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Sunday, March 12, 2023

Whatever Floats Your Boat

 Northern New York is one of the least populated areas in the state. This is reflected in the number of breweries. There are currently 20 breweries within 40 minutes of Syracuse, according to Brewery Info. A mere 75 miles north the city of Watertown is home to at least four. Travel further northeast, along the Saint Lawrence River, breweries are few and very far between. 

A mere 22 miles northeast of Watertown lies the village of Clayton. Nestled in the Thousand Islands along the Saint Lawrence River, Clayton is a boating town, for obvious reasons. Clayton is home to the Antique Boat Museum which host an eclectic assortment of boats from canoes to speed boats.

Directly across the street from the museum is the Wood Boat Brewery.  Despite its name it is not on an actual boat, but a tribute to the regions boating history. Arriving around noon with the Navigator, and the Navigator-in-laws (because you can never have to many navigators) we found the brewery quite busy. With both indoor and outdoor seating, we had difficulty making our way through the people gathered around the entrance. Always a good sign.

Entering the tap room, we immediately pick up on a nautical theme. Artwork depicting various craft of the water variety, not craft beer, adorn the walls. I am ecstatic to find an image of one of the best canoes ever made, an Old Town Canoe from the great state of Maine. Motif aside, the food and staff were up to the task. Our server, Ethel, probably not her name, gave as good as he got with a retort quickly at hand. The food is nothing to sneeze at, or on. Brick oven pizza and sandwiches comprise the majority of the menu. Solid food without detracting from the main attraction, beer.  Call me old school, but if you visit a brewery for the food, you should probably look for a restaurant. Breweries are for beer drinkers, first and foremost. 

In conclusion, if you find yourself on the Saint Lawrence River, by plane, train, automobile, boat, horse, camel, mule, you get the idea. Stop by the Wood Boat Brewery.  Tell them Matt sent you and they will either reply "who?" or call local law enforcement. Either way, it will be a memorable visit! 

 Until then, stay crafty.


Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Kicking it Old School

NASA Space and Rocket Center
Let me begin by saying I am not from Alabama. When I think of craft beer states I think of the west coast, Colorado, North Carolina, and New England. No offense to my tens of readers from other than the above-named states.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered the most unique brewery location I have ever layed  intoxicated eyes on. Huntsville Alabama is known for rockets. Not the basketball team or those illegal fireworks your neighbor shoots on Independence Day. I'm talking rockets of lunar proportions, the kind that helped put people in space.There are a mere 47 craft breweries in Alabama, according to the Brewers Association. Of those 47, at least five are in Huntsville. Arriving in Huntsville I was surprised by the weather. It was unseasonably cold, with temps hovering near freezing at night. Fortunately, I didn't pack any warm clothes, increasing my need for some "antifreeze", so I phoned a friend. My friend Fred is a fellow beer enthusiast who I have known for years and hadn't seen since he moved to Huntsville. Fred suggested we make our way to the "Campus". Arriving at Campus 805 I'm surprised to discover it's not a college, but a 13-acre multi-use area, within which sits the coolest middle school in Alabama, maybe the coolest in the country. The Roy L. Stone Middle School looks like any other on the outside however once inside, everything changes.                                      
The halls remain as they were, with wall lockers and trophy
cases along both walls. The classrooms are now occupied by 
restaurants, bars and other assorted businesses, including Straight to Ale Brewery. Founded my homebrewers in 2009, Straight to Ale occupies one of the largest spaces within the school. Entering the brewery from within the school you pass through the gymnasium, complete with basketball hoops, and a commercial brewing system. Beyond the "brewnasium" you find the tap room and restaurant, Ale's Kitchen. Gordon Ramsey should be so creative. Beer offerings run the gambit, from pilsners to Belgian beer, and everything in between. The food rivals the beer with a wide variety of menu options. 
Alabama breweries may be small in number, but at least one is big on ingenuity. If you find yourself in Huntsville Alabama, the old school on Campus 805 is a must visit! Class is now in session! 

