Waking up after a Red Sox game is not easy, as I discovered on Thursday morning. Like slugs we slid out from beneath our blankets and lurched into the car for a short drive to our first attraction of the day – probably the best place we could think of to go and hide from the sunlight.
Ahh, the hair of the dog. We made the short drive over to Boston’s fabled Samuel Adams Brewing Company, which has garnered a sterling reputation for terrific craft beer in its 25 or so years of existence. And since last year’s sale of Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, Sam Adams is currently the largest American-owned brewery, just ahead of ol’ Yuengling in Pottsville, Pa.
I brought the Hemchers
along, even though Chuckie (second from left) gave up the bottle years ago. I figured he wouldn't mind coming along to learn a little something about brewing.
Our first brew tour of the trip was a phenomenal one, well attended, well guided and terrifically informative. Our guide walked us into the factory and gave us all a rundown of the brewing process, though we were forced to keep sequestered to one section of the brewery while training sessions were being conducted in other areas that would otherwise have been part of the tour.
Our consolation prize, however, was a glimpse of the company celebrities who were on site that day – Jim Koch, the company’s founder (shown here, slightly blurred), and the brewmaster from the commercials with the giant beard. Celebrity sightings #1 and 2.
We were able to sample three different types of Sam Adams from the tap, beginning with their signature Boston Lager, which we were told accounts for more than half their production and sales. Before we could put any beer into our glasses, however, a guy at the table next to us lifted his pitcher to fill his glass, and instead proceeded to spill all 64 ounces of delicious beer onto his table and the poor young lady sitting across from him, who didn’t budge as the waterfall of amber goodness left her lap thoroughly saturated. Everyone in the room groaned and diverted their eyes, as the tour guide remarked that in her six or seven years on the job, “That has never, ever happened before.” I regret not taking his picture to further drive home that point that spilling beer is not okay.
This minor (or major, depending on your passion for beer) glitch only stood between us and our own table’s pitcher for so long, before we indulged in a glass of the Boston Lager, followed by Summer Ale and a specialty brew, Boston Brick Red, which is only available in Boston. All in all it was a spectacular visit, just what I'd hoped - and our only admission fee consisted of a donation that would go to local charities. By the end I felt privileged, relaxed, and had to go to the bathroom.
Satisfied with our time in Boston, we piled in and drove on, traveling about two hours before arriving in the next city, Portland, Maine – the namesake, of course, of our final destination in Portland, Ore. Keeping in stride, we drove directly to one of Portland's impressive assortment of microbreweries, at Allagash Brewing Company. This is a company with considerably less name recognition as Sam Adams, but quality and fame are two completely different things altogether.
This was the first time I'd been to a brewery quite this micro, and was pleased with the environment. This was a facility outside of downtown Portland, which from the inside reminded me almost of a winery before a brewery. The receptionist doubled up as our tour guide, greeting our group of seven interested visitors with samples of beer right off the bat, before we dove into the brewing and production process. This was reverse order from the Sam Adams tour, where we got the tour and then the beer. Three cheers to Allagash for thinking like us.
I've been around beer for a long time, dating back to my long term of employment at the late John Harvard's Brew House in Wayne, Pa., which began when I was just 18. This restaurant, which only served beer brewed on the premises, instilled in me an appreciation for good beer, beer brewed in little, lovable batches with plenty of heart and soul.
This carried over into my days as a drinker of legal age, of course. And Allagash's white beer has crossed my palate more than once in the past - but certainly never this close to the source.
As a general rule, most things are better closer to their origin. As another, most things are made better in smaller quantities, with love and pride instead of ruthless efficiency. These ideas brought us to Allagash, where their unique Belgian flair gives their beers a flavor we'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
After our samples, we got the factory tour, a walk-through of the company's only brewing facility. While we'd heard a lot of it earlier in the day, this place gave us a sense of a small, hard-working company that just wants to fill their customers with an amazing beverage. God bless 'em.
Without hesitation, we leapt into super tourist mode with a quick drive to nearby Yarmouth to visit "Eartha
" here - the world's largest globe. I felt genuinely bad for the people working inside this building, which seemed to operate as something more than just a building with a giant, spinning model of the planet and a gift shop. They weren't visibly bitter or anything but they definitely didn't make eye contact with us, as we were probably about the hundredth, 101st and 102nd irritating trespassers for the day.
Sarah snapped this photo of me, neglecting to notify me that the Hemchers were upside down. Sorry, boys.
A quick drive slightly northward brought us to Freeport, a nice area shopping hub with some good, cheap outlet stores. I, on the other hand, am not interested in such qualities - only in awesome things like the giant boot outside L.L. Bean
, the company's flagship store, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We took this picture and went in, despite having no necessity whatsoever to purchase more than a postcard for the Lovelaces. This, however, being of paramount importance, we stopped in, Sarah made her purchase and we moved on.
...But not before sampling the local dessert fare. This wouldn't be our last encounter with Ben & Jerry's
ice cream, so I won't let my jaw flap too much for now. Let me just say that I'll be writing their names in, come election season 2016.
Departing, we aimed for our good friend Stevie's, where an abnormal amount of hilarity would ensue. More on that from Joey, very soon.