The first run of the Spring tour has passed, and it was a lot of fun, somewhat challenging in certain ways, and more exhausting than usual. As such, I'm a little behind in my blogs, so here's a little catch-up on all that along with thoughts on the show in Delaware.
The first night in Virginia was great... huge crowd, great people, a good cause, big fun all the way around. Yeah, it was cold and rainy for the first day of Spring, but so what. Slept well in the hotel that night, then hit the road for Delaware about midday. There are two basically equidistant routes between Williamsburg and Delaware... the more common is to take the interstate north and go through Richmond, DC, and Baltimore, then cut east. The other is to go a little southeast to Virginia Beach, then head up the Eastern Shore, which is a more remote, less traveled route, and therefore the one I prefer for several reasons.
Mispillion River Brewing Company - Milford, DE
Cans and kegs are available throughout much of the mid-Atlantic region, including Delaware, Maryland, coastal Virginia, New Jersey, and portions of New York and Pennsylvania. How to find their beer
First, much less traffic, so a more leisurely drive. Second, it's a narrow strip of land between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic, pretty much rural, so more interesting finds along the way. One of the benefits is you go through rather remote fishing towns, so if you like fresh seafood (clams, oysters, tuna, blue fish, etc.) it's not only everywhere, but it's fresh out of the water, prepared perfectly, and dirt cheap. My favorite (so far) is the The Great Machipongo Clam Shack, in Nassawadox, VA. It is literally a repurposed old McDonald's location, injected with a ton of character and great seafood. Their chowder is the best I've ever had, and I've had it everywhere (it has a clear broth, so it's a little different, but sooooo good). They also have a pretty good bottled beer selection, filled with lots of interesting regional and local brews.
The last time I drove up the Eastern Shore we literally stumbled upon front-row seats to a rocket launch. NASA has a facility on the eastern shore of the eastern shore, almost directly east of D.C., and they happened to be launching a rocket to the ISS. That was a first for me, and something worth witnessing if you ever get the chance. Rocket launches also attract crowds of pretty interesting people, folks... so well worth your time if you ever get the chance.
The only down side to traveling the Eastern Shore, at least from the south, is that you have to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to get there. Said structure is a 23 mile causeway/tunnel crossing the mouth of the Chesapeake where she merges with the At'antic. I don't like bridges, and I hate causeways... so on a calm day it's pretty nerve racking... in bad weather it can be downright terrifying (for 20 minutes). On this day it was windy but not too bad, and I lived to tell about it.
The drive to Delaware after having lunch at the Clam Shack was relaxing, and I arrived in Milford, Delaware at the Mispillion River Brewery about an hour before show time, which is about ideal. This gives me time to set up and then chill for about a half hour before starting, which allows me to get to know the staff and some of the regulars, and learn about the brewery.
Mispillion looks like a smaller brewery, the brewery and taproom are located in a warehouse type facility in a business district type area (neighbors were landscape companies, etc), only a mile or two from the ocean. Looks can be deceiving, though, as Mispillion has a rather robust distribution footprint, with their cans and kegs reaching out across much of the mid-Atlantic region. Every visit is different, as in addition to their flagships they have an passion for single-batch "once and done" experiments, where if it looks interesting you'd better try it now, as it likely won't back again, at least any time soon.
The taproom was cozy, I'd guess it holds less than 100 people, the bar faces you as you walk in, and the stage in the corner to the left. The location is remote enough that I'd guess most of the business is from local regulars, and based on how friendly the room was I would assume I'm right about that. I had interesting chats with a few regulars before the show that were so faithful to the brewery that they wanted to buy the new tour t-shirts before even hearing a note I played, just because their brewery was listed up at the top of the itinerary.
The young lady working the bar was very knowledgeable about all their brews and the stories behind them (as well as many others that weren't currently available), and pointed me in the right direction all night long as to which beer to try next. She was also very cute and funny, and unfortunately I don't remember her name and evidently forgot to write it down (if you're reading this, I'm sorry!).
As seems to be the norm lately, by the time I unpacked and set up all my gear I was very thirsty, and wanted to start with something particularly refreshing and thirst quenching, so I went with the War Llama (5%) Berliner Weisse. This is, in their words “Mixed berry electrolyte infused beverage”. The first odd thing: it was a little hazy like a NE IPA... but it was green. Green like the color of a sour apple Jolly Rancher, which is also what it tasted like to me. It was reasonably fizzy and had a decent depth to the body, and it was both refreshing and thirst quenching.... so I don't care how odd it seems, mission accomplished! I liked it. I probably couldn't down many of them in a sitting, but it made for a satisfying pint when thirsty.
The Praetor Porter (7.5%) porter was also very good. A medium brown pour, roasted and woody in flavor, a bit bready body but more on the lighter side of carbonation, this was a good sipper for my first set. Much more traditional and approach and execution than the War Llama, but this is the kind of variety I enjoy from a brewery.
I'm a little embarrassed to say that I sampled several of their IPAs (they had at least 4 American IPAs, plus a Rye New England, etc) and I don't have in my notes which was which. What I can tell you is that I didn't have any that were poorly done... my notes have the usual descriptors that you'd expect from an IPA review.... citrusy, floral, a little pineapple flavor, bitter but not uncomfortably bitter.... I just can't say exactly which IPAs my notes were referencing. Suffice it to say I tried several, and I liked them all, because I don't have any works like “overly hopped”, “obnoxious”, “tastes like a pine cone”, etc in my notes... so they must have been good! What I do recall clearly was that Hagrid (11%) Imperial Stout was delightful. A bit heavy, bold, and dripping with chocolate and coffee overtones, a nearly black pour with a tan head. At 11% there was a slight hint of alcohol at the end, just enough to get your attention and remind you that you have a serious brew in that glass.
Mispillion was a great little brewery, filled with well executed, interesting brews, and friendly people serious about their beers and their local gem of a brewery. As is often the case with these breweries, their location is appropriate to their goals... not overstated, and as is also not unusual you might approach the door with certain preconceived notions about the brewery based strictly on the location and small taproom, and they immediately exit in exchange for warmth when you start chatting things up with the regulars, take in dorky Star Wars themes throughout the taproom and of course start coming to realize they are serious about their beer making.
After a long night, I left the brewery sometime well after midnight, which is unusual for me. I planned to sleep in the van, as I'm apt to do when playing very near the ocean, and a very friendly local suggested a beach nearby where I could park the van right up at the edge of the beach and not be hassled by the local cops. I drove to the spot, which was only a few minutes away, and set up the van for a night of camping on the edge of the sea. For the first time ever, after a few hours I had to leave, as the location was so desolate, and the night so quiet and dark, that it just kinda freaked me out.
I drove into town and slept the rest of the night in a more populated area, but the disruption in sleep was enough to throw me off my game for the next day's journey to Baltimore. I woke up Saturday morning a bit later than I intended, and headed west to the brand new Full Tilt Brewery...
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