Category Archives: Field Notes

Bad Wine Leads to Good Beer (Providence)


I’ve always preferred bad wine to bad beer. (And good beer to good wine.) The pursuit of bad wine is how I first learned about Providence, RI- when living in Baltimore. I was just out of school juggling three jobs- none of which had anything to do with what I had studied. Now look- I could tell you that it was my need to satisfy my recently minted art history degree that drove me to every single art gallery opening in Baltimore. I could! But the truth is I was young and poor- I went for the free food and wine. At one reception I accidentally learned something though. It was a gallery showing of the senior projects of furniture design students from the Rhode Island School of Design. The curator distracted me from my initial mission with the gorgeous pieces, waxing about the very special school they came from, tucked away in the tiniest state, and I thought now THAT’s worth a trip. And I left it there in the back of my mind to ferment.

Over 20 years, 8 different state residences, a dozen or so jobs, and many shifted priorities later- I finally made it to Providence. For beer.


It’s a hard place to plan a beer tour, frankly. Lots of destinations are closed on Sundays and many others don’t open until the evening. You have to actually do more than drink beer when you visit. Fortunately they have a quirky Culinary Museum at the local cookery school to distract you for a bit. Check out the beer books! (above) Another nifty display features presidential inauguration dinner menus- every one of them starting with oysters. Who knew?

Track 84 opens at noon. I was waiting in my car outside.


I first met Track 84’s owner Dave years ago at one of Shaun Hill’s legendary Memorial Day weekend camping sessions before Hill Farmstead was open. I’d heard great things and even sent people there without having tried it myself- always to rave reviews. Ageless Dave was laughing with his two little granddaughters when I walked in, and I felt right at home. His bar keep let me sample the Rhode Island beers from Foolproof and Grey Sail. It was a tough way to start a long beer day, but I opted for Foolproof’s Revery- a sipping Russian imperial stout at 10.7%. Absolute velvet.


The rest of my day had to be on foot, so I ditched the car at Dolce Villa (above), a wonderfully odd little hotel that could have been in Sleeper, and hit the sidewalk.


Again having to schedule carefully, I hoped that Julian’s– arguably Providence’s best known beer stop- might still be open. They close between brunch and dinner- very Montreal! Where do people drink on weekend afternoons? I caught the tail end of brunch, unfortunately missing handsome owner/GM Brian Oakley who had given me several suggestions for my beer tour. The vibe was happy: loud music, bustling staff, plenty of chatty customers. At my perch overlooking the kitchen I had a super sampler that let me try several gems without teetering about. I lined up Gulden Draak’s 9000 quad, Thornbridge’s Raven, Brooklyn’s There Will Be Black, and local Bucket Brewery’s Park Loop Porter. My favorite find though was Foolproof’s canned Backyard IPA. I took a case home. Food is sometimes an afterthought at beer bars- but not here. Try to read this without dribbling: slow roasted lamb over ricotta polenta, grilled asparagus, chimichurri hollandaise. Oh my.


The groovy looking building above is a restaurant called New Rivers. My pursuit of offal is almost as obsessive as my hunt for craft beer, so I could not have been happier- truly giddy- than when I learned that the special was lamb balls. That’s right- testicles. See below.


And the friendly man behind the bottle recommended this pairing, which was perfect with the lamb: Tripel-Gueuze.


Afterwards I hit the Avery and finished my tour in grand form. When you go, stop in Pawtucket first to check out Foolproof Brewery. I guarantee you’ll be hearing about them!

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Long Bridges and Super-Hero Mermaids (Tampa and Orlando)


“Long bridge ahead. Check gas”
This is my new favorite road sign, replacing the wild boar warning in France, because it is located right after the last exit where one could secure more fuel. Good one! The seven mile bridge connects Tampa and St. Petersburg, which you’ll need to cross to get to Peg’s Cantina/Cycle Brewing Company. And you definitely want to do that.

I’d been reading about the burst of new craft beer in Tampa, and I had hoped to try several- especially Rapp Brewing, 7venth Sun, Barley Mow, and Green Bench. But one obstacle kept my exploration tiny: unlike other beery cities with robust transit systems, visiting these places requires a car. And a car means keeping beery intake to a minimum.