Stay crafty my friends!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

What’s in a Name

 What’s in a name? Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a time without access to draft beer. The COVID Pandemic changed lives around the world while relegating my blog title to obscurity. Removing the “Wanderer” from my homebrewing blog is akin to removing hops from beer. It may look the same but its very hard to swallow!
With prohibition-like precision the German government ordered the closing of all bars and restaurants. What is a beer drinker to do?  Unlike many state in my native “United” States most of Europe allows delivery of alcohol to YOUR DOOR. Suffice to say for more than a year the local DHL delivery team wore a path to my front door.
Two breweries stand head and shoulders above the rest. Brewheart, an upstart Bavarian craft brewery whose owner Andreas I consider a personal friend. Born of home brewing roots Brewheart came onto the German beer scene in late 2018 focusing on IPA’s, my beer of choice. As a completely self funded brewery they are leaving an indelible mark on German craft beer. During the first year of the pandemic I ordered so many cases of Brewheart that I may have single handedly kept them in business!

I don’t have a personal connection to the second brewery however their beer naming convention continuously drew me to them. Using their experience with US craft beer and their love of of hockey they developed some great IPA’s. With beer names like Boogie Til You Barf, Juice Willis, and Steven Seagull, Sudden Death Brewing helped me through the darkest days of the pandemic. I routinely ordered their beers and have the belly to prove it.
Eighteen months removed from the onset of the pandemic the navigator and I have returned to the U.S. having both received our vaccinations With U.S craft breweries returning to full capacity we look forward to putting the “Wandering” back in Wanderinghomebrewer.
Stay safe and drink beer!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Buyer and Cellar

Door to the Beer Cellar
With the current travel restrictions I am now relegated to traveling around my house. As promised last week please enjoy another post from a bored, isolated, beer drinking fool.

The title of this post might lead one to believe I am providing valuable beer investment insight and financial strategies not otherwise available anywhere else. Hell no! While I have made SIGNIFICANT beer investments I drink said investments faster than grocery stores can stock toilet paper.


Arriving in Germany more than three years ago housing was sparse at best. When I viewed my current beer palace I was immediately intrigued by the size. While comparable to small U.S. townhomes this slice of real estate has 3.5 rooms in the basement. A boiler room with utility sink and 2.5 “Utility” rooms for laundry (yawn) etc. One of these rooms, with floor to ceiling shelving, immediately caught my attention. The previous tenants favored wine and had created a small wine cellar. Naturally I saw one thing. Beer storage. Over the next few months I purchased beer at breakneck speed, feverishly trying to fill the shelves.

HERMS Homebrew System

The beer cellar is a dual use facility allowing for the storage of purchased beer as well as homebrew. How much homebrew storage does one need? Surprisingly a lot as adjacent to the beer cellar is the “Green Room”, so named because of its green floor. The green room contains my homebrew system, increasing my need for homebrew storage. 

 Approximately a year ago I purchased a secondhand advanced homebrewing system. While the system may be advanced my ability to use the system is not. Naturally the more I strive to improve my “Craft” the more beer I produce, and the more storage space I need.

Many of my friends are ready, willing and able to assist with inventory control. As a result I now  host an annual  beer  fest dubbed “Mattober Fest”. The first annual Mattober Fest decimated my homebrew inventory with the consumption of more than 80 bottles of homebrew. Inventory problem solved! 

As the pandemic drags on my beer inventory will undoubtedly grow as I attempt to stay busy. With any luck I can host my third and final Mattober Fest here in Germany eclipsing previous consumption records! 

Until next time,
Stay crafty, stay at home, and stay safe

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Necessity is a Mother......of Invention

I can't believe it has been nearly 10 months since my last blog post. I now find myself with unexpected time on my hands and an inability to travel thanks to the current pandemic. Fear not as I have 10 months of posts to make up for.  My gain is your loss!

