Return of the Queer Beer Travel Blog
Welcome back to Out on the Road, the Queer Beer Travel Blog! We’ve been on a bit of a hiatus recently as I’ve been finding my feet as a blogger, but if you read my most recent post you know that I’m planning to put something in this space each week. My current plan is for Out on the Road to post once a month, travel plans permitting.
This (slightly belated) post details my and El’s Thanksgiving road trip. The destination of the trip was New Hampshire to visit my family, but this post won’t be about turkey — we’re sticking to the journey and the beers we had along the way! That means that today, we’ll be visiting Albany, NY and Cleveland, OH!
If you wanna skip the nuance and get straight to the nitty gritty, you can get to our final brewery rankings by clicking here.
All Aboard to Albany
Our trip started from El’s parents’ house, both to skip over Chicago traffic and to pick up their parents’ car — a bright yellow Honda Fit — because unfortunately Dakota wasn’t looking up to such a long haul in cold, wet weather.
We left Chicago at 3am with El at the wheel, blessing me with a few more hours of sleep. I wasn’t awake for the rainy, pre-dawn drive, but El told me that the experience was meditative and relaxing despite the subpar conditions. I woke up about 15 minutes into Michigan, and though I was up for the rest of the haul, El still drove straight through to our first brewery.
Since the primary purpose of this trip was to get out to see my family for Thanksgiving, and we had to fit that into the time El had off work, our trip had less of our usual meandering delightfulness. Still, it’s not an Out on the Road trip without beer! Our route was bringing us through Albany, and we decided to stop there for a couple of brews before we made the final leg of the journey (3 hours seems like nothing when your fiance has already been driving for 13).
Our first brewery in Albany was Fort Orange, a welcome respite where we each got a beer.
- Raspberry Blonde Ale: The fruit flavor on this beer came through in a strange way and didn’t quite blend in with the rest of the beer. It was refreshing and decent, but far from the best-executed fruit beer I’ve ever had.
- Bourbon Barrel Aged Super Local: El likes their strong beers, and this stout fit the bill. It wasn’t particularly exciting, but we’ve both had actively bad beers before, and this was certainly not that.
Fort Orange was a bit stark and basic on the decor, but with a reasonable small-business vibe and some really high-quality people watching, thanks to the other Thanksgiving travelers there.
We’d been excited to try one or two other beers on the menu when we came in, but since the first two really didn’t wow us, we decided to try our luck at another brewery. So, we dashed through the cold rain to nearby Druthers for a second round and a bite to eat. Since I’d be the designated driver, El was the only one to get a beer:
- Winter Warmer: A strong and cozy winter beer, this was a fantastic pick-me-up for El, and really helped them to warm up on that chilly, rainy day.
Druthers had a cozy yet sprawling taproom with warm lighting and good decor, plus a good view into their brewing room. They also had a surprisingly good veggie burger, making them a truly delightful stop on our long, long day of traveling.
Once we’d finished there, I drove the rest of the way while El took a well-deserved nap, arriving in New Hampshire around 9 that night, and spent that part of the trip hanging out with family and eating a lot of delicious, wonderful carbs.
Clear Through to Cleveland
Though the trip out was a bit rushed to make sure we got to spend all of Thanksgiving with family, we wanted our return trip to be a bit more leisurely. To facilitate this, we planned a nice little stopover in Cleveland. I’d never been there, but I was excited to see the city — mostly because I knew that it was known for some high-quality beer!
The first brewery that we went to was Great Lakes Brewing Company. They’ve got some really iconic beers, and really kick-started the craft brewing scene in Cleveland when they opened shop in 1986. We each got a beer here, and El was particularly excited about theirs:
- Edmund Fitzgerald Porter: I have to admit, I hadn’t known Great Lakes before coming here — they don’t distribute to New England — but I’m so glad El brought me here. Their Edmund Fitzgerald Porter is one of their classics, and has definitely earned that title. It’s a smooth, flavorful porter that was a delight to drink.
- Barrel Aged Christmas Ale: El was on a bit of a winter ale kick this trip (‘twas the season), and was not disappointed by this one. The beer was heavy with spices and carried an extra wallop of booziness thanks to the barrel aging, but all that flavor was perfectly balanced in the brew and not at all overwhelming.
If you’ve never been to visit GLBC, I would highly recommend checking them out. They’ve got the sort of space that one might expect from such a big name — spacious, almost restaurant-style layout with plenty of historic memorabilia for decor. We absolutely would have stayed for another round, until we made a terrible discovery about the next stop we had planned for our tour of Cleveland.
Woe betide us, we did NOT realize that one of Cleveland’s most original and unique shops closed at 3pm on Sundays! Brewnuts is a fabulous place that uses local microbrews to make spectacular donuts. Though the shop does not itself brew beer, it features 16 local taps to pair with their donuts.
Unfortunately, because we didn’t realize that the shop closed at 3 until it was nearly 2:45, we didn’t get the chance to sit and sip a beer with our donuts. We did make it there in time for El to swing in and grab a half-dozen while I waited in the car, though, and let me tell you, they were amazing. Our favorites were salted caramel, maple bacon, and rosemary lavender. If you’re ever in Cleveland, make sure one of your stops is Brewnuts. We’ll certainly be headed back there for the full experience next time we’re in town!
Since we didn’t get the chance to get a round at Brewnuts, we decided to try out a brewery called Bookhouse. We each got to have an absolutely amazing beer while there, though El’s won the distinction as best beer of the trip!
- Whoops! Smoothie IPA: Now this was a fruit beer done right! Which is ironic, seeing as it came about from a mistake in the brewing process. I do, however, really appreciate a brewery that is able to so skillfully able to recover from an oopsie. It helps that I really love milkshake IPAs; this one’s hops balanced really well with the bright, tart fruit flavors, and it had a smooth and creamy texture on the sip.
- Tequila Barrel Aged River of Memories: This beer was a showstopper. El’s favorite drink by far (besides beer) is tequila, and so when they instructed me to pick a beer for them while they scoped out a table, it was an easy choice. It was so good that El almost didn’t want to share it! The rich, sweet chocolate of the River of Memories stout was complemented perfectly by the distinct tequila-agave flavor and the booziness of barrel-aging. An all-around amazing beer.
Bookhouse goes for a library-like energy in their little space, and let me tell you, it was amazing. Books are always my vibe. Little indie bookstores are so calming and wonderful. I could spend hours in them. When you combine that with Bookhouse’s high-quality beer, you’ve got an absolute slam-dunk.
We left from Cleveland the next morning, leftover Brewnuts in tow, and returned home. Overall, we traveled 1,601 miles (not including all our driving around in New England!). Though a bit rushed at times, it was still an amazing trip. And, as always, we used our return trip to talk about which breweries were our favorite:
- Bookhouse: What can we say, Bookhouse just ticked all our boxes. Cozy bookstore vibes, delicious beer, and that little taste of tequila put this brewery right at the top of our list. Next time you’re in Cleveland, be sure to check them out.
- Great Lakes Brewing Company: Cleveland’s craft brewery game is on point (El and I barely scratched the surface), and GLBC is the foundation for it. Their beers are solid and well-made, and they’ve definitely earned their reputation.
- Druthers: Solid brewery, I wish that we’d gotten two beers from them to give them a bit more of a fair shake. Their Christmas Ale didn’t compare to GLBC’s, but it was still really good.
- Fort Orange: This one didn’t do it for us. The beer wasn’t bad, but that’s about all we can say about the brewery. We still had a good time, even if it wasn’t our favorite of the trip.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it, and if you did (or didn’t!) leave a comment below — I love hearing feedback and improving my writing!
Until next time, cheers!