‘Weird beer,’ part 4: This one tastes like barbecue

Two beers were in contention for the weirdest beer at Flounder Brewing, a fast-growing nanobrewery in Hillsborough, NJ. There was the “off-menu” pumpkin spice latte ale, with a milk chocolate cream to confound the flavor profile even more, as well as a beer called the “Pitmaster” described as an “amber ale brewed with smoked malts and maple syrup.”

Being a non-coffee drinker, the choice was easy: the Pitmaster. Just three bucks for 7 ounces.

The smokiness hit me first, as if I had barbecue in my mouth. That faded as I sipped more, putting the maple syrup more forward, horrifying my beer aficianado friends. I’d rather have the smokiness. (Actually, I’d rather have some real BBQ, but this bikes and BBQ ride isn’t for a few more weeks.)

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A peek inside the high-tech world of an Amazon warehouse (by bike, of course)

We picked an unusual bike-ride destination this time: our nearby Amazon warehouse, er, I mean fulfillment center.

Ads for (free) Amazon tours have been popping up in my Twitter feed for a while, so when I saw one for a Saturday that worked for us, I pounced. (Pro tip for all my retired friends: weekday tour spots are much easier to get.)

First, the bike part, and I don’t mean whether we were able to get there on low-traffic roads (we were, 11 miles each way). How bike-friendly would Amazon be? We had no idea where we’d be able to leave our bikes — locked to a pole? Turns out this site has two sets of bike racks. The wavy kind, not my preferred upside-down U ones (two touch points for the frame), but still, bike racks. Unfortunately, Amazon employees may not think the same way I do because our bikes were the only ones there. Hopefully we inspired a few.

I know — you’re really more curious about the warehouse. Simply, it was fascinating.

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OMG this global food tour from Newark to New Brunswick to home on our bikes

Pastries! Giant dosas! Exotic ice cream flavors! All on the East Coast Greenway in New Jersey.
Lead me to a food adventure

We finally repeated our “Portugal to India” bike ride of two years ago, and I have to say I love it just as much the second time around. And so many more discoveries!

This is a North Jersey section of the East Coast Greenway that will shock those who only know this part of the country as congested, smelly highways. It’s not very scenic, is it, one puzzled friend asked. Another person was surprised we never have to ride on U.S. 1 — and that there is a network of well-used paved trails going from one Union County park to the next.

Nope. Try this, in one of the state’s most densely populated counties:

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A milkshake latte IPA? Another bike ride to yet more ‘weird beer’

This sign is in the parking lot, and there’s not one out front to tell you you’ve arrived.

After cycling to Screamin’ Hill Brewery and the Referend Bier Blendery this summer, our next beer destination was the award-winning Neshaminy Creeek Brewing Co. in the Philadelphia suburb of Croydon.

Our 13-mile route was mostly on trail, giving the six of us a chance to chat rather than keep a mindful eye on motorists and making sure we didn’t miss a turn. Even better, we got to explore a section of the D&L Heritage Trail that is now fully open to Bristol, unlike our (still-fun) experience last year that involved following some dirt trails to get around blockages. Plus this will soon officially become part of the East Coast Greenway. What an improvement on the Trenton-to-Philadelphia route we rode a few years ago!

Here’s how we did it:

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To the Jersey Shore and back — a summer bike bucket list item DONE

No food allowed on this beach, so the seagulls aren’t quite as aggressive as those in Ocean City.

Where to ride our bikes? That’s a regular question in my house because we don’t like riding the same route time after time. (Besides, what would I blog about?)

The 2019 list included an interesting challenge: to the Jersey Shore and back in one day.

Now I’ve biked it one way (to Ocean Grove, lousy route), almost there (to Allaire State Park) and even one way and partway back. But the Brit never had. And this was his goal.

So when some friends said they’d be in Sea Girt this weekend and wasn’t it time we got our annual dip in the ocean, we knew it was time.

So off we headed on Sunday morning. This would be roughly 38 miles each way, mostly on quiet roads but also on a bit of trail.

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A bike ride to even weirder beer in New Jersey

Last month’s bike ride to Screamin’ Hill sparked a discussion of other area breweries — places I, as someone who doesn’t love beer, hadn’t heard of. But, hey, they make good bike-ride destinations. And the one four of us cycled to on Sunday definitely is out of the ordinary.

You see, the Referend Bier Blendery in Pennington (or perhaps it’s really Hopewell Township) believes in using the bacteria in the air for spontaneous fermentation. I’m not going to claim I understood everything about this approach, which goes back to the ancients and has at its core “as little interference as possible” in the process. But even I know that using a truck parked outside to house “The Coolship” is out of the ordinary.

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Because you want to bike to a farm brewery for ‘weird beer’

Out of the freezer at home and ready for a beer.

I’ve given quite a few talks on biking in New Jersey, and I always talk about the sites you’ll discover and how anything can be a destination. One example I use is Screamin’ Hill brewery, a farm brewery in the middle of rural New Jersey. And then I realized that aside from our first ride there (when it was closed), I’ve never given it its own blog post, just shared billing.

Time to fix that, and its fourth anniversary was a good excuse. Plus we wanted a shot at the free anniversary mugs. Little did we know that it opened two hours earlier than usual! The only reason we came home with one was because someone abandoned it by the plastic cups and one of the riders in the group was kind enough to hand it to us.

We discovered this place thanks to an article in Edible Jersey that described it as New Jersey’s first (and as of then only) farm brewery. Most of what goes into the beer is grown on the farm, and they have some funky offerings (what some friends would call “weird beer”). There’s IPA, wheat beer, fruit beer, pilsner, sour and more. Even one with tomato. So, yeah, you could say that’s weird. (I had the tomato one once. It doesn’t taste anything remotely like tomato juice mixed with beer.) Among the five beer drinkers I was with, however, one called it the best beer he’d had in a long time. Another noted how fresh the beers are.

What’s on tap varies according to what’s ready, and when they run out of something, they run out. Hours are incredbily limited — 3 pm to 8 pm on Fridays and 1 pm to 6 pm on Saturdays. BYO food. Really. It’s a very casual, picnic atmosphere with a few kids running around. (But no dogs.) We started out in the sun and ended up sprawled under a shady tree.

Even if you’re not much of a beer drinker, it’s a lovely bike ride. Once you get to the other side of US 130, the roads are pretty quiet, with a little bit of up and down as you get close to the farm (whose address, after all, includes the word hill).

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