As the saying goes necessity is the mother of invention. A large portion of the world's population now struggles to reinvent itself as we are relegated to our homes with social distancing becoming the norm. The economic impact is being felt around the world, my favorite breweries included. For European beer lovers the timing of the pandemic could not be worse. We need look no further than the cancelation of Stuttgarts annual Fruehling fest to see the impact on Europe's spring beer festivals. Fortunately, Europe does allow for online purchase and delivery of alcohol, guaranteeing my continued access to some of my favorite beers. Many breweries and tap rooms are now offering virtual beer tasting events via an online beer purchase  followed by a streaming event focusing on the purchased beer. Necessity is the mother of invention.

On a personal level I face a much larger problem. How do I maintain a blog focusing on beer travels when neither the beer event, nor travel are permitted? How can I maintain the self-deprecating humor and sarcasm my tens of followers have become accustomed to?  These are the questions that keep me awake at night. That and an increasingly small bladder. 

In the coming days and weeks, I will resume regular blogging with riveting beer reviews, random thoughts, and never before seen photos. Until then please enjoy a picture of my dogs.

Until next time,

Stay crafty and wash your hands

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Six Country Tour

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale
A tale of an epic trip

That started from this Schwabian port

At the Alps tiny tip

 The mate was a mighty drinking man

The driver brave and sure

Two people set off that day

For a six-country tour….a six country tour

Every now and then friends propose something so radical you can’t help but jump on the beer wagon. Such was the case when my friend Peter proposed a one-day car trip visiting six countries. Because I eat sleep and breathe beer I thought “Hey, what if we visited or purchased beer from each of those countries?”  Peters rationale was sound, “How many people can say they visited six countries in one day?”  You had me at hello. Trip planning began in mid-April with Peter doing all the heavy lifting, identifying routes and brewery stops along the planned route. In Peters expert opinion the trip could be completed in 10 hours with no stops. We estimated 12 hours with our “Quick” brewery stops.  As the launch date drew closer it became clear that many European breweries are inexplicably closed on weekends, forcing us to seek an alternative. Where breweries were closed we would purchase locally produced beer at stores near the brewery.

The Route

The route would have us driving from Germany through Austria into Northern Italy. From Italy we would backtrack into Austria crossing into Switzerland and on to Lichtenstein. From Lichtenstein back into Switzerland then into the Alsace region of France before finally returning to Germany. For those keeping track that’s six countries including Germany.

It’s a cold rainy morning when the navigator drops me off in front of Peters house. A little after 6:00 am on Saturday morning we strike off in eager anticipation of the adventure ahead of us. Travelling south through the Schwabian Alps the rain tapers off. Approaching the Austrian border the sun breaks through the clouds revealing the amazing snow-covered peaks of the Alps.
Approaching Austria

Austrian Alps
 At 9:00 am we make our first stop of the day, purchasing a vignette (Road Tax) at a gas station just across the Austrian border. Travelling through the Austrian Alps the sites are awe inspiring. At every hairpin turn snow-covered mountains kiss the sky as beautiful ponds fill the valleys. I nearly forget about our beer mission. 

Entering Italy we opt for an unscheduled stop at Reschensee, the largest lake above 1000 m elevation in the Alps. Reshcensee is also manmade. Completed in 1950 a total of 163 homes were submerged during its creation. Only the steeple of a 14th century remains.  A stark reminder of the houses that were destroyed.

