Here are some facts about me: I play music for a living, I travel around the world doing it, and I love beer. One would think these things would go hand in hand. And one would be right! I have the opportunity to visit breweries all over the world. But part of the fun is going with friends, and while the band and crew are friends, the band doesn’t really like beer, and the crew is always busy.
Cut to me, alone, sampling beers, by myself.
That’s how it is in Local Natives, my main band. I’ve started a side project called Jaws of Love., where there are far fewer people involved (Mark, who plays with me onstage, and Dave, who does our sound), but they still carry the same lack of enthusiasm for beer. Fortunately for me, I have the proper training, so when October asked me to document visiting breweries solo on this little tour we went on last December, I was prepared. It seemed like a good time, what with the LA show tomorrow night, and then the European tour afterwards, in which I'll surely have a beer or two.
The day after Local Natives ended our first period of actually recording our fourth record, I met Mark and Dave at LAX to embark on a short, six-stop east coast tour for Jaws of Love. My life has been pretty crazy balancing the two acts, but I was pumped to give these songs their East Coast debut, in addition to having time to visit some awesome breweries while doing so. The plan was to hit one in each city, and we would start in Montreal.
Montreal: Embrace the Entrance
I’ve spent a good amount of time in Montreal and have friends there, so I knew some good places already. The venue we were playing was super close to Dieu du Ciel! (I only patron establishments that use punctuation marks in their names now (for obvious reasons)), so I headed over.
As soon as I walked in to the very crowded, happy-hour atmosphere, I knocked a glass over. As if in slow motion, I watched it bounce off the floor, rising to a height where I could have actually caught it, and thought, “I can’t believe it didn’t break!” Then it fell back down and exploded. I nervously laughed, embarassed, but also thinking it was a pretty great entrance.
Dieu du Ciel! has been around since 1998, and has a good variety of beer styles. My favorites were their Sentinelle, a blonde-style kolsch (5.1%), Route #1, a west coast pale ale (5.2%), and their Saison du Parc (4.4%). The vibe felt very “the neighborhood haunt”, with no clean white walls or heavily designed menus, but dark wood, chalk boards, and loud and lively vibe.
It felt like Cheers, but where nobody knew my name. No matter, I’m trained, remember?
Toronto: Scheduling Slammers
The next day was the Toronto show, making it a “fly-show-day” (where you fly somewhere and play a show that same day). Fly-show-days are always particularly stressful, because if any one thing goes wrong, you’re entire day could easily be fucked.
Between almost losing my entire supply of limited edition screen-printed posters at Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (long stupid story for another time), a cruel hour-long delay of hovering above our destination instead of landing, and a rental car shuttle that apparently comes as frequently as a lunar eclipse, we didn’t have time to properly hit up a brewery that day.
Thankfully, our flight out the next day was in the late afternoon, so we stopped at Henderson Brewing Company on our way to the airport.
The plan was, since brunch went late, Dave and Mark would drop me off at Henderson, giving me the time it took for them to find a CVS, buy more Advil (Dave had a tooth thing), and come back, to try some beers.
The vibe in the place was classic brewery: high ceilings, giant brewing equipment in the back, science-class bar-height metal tables and stools, and design that vaguely resembles a cool car-repair shop (why is that very often the case btw?), so I felt very much at home. They had mostly lagers and saisons. I can’t remember their names, but there was a dark saison around 5.5% that was my favorite there.
After 25 minutes of slamming samplers, I was off.
Philadelphia: To Go Beers Save the Night
Philly unfortunately suffered from so much collective jackass-edry that we never got to a brewery. We accidentally booked our flight to DC instead Philly (a sentence that still gives my perfectly-working brain shivers), so we had to drive to Philly from there. Since I feel strongly that no good tour does not contain at least one stop to Buffalo Wild Wings, and we had a hankering for wings anyways, that was the dinner stop.
It offered all those classic tour delights. The stares from locals, beers with bad food, and Mark and Dave laughing at me when I spilled half an order of honey BBQ wings on my pants. Morale was high until we finally arrived at our apartment building with the airbnb that, for some reason, didn’t exist.
The blow of having to chill in lobby for an hour and a half was lessened by the to-go beers we bought at a bar on the way (I like the east coast!) and the door guy being a pretty great hang.
After the crescendo of the night of walking into not one but two apartments that already had sleeping people in them, booking.com put us up in a swanky AF place right next to the venue, which was an unexpected treat.
So we slept in after the long night, leaving us just enough time to eat, sound-check, eat again, play the show, and sleep. The next morning we were on our way back to DC.
DC: With or Without
Local Natives have played the 9:30 Club a few times now, so I’d been to Right Proper Brewing Company before, since it’s right around the corner. The venue we were playing that night was also super close, so I ended up there again.
Their Shaw brewpub location is more of a restaurant than an actual brewery, but they swore they had all their same stuff. There were a lot of farmhouse ales and saisons, reminding me a lot of The Bruery, with an inclination for wilder, funkier styles.
One beer I tried in particular that was pretty awesome was a sour that they serve with a habenero simple syrup to cut the tartness, which was great with and without. I always appreciate any restaurant/brewery situation, but I’m pumped to check out their tasting room next time.
Whilst it was a tad lonely at times, I got through four solo brewery visits in six days.”
Brooklyn: Three's Company
The penultimate stop of the tour was Brooklyn, but it would be the last brewery we’d see (Boston the next night got screwed over because of the snow, we’re not used to snow you know, we are weak and tan). We weren't intentionally saving the best for last – this brewery visit happened kind of by glorious accident. I made a friend many years ago who owned the Sycamore Bar in Ditmas Park, and I hadn’t seen him in a while, so we decided to meet up for a drink.
Little did I know, he and his buddy sold that bar and started their own brewery called Threes Brewing, and holy shit was I impressed. There was a coffee bar to the side of the entrance, a kitchen that rotates out different restaurants, a huge tasting room and even bigger back patio. No joke, it was one of the coolest breweries I’ve seen. Another point for Brooklyn! (Said the guy from LA with ZERO SARCASM.)
Justin (the friend) showed me around and told me the whole story, then picked a bunch of beers for me to try. They’ve got a little bit of everything, but it seems like they are still flying the IPA flag high.
Their Atomic Swerve was my favorite, a 5.6% Brett Pale Ale. He was entertaining some other friends as well, so I found myself alone again, tasting my tasters, drinking in my surroundings. The guy sitting next to me recognized me and we talked about why I was there and what shows he’d seen. He was nice.
One of Justin’s friends worked for Mikkeller, and I almost told him how I chose one of their beers for a beer-paring piece I wrote, then remembered it was actually Evil Twin, and swiftly shut the fuck up (they’re not on great terms).
Great beer, great friends, getting recognized; I was flying high that night. A great place to end the run.
Whilst it was a tad lonely at times, I got through four solo brewery visits in six days. Honestly, if I toured with people who actually did love beer, I’d probably be dead. Warning sign? Whatever, I’m the one writing a beer article during my sober January. On a fucking juice fast day no less. Being healthy sucks. I’m not cranky, you’re cranky! Okay, I’m making it worse.
Well, thanks for reading, and if you see a guy with curly hair and a beard sitting by himself in a brewery, ask him if his name is Kelcey. 99% of the time it won’t be, but you’ll have a wonderful time trying to explain yourself.