife calls him that, too. It's just what I call him, not the product of some bizarre behavior modification inflicted on me as a child.  Back to the trip account.

I had a heavy schedule ahead of me, a desperate attempt to wrench Mid-Atlantic Breweries back into my calendar (doomed, as it turned out, but that's another story...or two), combined with a drive into Tennessee whiskey country. Drive on, donut!

We reached Charlottesville around noon, and quickly sussed out South Street Brewery. It wasn't hard: it was on South Street. I went in and had a very pleasant tasting session with brewer Taylor Smack. Taylor's a good guy, quite personable, a Goose Island alum who knew the Southern Tier (Jamestown, NY) guys, and an excellent brewer. 

South Street is an old warehouse, like many brewpubs, a solid old brick building. There's a long copper-top bar, a nice number of tables, an open kitchen, and a double-sided fireplace that made me wish for snow. Taylor told me about the brewing system, a John Mallet-customized Saaz special (Mallet was at Old Dominion, and is now at Bell's; one of American brewing's aristocracy), with all the bells and whistles: he loves it. Prove it, I said: let's sample! He was only too happy to comply.

As I sat at the long, empty bar (South Street doesn't open till 4:30) drinking beers, I was bummed that this was my first stop. I'd have liked to stay for a couple pints of these. Hogwaller Kölsch was the lightest, clean and bright with just a hint of fruit. But surprise: Satan's Pony, the Brit-malty amber, is the best-seller, and a very nice beer it was. Taylor also brought out the big boys: Absolution Ale, Strong Ale, Tripel, and his Special Pale, the big brother of his JPAle. The Special is only 6%, but it really rings all the bells. Good beers!

Hated to taste and run, but I had to. I made a quick stop at the Court Square Tavern, a small place, but nice (though Dad said the bathroom was stanky), and a good selection of bottles to complement the okay tap selection. Then we fought and cursed our way through the construction and the Main St. pedestrian mall (great when you're on foot, a real PITA when you're driving) out to our next stop.

Starr Hill isn't open on Mondays, except for the door. Brewer Mark Thompson has a policy he calls "Open Door Mondays," during which the public is invited in to brew. "Let people come right in," he explained as he showed me in. "Beer making is inherently exciting. By making the beer, they own the beer. This is The Gift of great beer. It's not about us or the beer, it's about The Gift. Beer is a vehicle to people. It's malt, hops, yeast, and water. The Love is the fifth ingredient." 

He really talks like that, Mark does, and he believes it. You get close to Mark and you can feel it coming off him. He's kind of a John Brown character, completely obsessed by his passion and trying anything to make it come about. "Beer is about conversation," he'll say, off on another angle. "It's the choice of cultures throughout time!" 

John Brown, of course, didn't have a finely honed commercial sense; see his complete failure of a farm near Lake Placid. "Making the devil's juice is easy," Mark says with a big grin. "Getting someone to buy your beer instead of their favorite the hard part." Starr Hill's beers aren't as popular with the geeks as South Street's are -- they're not big, they're not bold -- but that's okay with Mark. 

It's okay with the judges, too. Mark figures -- and I think he's right -- that no other brewery on the east coast has won as many medals -- real medals, GABF and World Beer Cup -- as Starr Hill in the five years since he started brewing. Geeks be damned, he's obviously doing something right. The beers prove it, too; my notes say things like "malty, fresh, well-rounded, and well-balanced (Amber); so damned drinkable, and bread-frickin'-fresh (Pale Ale); just ****ing rocking, nothing wrong with this at all (Dark Star Stout, the most award-winning dry stout in America, BTW)."

Mark was brewing on the old JV NorthWest system. It's only the third or fourth system JVNW made (Starr Hill inherited it from the previous occupant, Blue Ridge Brewing, which was, by the bye, a wonderful place that I always enjoyed visiting), and it shows in the rough welds. "There's no automation, it's stripped down," notes Mark. "Brewing with this system is like rubbing two sticks together to make fire: it's a lot of work, but the fire's just as hot." 

