July 16, 2015

Summer days, boozin' away

It's been such a busy summer already! We've been out of town nearly every weekend so far - and the weekends for the foreseeable future all look about the same - but it's always doing pretty fabulous things so I'm not complaining.

Shall we have a picture round up? Let's have a picture round up! I've put my photos in collages to make it seem like I have fewer, but it will not fool anyone!

So, back in June, our friends in Maryland organized a MD Beer (and Mead!) Crawl as a brilliant way to lure us into their state.

We started at a pretty small brewery called Jailbreak, which does interesting, all-natural small batch beers. They were DELICIOUS. I highly recommend.

Next up was a pretty unique stop at Charm City Meadworks. It was in the least obvious place ever - down amid the rail yards of south Baltimore, in an industrial garage next to lots of rusted out semis. You know, your normal tasting room location.

But it actually worked pretty well inside, in a bare bones kind of way, and they did a good job of keeping that space relatively cool considering it was about 200 degrees out that day. I think I've come to the conclusion that I just don't love mead, though. For me it hits a similar palette as sour beers, which I similarly can't seem to get into. If you're a local mead fan, though, this is a place you should for sure check out.

We rounded out our day with a favorite stand by for many of us, Heavy Seas. We got a pretty neat tour there, since one of our group is friends with an Actual Employee, so we were treated to the personalized super secret tour.

I did not take great photos that day, as we can all see. I blame the oppressive heat which apparently wilted even my camera phone.

Two weeks later, we decided it was time for something thoroughly and completely different... so we drove down to Charlottesville, VA to tour cideries and vineyards with my wonderful college friend Shannon and her husband.

(Totally different, obviously. We went south instead of north, for one! And cider is SO TOTALLY not like beer, duh.)

(Actually, the reason we were at cideries in the first place is because Shannon's husband Bret is gluten intolerant, and was very very sad to have to give up beer as a result. Cider has been a welcome replacement to fill that hole in his heart liver.)

So! We started at Castle Hill Cider at 11am on the dot, when they opened, because we are dedicated to our craft. This place was AWESOME. The selection of ciders was SUPER diverse - it had both my favorite cider of the entire weekend and my least favorite that I've probably ever tried, but the quality was undeniable and the ones I loved, I LOVED.

They had a gorgeous outdoor space as well, but it was pouring rain at the time. We bought a bottle of cider anyway and sat on their porch to drink it and plan out the rest of our weekend itinerary.

Next up was a vineyard, Keswick. I hear this place also has a lovely outdoor space, but if it was pouring at Cider Hill, it was MONSOONING at Keswick. So we just scooted inside and were happy to remain at the tasting bar inside the entire time.

I am notoriously hard on Virginia wineries. They have been getting increasingly better over the ::coughcoughmumble*many*cough:: years I've lived here, but there are still some major quality and consistency issues, in my opinion. I thought Keswick was... OK. I did actually buy a bottle of their V2 white - a viognier and verdejo blend - but I just couldn't get into their reds.

By the time we got to Pippin Vineyards, the rain was stopping and our stomachs were rumbling (and some of us were getting a weeeee bit tipsy). I don't really remember the wine here because I was far more focused on putting delicious, delicious food in my gaping facehole as quickly as possible.

I succeeded in that, and holy cow was the food fantastic there. The views were also AMAZING, despite the fact that it was still completely overcast. I imagine a sunny day here is nothing short of breathtaking.

Last up (....for Saturday...) was another cidery, Albemarle CiderWorks. It's possible some of us were still a little tipsy for this one as well, but I do recall the cider here being quite nice, if generally a little on the sweeter side for me.

Interestingly, almost everything we tried the entire weekend was "dry" or "off-dry" - meaning "not at all sweet" or "just barely sweet" in cider terms - but I like my cider SUPER SUPER DRY and even the off-dry ones I generally could only enjoy in small quantities.

After Albemarle, we definitely did not go back to our hotel and drink two more bottles of cider while playing board games, then go out for dinner and further drinking.

(...Of course we did.)

The next day was GORGEOUS. Brilliant blue skies; puffy clouds; beautiful weather with almost no humidity (at least up in the hills!).  Our first stop - after the most perfect diner breakfast ever- was Bold Rock Hard Cider.

OH MY LANDS. I could have stayed here for the entire day. The set up is WONDERFUL - they have a huge, lofty tasting room, but an even larger and more expansive outdoor space that overlooks a picturesque river valley. Their cider was all on the sweet side (for me), but I didn't care at all. I would spend A LOT of time here if I lived in Charlottesville.

After peeling ourselves away from the Bold Rock patio, we switched back to wine for a stop at Flying Fox Vineyard.

So, if I don't tend to think Virginia does reds well, I tend to think they do rosés terribly. Not here! I was entirely charmed by their rosé and left with two bottles of it.

Our next stop was a bit of a dark horse - a brand new distillery that popped up in 2014 along the VA wine trail called Silverback.

YOU GUYS. It was phenomenal. I am not usually a gin person because... meh. Gin. Also I strongly dislike tonic, which seems to be the primary vehicle for consuming gin. This gin though! I tasted it straight, and I LOVED IT. They suggested pairing it with a pink lemonade, which... oh my. Yes. Go buy this and do it and let me know if it's as good as I'm imagining.

And then, to round off stop #8 in 2 days, Michael Shaps Wineworks. Their tasting room is a bit of a work in progress, but honestly you don't need a lot to keep us happy when you are also pouring many kinds of wine.

This was a favorite of friends of Shannon & Bret, and I can see why. It was not my cup of tea, but it most certainly did not taste like a Virginia wine (...which is a complement :) ).

I guess what I'm trying to say here, is find some friends and make a weekend of tasting booze. It's hard to go wrong with that plan.

OK, this post was going to cover 2 additional weekends in the wrap up, but I think we can all agree this is plennntttyyy for now. Everyone go drink some booze to celebrate making it through this post.


  1. Matt and I will need to head down to Charlottesville at some point and try some of those ciders! Looks so lovely.

  2. I just tried mead for the first time yesterday, and came to the same conclusion. I'm so glad it's not just me!
    If you haven't been to Purcellville and surrounding area yet (western LoCo), there are wonderful places awaiting you! Downtown P-ville has Catoctin Creek Distillery, and there are more than a few wineries around, including one owned by friends of mine: Northgate Vineyard.