In the Night Bar

drink, lifestyle

We’ve all experienced something that we think we could do better than an expert. We’ve all looked at a piece of art, drank a cup of coffee, or heard someone sing and thought “well, I could do that too.” First of all, no you can’t. If you could, you would. But it’s fun to pretend.

Recently I was at a bar. I remember seeing the stone archway from the sidewalk thinking how cool it was to open a bar in an old train tunnel. Then I walked in – so far so good: the dimly lit room had oil lamps on tables and funky chandeliers from times past. Leather arm chairs were positioned around small round tables. The dark wood bar was inviting and behind the bartenders were more cavernous spaces all furnished with old-timey lighting fixtures.

Unfortunately, the drinks left something to be desired and even worse, bartenders served drinks in novelty martini glasses, which is probably the worst of both worlds. It made me think at that moment “man, if I opened a bar I would have x, y and z.” So here’s a glimpse into my dream bar.

First of all, there are only six types of glasses I’m willing to stock. First, the necessary pint glass. Does someone want a beer? How about just a tall glass of water? Boom, pint glass. They are not as aesthetically pleasing as tulip or teku glasses favored by craft beer buffs, myself included, but they are multi-functional and overall classic. No doubt, I would have some local craft beers on tap and maybe a few craft cans if I’m so inclined.

Second, there will be absolutely no martini glasses. Not only are they ugly but they’re cumbersome and no one needs a martini that large. I’m willing to fight someone about this. Plus, have you ever ordered a drink like a manhattan and had it arrive in a martini glass, and go “what do I do with this?” Yeah, it throws you off. To solve this problem, I will stock those elegant coup glasses that fit right in the curve of your hand. A bonus if I could find vintage coup glasses with character. Still a great choice for martinis, but also make manhattans, old fashioneds and other boozy, straight-up cocktails look classic.

Third, there will be rocks glasses. You can’t go wrong with a rocks glass. Whiskey on the rocks? Rocks glass. Margarita? Put a salt rim on it and boom. Negronis? No problem. The rocks glass is the perfect vessels for on-the-rocks drinks and frozen beverages. No novelty needed here, the drink should speak for itself. Plus there’s nothing quite like the ambient sound of a large ice cube gently bumping into the side of a rocks glass. Eat your heart out ASMR.

For your crushed ice, muddled mint drinks, the collins glass. Tall, slim and timeless. These are great for soda based drinks and anything remotely tropical. If it’s got a sprig of anything in it, it’ll probably be in a collins glass. Gin and tonic, Moscow mule (no need to take up space with copper mugs, but I’m not against them) and Bloody Marys would fare well in your hand in a classic, sleek collins glass. Also, a great sub-in for water when your pint glasses are all full of brews.

Then we have wine glasses. Will my bar have wine? Absolutely. It’ll have a Wine Spectator award-winning wine list. Maybe some natural wines if you ask nicely. While wine glasses are not controversial glasses, there are variations that make my skin crawl. Like stemless wine glasses? Those glasses where the stem and bulb meet at a right angle? Who are those for? Not me. Not my bar.

Last but not least, shot glasses. Measuring is important and sometimes you just need a shot of tequila. No explanation necessary.

As for drinks I don’t have a menu set in stone but I know what I do not want at my bar. One time I saw a woman order a chocolate martini at a bar and the bartender, without hesitation, just said “no.” Not all heroes wear capes, am I right? There will be no chocolate martinis or bright-blue potions with umbrellas or anything that’s also the name of a cake or candy. Make your peppermint patty shots at home with your girlfriends the way God intended.