"And today," Mark says with a big goofy grin, "it's stinky IPA, chockfull of Cascades and Willamette. We never lack for trying." I took a look around at the place, picked up a menu, then I said good-bye to Mark and his assistant, Matt, and legged it on up the street to where the Olds was waiting. We had to get out to the elusive Kegler's, the most un-written about brewery on the east coast, far as I could find out.

Kegler's was north of town. It's a bowling alley with a little extract brewery in the basement. Dave Brockner is the brewer...okay, mostly he's the maintenance manager, but he also brewed the beer.  Until Isabel, that is. They had lost the last batch during Hurricane Isabel, and Dave hadn't brewed since. "I've just been too busy," he said. It wasn't going all that well, anyway. "Bowlers have a strong sense of brand loyalty," Dave explained. "If they drink Bud, they drink Bud."

So instead, we talked bowling alleys. Sir's first job was as a pin-setter in a bowling alley in Lancaster, PA, back before the days of automated pin-setting machines. Dave smiled, nodded, and asked us if we'd like a tour. I thought Sir was going to blow a gasket. "Yes!" 

"Well, be prepared," Dave said. "It's about 1/5 of a mile." Kegler's is a 48-lane bowling alley, and by the time we'd walked all the way down to the end, down along the side of lane 48, and down to the middle of the machine space in back, I guess he was right. Dave is a scrounger, pulling parts from bowling alleys all over the country to maintain his 1950s-60s era machines. "They're solid stuff," he said, and they looked it. But something goes wrong every ten minutes, on average; usually minor, but it still has to be re-set. Sure enough, a belt went off while we were there, and Dave showed us how he just flipped it back on, re-set things, and play resumed.

"You should see it during league nights," he said. He and the other maintenance guy will be back there for five hours straight, with all 48 lanes going, and something pops every five minutes or so. "How do you take a break?" I asked. "You don't," he said, grinning. "That's why we've got a microwave and a bathroom back here!"

We thanked Dave -- Sir most sincerely -- and left. We rolled back into town, looking for dinner. I knew where I wanted to go, but South Street’s beers would have to wait till another visit. So Sir and I stashed the Oldsmobuick in the city garage and walked around the corner and up the stairs to Michael’s Bistro. 

Michael’s is split into three areas: an upper dining mezzanine, where we wound up, a lower dining area, and a small bar. Small bar, small but very select tap selection: I was impressed with what they had and decided to kick things off right with a Lagunitas IPA. My dad even had an Iron City, breaking with his usual Yuengling fetish. And I saw something on the menu I had to get: duck pot pie. I mean, duck pot pie? I was on that, and it was great, especially with a rich, dark Maredsous to match the rich dark meat.

Providently, it wasn’t until I was close to done that a party came in and sat just to the right of us, a group of six people that included an older woman who had liberally drenched herself in perfume. Some women need to have this idea explained to them: just because they’re old and the meat’s a bit tough, they don’t need a marinade to make things tender. Yeesh. We finished up and bolted before I puked. My dad went back to the car to read, and I wandered down to the Mellow Mushroom.

The Mushroom is a pizza joint. A kind of weird pizza joint, with a big (8 foot? 10 foot?) red and white mushroom just inside the doors, but good pizza, and walloping good beer. I took a lone seat by the bar and took a look at the taps, all 30-plus of them. Some NICE taps there, and I ordered up a Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, a beer that speaks to my inner hophead. The bartender served it up with a smile, and I took a sip – sour! Damn, something wrong there. I waited till she returned, and flagged her down.

"There’s something wrong with this one," I said. "I’d like to get another beer, if I could, and you might want to think about taking this keg off-line."

"Well, it’s a pretty big beer," she replied, quite politely. "You might just not be used to something like that. But I’ll get you another beer, if you’d like."

"No, there’s definitely something wrong," I said. "I have Racer 5 at home in my fridge, I like this beer a lot." I flipped through the beers on tap, looking for something equally hoppy, just to prove my hop manhood. "Let me have an Alpha King, and you take a taste of the Racer 5 for yourself; you’ll see what I mean." Or maybe she wouldn’t, but I figured I owed it to the drinkers coming after me to take a shot at getting this bum keg removed.