Reschensee Steeple
Leaving Reschensee it takes only a few minutes to reach Malles Venosta, home of Forsterbrau -Forst and our first beer stop of the day. Forsterbrau is the largest brewery in South Tyrol. They are also closed on Saturdays. Forsterbrau-Forst is a restaurant serving, you guessed it, Forsterbrau. Entering the smallish restaurant we ask the hostess if she speaks English, she does not. We also strike out with French and German. Fortunately a local diner offers translation services, explaining we can’t purchase bottled beer there, but we can find some at the grocery store down the street. Twenty minutes and 14 bottles of beer later we strike off back the way we came, next stop, Lichtenstein.
Leg Two
The rain returns as Italian sprinklers shoot across fields of dandelions; we don’t know why. The second leg of our journey has us briefly back-tracking north to Austria, then west into Switzerland, with a scheduled beer stop in Lichtenstein. Much like the first leg the second leg takes us through amazing scenery, not the least of which is the Arlberg tunnel. The Arlberg Road Tunnel is Austria’s longest at 13.9 kilometers long. At the time of its opening in 1978 it was the longest tunnel in the world.
Arlberg Tunnel
 Since our return route took us through Austria and Switzerland we decide to make our beer purchases on our return. Both Austrian and Swiss beer are heavily influenced by Germany, sharing many of the same styles. The same can be said of at least one brewery in Lichtenstein. The Lichtenstein town of Balzers is home to Prinzenbrau. Founded in 2010 Prinzenbrau adheres to the German Purity Law of 1516. They are also closed on weekends, which is why we found ourselves in a small locally owned liquor store. While the store contained all sorts of liquor there were only a few bottles of Swiss beer on the shelf. Inquiring about beer we are once again directed to a grocery store around the corner. Here not only did we find various styles of Prinzenbrau but also a wide variety of craft beer brewed by Lichtensteiner Brauhaus. Exiting the store with two large bags of beer we hit the road again. Next stop France.
The Third Leg
Leaving Lichtenstein we struck off northwest for France. The Alsace region of France is well known for its vineyards and wine. What most people don’t know is that the Alsace region is also home to many French Craft Breweries. In the Colmar region alone there are more than six breweries. Just northwest of Colmar is Brasserie du Vignoble, a nano brewery with a quaint tasting room. Unlike the rest of Europe French breweries are open on the weekend. Entering the tasting room I immediately order their BDA (Belgian Dark Ale). Unlike traditional Belgian beers BDA is stout-like with hints of coffee. Color me impressed. We leave Brasserie du Vignoble with a variety of bottles, tossing them in with the dozens of other beers we have purchased throughout the day.
Brasserie du Vignoble
Homeward Bound

As we drive from France back to Stuttgart we reflect on the days adventures. Mountains, tunnels, vineyards, and yes, let’s not forget the beer. SO much beer. So much so that it takes Peter and I a full 20 minutes to sort out. “One for you, one for me. Two for you, one for me”.  While most people don’t understand the intrigue and impetus for this trip I can some it up in one word, memorable. Not many people can say they travelled 15 hours, 650 miles, visiting six countries while buying beer along the way. Good friends+good beer=great memories.  Next year, seven countries!

Until next time,



Sunday, May 12, 2019

Dutch Treat

Keukenhof Gardens

As the Navigator and I prepare for what will likely be our last summer in Europe we are frantically compiling a list of places we have yet to visit. Therefore on Easter Monday we found ourselves hurtling down the autobahn toward Amsterdam. The impetus for the trip was not beer, but tulips?  Yes, you read it correctly, tulips. No this isn’t some new millennial slang term for a sour beer but rather one of the Navigators bucket list items. Like any good beer obsessed spouse, I did a little research before embarking the tulip express, identifying an actual brick and mortar homebrew shop along with a couple of breweries. All’s fair in love and beer.

