is a member of the North
American Guild of Beer
Writers and a two time
winner of their Quil &
Tankard writing award.
Vince's column is now a
regular feature of
|It was the day before the third Monday in February and things were dreary from the weather to my demeanor.
Clearly, dreary has no place when the next day is a national holiday. I vowed not to let this Sunday before President’s
Day besmirch the honor of our national leaders.. Beer would ensure that wouldn’t happen for if any holiday was
worthy of having a beer or two lifted in its honor this was it.. Make that worthy and appropriate since the original
holiday was established in 1885 as Washington’s Birthday, the President who proudly had a brewery in his home at
People of a certain age will likely remember when this holiday was always celebrated on February 22, not the third
Monday of that month or any other for that matter. That date made sense since it was the actual date of our first
President’s birth. Then, in an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers, the Uniform
Monday Holiday Act was passed in 1971 and moved it. Marketers soon jumped at the opportunity to play up the
three-day weekend with sales as they trumpeted “Presidents’ Day” discounts and bargains in every advertising
venue possible. States followed that lead and by the early 2000s most had changed the holiday’s name to
Presidents’ Day. Interesting, the day is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government which I
guess means they simply don’t have anything to put on sale.
In an attempt to truly honor Mr. Washington and his brethren I decided to visit a few local independent breweries.
Having limited time and even a more limited budget, I contacted three reliable sources for a few suggestions. .
I started with BeerNexus’ own reviewer, Sandy Field. He said, “There’s a new brewery less than 10 miles from our
Nexus office called Fort Nonsense. I haven’t been there but it might be worth a look. Besides, it has a direct
connection to the holiday. It’s named after Fort. Nonsense which was built to overlook Washington army’s Morristown
winter camp in 1777.” Ah, history and beer – perfect any day but even more so on the Sunday before the Third
Monday of February..
Sandy was right about the mileage and the name but the history part left a bit to be desired. Instead of seeing
Revolution era cannons marking the place there were long lines of streamers more suited to a shady used car lot or
the opening of a 7-Ten (a step below 7-Eleven). The only exterior connection to the brewery’s namesake was the fact
that like the historic fort, it too was a building. Inside however history abound, if you count old mismatched chairs and
tables as historic. Not a single picture of Washington or Jefferson or Adams or the real fort could be found. Then
again, a look at the bar which seemed to be made of old wood kitchen cabinet doors might have explained why.– the
bar’s owners didn’t want to incur the wrath of any Revolutionary War ghosts who might be offended by the décor..
Six beers were available. One was a watery, thin stout, another was that same stout made with coffee making for a
watery thin coffee stout.. The four others had different names making that the only thing truly different about them.
To be honest, the beer did speak to me. It said time to move on.
Who better to ask for the next recommendation than my friend and beer mentor Livingston Hinckley, an award
winning home brewer, fully certified beer and mead (BJCP) judge, and professional film producer / director? For
those who would grumble that his film credits have nothing to do with beer let me remind you that his beer credits
have nothing to do with film so the scales are balanced. Livingston’s advice was for me to try the Twin Elephant
Brewery. He said that his homebrew club regularly meets there so he knew it well. I had been to Twin Elephants at
their opening a couple of years ago and never returned. Their location, next door to an H&R. Block building and a
stone’s (the rock not the brewery) throw from a Bottle King liquor store, was unique for sure. Not unique and not
impressive was their beer. I remembered it as being just a smidgen better than what I just had at Fort Nonsense. To
put that accolade in proper context, a smidgen is defined for recipes as anything between 1/25th and 1/48th of a
teaspoon (1/32nd being perhaps the best compromise amount).. Which, as a further point of reference, is akin to a
tad, pinch, and drop, though to some measurement aficionados a drop is smaller than a pinch.
Admittedly Livingston’s was the voice of a beer super savant but come on, I was personally there once, and did not
enjoy it.. Should I trust his judgment over my very own? It was an easy call - and so I was off to Twin Elephant.
Nothing outside had changed - Bottle King, yes; H & R Block, yes, industrial building in the back of the complex, yes.