She cheerfully brought me the Alpha King ("I hope you like this one better," she said) and disappeared with a glass of Racer 5. The Alpha King was great, a very fresh and zingy pint. She returned, and told me that the manager agreed, and they were taking the Racer 5 off and putting a fresh keg on. Well, thank you, dear! Could have thrown me a free pint for quality control work, dontcha think?

We moved the car down to the Main Street mall, and I checked out the Gravity Lounge, which was, unfortunately, closed, and would have to wait for another trip. Cool place, though: a bookstore with a bar (and lots of Euro-bottles), a café, and a small performance space. Wonder if they rent rooms? We also stopped at the Schnitzelhouse on the way out of town (at Taylor Smack’s strong recommendation), but it was also closed (the curse of Mondays), so we cruised out of C-ville, and on down the road to Roanoke and our modest truck-stop-type lodgings. Okay, less-than-modest; the people in the room next to ours looked like they were living out of a '79 Nova. But no vermin, so we called it a night.


Tuesday: Misty Mountain Hop

I had planned to hit the Market in Roanoke. I'd heard a LOT about it, and it sounded like a great place to grab some good Southern eats. But either they were closed on Tuesdays, or the standholders had been washed away by the totally outrageous amounts of rain that were bucketing down. My wipers were barely keeping up, so we bagged the Market, and started looking for Padow's. 

I wanted to get a Virginia ham, a Smithfield ham, and my brother-in-law Carl, who lives south of Richmond, told me that Padow's was the place to go. Once we found the place, his advice quickly turned out to be excellent. Not only was Padow's neat, attractive, and clean to the point of squeaking, they had a great assortment of Virginia foodstuffs, a deli counter, and a most helpful staff. The manager and I were soon in a deep discussion of my ham needs and how he could fulfill them. I left with a fully cooked Smithfield, good advice ("Wrap it tightly, refrigerate it, and slice it real thin."), and a complementary ham biscuit. Oh, and a can of peanuts that made Sir shudder to see. I have this problem with cocktail peanuts, a lower GI problem...

At the advice of the Padow's manager, we went to The Roanoker for breakfast. I had ham and red-eye gravy with grits and fried eggs. My heart may seize up, but I'm going happy, with a lot of things tried under my groaning belt. It was a great breakfast, and the coffee was exceptionally good. But when we hit the road, we still had two hours to get to Blacksburg for bar visits, a trip that would take about 40 minutes. It took me about 30 seconds to talk Sir into popping over the ridge and running down Rt. 42 instead, a much better use of our time.

And it was. It was a bit hairy getting out of Roanoke, because the rain was still hosing the sky, but pretty soon we were winding and grinding our way up into the Jefferson National Forest. There was mud and rockspill across the road in a couple places, but things got a bit drier once we got over the ridge and headed southwest. There was a beautiful low ground-fog that made for an almost magical landscape at times, and when I saw this field of cattle wreathed in mist, I had to stop for a picture. 

We came into Blacksburg the back way, and soon found The Cellar, a pizza joint with a little bar in the back. Blacksburg Brewing was still in business at the time, so I grabbed one of John's RyePA pints -- wow! Hope he gets that brewpub he's always talking about off the ground so he can make more of this. It was sparking and flashing with hops, and a minty, spicy rye zip to it. But I was dipped if I could see what the big deal was about this place that I'd heard so much good beer buzz about. What was the big deal? 

"Hey, you're taking notes. Are you a homebrewer?" the bartender asked me. No, I said, I'm writing a book. "Oh, well, you don't want to miss downstairs, then." Ah, ha! No, I don't, where is it? The other bartender took me down. Cazart!  A big ankh-shaped bar took up most of a large downstairs room -- D'oh! The Cellar!! Did I ever feel like a mo-ron. The bar was finished in a strange, dark-brown substance. "Concrete, stained with espresso," the bartender told me. It was planed down smooth as a baby's butt -- and a lot flatter. In the middle was the column of taps, some good ones, and the drain trough under the taps was running water, fed by the dinkie of a reproduction of the famed Manekin Pis statue. It was too funny. 

