Darkness is falling and I am racing the setting sun to get to my last craft beer stop of the day, Ipswich Ale Brewery. Like a thread weaving through a tapestry of beautiful tree-lined roads that border amazing homes in greater Massachusetts, I am enjoying scenes and vistas of pure unadulterated beauty. Pine trees are my blinders as I ride through tiny hamlets and towns seemingly plucked out of Better Homes and Gardens. I arrive at my destination hungry and a bit thirsty for craft beer. It is night now and the bright lights that illuminate the sign on the red brick building, a beacon directing me to what will hopefully be another great food and craft beer experience.
As I ascend the stairs into the brewpub, it is very cozy. Inviting brick and hanging light fixtures glowing with the help of Edison bulbs beckon to me. I see many open seats at the bar and a huge half a vehicle whose side has been impaled with beer taps. The tap handles are colorful, decorated with barley and hops. I decide on 4 of their beers in a flight and it comes served in a vertical 3 dimensional marvel in design. I also order an some fish and chips because I am extremely hungry. Rule number one of the craft beer tasting on the road is always try to pair the beer you are tasting with some food so you can maintain your wits. Since this is my 4th, and last stop of the day, food is a necessity. I am tired from the road, but also happily recounting a day that started at Jack’s Abby and has now led me here. Despite my desire to try all the beer they have on tap, it is late and I decide that four will suffice. I go with a Pilsner, Hefeweizen, Farmhouse Ale, and a Dry Irish Stout. I figure that this wide swath of styles will give me a sense of what the brewing pedigree is at Ipswich Ale Brewery. As I am tasting my way through the craft beers, my food shows up. I am now relaxed and enjoying some decent food and drink. The stout is by far my favorite of the four. It provides the malty bitterness and roasty flavors I expect in this style. There is also some mild sweetness for balance. My second favorite is the Farmhouse Ale because of its delicious yeast character. The Pilsner falls a little flat and I wish it had more of a hop finish to punctuate the crispness of the beer. The Hefeweizen does not have enough esters that are the hallmark of this style and I am missing the clove and bubblegum. I wrap things up and head back to the car to dial in my address for my Airbnb.
Ten minutes later I am getting out of the car and walking into Diane’s house. Her 4-legged furry companion is the canine version of Secretariat! Diane greets me with gusto and invites me to sit down. We get chatting about my trip and she is excited to hear where I am going to be heading on my adventures. Diane is an organic farmer and she has a 7 acre farm where she spends a lot of time. She is into cooking and knows her craft beer and bourbon! Diane also has an incredibly thick New England accent and after telling her the places I have been and plan on going, she enthusiastically responds, as if it is the chorus of a song with, “Noice!” The bedroom where I am staying in her house is huge and connects to a private bathroom. Idefinitely lucked out with this place. Even in the dark, I can tell that this is a very nice area of Massachusetts and Diane is a great host. Diane informs me that tomorrow is going to be hot and that I should definitely sleep in because the heat will tire me out. She explains that it will be cooler once I am on the water, but where I am now, it gets very humid. I hit the sack and sleep
like a rock.
The next morning, I am up early and have my sights set on getting a cooler to keep some of the
beer that I have accrued warm in this crazy heat. After getting the cooler, I set out for Cape Ann Brewing Company in Gloucester, MA. It is difficult to get my bearings because it seems like every road goes through a pine forest. However, I emerge from the woods and eventually can see water which tells me I am getting close. Gloucester is one of the oldest fishing towns in Massachusetts. I find a parking spot right outside the brewery and head in. I am the first patron there because they open at 11:00 and it is 11:02. I really effervescent server named Regina tell me in her New England accent, “Go ahead and sit anywhere, hon.” So, I head outside and stake my claim to a shaded table right on the edge of the deck. From where I am seated, I can see and smell the salty sea air. The seagulls above are catcalling the fishing boats that are coming into harbor and I realize that there really won’t be too many more perfect moments than this on my trip. Regina stops by and sees that I am perusing the beer menu and I tell her that I will do a flight, she notices that I have a notebook and camera and sits down to ask me what the deal is with all my gear. It turns out that she is studying to become an elementary school teacher and is excited that I am also a teacher. This Latina charmer is one of the best servers I have ever come in contact with. Her smile and knowledge of the beer menu and food that they serve are awesome. I order a bowl of clam chowder and some fried whole bellied clams.
My flight arrives and the first couple sips I notice that these craft beers are all decent. I really like the Fisherman’s Brew, a Red Lager with a nice malty roast to it. It drinks smooth and finishes with some crisp earthy hops. Their Pilsner and IPA are both nice and clean. The Pilsner had a nice biscuit malt flavor to it with a hop bite at the end for balance. The IPA is aromatic and floral with a nice malt balance. I am ecstatic to see that they have a Pumpkin Stout and an Imperial Pumpkin Stout on the menu. Despite the evils of seasonal creep, I will never turn away a good pumpkin beer. The Pumpkin Stout is smooth with very subtle pumpkin spice. Lots of mocha and chocolate in this beer and it goes toe to toe with the creaminess of
my clam chowder. Speaking of the clam chowder, it is creamy and has a high ratio of clam meat in it, which was definitely not the case at every place I visit. The clams arrive and I begin to savor the creamy and buttery sweetness of the clams. This is not a clam strip, but rather, the entire clam and the taste is perfect. The breading is not thick or greasy, but crunchy and perfect. Regina keeps the beers coming and I am onto my second flight now. The deck is filling up and the sun is getting warmer, but the sea breeze is keeping me cool. The Kook Island Summer ale is nice and refreshing and perfect for sitting on the deck. Eventually, I need to get going and explore the rest of this little paradise by the sea, so I close up with Regina. This morning will stick in my head for years because between the friendliness of the service, the deliciousness of the food, and the perfection of the setting, I am not sure how much better life can get.
I spend the afternoon traversing the harborwalk, a curated walking path with historical markers and points of interest leading me all around the bay. It is picturesque and I will forever be in debt to my coworker, Stephanie, for recommending that I visit here. The harborwalk is one and I take a walk along the beach to dip my feet in the water before heading up the coast to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This has been a relaxing day and after visiting four breweries yesterday, I am happy to have a relaxing day that is more about sightseeing.
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