This is the second post of a two-part blog covering the Great Brewery Tour's very first Camping Caravan, which took us to Little Fish Brewing Co and Wooly Pig Farm Brewery, both in the foothills of the Appalachians in Eastern Ohio, on Memorial Day Weekend, 2019.
******************************** Much to my surprise, I woke up at about 7am Sunday morning, which is pretty early for me these days, especially after staying up especially late the night before. I was thrilled to see that not only was it not raining, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the sun was shining brightly!
The only other people awake were our “I don't want to be that guy” guy (see Part 1) and his lady, who by the looks of them had been awake for some time, as they were already cleaning up after their breakfast. I actually pondered the thought of approaching him and saying “Hey, I don't want to be “that guy”, but everyone else in the national park was up late and is still sleeping, so stop moving around and making noise...”, but I decided better to let it go. Would've been funny, though.
I think it was about 10am by the time everyone in our group was up and about, and the first part of the morning was spent recapping and laughing about things that happened the night before... “that guy”... various numbskull moves... who drank all the whiskey?... someone tripping over a camping chair with a handful of brats just off the fire and a skewer in hand, face=planting and making at least me think she was probably impaled (she was fine)... and too many funny references to recall... so it seemed the first half of the trip was a fun success.
We broke down camp pretty quickly and headed north for Coshocton, Ohio, where we'd be camping on the banks of a river. It was about a 2 hour drive, again through very rural areas on little backroads that made for some beautiful scenery.
This campground was much smaller than the other, and we were the only ones in the “primitive” tent area, which was back in the trees and literally on the banks of a small but rather fast moving river (I never did figure out what it was called). We had a ton of space to ourselves and were pretty far away from the campers/RVs, so we could basically be as rowdy as we wanted and nobody cared (in fact, that night most of the other campers were much louder than we were). A short walk from the campsite were the cleanest bathrooms and showers I'd ever seen at a campground, so that was nice, too.
Some of our group had decided to have brunch at Casa Nueva in Athens before heading up, and they got in an hour or so after us. Everyone got their campsites set up quickly (it's always easier when you had just done it), and we headed to the Wooly Pig Farm Brewery, which was only about 15 minutes away.
Wooly Pig Farm Brewery – Fresno, OH
A wide variety of beers are available at the brewery on tap, as well as growlers and bottles. The brewery chooses not to distribute, so if you want you'd better come and get it (and you should!).
Played: 9/15/18, 5/26/19
As I think I stated in the beginning, the whole reason I wanted to put this Camping Caravan thing together (other than it sounding like a lot of fun to me) was so I could share the experience of visiting some of these amazing smaller breweries that are off the beaten path with others who probably would have no other reasonable opportunity to visit them. Wooly Pig Farm Brewery is the perfect example, and one of my favorite breweries in the entire country, and I definitely wanted to include them on my first Caravan attempt.
You can go back and read my blog after my first visit to Wooly Pig Farm, but suffice it to say I was blown away by the brewery, their story, the family that owns and runs the place, the whole vibe of the farm and brewery itself, the community that supports them, and of course their beer. I also had an exceptional time playing music to them that night, and the whole experience left me wanting to share them with everyone I could. In fact, ever since, when people ask me what my favorite breweries are, I also mention them and tell the tale of why I think they're so great. But here's the thing: they are in a pretty rural area east of Columbus, OH... miles away from major interstate access, and not really directly on the path to anywhere else most people would be traveling... so unless you were specifically heading to them you'd probably never find them. Additionally, they are focused on continuing the healthy growth of their local business, so the distraction of wider distribution is not a priority for them... so you're not very apt to find their delicious beers elsewhere any time soon, either.
With Wooly Pig Farm, and a handful of others I have in mind, it seemed like it would be a lot of fun if I could put together a group of like-minded people who would appreciate these types of breweries just like I do. I was also inspired by a part of Americana that seems to have largely disappeared, and that is the adventure of the road trip. In old times people would hop a train or join a carnival, in the 50s and 60s it wasn't uncommon to hitchhike your way across the country... and in my day you ran off and followed the Grateful Dead for a few days, or a summer (or a few years!).