Off again, to find the Underground. I didn't know about this one, wasn't on my list, but it was my kind of place: well-worn, even a bit grubby, but comfortable and relaxed. Best of all, college-town prices. The taps were a bit A-B heavy, but that meant Redhook, too, and not just the usual: Blackhook porter, on nitro: $3.25 for a 20 oz. dimple mug. Not bad! They also served chili with a daily heat rating: today's rating was 6.66; "No whining or handwringing allowed." I liked this place.

Still on foot (I left Sir in the Olds back at The Cellar), I walked down towards the creek to the Rivermill Map Company. Nice place, looked kind of like an outfitter's garage, though not quite as cluttered, and even better taps than the even better prices! I scored a 20 oz. Tupper's Hop Pocket Pils for $2.25, and an oversized chili dog with fries for $4.50. Bonus. Then, since Sir was driving, I had a 20 oz. pint of New River Pale Ale, a locally-contracted beer made at Old Dominion. New River was everywhere in Blacksburg, and it's starting to get up to DC: a great, wickedly hoppy beauty of a pale ale.

I walked back to the Olds, fairly steady on my feet. I had one more stop to make: Vintage Cellar, a wine store in a plaza on the edge of town that was supposed to have a great beer selection. Well, honey: they do. Even better, they've got a great guy there -- whose name escapes me at the moment, a year later -- who talks beer, knows beer, and can make some fantastic suggestions on beer. If you're within 30 miles of Blacksburg, you'd be a fool not to stop in. I picked up about $50 worth of single bottles, and called it a day.

Sir aimed the Olds south, and we headed for Tennessee. It was a long way, longer than I had hoped. We stopped at a Famous Dave's in Knoxville (how the heck was I supposed to know it was a chain?) for dinner, I drank a lot of sweet tea, and took the wheel. Sir fell asleep and I jammed the Olds up to 75. We rolled into Manchester at about 10:30 and slept like dead men; i.e., we both snored so loud that neither of us got a wink all night. Go figure.


St. Patrick's Day in Tennessee

We had a 9:00 appointment at Jack Daniel's. Don't it just make you shiver, those words? We actually got up early, thanks to the time zone difference. We gobbled a breakfast of fruit and cheesesticks and I pounded a mug of coffee, and we still had time to go out and find the Dickel distillery before we headed down to Tullahoma.. The motel clerk had told me the night before that "Tullahoma is the two Indian words "tulla," what means 'mud,' and "homa," what means 'more mud.'" It lived up to its name that day, there was mud in every direction. But it was warm and breezy, and by the time we got to Lynchburg, there were daffodils blooming. I had just talked to Cathy the night before and they were expecting a snowstorm. This Tennessee stuff wasn't bad!

I strolled into my 9:00 with Roger Brashears. Roger is a good ol' boy by training; I say that because he came to Jack Daniel back a good piece from the city, and just kind of fit in. He's been at it ever since, and he's a raconteur par excellence. Good God. Three French words in a row, I must be slipping. Roger and I spent a pleasant 45 minutes talking; in other words, he talked, I listened, and I laughed a lot. For instance: "A master distiller will take over a distillery and never realize that without bullshitters like me, they'd never get any bottles taken out of the store." Uh-huh! 

It was fun, but I think Roger was either feeling me out to see how I was going to angle my piece (he lost there, my angle wasn't about Jack Daniel per se), or he was just spending some time that was more pleasant than working. Either way, after a while, he gave Jimmy Bedford a call, and I went over to talk to him about the Lincoln County Process. That's why Sir and I had driven all the way down here to Tennessee. I had a piece to write on this pre-barreling charcoal "mellowing" process for Malt Advocate. (It came out nice, too; take a look.)

