Well, sometimes one of my “Death March” hikes goes according to plan. And sometimes, you’ve got to adjust the plan. In the case of Seattle, our initial plan was to hike through the SoDo neighborhood and cross over to Alki Beach, potentially ending at Sunfish. But like a lot of plans (especially those put together by folks not completely familiar with a metropolitan area), a few hitches arose: first, we got behind schedule. Looking at our watches, it was obvious that even if we hustled, we’d probably get to Alki beach right as most places were closing up shop. Second, most of the Marchers were getting tired, enough so that “hustle” wasn’t really in the vocabulary anymore. Third, the SoDo neighborhood, aside from having the rather cool ORB (Old Rainier Brewery) isn’t the most exciting neighbor. So, as we started to thread our way over to the bridge to Alki (which also isn’t the most pedestrian-friendly), a short stop at Burger King to use the restroom turned into more-or-less of an insurrection. A quick check of the map and Yelp indicated that SoDo isn’t exactly a food mecca, either. But then we noticed one place on the list that had a lot of good reviews: Schooner Exact Brewing. And the single mention of “beer” made it official, Schooner Exact, at approximately 21 miles into the route, became our new, official destination.
Most every trip to Cleveland I try to make it to the West Side to see what’s going on. Well, this time, there was actually some major news: a new brewpub has opened. Market Garden is now open, across the street from one of my other West Side favorites, Bar Cento/Bier Markt. So I decided to walk across the street and give it a try. Market Garden is the latest venture from Sam McNulty, who opened the above-mentioned Bar Cento an Bier Markt across the street. Earlier this year, he teamed up with former Dogfish Head brewer Andy Tveekrem (I’ve since learned that in Cleveland beer circles he’s got quite the following) to open up a new beer garden-styled establishment, focusing on beer and distilled spirits, but also offering a decent menu of, well, upscale pub grub. Bringing on experienced chef Mike Nowak from across the street, they’ve got a decent menu of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, and lighter dinners…
Well, after a four day weekend in Lower, Slower Delaware, it was time for us to head home. However, heading home meant heading back to the Philadelphia Airport, so we used the opportunity to try a few places on the way back. The first was Helen’s Sausage House in Smyrna, DE, but it turned out they were only open through lunch, and we got there about 15 minutes too late. So we headed on up to the greater Philly area, and decided to check out Victory Brewing Company’s brewpub in Downingtown, PA. I’m always a little hesitant when it comes to brewpubs run by up and coming breweries, because it’s hard to focus on both the brewery and a brewpub and do both right. Most (but not all) of the places I’ve been only manage to have enough focus to keep the brewery going, and what usually seems to happen is that really high ambitions are set for the brewpub, but there’s just not enough effort to make the brewpub as good as the beer. I’ve run into this a lot of times, having experiences some particularly disappointing meals at other brewery brewpubs (like Stone and Harpoon, to name two). There are some exceptions, but mostly those are places like Long Trail in Vermont that don’t really try to be fancy: they set a reasonable goal (“we’re selling burgers and fries”) and do that well, instead of getting fancy. But things started off pretty decently. The first challenge with Victory is getting there in the first place. With our goal being to get there around happy hour, we had quite a bit of traffic facing us coming up from Delaware. Once we got to Downingtown, however, it was relatively easy to find the industrial park where the brewery and brewpub are located. However, the signage in the park isn’t the greatest, so expect to spend a bit of time wandering around the area looking for the brewpub (a note to other seekers: it’s in the southwest corner of the area).
After we finished up in Philly (including a visit to the very pleasant Morris Arboretum, and an attempt to visit Earth Brewing in Mt Airy that was foiled by them taking some vacation time), we decided to head down to Rehoboth Beach. Along the way, we passed right by Newark, Delaware, so we decided to stop by and check out Iron Hill Brewery. I’ve always had a soft spot for Newark (I actually lived there as a kid from 1974 to 1980), but it’s had a lot of turnover in the 30 years (!) since I lived there. The Gino’s where we’d get chicken and “Gino Giant” burgers is long gone, as are most of the other businesses I remember (although one of my father’s two favorite diners, the Post House, is still alive and well, although Jimmy’s Diner down the way is, sadly, now a Cheeburger Cheeburger). However, one excellent addition to downtown Newark in the mid-90s was a brewery. Since 1996, Iron Hill Brewery has been running a successful brewpub.