Saturday, January 25, 2014

Flying Dog Brewery

This past winter The Lovely Spouse and I did some travel. This included a trip to the Baltimore-Washington area.  Our hosts for this trip live not far from the Flying Dog Brewery, so we decided to head over for a tour.  My previous experience with Flying Dog beers was an appreciation for the greatly refreshing hefeweizen In Heat Wheat, which is one of my go-to beers for the hot days of summer and for friends who don't like "strong beer" (when they actually mean "beers with beer flavor").  [Strong beers are actually those high in alcohol that may or may not taste like it. I personally consider a beer strong if it is over 5% alcohol by volume.]  From reading the bottles I knew the artwork was by Ralph Steadman, but I didn't know anything else about the history of the brewery.

The Flying Dog Brewery is located just south of Frederick, Maryland in an industrial park.

From the parking lot you can see this is not your typical warehouse.

Locals have told me that the brewery hosts fabulous parties when the weather is warmer. It was not warm enough to sit out here when we visited in December.
The tap room and retail area of the brewery are comfortable.  It's also where you get wristbands for the tour.

Quite a large selection.

Growlers for sale, and they'll fill them for you.

The wristbands had tabs to keep track of the post-tour tastings.
Next we went on the tour of the brewery.  It started with a history of the company, which is quite colorful.  So colorful, in fact, I can't do it justice.  Read about it here on their website.  It involves a trip to K2, a religious conversion, Hunter S. Thompson (yes, THE Hunter S. Thompson), and Ralph Steadman. It also involves moving the entire brewery from Colorado to Maryland, which is no small feat.

For what it's worth, the picts that turned out the best all had our tour guide in them.

As you enter the brewery you pass a hallway with a mural depicting the Flying Dog story. And you learn that every time the tour guide says "Good beer" you reply with "No Sh*t!"  Or face humiliation. [not really]

Brew kettles

Super secret barrel aging thing going on. 

250 barrel and 100 barrel fermenters.  Flying Dog has 24 hour operations to keep these running.

They have an on-site quality assurance lab. This ensures a consistent top quality product.

The bottling apparatus. This is state of the art.  The foam on the floor is due to disinfection following a bottling run.  They've tried canning, but consumers prefer their beer in bottles.  So they give the consumers what they want.

One of the coolest parts of the tour, other than the tour itself, what that they served you the beer at various stages throughout the tour.  So you got to taste it just out of the brew kettle, just past fermentation and before conditioning, just before bottling, and then the final product.  All in sequence.

Even the packing is state of the art.  All of it is automated.

Following the tour you do the logical thing - taste the beers.  5 tastings are included with the tour.  If you have a group you can share the 6 oz tastings and cover many of the selections.
The tour was a great way to spend an evening and got me more acquainted with the varieties of Flying Dog beers not available in Texas.  I still very much enjoy the In Heat Wheat, but now I know they have a lovely cinnamon porter and a stout called Pearl Necklace, in addition to an interesting line of craft beers.

If you visit the Frederick area, I recommend stopping in for a tour.  Sign up well in advance as spots disappear quickly and availability is quite limited. They also have special events on a regular basis.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cafe Eccell Revisited

Has it really been since September since I've posted here?  The reasons are many.  I got busy at work, I went on some travel, and destroyed my camera at a cantina in Mexico.  Really.  However I've been eating around and have content to catch up on so I'll do my best to keep things going and hopefully make the wait worthwhile.  I've got 2 new cameras now and am still figuring out how to use them. My previous, a Sony point and shoot purchased at the last minute at Sam's Club had no "extra features".  My new ones, an "indestructible" Olympus and a dSLR Olympus have so many bells and whistles they can practically take the pictures for me. I expect they could also prep my food and wash the dishes if I find the right setting.

Some of the big news for College Station right now is on going saga of Cafe Eccell.  A developer bought the land upon which they sit and there's been drama.  You can read about it here, here, here, and here. I'm not going to take sides because...I'm not. However the last headline "Cafe Eccell still taking reservations" caught the eye of a friend of mine.  So 3 days after their lease ended we decided to visit the restaurant for lunch.  Because why not?

As I previously posted Cafe Eccell switched to their lunch menu all day.  Therefore we knew what to expect.  I ordered one of their lovely pizzas, the margarita, and saved room for perhaps the best item on the menu: the strawberry tart. The Lovely Spouse joined us and got the chocolate amaretto mousse bombe.  For lunch it was lovely, albeit quite expensive considering all the other places for such food available in College Station.

We weren't the only ones with this idea.

Pizza Margarita. A simple but lovely combination of yeast risen dough, fresh basil, fresh tomatoes and fresh mozarella cheese with high quality olive oil.

Chocolate amaretto mousse bombe.

Yum! Strawberry tart.  Apricot glazed strawberries over a very light Bavarian creme in a cinnamon graham cracker shell.  There's a dollop of dark chocolate at the bottom for extra decadence. 

These windows are a distinctive part of the building.

The pizza oven. If they move, I hope the oven makes the move with them.

What's going to happen with Cafe Eccell? And what will happen with their other restaurant, La Bodega? I'm not one of the owners so I can't answer that.  I feel for the staff.  It must be rough taking things one day at a time and not knowing if you'll have a job tomorrow.  If you go during this time of uncertainty please tip them well.

Update, added on 2/28/2014: Cafe Eccell and the developer with whom they were in dispute have come to an agreement and the restaurant will close in March 2014.  They are currently seeking a new location.