Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas on the East Coast

Christmas Eve
We headed back to Connecticut on Christmas Eve. Ted collected us from the airport and was well prepared with a few nice pale ales on board for the ride home. It was a dazzling sight seeing all the activity of airports and busy highways, skylines full of lights and activity, especially coming from our little secluded place on Earth.

Christmas day was the usual Sierpina affair, starting with presents, followed by more presents and even a further bout of presents later in the day. It was a fairly relaxed time though as Diane was hosting the day's festivities for the entire family, meaning for us we didn't need to leave home. And all that stress about having to prepare and cook food for 20 people, well it didn't stir me. 

Following Christmas, we took the annual pilgrimage into NYC to join the hordes looking at sparkling lights and Christmas scenes in shop windows. Man, it was carnage anywhere near Rockefeller Center. For blocks it was mobbed and it was just bizarre how people can see that as a positive experience. Well none the less we did it, then joined an hour long wait list for dinner. We got some tasty burgers, malt shakes, onion rings and fries though. That worked for us.

Being in the area to our old Stratford, we journeyed late one evening to Two Roads. My old shift was finishing up for the day around 10pm, so we tried some of the new beers up in the tasting room and bumped into some of our old mates around the place. We had a little nostalgic walk around the brewery and sat with the boys in the control room while they managed the crisis of the day, then sat in the break room once they were off and shared with them some of Breck's finest bourbons and whiskeys and again more good beer right off the production line. It was great catching up with these guys, who for a good year were the faces I saw every day. Its a bit of a story of our lives, having been such good mates for a short time, and so sad to have left them behind. But without moving and traveling so much, we would never have the opportunity to meet people like these guys and so many others throughout all our travels. Whether for a day, week or year, it is better to have had that time with these people and then had to say goodbye than to have not had that time at all.  

Sunrise over NYC on our way back to the mountains

Friday, December 30, 2016

Winter Came

Snow capped roves and mountains
The arrival of winter, real winter, was received as a godsend to all those living in the mountains. When it decided to turn up, it came in, set up camp and just snowed and snowed and snowed. Turning our barren landscape into the white winter wonderland one dreams of. Day by day, as the inches accumulated, turning into feet, the mountain opened more and more terrain. Our drive-way piled up and up and the roads stayed constantly white, while no plow could compete with the accumulation and cold. It went about ten days straight that we didn't see the sun. In other places that would send people crazy, but everybody here could not have been happier.

A summer sports car is hidden under there.
The Colorado Super Chair

The storms arrival was right in time for the start of the Dew Tour Ski and Snowboard competition. Too late to give the mountain the necessary snow for the full format of the event, it had to be reformatted due to a lack of snow for a halfpipe and full slopestyle course. The event showed to TV spectators around the world what a true Colorado snow storm looks like, but provided challenging conditions for participants. Down in town on the opening Friday night, a rail jam was held on Main Street. The rail was the length of a block and was positioned on a hill, so the course itself was as impressive as the 45 minute jam session. Our frozen feet quickly went numb as we were parked up right at the bottom of the course, but about an hour standing was all we could handle in the seriously negative temperatures.

The Dew Tour rail jam in town.
A week after the big storm, we had another healthly dose of snow, with 19 inches coming overnight. This was really the motherload, with a good base established over the whole mountain and now a heavenly pillow covering it. It was time to really get out and smash it up. With perfect timing, we joined a small line at chair 6 high on the mountain just as they opened that terrain for the first time this season. Nearing the top of the lift to see the first skier and boarders coming down, it was obvious this was going to be a treat. We had a huge open bowl with sparse trees and bottomless powder. We took two runs before the queue for the lift got out of control. How was the snow you ask? Untouched, endless, deep and unmanageable. The pinnacle of my powder riding, I was literally choking on snow, it was just the greatest!

The line for Chair 6
With the town decorated in golden twinkly lights and now covered in the most glorious coat of white, it was obviously Christmas time. With that we had some parties to attend. Amy's work had a very mature cheese and wine night in town, where luckily they served some fine beer, too. The distillery held more of the standard drunken affair, with some tasty buffet food including buffalo meat bolognese, however in my eyes there was a distinct lack of a hopped carbonated malt beverage. Not surprising I guess, seeing as we only make spirits!

