A while ago, I was having a big time hankering for making another trip to Las Vegas. I've made the trip a bunch of times and it's always a good time. Looking through prices for the times I could find available, I was surprised at the increase over what I was used to paying. With all the talk related to Lumfest, I thought I'd look into that too. I was surprised to see prices to Albany over Labor Day weekend at about the same price as going to Vegas. Being the beer geek I am, I decided to go to New York instead. I contacted Bakes, knowing that I'd need to figure out things with him, and he was all for it. Fast forward to last weekend...
After work I ate a quick dinner and got to the airport. On the plane to Albany. There was a short day, but before you know it I was getting in Bakes' Volvo and we headed to Brown's in Troy. Brown's had some decent music on, even allowing me to hear some of the rock stuff I love from the mid-90s. Sat down at the bar and ordered a Harvest Ale, which had just gone on tap not too long ago. This was the third time I had the beer, but the first time that I got to drink it right at the source. While it may not blow your socks away, it's a nice easy-drinking sessionable brew that I quite enjoyed. I had another beer or two, then ordered the Whiskey Barrel Porter. The bartender pours my beer then warns me that they had been pouring pitchers earlier, but people stopped ordering it so I would have to finish it off. Tough job, but I'm just the guy to do it. We hung out for a while and chatted. I guess it was more than a while, as we ended up closing down the bar.
If you have the chance, check out Brown's. Nice and mellow with really friendly staff. The beers are solid and most of them are sessionable, which is a nice change.
Then it was back to Bakes' place. I have the honor to say I am the first TBSer to stay at his place. We cracked a few beers and he showed off his stereo. Yeah, Bakes likes his music. Vintage JBLs all around with a massive 6 foot tall subwoofer panel built into the wall. We put it through the paces and it delivered. Worked up to a nice buzz and finally called it a night after some pinball at 3:45am or so.
The next morning, we were obviously moving a little slowly, but we eventually got on the road. On the way to Syracuse, as Dinosaur BBQ was calling my name. I'd heard about it plenty and have used some of their sauces and rubs, so I was pretty excited, but after watching it on Man vs. Food, I was really ready to experience it first hand. We drove up and it looked like there was actually a line around the building in the mid-afternoon! Could that be so? When we walked up we were relieved to see it was mostly people just eating outside. We walked in and put in our name. Only about a thirty minute wait.
We walked up to the bar to get a couple beers and all the sudden Bakes says, "don't drink anything that Tim Butler brews." Sitting there at the bar right where we were ordering was Tim Butler, brewer for Empire Brewing Company. We chatted for a while about all sorts of things beer; Middle Ages, Empire's future plans, online beer rating, etc. Tim is one hell of a nice guy with all sorts of opinions and he doesn't believe in hiding them, which is aok in my book. I grabbed him a couple cans of Surly and before I got back he had already bought our first round, Empire Pale Ale. Thanks Tim! He gave us the lowdown for what Empire was bringing to Ithaca Brew Fest and then our table was ready.
I sat down and stared at the menu for a bit. What did I want? One of everything. All sorts of yummy sounding BBQ and sides. I was tempted with the Porkskett Sandwich, but went with my standby for any good BBQ places and got a half rack of ribs along with sides of mac and cheese and chili. Setting up a good base for later in the night. I ordered another beer, and shortly after the food was there. A couple quick pictures, one wigh Santa and then I dug in. It was as good as advertised. The dry rub on the ribs was tasty enough that you didn't need to use any sauce. The chili was so thick that I ate it with a fork and the mac and cheese was creamy goodness with a nice little crunch of bread crumbs. The place was great. Top notch Barbecue along with 20 or so taps, mostly featuring craft beer with a big emphasis on the locals, Empire and Middle Ages.
We decided to take a walk and grab another beer or two. No need to go to Middle Ages since I have had most of their beers. We walked by Syracuse Suds and passed up the Blue Tusk to hit Empire Brewing. Downstairs, we walk into the pub. It's a nice place with a pretty laid back feel to it. Par for the course, we sat down at the bar and ordered a beer. Again, Bakes knows the bartender here. She serves up my IPA, and it's rock solid. Definitely East Coast IPA, but not everything has to be West Coast style. Empire is another place that is definitely worth the stop. I don't know how the food is, but it smelled good and bakes confirmed that it is, so I'd assume it's pretty good.
Chatted a while and had a second beer, then it was time to go. Hell, we haven't really started the trip yet. We were, after all, on our way to Lumfest with Ithaca Brew Fest looming the next day. Flower Power on tap and tons of roasted meat awaited us. On we go to Ithaca...