But drive I did. Pulling up to Peg’s Cantina/Cycle Brewing is like pulling up to someone’s home where a party is in progress, and in a way it is. Mom & Dad own the restaurant, Son brews the beer out back. The brewpub and eatery dwell in a bungalow with a porch and a fenced front yard- quite inviting. I ordered the Cycle Brewing sampler, sat outside on the porch (keenly aware of the snow in Boston) and watched the locals chatting as the sun set before me. There were a few people in their early 30s, several couples over 50 (it IS Florida…), and a birthday party with ages ranging from toddlers to grandparents. What amazed me was that of the five beers on tap, three were hop forward, and completely different from each other. Below are, left to right, FreeWheel (session IPA using English hops), Fixie (session IPA using American hops), Dancing Cody IPA, Bottom of the 9th Brown (lightly roasty ale), and the Patch Kit Porter (wheat porter with lactose). It’s not often I sip five beers and can’t decide which is best because they’re all outstanding. When it came time to pick a pint to pair with my delicious crab-crammed quesadilla, I remembered the car- cursed- and ordered one Fixie.


Next stop: Cigar City Brewery in Tampa. I’ve been before, and stopped in to load up on bottles of this spectacular beer to bring back to Massachusetts. Since last year, the tasting room has been expanded with a super-long bar and high-tech menu flashing real-time draft availability behind the bar keep. I started with a sampler paddle of Humidor IPA (truly one of the best beers in the world- on Planet Kris anyway), Tocobaga Red, Shifting Straight, and Dos Anos Kumquat. Après avoir goûté quelques bières, la vache espanole qui habite dans ma tête a parlé française avec beaucoup de confiance à le couple adorable qui se sont assis près de moi (photo ci-dessous). Ils etaient très gentils et essayerent parle avec moi! (Marjorie Jacobi serait fière!) Janick est un brasseur amateur dans Montréal, et me dit d’un cooperative brasserie s’appelle “MaBrasserie.”


Dans le monde de la bière, il est courant de connaître les mêmes personnes. Janick me dit que mon ami, Eloi Deit, est maintenant avec Brasserie Dunham proche de Montréal. Je l’ai rencontré quand il était le brasseur à Cheval Blanc. Je me souviens encore le premier bière de Eloi que j’ai bu: une belle crème ale. Maintenant, celui-ci est la même bière aiment par tous les personnes! Je lui n’ai vu pas pour trois ans. Eloi, m’appelle!

A la fin du soir, j’ai bu un collaboration avec Green Flash: Candela, une bière comme un vin de seigle. Mon Dieu- formidable!


Mer-acuLois. (a play on miraculous- get it?) That’s the name of my mermaid super-hero that first came to me in a dream at age 7. She can breathe under water- that’s her power. She’s not a cutesy Disney mermaid. She is a no-nonsense, beer-drinking gal who reads a lot and rescues other super-heroes by kissing them. In my childhood dream, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Robin were all chained to a steel ball under water- goners until she revived them. She rocks. My brilliant attempt at expressing her is above. Check back in a couple of months- I’ll give her a makeover after I graduate from cartoon drawing class.

So it makes sense, knowing my long history of being haunted by groovy bookish mermaids, that when I read about a craft beer bar that also sells antiques and was a full 40 minutes out of my way from Tampa to Orlando (where I was headed for work) of course I went. Because it’s called Mermaid Juice.


Mermaid Juice is not a place. It’s an experience. Don’t mistake it for some laid back hipster hangout, although you’ll feel comfortable if that’s your thing. But that’s just it- everyone would feel comfortable here. It’s world-class customer service without the pretence of feeling waited on. It happens without you even realizing it- every need met without asking, or even realizing you have a desire. Owner Daneaux (as in, book ’em) Narrow and his matre d’ Phil create the magic atmosphere. Phil noticed I was taking notes on a coaster and silently handed me a little notebook. I asked if the place I was ordering food from took cards. “No worries- we’ll pay them cash and you can pay us- order from anywhere you like.” Daneaux listened to the conversations and opened special bottles all evening with tastes for everyone- introducing people to new beers by matching what he’d heard them say they like about beers they were familiar with. Wow.

Somehow the characters- I mean customers- seemed to be on cue. After chatting with local homebrewer Matthew Geleske, he scurried home to retrieve a few bottles for me to try. Two of them were fine. The third, his rye saison, is one of the best beers I’ve ever had. I’m hoping he’ll send me some of his next batch- or better yet move to Cambridge and open a pub with it!