When do I have time to think about this? Well, I’ve had this dream to own an old-timey Italian bar ever since encountering the experience abroad. Did you ever read the Maurice Sendak book In the Night Kitchen? A little boy wanders into a dream kitchen only a child could imagine. It was one of my favorite children’s books. I feel that now as an adult my night kitchen is this dream bar. Marble counter, spherical light fixtures, a small buffet of snacks at the start of the evening, aperitivo-style, and sparkling spritzes and amaro flowing from the hands of a dreamy bartender. The dreamy bartender is me, sorry folks. There’s no menu with catchy drink names and no CBD add-ons that will run you an extra $5. What you see is what you get. Buying a drink will get you crumbly taralli, olives and roasted nuts, the antidote to your crazy workday. Sit down and quietly sip a glass of chianti while processing the wins and losses of the day. Have a low-key chat with a friend or whisper intimately close to your significant other. Absolutely no one is yelling. Maybe someone is eating pasta at a nearby table. I think the beauty of these fantasies are not to undermine the work that actual restaurant and bar owners put into a spot, but encourage you to find your peaceful bar sanctuary. Either that, or I’ve been watching too much Cheers while dreaming about a simpler life.

Vintage Amaro

Wipe Off the Dust and Drink the Old Amaro

drink, Vintage

Infatuated with the bittersweet, syrupy allure of the Aperol spritz, Americans have rediscovered a taste for aperitivo and digestivo bitters. Enter amaro. While Campari is the ruby red king of bitter aperitivi, other darker, herbaceous digestivi have resurrected in it’s wake, ready to tackle cocktail menus and bar carts across the country.

But the history of amaro goes back. Waaaay back. And in cleaning my great grandma’s house my grandma found a cardboard box of amaro from yesteryear. You see, my great grandma didn’t drink. Her amaro stash grew from generous house guests who graciously brought a bottle upon each visit. Stubborn enough to not indulge in a drop but kind enough to hold on to each bottle, my great grandma unknowingly bestowed a treasure trove of flavors unto me. Thanks Grandma Maria.

Now normally I would not condone eating old food. Don’t eat the candy you found in your closet from a Halloween of yore. But properly stored vintage alcohol? Dive in. A barrel aged bourbon develops its unique flavor because of age. A vintage red wine has subtleties that a younger wine has not yet developed. Not to say all old alcohol remains drinkable, proceed with sensible caution.

What’s in amaro?

I realize I’ve been drinking this stuff for a while and have no idea what’s in it. Oops. Each one is different, ranging from sweet like caramel to bitter like licorice, with unique secret recipes like mystical potions. Some even taste medicinal.

I’m lucky to have two vintage amari in my house: Amaro dell’Etna and Cynar. Amaro dell’Etna‘s ingredient list contains orange peel, licorice and vanilla. The recipe dates back to 1901, but is still available new in sores today. Cynar, a name derived from the latin botanical name for artichoke, is surprise surprise made of artichoke along with 13 other herbs and plants. Younger than Amaro dell’Etna, Cynar debuted in Italy in 1952.

The bitterness makes them adequate swaps for bitters in classic cocktails. Each unique blend also can suffice as the base for a contact and/or enjoyed on it’s own or with seltzer. The versatility alone makes a no-brainer case for keeping amaro in your home bar. Don’t worry, there’s one for everyone.

Is old amaro safe to drink?

Short answer, yes. Finding a bottle of Campari from 1950 is an incredible feat for negroni aficionados. But proper storage can make or break a vintage. Like Campari and Cynar, liqueurs don’t need to be refrigerated due to the sugar content. Approach vintage vermouth, lillet and any other fortified wines with caution. Opened or unopened, when exposed to light and heat, fortified wines can lose umf.

Where to store vintage amaro?

To reiterate, amaro’s sugar content keeps it shelf stable. So room temperature storage should not be a problem. However, take caution when drinking an old amaro that’s already been open. While oxidation won’t harm you, it will impact the thickness as the sugars turn into glycerin. It’s just a recipe for meh amaro experience. Best to keep vintage amaro unopened and out of direct sunlight until ready to drink.

What happens to the flavor?

