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Mr. Conley goes to Ellicottville

I did not go to Belgium Comes to Cooperstown this weekend. I did not go partly because I had just gotten back from vacation the week before. Surprise! Thanks to the magic of scheduled posts and tweets I bet you couldn’t tell. Maybe I’ve gone on vacation again right now. Maybe I no longer exist and have become a ball of pure energy or that baby from the end of 2001. You can’t ever know.

We had gone to Allegany State Park, one of my favorite places because of nostalgia, shared history and camping. Well, sleeping in a cabin. Well, sleeping in a cabin with electricity. Okay, so we were staying in a motel with lots of trees, basically.

Somehow, despite having driven through Ellicottville to get to Allegany for years I had never actually stopped at the Ellicottville Brewing Company. I resolved to fix that this time, and so on the Wednesday of our trip we left our son with his grandmother and headed into town. The week so far had consisted mostly of rain, but as we walked in the weather gave us a brief burst of sunshine.

2014-07-30 14.45.50

The food

We visited at a strange time: we had eaten lunch before we left, but we would be having dinner when we got back. It didn’t make much sense to me, but I only really cared about visiting EBC and so I didn’t mind everyone else deciding the specifics.

I wanted to try at least three beers — why go otherwise? — so we thought it best to order some food to split, mostly so my wife and daughter would have something to do as I scribbled in my notebook. We chose the avocado bacon grilled cheese, which did not mess around. The avocado and bacon dominated the sandwich: I’d say it was more accurately an avocado and bacon sandwich with cheese, but I am also not saying that as a criticism (despite being fairly done with bacon). It tasted salty and cheesy and had bountiful amounts of avocado, produce of the gods.

My daughter, 18 months old, liked it. I wish she didn’t like food. Because I have to share with her and she ate most of my avocado. She better not put me in a home.

The beer

Right! I came to EBC for the beer. I started with (Der) Stamtisch as I wanted something crisp and refreshing to start. The menu had plenty of imperial options that caught my eye, but they could wait.

(Der) Stamtisch: photographic evidence

(Der) Stamtisch: photographic evidence

Oddly enough, this beer doesn’t seem to exist according to the internet. Now I wish I had written down the style. 5% abv and brewed with an ale yeast, tasting crisp and slightly sweet with German hops at the end. As you drink the hops come out more. If I hadn’t been going for variety I would have ordered another, most certainly.

As our sandwich came out I ordered the Nobody Likes Putin Porter, because I liked the name. And porters! I like porters too. It had plenty of roast and malt, though I noted I had to hurry my enjoyment of it along due to toddler interference. It fermented with a lager yeast, though a quick sip disproved my theory that it might taste like a baltic porter.

I finished with their Catt County Cuvee, because the menu had far too many excellent sounding imperial beers for me to not try at least one. The barrel aged flavor presented itself immediately, but not in an overpowering way. It said hello and stepped to the side, allowing the Belgian yeast a moment to introduce itself. A touch of plastic-y phenols took the mic, said hello and handed things off to the barrel again for the finish. The menu listed “banana, vanilla and citrus finish” and I definitely tasted at least the first two: the beer had a lot going on, and I concluded that I had chosen my final beer very well.

But wait!

The movie Blank Check has a scene that has stuck with me for years1: the main character, a kid who got a million dollars through an incredibly unlikely series of events, prepares to go on a date. His limousine driver gives him some plastic baggies and the advice “Remember, they say all you can eat, not all you can eat here.”

By that I mean I made sure to buy a six pack and a glass on my way out. I chose Stainless Steel Obsession, their IPA, a bottle of which I cracked open that night as I began reading Beer & Philosophy2. We had roasted s’mores, which had attracted a mother bear and two cubs, so the fire had gone out and my wife and I relaxed on the porch of our cabin, reading in peace. I unwound, sipped beer and read about navel gazing. I can’t imagine a better end to a day.

  1. Apparently that movie came out 20 years ago. Sheesh. 

  2. The title of the book says Beer & Philosophy while the Amazon etc entries list it as Beer and Philosophy. As someone with a library degree having an authoritative spelling is important, so I chose “&” because ampersands seem classier.