So I decided I wanted to combine sharing the breweries with road tripping... sometimes it might be a ragtag caravan hitting breweries and camping in scenic spots, other times maybe it would be a long weekend of cool breweries in particularly cool destinations, traveling on a chartered bus and staying at hotels. We'll see what happens... this coming Labor Day I'm scheduled to play a fantastic run of breweries in Charlotte and Asheville, NC and Blue Ridge, GA... and that would be a perfect opportunity to try the chartered bus version (especially as I'm playing Sierra Nevada's compound near Asheville... which is like a beer Wonderland!).
This was my first stab at it, and it worked really well, and I got to share Wooly Pig Farm Brewery with people who had heard me talking about them for almost a year.
When we arrived at Wooly Pig Farm Brewery, the sun was out, there was a nice breeze, and the hillside was filled with children playing, dogs playing with each other, and adults tossing frisbees and playing cornhole. There were a whole slew of baby wooly pigs on hand (and there are goats and horses, too). The patio was full of people (which was great as this was their first weekend being open on Sunday). Our group feasted off the food truck, and I played my sets and sipped beers in between songs.
Everyone in our group raved later about the IPL Eins, which is an India Pale Lager (rather than ale)... so in short basically a hopified lager.
My first brew of the day was the Maibock (7.6%). Golden and clear with a fluffy head, an inviting aroma of bready goodness and floral hops. A nice breadiness and light floral hints, but by no means is it a “light” beer. This has a lot of body, and bit of bitterness at the end. If you're content with sessions this might be a bit much beer for you, but if you like a bold beer that is crisp but still loaded with flavor and a tinge of alcohol, you'll love it.
I sipped on the Maibock all the way through my first set, and finally got a 2nd beer during my setbreak. As I was pretty hot and thirsty I went for a nice tall Fruited Gose (5.2%), which I loved during my first visit and I knew would be perfect for the task at hand, and it was. Sour but reasonably so, a tinge of saltiness, and lemon and cranberry tones, really, really refreshing... this alone is worth the drive (although I could say the same of a few others on the menu here).
My final brew at the brewery was the Honey Cream Ale (5.4%), which was new for me. A yellowish pour with a lighter head, aroma was a little floral, sweet (I assume due to the honey). It was a nice crisp drink of medium to medium/light body, a slight sweetness and floral hoppiness with a little bitter on the back, then a clean finish.
They were nice enough to send me back to the campsite with a 4-pack sampler. Everyone jumped for the IPL Eins, but I promised it to Tonya, as she had been sharing her Irish whiskeys with me throughout the weekend. When I went to the cooler to grab one of the other bottles, they were gone... in minutes... so that should tell you how much the group loved the Wooly Pig Farm beers (if the t-shirts and hats didn't offer a clue).
I don't know how late we stayed up Sunday night. One the one hand I think it must've been pretty late, as we did a lot of grilling of chicken and grilled cheese sandwiches, but on the other hand we were all pretty wiped out. I think it's safe to say most of us made it into the wee hours, and then we all slept like rocks.
Monday was Memorial Day and we all came to life slowly, cleaned up, and then headed our different directions by noon or so. I and a couple of others headed back to Cincinnati, some of the others decided to visit friends in Columbus on the way home (before flying back to Austin, TX early the next morning), and another headed back to North Carolina. Everyone seemed pretty satisfied, and I'm pretty sure everyone had a lot of fun. I know everyone enjoyed both breweries and the wildly different brewery experience that both Little Fish and Wooly Pig Farm offered compared to the bigger city breweries that everyone was used to. Kate said it was the most fun camping trip she'd ever been on, so that's a win!
I got home around 3pm Monday, and Django went straight to the couch and went comatose for the rest of the day. He had never been on a trip like that before, and I think he was one somewhat confused but entertained, and then exhausted, dog. I sat down next to him and fell asleep (sitting up), waking about three hours later. Drew and Kate returned from Columbus later Monday night, went straight to bed, and we all woke up at 4:30 Tuesday morning to take them to the airport and they were back in Austin by noon.
I have one more gig in Ohio this weekend, my first time at Municipal Beer Works in Hamilton, OH... and then it's a show in Atlanta, and then a whole month of playing breweries in beach towns up the Atlantic coast.
I think we're going to do more of these trips. The Labor Day trip seems plausible. In July there are some possibilities (not yet announced) in the Great Lakes region, or maybe we do something during cooler temperatures in the Fall. Camping? Party bus and group rate hotels? If you're interested let me know.... drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
And thanks again to everyone who came this time!
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