The resulting flavor of aged amari varies greatly between styles. Additionally, due to changes in machinery and ownership, while ingredients might be the same every time, amari can vary between decades as well. Flavor can become sweeter and more syrupy or mellow as the bitter herbs meld together further. It’s an adventurous way to taste beyond switching between styles of amaro. Trying today’s version of Cynar, for example, alongside my beloved found bottle can showcase how the flavors evolved over time.

Let’s talk labels

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve had an infatuation with vintage alcohol labels for a very long time: the art nouveau styles of absinthe ads to the futurism era Campari posters shaped my appreciation for the liqueurs. The text and colors of these labels tell so much about when they were conceived. The Amaro dell’Etna, with an older formula, uses embellished text and a painted landscape paying homage to a classic style, while the Cynar label uses block text and a modern design ringing in the 1950’s idea of the future. While both labels now reflect the past, each exists in its own era forever, reflecting the art and sentiment of each era.

Cocktail connoisseurs and vintage collectors can appreciate the impact these liqueurs have had on the culinary and advertising worlds. If you aren’t lucky enough to inherit a dusty cardboard box of amaro, you can taste older bottles at specialty wine shops and cocktail bars. If you’re curious to try an amaro at all, the next time you’re interested in an Aperol spritz at the bar, ask for one with a different bitter liqueur instead.

We can’t storm Area 51 anymore so I stormed Area 2

beer, drink, Travel

I hate it when someone tells me something is overrated after I express interest in going. Let me find that out for myself. Or not. I felt that way about Two Roads Brewery in Stratford, CT.

Two Roads is Connecticut’s largest brewery occupying 10 acres of land for brewing, tasting, entertaining and growing. Pretty impressive. The building’s post-industrial aesthetic and the collection of branded Air Streams gave the OG Two Roads an injection of 2010s zeitgeist. The tattoo event and french fry food truck added to that millennial vibe. So yeah, I guess if you’re over that crowd, then this place isn’t for you.

However, who cares what the place looks like when the beer is this good. Now, Two Roads is fun and the standards are abundant whether you like IPAs, sours or even hard seltzer, but if you want a wild time head over to Area 2, Two Roads’ experimental facility accessible via walkway from the brewery. While Two Roads might be perfect for tossing a frisbee, crushing a beer and dog watching, Area 2 is ideal for finding something rare and new.

In my 5-beer tasting I tried a farmhouse ale, a saison and a “hard kombucha” among the long list of uniquely funky and off-beat varieties. Of course, this is a lot of beer to drink without having any food so be sure to grab some cheese and crackers while you’re sippin’ and maybe pack a snack so you aren’t like us, waiting for french fries to sober you up.

Now for the run-down of all the beers:

  • Norwegian Farmhouse Ale (5% ABV) – this beer satisfied a craving I had for months. After leaving the Hudson Valley, a land abundant with beers and wines that taste like a full on barnyard, I needed a refreshing beer that still delivered that sour, earthy stink. This was it.
  • Table Terroir (3.7% ABV) – table wine feels like a lost tradition. In Europe, it’s easy to walk into a restaurant or tavern and grab a cask of inexpensive table wine. It goes with everything in a complimentary way, not an overpowering way. This low ABV, easy drinking beer is a three-way crossroad between an IPA, a wheat beer and a saison.
  • Brett Saison (6.6% ABV) – dude, I know I love sours and fruity beers, but the french farmhouse saison is really rocking my world. As I constantly yearn for funky flavors, I find myself ordering saisons more frequently and finding more to love with each sip. You’ll want to tuck into a wheel of brie after taking one sip.
  • Hard Kombucha (4.5% ABV) – did someone say pink beer? This deep magenta rooibos and sour cherry concoction tasted just like unsweetened iced tea. My mom introduced me to rooibos years ago and it always had a magical quality to it: earthy and beet-like. This felt remarkably healthy to drink, justifying its name.
  • Crooked Roads (5.7% ABV) – AKA the fried chicken beer. Now, I’m not sure if its because this was our last beer of the day (after a full pour AND 4 tastes) but we took a loopy turn upon tasting this. “It tastes like fried chicken.” What? Nick said this and I was confused at first until it hit me. It tasted like fried chicken. A thigh. Right off the bone. I deduced that this was from the oak aging, giving the sour ale a woody, meaty flavor.

