A Day Trip to the North Country

As I mentioned Tuesday morning, I was heading north for work that day, to McConnell's Mill State Park, which luckily enough is nearby Slippery Rock, town of the same name as the Creek in the above photo, a very popular run for paddlers.

Slippery Rock is also home to North Country Brewing, one of the most aesthetically pleasing brewpubs I've ever been too. Its got a nice funky vibe, the place being entirely rebuilt from the ground up, mostly by hand. The craftsmanship is evident as soon as you see the place, let alone walk inside. There's a pretty heavy hippie-ness to the place, in menu, nomenclature and general attitude, but not so much that its annoying. Unfortunately, I was an idiot and didn't take my camera in, despite it being on the back seat of the car, so you'll just have to go see for yourself.

I've always found the food here to be rather tasty, and while the service can be slow at times, usually when I am in a hurry, its worth the wait. The emphasis of the menu is on locally sourced ingredients as much as possible, with a generous amount of vegetarian options, as well. They also have some interesting choices beyond the typical pub grub fare, including this week's dinner specials: Paella Cakes, Portabella en Croute, Chicken Pad Thai, Wild Orange Chicken and Pork Andalusia. That being said, their burgers and sandwich are damn tasty too.

On to the beer! The one fault I (and others) have with North Country is this: there tend to be beer dry spells. They have their standard, always-on offerings, which range from just okay to very good, but there are times when that is all they are offering. When Nate, Dave and Justin did their mini-tour of Western PA, I think they came away a little underwhelmed with the beers. When I was their on Tuesday, they have on five, yes five newish limited release beers. If they were able to stagger those releases a little more, I think they would be more successful in wowing the beer geek community. Now since I got lucky, a few brief reviews follow:

7-Hop Imperial IPA
The brewer used 7 hops for this high gravity beer. If you’re a hop-head you will enjoy it. There’s a limited amount because we’re holding some back to age in the cellar for a while.
My, this one was tasty! The pour is hazy orange, an aroma is sweet honey and super hoppy citrus and pine, very aromatic.
The taste is full of hops and a nice background sweetness. A lot of good apricot flavor. Good mouthfeel and very drinkable, an excellent beer and quite possibly my favorite North Country beer.

The Other One
Our brewmaster’s version of old ale, A.K.A. strong ale. The malty characteristics mask the alcohol flavor.
Dark red brown, smell is of dark fruit, especially cherry. Taste is smoky and fruity with more of that tasty cherry flavor coming through. Kind of light in the body, but rather good.

Wee Heavy Imp Ale
A Scotch Ale, not to be confused with a Scottish Ale, this beer is maltier (sweeter) and a lot stronger in alcohol content.
Pour is dark red with a light tan head. Smell is smoky, peaty and malty. Taste is much the same, very much like a good scotch, a touch fruity and a bit of alcohol. Nice mouthfeel too, another good one.

Embalmer 2007
Back for a limited time, this batch has been aging since last January. Be careful our Barleywine has a high alcohol content--you never know what spirits you might see!
Pour is an amber brown, smell is kind of boozy along with some brown sugar sweetness. The taste has noticeable alcohol, some rich maltiness and a bittersweet hop finish. Not quite as complex or full-bodied as most barleywines, but rather good overall.

Now for the bad news, of the five new beers only one was available for growler fills. Reason being, I suppose is to keep the sales in-house. That does give more people the chance to try it, while at the same time boosting revenue, as a fill does cost less than an equal volume of sold pints. My thinking falls the way of, I'm already a customer in the pub and ready to spend more money to take some home. Business/economics not being my forte, I'm not sure what makes more financial sense, but rules are rules.

I did get a growler fill of the last new beer, North Country's Imperial Stout, Catherine the Great. Check back for a review of that beer soon.