I won't go over the interview with Jimmy; it's a lot easier to just read the article. Easier for me, anyway. It was productive -- Jimmy's always been helpful -- and then we walked up to the rick-burning area, took a look at wood and charcoal. When we were done, we shook hands and I went back to Roger to pick up the car and head to Dickel for my 1:00 appointment. But Roger had arranged for me to take a tour. Hrrm...okay. I should. So I did. Couple interesting things. First, we got to see the safe that killed old JD; he got pissed off and kicked it one morning, which set off an infection in the bones of his toe that eventually went gangrenous and killed him.  Second, we saw the cave where all the water for Jack Daniel comes from, a pretty neat spring. 

And we only saw column stills -- five of them, roaring away. No doubler? No thumper? No mention of 'em? Apparently, Jack Daniel does single distilling. Interesting side note, that.

I finally tore off to the parking lot, grabbed a sandwich my dad had bought for me, and we tore back to Tullahoma. Thank God we'd done that recon this morning. I cell'd Dave Backus, apologized for being late, and he didn't sound happy. I can't blame him, I was almost two hours late, and almost everyone but Dave had gone home for the day. Still, he took me into his office, and we talked Lincoln County. He did something for me that is worth repeating from the article: a tasting of new make, off the column, off the doubler, and after the Process.

"First up was a sample straight off the beer still, a common column still, same as is used at Jack Daniel and at most Kentucky bourbon distilleries. The sample was grainy, muddled in aroma and flavor, as if it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. The next was off the doubler. It was remarkably cleaner, both to the eye in the glass and on the palate in the mouth, and was unmistakably the taste of sweet, pure corn; no longer undecided at all.

The third sample was off the mellowing vat, and it was the corn from the doubler lightened, almost a corn eau de vie. The mellowing vat had pulled off the corn’s oiliness, the heavy down-home cooking character of the corn, and left behind only the corn’s spirit. The “hog tracks” were gone. Where did they go? They were buried in the charcoal." ("Hog tracks?" That's what Tennessee whiskey men always say the Lincoln County Process does: "Straightens out the hog tracks." Really.)

That was highly educational, and really showed me what the Process was all about. If it's a filter, it's a highly effective one that just catches what keeps Tennessee whiskey from being its best. 

I apologized once more to David for being late, and Sir and I slowly tooled the Olds down the country road that serves the distillery. It really was a gorgeous day, and we knew we'd be leaving it behind. We had a real good meal at The Catfish Place (liked the green tomato relish so much I bought a jar), stoked my nervous system with about 2.5 quarts of sweet tea, and aimed the beast northeast. 

It was a long drive over the hills and through Knoxville. It's over 220 miles to the Virginia border on I-81, and there's a lost hour in there in Time-zoneville. We decided to push it a bit harder and stay in Wytheville, we'd seen a concentration of motels there on the way down. It wasn't pretty; we were biting our lips and running with the windows down to stay awake, but we made it, and earned a decent night's sleep in a Motel 6 with an office that was all armored up like it was in Baghdad. I didn't have energy to speculate. 


Last Day: Blowers in Blacksburg, Dry Harrisonburg

We woke to bright sunshine. It was an easy run up I-81 to Blacksburg, and we made it on time to Blacksburg Brewing Company...which is now closed. Actually, it closed two months after I visited. Still, it was a pleasant waste of time, and John Bryce may yet open the Blacksburg brewpub he's been talking about. I think that would be a GREAT idea, by the way: this town is ripe for a brewpub (so's Roanoke, in my opinion), and if John could brew beer this good on the overgrown hairdryer system he was using, he's got it made.

Overgrown hairdryer? Blacksburg's brewhouse was unique, in my experience. The brew-kettle was heated by a forced air propane flame-gun. Hellishly noisy, and really whacky-looking, but John claimed it got the job done. Judging from how good these beers were (and I hate to do that "You can't get 'em anymore, but damn, they were good" thing to you), I guess he was right. 