These were only five of the 16 possibilities and you bet I’m going back for more. Area 2 can abduct me into their spacecraft of dope beer any weekend of the year.

Tap NY Beer Fest

5 Beers You Don’t Want To Miss

beer, drink

A muddy tent, 12 beers and three hot dogs. That’s it, that’s the scene. I attended Tap NY at Hunter Mountain on Sunday, April 28 and that basically sums up my day to anyone interested in the short version. The rain couldn’t stop us from touring through tents filled with tons of attendees and brewers. Also hot dogs. There were so many hot dogs.

Tables were stocked with some of the best beers New York has to offer from Long Island and NYC to Western New York State. After rounding up all 12 beers (requiring some detective work) I’m here to give you my top 5 in no particular order. These are the beers you absolutely have to try.

Brown’s Brewing Company – Cherry Razz

Picture a Jolly Rancher. Now make it beer. That’s basically it. Cherry Razz is the adult version of Kool Aid and I’m not mad about it. This pink beer was refreshing and clean but also very sweet like candy. Drink this outside, maybe with a dog because this is just happiness in a glass.

Clemson Bros. – M-Town

Paying homage to their brewery hometown in Middletown, NY with the name, M-Town tastes like a damn mimosa. It’s the blood orange that does it. It’s light and fruity with enough bubbles to make you giggle at brunch. Drink this with a cheesy omelet and don’t forget to wear a wide brimmed hat and a sundress.

Equilibrium – Peregrinas

Another Middletown brewery! Equilibrium has a scientific edge to it’s beers and this peachy saison perfectly balances sweet and sour notes. It looks like Sunny D but is worlds better and should be enjoyed out of a stemmed glass with some cheese (because cheese would be great).

Interboro – Fluff & Stuff

The only Brooklyn brew I tried at Tap NY. Fluff & Stuff, another pink beer, was a dry style kinda like a rosé. It was fruity but not super sweet and really more akin to a wine. It even looked like rosé in color with its pale pink hue. I definitely would drink this at a barbecue but like a fancy barbecue with steaks or something.

West Kill Brewing – Please Acknowledge Me

Probably one of the best names for a beer – this was light and floral. Maybe too pretty to drink because it looked like pure sunshine in a glass. Another saison but unlike the Peregrinas this was a little earthier and tasted like kombucha. If you could do yoga and drink beer at the same time this would be the beer to drink.

While these are my top 5, all 12 beers were satisfying in their own right. Here’s the rest of the beers I tried during my day at Tap NY:

Barrier Brewing – Shadows and Dust

Catskill Brewery – Barrel Aged Barleywine

Gilded Otter – Blueberry Gunks

Industrial Arts – Spring Landscape

King’s Court – Mind Bender

Mill House Brewing Company – Cucumber Blessings

Roscoe Beer Company – Brown Ale

PINK BEER IS HAVING A MOMENT AND SO AM I

beer, drink

 

The words “pink drink” evoke infamous memories of college parties: standing before a cooler with a spout dripping pink liquid. The bastardized amalgamation of pink lemonade, sprite and vodka fill the red plastic cup again and again. When was the cooler last cleaned? Who did I hand $5 to for this cup? I don’t know, but I’m having fun until the morning.

While “pink drink” has been tucked away to a secluded corner of my brain, pink beer is top of mind lately. I’ve been feeling my 2019 Barbie girl fantasy lately ordering and pouring beers that are all coincidentally pink. It’s no surprise that pink beer is having a moment when everything seems to be coming up rosés.