And the experience doesn’t end just because you leave. I emailed a quick thank you to Phil and Daneaux for a wonderful evening- here is what I got in return. Who does that?


Where will you find more BFM beer in one bar than anywhere else? (Save for perhaps Au Bon Coin in Nernier, France) Redlight Redlight in Orlando. Yes really! Can’t find it to save my life in Boston; head to the city with the most fast-food restaurants per capita and- voilà! Plenty of a connoisseur’s beer. It’s a mystery.

The last time I was in Orlando, Redlight Redlight was in its old location- which was charming in a way but did have a particular boy-sweat beer-soaked frat-house odor that occasionally interfered with appreciating the fine beers. The new location, pictured below, smells like fresh air and happiness. Even though it’s in a strip mall, they managed to make the large space cozy with plenty of nooks with great people views, including a horseshoe-ish shaped bar. The tall ceiling and wood-plank-flanked walls help keep the noise from becoming overwhelming. Best of all (aside from the beer list, which is extraordinary) it doesn’t have a television. Not one! People have to look at each other and talk. So European; so wonderful. Of course there are a few stragglers still face-down in their devices (myself included for a few minutes) but it’s impossible to avoid interacting with other patrons. Love it.



Owner Brent Hernandez and his right hand (pictured above) mentioned that BFM’s Jérôme Rebetez will be there in May. Plan your trip visit now!

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Kris Does Dallas


Confession: I was born in Texas. In Texas (and perhaps only in Texas) this is a bragging right. In spite of leaving at just six months of age, I am a native. According to Texans. Would you argue with them?

I was especially excited to visit Dallas because of the Deep Ellum neighborhood- home to a brewery and several beer bars- as well as the hip neighborhood Boston’s top beer destination is named after.

In town to speak at a conference related to my day-job, I arrived with a full beer itinerary. I directed my airport cab to The Common Table before I even went to my hotel.


Inside is like someone’s hip, warm home with large spare rooms for open-yet-private sipping. As always, I sat at the bar. There are 24 taps and not one wasted on BMC beer- the only beer stop in Dallas where this was true. I had a few local tastes: Peticolas Great Scot, Community Regalement, and the Saint Arnold Endeavour. (Houston- so local to TX)

Later that night I went to Strangeways (pictures below; no website unless you count facebook which I do not) which had a great list and the only person I met who knows what Heady Topper is. So much for bringing A+ beer presents! I should have given them all to him.



Below are the Jester King (Austin) bottle choices at Strangeways and my decision, Wytchmaker, a rye IPA. It tastes even better than its fantastic label would lead you to hope!



In addition to having the most beer knowledge of my Dallas stops, the bartender, Erik, guided me through Texas: RAHR Iron Thistle (scotch ale, Ft. Worth); Live Oak Primus (winter weizenbock, Austin); Ranger Creek Lucky Ol’ Sun (Belgian Golden, San Antonio); Four Corner (red ale, Dallas); and my favorite of this bunch- Southern Star Buried Hatchet (stout, Conroe).


Deep Ellum Brewery isn’t always open to the public, so I planned my itinerary around the small window when I could drop by their tasting room. For 10 bucks you get a glass, three tastes (which turn out to be full pours), a brewery tour- which I ended up skipping because of the man playing music in the picture above. He’s called Greg Schroeder. Think of a modern day cross between Hank Williams and Eilen Jewel (well, she is modern day- but work with me here…) Riveting! The context added to it- I left snowy gray Boston and stumbled on some great beer- a rye pils I loved so much I didn’t want to try anything else- sipping outside chatting with a lovely couple I followed around for the rest of the night- each part made all the others even better. Gestalt realized!


The Meddlesome Moth is more polished- even corporate- than my other visits. When I asked for a tasting of their Texas beers, I was given this everyone-asks-for-that prepared flight. (Above) Nothing wrong with that- just felt a bit…ready. So then I asked for all the other Texas beers, and that’s when I found the gems. Ranger Creek Small Batch #2 and Jester King El Cedro being the show-stoppers. The best non-Texan beer I tried was Lips of Faith, a New Belgian/Dieu du Ciel collaboration made with feijoa (think if pineapple and guava kissed) finishing with a spank on the lips. Nice.



Above are more Moth images. After this trip I may start bragging about being a native Texan!


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