We thanked John (well, I did: Sir was doing his 30 minutes of brisk walking, then cooled down in the car, reading his book), and we headed for our last stop, Harrisonburg. We sailed up the Valley, in and out of sunshine as we dodged the big castles of cloud. By 11:15 we were in Harrisonburg, early for my appointment at Calhoun's. So we went and had lunch. (Eric, I know I let you buy me lunch at Calhoun's, but this was work!) We went to the Smokin' Pig and got Virginia-style barbeque: chopped pork shoulder in a funky tomato-based sauce on a hamburger roll, topped with slaw. And a fried dill pickle on the side. Good stuff, but it was getting really windy outside, and when the sun went behind a cloud, it got downright chilly. Not chilly enough to deter me from a cone of frozen custard from Kline's Dairy Bar next door, though. Delicious.

Okay, now we go to Calhoun's. Calhoun's sits on the square by the courthouse, and it's a pain in the neck to park there: metered parking and over-active enforcement. So you don't park on the square, you get your dad to drop you off and go stash the Olds somewhere else and read while you go in Calhoun's. (I think he took a nap, we were still a little tired from the long drives the two days before.) 

I've always liked Calhoun's, and I like Eric Plowman. Eric is enthusiastic, he's without any kind of pretension, and he doesn't try to out-beer anyone, but... Well, here, read what I said in the Calhoun's entry in VMDDC Breweries:

Eric grins a lot; even the day I visited for the book, which was the day after a big beer dinner at the pub at which Taylor Smack from South Street brewpub in Charlottesville had joined the fun, fun which wound up in the brewery cold room at 2 in the morning, thoroughly sampling Eric’s new IPA. But Eric kept smiling, a sunny exterior that could fool you into thinking he’s more in this game for the fun of it, not the heavy brewing side of it.

Don’t believe it. Eric keeps an absolutely spotless brewhouse – "I like it clean," he said – he is Siebel-trained, and I’ve seen him go toe-to-toe with some of the most technical brewers in Virginia and more than hold his own with talk of fermentation regimes and oxygen uptake. His beers are beautifully clean, clearly representative of style, and absolutely dialed in on consistency.

Believe what that guy says! And the beer's very nice. Even the Honey Blonde, made with local honey, which is usually a little toy beer, had real body and honest hop character. The Czech Pilsner was evenly bitter throughout, crisply clean in lager style. And the Smokin' Scottish, the one beer everyone always tells you about at Calhoun's, is a good solid Scotch ale with a rimming of Bamberg smoked malt -- beech-smoked, not peat. Delicious.

Calhoun's itself is a pretty big place, even when the big patio isn't open. Like the brewery, it's sparklingly clean, the service is quick and cheerful, and the food is great. Yes, I ate again. I HAVE to. It's the job, same as drinking all this beer. Heh. 

I thanked Eric, and left -- I had to. I had already seen Sir orbit twice, and I didn't want him getting peevish. He picked me up quickly, and we went to the last stop of the trip, the Little Grill Collective. This employee-owned -- what, cafe, grill, diner? -- has a vibe all its own. Lots of places try to do the hippie groove, but these guys breathe it. Where else could you get a pitcher of Old Dominion Black & Tan or a pitcher of fresh carrot juice...for the same price? The food is "vegan-plus," meaning it's vegan-heavy, but has some meat dishes for us unreformed cavemen. All right! Bring on the funky little hippie chicks and the carrot juice!

Did I say "last stop?" One bar in Harrisonburg?! Pretty close. There are a few more real student dives, a couple cafe-type set-ups, but mostly it's the Collective, Calhoun's, or take-out. Doesn't seem so odd when you remember that Eastern Mennonite University is here in Harrisonburg, you know?

Okay, we made one more stop. It was starting to get pretty nippy, and we were expecting to see snow, but I took Sir up Rt. 11 north of town till we found what I'd been told not to miss: the Barbecue Ranch. I ducked in there, talked to a woman who looked a lot like the woman I deal with at Dietrich's Meats outside of Allentown, and got me a quart of 'cue to go. 

And that was that. We rolled up through West Virginia and Maryland, crossed the Susquehanna at Harrisburg, and went home. I babied the Jetta down the Turnpike to my mechanic's (who later told me he had no idea why the thing didn't catch fire), Cathy and the kids picked me up, and I was home again.




Copyright © 2008 Lew Bryson. All rights reserved. 
Fee required for reprints in any commercial media.
Revised: May 18, 2005