Most pink beers tend to fall into the sour or farmhouse ale categories as those funky, farmy styles are experiencing an undeniable renaissance. Hudson Valley Brewery added a strawberry sour to the family of Silhouette beers and, damn, it tastes like strawberry ice cream. The hazy pink brew resembles a strawberry smoothie. Sloop Brewing Company is re-releasing the first ever Sloop Jam series beer, Razzle Dazzle, by popular demand. The raspberry and cherry sour beer appears jammy and bright. The ever inventive Plan Bee Farm Brewery special released breakfast, a beer brewed with blueberry and coffee and aged in bourbon barrels (ya know, like breakfast). All I can say besides delicious is MAGENTA because in a glass this was a gorgeous jewel tone.

Of course these beers would be delicious straight from the can (sorry, mom) but watching bubbles rise through the deep pink beer really completes the experience. The truth? I’m sure social media has made pink beer explode this season. Berry lambics and cherry lagers have always existed but the craze is picking up now as every layman and blogger has romanticized the pink drink via Instagram alone. More truth? I’m not even mad.

Does “natural wine” even mean ANYTHING?

drink, lifestyle, wine

So maybe you read my post about natural wine (psst, it’s over here) where I talk about my first experience trying a “natural wine.” I liked it, it tasted natural as one might imagine. But what does “natural wine” mean? Well, nothing apparently.

Now I’m no expert. I just probe poor store clerks whenever I get the chance. Last week while I was killing time in Artisan Wine Shop in Beacon I had to ask the clerk about the signage in the store. What does “low intervention” mean? Is that like “natural wine?” Well, he put it into perspective: when something says “all natural” what qualifies it as natural? Are certain things more “natural” than others? Does “natural wine” mean anything other than a marketing ploy to feign wellness? All I could think about was how could I succumb to this trick? Well because I’m a millennial and I love to know what’s trending and what I could or should be drinking.

Not to say “natural wine” means nothing but there’s no distinction or certification to classify wines as natural or not. All natural wines are, however, produced from organic grapes. But that doesn’t meant that organic wine is “natural wine.” GUH??

I was sort of right when I asked if “low intervention” was “natural wine.” When a wine is produced with “low intervention” that means during the fermentation process there is little technological involvement or additives. There is likely no sugar added to jumpstart the fermentation process, and nothing added to reduce acidity. “Low intervention” is a generic term because the wine making process involves A LOT of intervention to begin with.

Some natural wines will have that funky “barnyard” taste but many are softer. Natural wine essentially enables grapes to run their natural course in the fermentation process producing different tastes each time. Saying non-natural wine is bad would be false: additives and general intervention might be for the sake of consistency in batches, not necessarily producing a lesser quality wine.

So like, yes? It means something? But just barely. Does it define quality or guarantee the best taste? No. Use your best judgment and, as always, befriend the folks at your local wine store. Ask questions to find the wine that suits you best. Ask questions to find out which wine might have that funky “natural wine” flavor versus asking which wines are “natural wines.”

 

An Intro to French Wine

drink, food, wine

I love wine. Specifically, I love dry reds. After my time in Italy drinking mostly Chianti (*cue eye-roll at 20-something girl talking about studying abroad*) I developed an appreciation for big, full-bodied reds with a little tannic bite. So, that was my go-to. I unintentionally just never really ventured into French wines. Truly French wines. Not just a cab franc grown anywhere, but an imported French wine.

Let me begin by saying this: I’ve disgraced the French culture before. I’ve butchered the language and have made a fool of myself on the streets of Paris at least twice. Yet I’m craving a trip back to that enchanting city. It’s been the subject of my dreams as of late.

