Next stop, Valley Malt, which several people who rode the Pedal 2 Pints last year said they had never seen (or been able to find) the previous year. We found it, and found a splendid Smoked Maple Lager from Jack's Abbey. The smoking (with the maple) was done at Valley Malt. Great beer, and an interesting stop. Fueled with this fine beer, we headed to Amherst Brewing Company.
This stop started a little odd; apparently we were way ahead of schedule, and no one was expecting us when we arrived, so there was nothing set out to drink but water (horrors!!). However, they soon set things right, and invited us in for a nice tour of their brewing operation. The tour started with a couple of available beers, only one of which I tried, which was dubbed Experimental IPA. Successful experiment - very good beer, which is hard for me to say since I am not much of an IPA fan.
Leaving Amherst, I found myself somewhat alone on the road, and I relaized that some folks I had seen earlier must be ahead of me. These folks were recognizable by their matching Harpoon B2B jerseys (a ride I want to do sometime). I put my head down and went to find them. I caught them and was admonished that "if you can catch us, you are not drinking enough beer". We rode along for a while, a nice group of 6, but we had 2 that were falling off fairly regularly, so when we got passed by a train of 5 riders, I jumped on with them to ride into lunch at Element Brewing. One of the few missed markings of the day (which could easily have been our fault), we shot past the Brewery without realizing it, and had to turn around and go back. Still, we were among the first of the long groups (which were having lunch at Element), so we sampled beers while they got lunch set up. The Extra Special Oak was my favorite of the beers sampled here (which included Giant Red, and Dark Element, both recommended). Lunch was served amongst the tanks (chicken wraps and chips) and was fine. I understand that there were some availability issues with food later in the day, which is a regular issue on group rides, but that's life. I bought some of Element's Anniversary Brews (the same three, but at roughly double strength) to be delivered to the finish, as well as a souvenir pint glass.
I was ready to get back on the road, so I took off with one other rider, headed for The People's Pint. By the time I got there, I had lost the one rider, and picked up 2 others, a couple of guys from down on the Cape. Our riding styles were very complimentary, and we ended up sticking together for the rest of the ride. The People's Pint was only about 5 miles from Element, so I skipped the beer there and had a chocolate chip cookie, then we were back on the road. But not for long! Lefty's Brewing is very close by, so we pulled in there and were faced with a huge variety (biggest of the day) of available beers to sample. I opted for a Maple Ale that was quite tasty. We didn't stay long, but I would like to try some more of their beers; they were very hospitable, and the beer was tasty. We were there such a short time, I failed to take a picture. The next stop was Artisan Beverage Cooperative, which was literally only about 300 yards away. Here I had a ginger kombucha and a taste of mead; both were interesting. It became obvious that all of us were ready to get finished. Little did we know, there was a wealth of climbing to do before we were done...at the top of one climb, we came to Clarkdale Fruit Farm, but we did not stop, yearning for the finish.
We finished at the Berkshire Brewing Company - we were, once again, early, and they were not ready for us, but sometimes that yields perks. This is the tasting room inside the brewery, where we had the opportunity to try any of the (9? 10?) beers on tap. A lot of BBC beers are available in the market, but I had the opportunity to try the Rum Barrel Aged "Shabadoo" Black and Tan. WOW. If you get the chance, try this beer. You will not be disappointed.
My new friends from the Cape wanted to get started for home; they had a three hour drive ahead of them. As they left, I came out of the brewery to wish them a safe trip home. I hung out in the parking lot, at the tables, and watched groups come in, watched the dinner serving tables get set up, ate, got my purchase from Element, and my "swag glass" and headed home around 5. I was home by 7:30 pm. Definitely a day that was worthwhile, and a ride I will do again in the future if possible.
It sounds like it is all fun and games, but on the sidewalk outside of Element, one of my new friends from the Cape mentioned that he was heavier than he wanted to be, and that he is concerned about what his future holds. I was able to share some about my own journey, and we talked briefly about his concerns, and my responses, at each stop from there on. Here's hoping it helped.