Getting frosty out there

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Brewery Odyssy

Awesome rocks in Boulder
Having the Thanksgiving weekend off, along with mild weather in the forecast, we thought this might be our last opportunity to get out and explore before we get buried in for the season. We had a last minute adjustment to the plans and booked an Airbnb in Fort Collins for two nights. Slightly delayed by a snowstorm the night prior to leaving, we waited out for the roads to melt and set off in the RX7 down I-70, then once happily out of the snow, ducked off for Empire, an old mining town now turned into the gambling centre of the Rockies. Honestly, from the street it looks like they did it right and the casinos very well would have been the only way to fill and maintain their historic downtown, which was presented idyllically as it may have looked 100 years ago. On along Colorado Route 40 heading north on top of the front range, the road was stunning, winding, dipping and diving with the contours of the mountains. The road became snowy in spots, so we ducked down the Boulder Canyon, the first of three canyons we rallied over the weekend. Exiting the canyon, we stopped at a park with some mad buttress red rocks which tower over the town of Boulder. Clambering and climbing these rocks, which I can remember visiting many years earlier, it was a perfect view out to the plains.

Horsetooth Reservoir at dusk    
We continued on, following right at the base of the Front Range all the way up to Fort Collins. Once there, we also ventured out at sunset to Horsetooth Reservoir which hangs over the city damned in within a unique geological ridge. Once again, the roads were made for driving and very much reminded us of the Port Hills of Christchurch. The road hung to the side of the hill with city views, then steeply dipped off to the water body on the other side along with dry tussocky vegetation. Then we headed in to meet our host for the stay and finally ventured out to try find a beer on the Thanksgiving evening.

Rallying through the canyon
The following day, we thought we should try to explore somewhat before starting our beer journey through the city. On the suggestion of our host, we headed up the Cache La Poudre River for some more canyon driving. This was an exceptional piece of road that wound its way up 5,000ft in the tightest most exciting driving I have been privileged to experience. At one point, there was literally nothing but the creek and road surrounded by towering walls. Makes sense as to the warning signs for flash flooding. But for us, it was a sunny mild morning of exhilarating acceleration.

The day that followed was a walking adventure of Fort Collins finest breweries. Starting from our Airbnb, we walked through some less than picturesque industrial area, with a sever lack of footpaths to the however amazing Funkworks., Inc. Brewing only using the traditional saison yeast, these guys were innovating using age old Belgian style mixed with new world experimentation. The beers were fantastic, heavily featuring New Zealand hops, their sours were first class. A few drinks and a tour and we were off to a great start. Just around the corner was the Horse and Dragon, a relatively new facility where we met the owner who could tell a story or two, which he did on the tour. We grabbed a sample flight, enjoyed the quality beers and the superb atmosphere of a tasting room baked in the afternoon sun and very much appreciated the immaculate state of the art brewery cellar.

Very concerned at this point that our time line was slipping, but actually not too concerned, we merrily meandered closer into town to the Fort Collins Brewery at their brand new and very sterile feeling facility. The fact that it was happy hour was the only good thing to be taken away from this commercialized joint. White walls, fluorescent lights and smelling like a dirty mop bucket, we were happy to be shortly headed two doors down to the infamous Odells Brewing Co. With some of the tastiest beers in the country, we were very excited to sample some of their pilot beers only available from the brewery itself. It was a tough call what to get, steering away from APA, Pale Ales and IPAs that we knew we would love and might be able to find else where we went for the tart, smelly feet and sour varieties that they had concocted. We got what we asked for thats for sure. We were impressed with some and others pushed our tolerances of this new emerging style.  The tasting room was packed, so with an outside food truck we nestled next to a fire pit for a bit to eat, so happy as to where we were.

The behemoth of New Belgium was next. Famous or its Fat Tire Amber Ale, they have really been able to go crazy and get creative after that windfall. A big pioneer in the souring department and generally just making first class beer. Again, the tasking room, well really its a true bar, was hopping. We enjoyed our beers until closing time at the very reasonable time of 8pm. Having made our way right into town, now we were at our final brewery of the trip, Equinox. A super hipster joint right in old town, it had live music and a beer list to die for. I was very happy to have myself a Rye Pale Ale, and maybe my taste buds had gone through a bit of a twisting and touring over the day, but something smelt a bit funny. The beer tasted good but something was off. It turns out the stamp they had given us at the door had a horrendous smell of sticking plasters, so every time I took a sip, the smell of a first aid kit went wafting over my pallet. That was a shame, but we still enjoyed the brewery, and the manager was intrigued and very much agreed when he put the stamper up to the olfactory.

Old Town Fort Collins
Making our way home at a fairly reasonable hour, we stumbled upon D.P Dough, a chain calzone takeout restaurant. Having been introduced to this when I visited Amy at university many years earlier, it was an appropriately greasy and late night snack and we couldn't turn down the two dollar pint of New Belgium as an add on. Happily, I can announce that hangovers were not present the following day and just a quick two and a bit hours drive we were back up in the mountains via our third canyon of the trip: Golden Canyon, every bit as good at the others. The car ate up the corners and monstered in the overtaking lanes. Pretty epic Thanksgiving.

The RX7 loves road trips