 My tens of followers may not be aware, but Easter Monday is a holiday across many parts of Europe. As we hurtled through parts of Belgium into the Netherlands, we encountered not less than 15000 motorhomes and tag-along camper trailers on the highway. (I may be exaggerating). Approaching the southern suburbs of Amsterdam, the temperature continued to rise, approaching 80 degrees Fahrenheit by late afternoon. I selected accommodations strategically located in the North Sea waterfront area of Zandvoort, driving distance to both the world famous Keukenhof Gardens and a couple of breweries. Approaching Zandvoort it became painfully obvious that the warm weather combined with the holiday sent the entire Dutch population to the beach. One hour and 5 kilometers later we arrived at our hotel
After schlepping our luggage to our room and spending 30 minutes trying to lock our hotel room door the Navigator and I were in dire need of sustenance.  Wanting the full Dutch culinary experience, we opted for the first restaurant we encountered, an Italian café. Not surprisingly the café offered two beers on tap, Heineken and Heineken. With sparks flying from our cutlery we wolfed down our meal before taking a short five-mile stroll along the beach.  Admiring the sunset on the North Sea I dreamed of homebrew shops and breweries.
The following morning we are awakened by the melodic shrieks of seagulls before we struck off for the day’s adventures, Keukenhof Gardens, a wool shop in downtown Amsterdam, followed by dinner at Jopen Brewery.  Unfortunately only two of these things would happen. As soon as we arrived at Keukenhof I had an epiphany. At least 13182 of some 15000 campers we encountered during our previous day’s drive were parked in the parking area. Camper mystery solved. Despite the plethora of campers the first 90 minutes of our visit were quite pleasant as we strolled comfortably around the world’s largest flower garden.  Suddenly, swarms of camper driving tourists surrounded us as they jockeyed for the perfect selfie. By noon we had our fill of both tulips and tourists, striking off for the wool shop in downtown Amsterdam. One down, two to go.
Entering the heart of Amsterdam, I’m amazed by the size of the streets. While narrow streets are perfect for the thousands of bicycles, not so much for a big American SUV. The city is busy with bicycles, mopeds and tourists scurrying back and forth. The smell of marijuana hangs in the air. I would smoke marijuana too if I had to live in this madness. Color me unimpressed. A mere 90 minutes later the navigator exits the wool shop with not less than 10 lbs. of yarn and assorted yarning books.  Next stop brewery!
Jopenkerk (Jopen Church) opened in 2010. Jopen is some of the best Dutch craft beer I have had. I quickly put their address in Garmin bitch. My heart races as I rapidly push the accelerator of my big American SUV. Thirty minutes later I find myself in a suburb in the middle of a construction detour. 20 minutes later I utter a few expletives, deciding to cut my losses on the narrow streets.  The brewery would wait for another time. I punch in the address for our hotel. Or so I thought. Thirty minutes later I found myself back where we started, in downtown Amsterdam. This has turned into a trip from hell. Two and half hours after leaving Amsterdam the first time we arrive at our hotel. Still no beer.
Our final morning in the Netherlands a sense of urgency falls over me. Today I’m finding beer. Brouwmaatje is a Dutch homebrew shop a stone’s throw from Schiphol Airport. We enter the shop shortly after their 0900 opening time and are immediately greeted by Whiskey and Guinness, the shop owners two cats. Despite the shops modest size, it contains everything a homebrewer could need and probably a few things they don’t. As John the owner boxed up my rather large homebrew supply purchase, he mentioned a new brewery some 4 kilometers away. John hurriedly walks back to his office returning with the brewery’s address and a bottle of homebrew from his homebrew club.  John is good people.
Brourij De 7 Deugden
Six minutes and 4 kilometers later we arrive at Brourij De 7 Deugden.  Brourij De 7 Deugden was created in 2010 and has occupied its current space for just over a year. Entering the brewery, we are greeted by one of the owners, Mrs. Haakma.  She eagerly shows around the facility explaining the new Czech produced brewing system occupying their new brewhouse. In their smallish tasting room lined with shelves of Brourij De 7 Deugden bottles Mrs. Haakma suggests I sample their spring seasonal dubbed Spring Tijm. A Pale Ale with just a hint of thyme its surprisingly good.
Spring Tijm
As I sipped my beer Mr. Haakma walked in, offering additional background on his brewery and his choice of beer styles. “Why would I brew an IPA? How would I make my IPA standout from the hundreds of others?” He makes a valid point which is driven home by his beer which include ingredients like thyme, cloves and others. In addition to their beer styles their employees make Brourij De 7 Deugden truly special  As stated on the brewery’s website “We employ for whom a normal job is not self-evident”. Brourij De 7 Deugdens brew-master is deaf. The gentleman operating the bottling line has cerebral palsy. Mr. Haakma explained to us “We work until our employees need to go home, whether its 2 hours or 6 hours we stop bottling and begin anew the next morning.”  What a rarity in the age of the almighty dollar/euro. A business where the employees truly come first.

Despite the somewhat bumpy start to my Amsterdam visit my time at both the homebrew shop and brewery reinforced the common belief that beer brings people together.  A genuine “Dutch Treat”.

Until next time,