Chapter One, Saturday: upon which they first meet the IPA...
Last night, after a week visiting teetotalers, I got home and it was hot. In between rainstorms I had to cut the lawn and rake it too. Happily, there was one last Guinness in the fridge, and I sucked it down like one who has just crawled across the dessert. Whilst sucking it down, I reflected on my first Guinness, back 20 some years ago when I was a student, and how yucky it tasted to my immature taste buds. Now of course Guinness is a comfy old friend, a pleasant standard stout good anyday. My first taste 20 some years ago registered something like the roar of a lion: loud and strong and alarming. That was then.....
So, happily, I made a little trip to Ithaca Coffee Co this am, and got lotsa beer. Gruyere was the free sample cheese today, and the wife and I enjoyed some of that early and often, then down the aisle to the beers. Decided to see what Wagner Valley IPA tastes like, 'cause I love IPAs. The wife does too, unfortunately. Luckily (heh heh heh) she had plans for the evening, and I figured I could do some tasting without having to share for a change. A simple plan, but like the best laid plans of mice and men....anyway, she saw through my plan and slurped some of this stuff before heading out the door. I tried to limit the damage to my supply.
When you have a Bass Ale, you think "this is a pleasant little ale" and move on with your life. I popped open Wagner Valley IPA and gave the beer a sniff and went "whoowee! That's strong!" My point is, which is why I mentioned Guinness and Bass, I have gotten used to strong beers and those guys are quite tame, but WV IPA! My eyebrows shot up, all those hops! "Lay it on me baby," I said. The mistake I had made, vis a vis the wife, was to pour a sample in a glass to look at and sniff, for the benefit of tasteful observation, but that's when the wife saw my game and grabbed the glass for her own taste, as she departed...maybe I should have waited. This beer was dark amber, foamy and thick as a milkshake and really fragrant. My usual not very helpful statement is to say here "I really like this beer," but in this case I have to add it made me feel like a fire-breatheing dragon. That’s pretty strong.
- The brewery web site sez: "Wagner India Pale Ale - Bright sunrise orange in color, this American IPA is boldly hopped with varieties including East Kent Goldings and Cascade to give an intense yet powerfully smooth bitterness. The subtle caramel maltiness only accents the citrus hop highlights. Dry hopped with an incredible 2-½ pounds per barrel, this American style IPA is hand-crafted to be extraordinarily refreshing. 6.2% ABV";
- Mike Levy of Great Lakes Brewing News says "This is just about the best new beer I've tried in a long time. A beautiful hop flavor & aroma reminiscent of IPAs indigenous to the Northwest"; and
- Wagner Valley IPA ranked Best NY Beer for 2003 by beer writer Lew Bryson: "Damnation. Bracing hop power, svelte malt strength, and coolly refreshing." Note that: our friend Lew Bryson states...damnation. bracing...." That's right Lew, this beer gets your attention. The icing on this cake is the brew pub these people have.
Chapter two, Wednesday: upon which they go to the brewery...
Well, I wanted to take advantage of the wife's offer, and so off we went for a power lunch (snort) at Wagner Brewery and Winery. It makes me wonder why people live elsewhere, when they could live here and go to this place all the time.
We live a couple miles east of Ithaca, NY, and this place is a few miles west of Ithaca, on Seneca Lake, in Lodi, NY. We brought along Heidi from next door, as she is self-employed like me and the wife, and able to play hookey mid-day, mid-week. I ordered the six beer sampler, they had about 8 available, but I like surprises and told them to simply pour. It is only 7 bucks and comes in the nifty little rack shown in the picture. The food is also a great bargain, fantastic and fresh and satisfying to either meat eaters or veggies like us. I had the beers randomly, and made notes like "fantastic!" on one, and that was about it. Overall, the honey wheat was my favorite of the day. Unusually flavorful and clear and even alelike. The oatmeal stout could have kept me happy all day, but the double bock has over 8 percent abv and was a light and sweet and quiet beer with a big punch. There was a lager and pilsener which both surprised me as darker than the IPA, and much better tasting than most lagers. Once again, as said above, the IPA has a whopping huge flavor, evident even when tasting a bunch of beers. After chocolate peanut butter pie for dessert, we went to the brewery/winery. It was between tours and we wandered and shopped and there was a lot of shiny equipment and tubes. It is overall a tiny operation, full of friendly people and delicious products.
Outside, the lake is to the west, but there is a farm adjacent to the south, complete with pasture and these cows and a sizable manure pile. On the brewery premises is a swan and fish pond, and the signs appropriately warn that the swans like to sample toes. I was feeding the swans and fish and dawdling in the nice weather when I found three four leaf clovers. This must mean something to someone, but in our case, the predicted rains began after we left for the day. Perfect. I doubt I will ever try any other beer or go to any other brewery: this place is that good.