The interior of the place also looked the same though I didn’t recognize the two somewhat inebriated bearded gents
holding on to one of the tables in the rear. Wait, last time neither one had a beard. Even the board listing their
beers was in the same spot though it seemed quite a bit larger, posting 8 beers on tap.
Remembering their quality I decided to limit the pain and ordered a 6 ounce glass instead of a flight of 4 four ounce
pours. Thanks for that decision goes to Miss Liss’ my third grade arithmetic teacher who proved to me beyond any
reasonable doubt that 6 is less than 16. The beer I picked was Twin Elephant’s Shimmy Ye, their version of a New
England IPA. It was dank, it was juicy, it was nearly opaque. it was great. I immediately looked out the window to be
sure the H&R Bock and Bottle King were still there and this wasn’t some grand hallucination sent my way by the spirit
of the ghostly guardians of Fort Nonsense in retribution for my less that glowing review of their namesake brewery.
Since both were still there I felt comfortable in ordering a flight followed by a return to the Shimmy Ye. Every beer
was good to excellence proving breweries can improve and more importantly never doubt the word of a real beer
judge as long as his name is Livingston Hinckley. (which is obviously a made up one).
With time for one more stop the call went to my long time BeerNexus colleague and beer historian, Dan Hodge,
When I explained the situation Dan suggested a brewery that had only been open for a month, Yale Terrace. Dan
explained that he was recently there but it was “a stop I probably should not have made”. He had a four beer flight for
$6 which is about right for a local brewery.. However, Dan said, “due to the quality of the brews at this one, I feel the
$6 should be paid to the customer as compensation for daring to try the beers. Their IPA was passable, although the
aftertaste reminded me of Testor's glue. The Pale Ale was not hateful, but certainly not memorable or worthy of a full
pint. The ‘honey ginger saison’ tasted horrendous, but the worst was the cream ale which the bartender told me
tasted a ‘little sour’. He forgot to add the sourness was unintentional.”
Ah, Dan, I was asking for a recommendation, not a condemnation. He continued, “I maintain that you should
experience a trip to this place. A visit there will well make ANY other beer in the world taste like Heady Topper or Pliny
the Elder. Besides, it’s worth $6 to have some fun drinking less than stellar craft beer for a change.” If Dan says
something is fun then it is no matter how illogical. This therefore was a recommendation I couldn’t pass up so I
headed toward Yale Terrace with little hesitation and minimum trepidation. .
I was pleasantly surprised to find that Yale Terrace had a nice 19 seat bar, two large TVs, one friendly bartender,
and six beers on tap. I plunked down my $6 and ordered four beers avoiding the “Haberno Combo Ale” and the
“Experimental Sour Brown” proving I only look dumb. The place was fairly crowded with a boisterous group of
exceptionally bad darts players engaged in a contest to the death in the rear of the room directly on the path to the
restroom. Noting the wall had more holes than the target I decided holding it in was the safest option until the darts
Interestingly, I noticed very few people at the bar were having flights and in fact when I ordered mine several drinkers
gave me a strange look. Could it be they knew something I didn’t or simply were impressed by anyone willing to
spend $6 on Yale Terrace beer? While trying to figure that out along with the meaning of life, I sipped each of my
four beers. Evaluating them was easy – none had a distinct flavor nor were really in style. They were about as good
as my home brew which at best is of dubious quality.
As I was walking out the brewery’s front door my phone buzzed with a call from Dan. “”I forgot to tell you the best
thing about Yale Terrace” he said. “You probably don’t realize it, but Yale Terrace is only 3 miles from the Wet Ticket
Brewery!” Could it be true? Wet Ticket is one of the best new breweries around.
I was there in less than 10 minutes. And less than two minutes after that I was enjoying a glass of their “NEIPA
Ticket” a 7% hazy, hoppy, juicy delight. It was so good I drank nothing but that until closing time. In fact when I tried
to order a final glass and a growler I was politely told last call was made ten minutes ago so I couldn’t be served..
The bartender pointed to the “hours” sign on the back wall – “Sunday noon to 5 PM” Huh? Well at least I could brag I
closed up the place..
My beer day may have ended in the very early evening – or late afternoon if you prefer – but thanks to Sandy,
Livingston, and Dan this Sunday in February had turned out to be one darn good beer adventure.
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