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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Labor Day Weekend - Blue & Gray Brewing Company

Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American works. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions works have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of out country. I did not know this before sitting down to write this post, the wondrous things you can find through Google. This Labor Day my wife and I took our dog Lucy to visit our friends in Virginia.

We don't have many friends that have moved outside of Michigan, so this was a first for us. Normally when we travel on vacation we either go by our selves and do what we want, or we go visit my parents and relax and go with the flow. We were unsure how this visit would be. Our hosts thought we came with an agenda of activities that we wanted to do, boy were they wrong. Thankfully, they are a fun couple and came up with some great ways to spend our time.

On Saturday they took us to A. Smith Bowman Distillery. We enjoyed the free tour along with the free samples of the Bowman Brothers Bourbon, George Bowman Dark Caribbean Rum, Sunset Hills Gin, and a cream liquor similar to a Baileys. During the tour we learned about the making of the bourbon barrels as well as what can be legally called a bourbon. Did you know that a bourbon has to be distilled using at least 51% corn in addition to malt and rye? They also told us that their barrels have been used by local breweries to make bourbon barrel beers.

A. Smith Bowman Distillery Warehouse
After the tour of the distillery we ventured over to a local brewery called Blue & Gray Brewing Company. Blue & Gray is a small craft brewery located in historical Fredericksburg, VA. The brew pub is located in the back of an industrial park type area, reminded me of Bent Brewstillery in Minnesota. When we arrived the brewery tour had already started. This too, was a free tour. We each received a plastic tasting cup and walked into their brew room to catch up with the group. the brew room had big glass windows facing the pub and to enter we went through their "warehouse" where they store the ingredients, kegs, merchandise, and fill growlers,

On the tour the owner explained the all grain brewing process. This information was familiar to me, as I have been researching all grain home brewing. It seems that is the way to go if you want to eventually scale your home brew into an established brewery. While on the tour I spoke with a gentleman from Minnesota. He also home brewed, but we is an all grain brewer. We talked about Surley and Bent Brewstillery and he told me that he and his friends were opening up a small brewery in St. Paul in the next year. The name of their brewing company is 12 Eyes Brewing company. I love knowing the reasoning behind names, and he explained that the company was started by he and his two friends and they all wore glasses, thus 12 eyes between them.

While touring their brewery we were able to taste their Oktoberfest before going through the carbonation process. It was a good Oktoberfest, so much so that my buddy Tyler is going to buy a keg for his keggerator at home. At the end of the tour we were able to sample the four main beers from Blue & Gray Brewing Co. (Classic Lager, Fred Red, Stonewall Stout, and Falmouth APA). Each one was an exceptional beer. There wasn't any one that was rich with flavors that would force me to buy a growler full.

Before leaving Tyler and I sat down for a pint of one of their seasonal brews. For me, it was the Virginia Hefeweizen and for Tyler it was the Coffee Stout. The hefeweizen had sweet fruity notes and a smooth finish. The tap ran out while they were filling my beer, so they had to swap. I was a bit disappointed that my beer wasn't as cold as I would have preferred. I tasted Tyler's coffee stout, it had the nose and flavor of a cup of coffee. Very dark flavor with a smooth finish. The coffee flavor was too strong for me to enjoy, hell I don't even like regular coffee. For Tyler though, he said he liked it, he is a regular coffee drinker.

Overall, this past Labor Day weekend was a fun time and my wife and I were happy to visit our friends. We hope it won't be the last trip. Next time, I hope to visit more breweries and sample more beers. Remember to celebrate the labor's who helped build this country along with the labor's who make the delicious craft beers that we enjoy so very much.

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