One of the best parts about traveling, in my opinion, is the ability to try beers that are not available in my hometown of Chicago. This past weekend the hubby and I traveled to Long Island, NY to visit friends and family but, of course, we turned it into a beer-cation. In fact, as soon as we got off the plane and were waiting for my mother-in-law to pick us up from Long Island/Islip MacArthur Airport, I Googled beer stores in the area and came across Lake Ronkonkoma Beverages. I agree with the other reviews on Beer Advocate regarding the haphazard way in which the beer is assembled on the shelves. But they did have a good selection of craft brews and even had a few taps for growler fills. We opted to stick with bottles and picked up six-packs of Blue Point Pumpkin, Cigar City Jai Alai IPA, Stiegel (the mother-in-law wanted a light beer and we wouldn’t let her get a macrobrew), and a four-pack of Six Points cans. We also got 22-oz bombers of Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin, Ballast Point Sculpin, Blue Point Old Howling Bastard, and Captain Lawrence 5 Years Later. Not bad for a pit-stop on the way home from the airport!
The hubby and I also brought six bottles of homebrew to host a tasting with friends and family on Saturday night. If anyone is interested in transporting beer via airplane, Binny’s (or any large liquor store) has great beverage mailers. They are made for wine bottles but if you wrap up bombers in newspaper, they fit into the Styrofoam compartments quite snuggly. Then you just check the box as a piece of luggage. Easy! The hubby and I have done this on numerous occasions and have never had a broken bottle (knocking on laminate-made-to-look-like-wood).
Even though we were supposed to save the beer we bought for the get-together on Saturday, I couldn’t wait to finally get a taste of Cigar City. The hubby had some at Dark Lord Day this year and hasn’t stopped raving about it so I had to crack open one of these first. The Jai Alai IPA is different than most IPAs out there. It was a deep reddish amber hue and very clear with a slight hop aroma and a bit of a raisin flavor. This was a very smooth beer with just a hint of alcohol on the finish. My first foray into Cigar City did not disappoint! Later in the trip, we picked up some bombers of Cigar City at our favorite beer store on Long Island: Shoreline Beverage. We bought two of almost all of the bombers they had available since we wanted to drink some while we were in New York and then take some home with us.
The real impetus for traveling to New York was to attend the wedding of a friend (congrats Kristy and Andrew!) After the ceremony, the hubby and I had two hours to kill before the reception so we decided to find a beer bar in vicinity. We came across Island Park Ale House which is pretty much a dive bar; blue-collar workers stopping in for a Bud and a shot of cheap liquor were the trend in this place. But they had a great tap list that included Hofbräuhaus Oktoberfest, Smuttynose Pumpkin, and some lesser known New York breweries. Hubby opted for the Lake Placid IPA which he really liked although I thought it tasted too much of vanilla. I had the Smuttynose Pumpkin which is available in Chicago but I had not had a chance to have it yet. It was an unexpected delight when the bartender rimmed the pint glass with cinnamon sugar before pouring the beer. I typically like beer to speak for itself but this was a nice touch and added a little extra sweetness to this excellent representation of a pumpkin beer.
Despite the divey feel, I loved this place. Everyone was really nice (probably due to the massive amounts of shots being handed out) and the bartender kept filling up plates of snacks for us. There was a definite sense of community here and everyone seemed to know each other. I started wondering how this place could keep these taps running since we were the only ones drinking craft beers. The only thing I can think of is that during the summer when the beaches are crowded, there may be more tourists and, therefore, more of a demand for craft beer. Or maybe the craft beer drinkers came in later. Who knows… All I know is that this is a gem of a hole-in-the-wall and a good way to fill up on craft beer before heading to a wedding.
Blue Point Brewery is one of the most well-known and highly regarded breweries on Long Island and I knew I wanted to take some 22-oz bombers of their beer back to Chicago. But which ones? After some back-and-forth pleasantries on Twitter, I asked @bluepointbrewer if there were any exclusive bottles that I should be on the look-out for while in New York. Not only did Curt Potter, Director of Branding & Communications at Blue Point, contact Shoreline Beverage to check on the Blue Point inventory, but he also left a bottle of his private stash of Toxic Sludge Black IPA for me as a gift! While at Shoreline, the hubby and I also picked up bombers of Blue Point Pale Ale, Rasta, and another Old Howling Bastard. When I thanked Curt via Twitter, all he said was “That’s just how we roll. Enjoy!” How cool is that? I can’t provide a review of Toxic Sludge at this point since I will now save this brew for a special occasion. But we did crack open one of the Old Howling Bastard bombers and the Pumpkin Ale that we previously purchased.
The Blue Point Pumpkin poured a deep reddish-amber color with a nutmeg, cinnamon sugar aroma. Flavor wise, it was nutty with a nice spicy finish. The Old Howling Bastard Barley Wine had a malty aroma with a slight alcohol burn. It was a deep amber hue with a sweet caramel flavor up front and alcohol on the finish. As with most beers like this, you got more complex flavors as it reached room temperature. Quite an enjoyable beverage on an overcast fall evening!
On Saturday evening we had a homebrew tasting with our friends on Long Island. It was fun being able to open up bottles of beer that we brewed to share with them. My favorite of all of the beers we have made is still the Bitter Government Employee ESB and this one went over well with those in attendance. My friends seemed to genuinely like all of the homebrew that we brought. After it was gone, we opened some of the other bombers that we had picked up at Shoreline. The Cigar City Bolita Double Nut Brown Ale had a malty nose with a mocha coffee flavor. So good! The Guava Grove was not my favorite as it had a sour quality to it and I just cannot get into sour beers. For those of you into this type of beer, though, I think you would really like it. It is a Belgian Wit beer that rests on Florida-grown guava while aging in barrels. We also sampled Heavy Seas Great’er Pumpkin, an imperial pumpkin ale aged in bourbon barrels. This had a sour nose with a taste that was quite bourbon-heavy; it lost most of the pumpkin qualities. The Captain Lawrence 5 Years Later, an American black ale, had honey and raisin on the nose. The flavor had intense hops on the start and a roastiness on the finish. I really enjoyed this beer.
Yes, it was great to see my in-laws, go to my friend’s wedding, and see my New York friends. But the real highlight of the trip? Getting a bottle of Toxic Sludge Black IPA from Blue Point Brewery! Blue Point already has a special place in my heart since it was the only craft beer served at our wedding but now it has moved up even higher on my beer list. A huge thank you to Curt and the rest of the gang at Blue Point! Next time we go to New York, the hubby and I will definitely make the trek to Blue Point for a tour!