But back to the wine. On one of our weekend adventures we found ourselves in a boutique wine shop in Millerton, NY. The shop owner was knowledgable and very enthusiastic and while we think we look like toddlers, he took us very seriously. As we stared at the French section for a little too long, we decided on a bottle. Now, when we went to the counter our new shopkeeper friend asked why we chose this one. “I’ve heard of this label and really wanted to try it out,” Nick says. Later I learn, he just liked the bottle. Could’ve fooled me too. Honestly, I’m no better.

This wine was very drinkable (“no sh*t,” I say aloud as I type this). Not too sweet and not too dry. The perfect wine to finish in good company on an evening that you know will be full of laughs. I’d been craving meatballs all week and while we had fun putting our meal together we just couldn’t help drinking glass after glass of this wine. Enchanting, intoxicating, lovely.

I tried looking up reviews of this wine but I couldn’t find the exact vintage. So here’s my short review: I would drink this at a picnic, I would drink this with steak frites, on a boat, with a goat, I’ll drink this anywhere so long as I’m with someone I love. I guess that’s the allure of French culture: it’s somehow all about love in the most romantic sense. This isn’t the wine to bring for girls night, this is romance wine.

That pretty much sums up France for me: beauty and almost pretension on the outside, yet full of laughter and love within.

Natty Wine

drink, food, lifestyle

I’m a lady that loves wine. The words “natural wine” make me think one sip will turn me into this picturesque woman drinking wine on horseback at sunset. Or something. I don’t know, just my brain illustrating my impressions.

Nonetheless, I finally explored the realm of natural wines this weekend when I picked up my first bottle at Kingston Wine Company on Saturday. While intimidating to invest in a new wine that you may or may not love, this particular wine shop made it easy with friendly, knowledgable staff and handy labels on certain bottles marking flavor and whether staff recommend it. This bottle was a shop favorite and a customer favorite and I was lucky enough to snag the last bottle.

We decided on a French red. Domaine Le Briseau Coteaux du Loir Patapon Rouge (wow, a mouthful). Since the natural part makes this a little tannic and quite funky, the light red had dry elements without it being heavy. Without carbonation, it had a effervescent feel, like kombucha. In fact, it tasted like if someone made kombucha from grape juice. Does that sound bad? It was gamay-like but this is not a wine you want to chug on it’s own. That would be a crime. Food deserves to be paired with this wine. This is a wine I can drink with a big fat (phat) bowl of pasta or a lot of cheese and salami. Salty, cheesy foods need to have a real love affair with natural wine. It really be like that.

I enjoyed this probably because I love funky farm ales, which tend to have tannic qualities and are usually fermented without interruptions or additions. However, this was more akin to a farm cider. Ciders are technically apples wines, and this wine (for me at least) evoked the same feel as Graft’s Farm Flor cider: not-too-sweet, funkalicious and dry without that overbearing, headache-giving mouthfeel.

And hey, just because it’s trendy doesn’t mean you have to like it. I went on a wine tasting and the owner of the vineyard told me something I’ll never forget: the best wine is not always the wine with the award, the best wine is the one you like drinking. For you, the best wine may not be the trendy natural wine, but I highly recommend trying a one to explore that decision for yourself.

Marcella Needs a Beer: Collective Arts Brewing Mash Up the Jam

drink

The week was long. Laundry piled up in the corner of my bedroom. I could no longer ignore my check engine light with a nervous sigh. My fridge was a mess. I didn’t know what to do. So after work I bolted to the craft beer store a few blocks from my office because Marcella needed a beer. I then waited until AFTER doing laundry and getting my car looked at to crack one open.

I was always attracted to Collective Arts Brewing’s cans. First, cans are always well labeled. This week’s pick had the word SOUR in large letters on the side in bold serif font. Hard to miss, and just what I needed. Second, can artwork is an ingenious way to attract new drinkers and support local artists. Illustrations, bright colors and characters make a difference to me. I’m looking for something delicious and something kinda cute and I’m not sorry about it. It’s also just good marketing to make your can standout when so many new breweries are entering the game.

This week’s pick was Mash Up the Jam, a dry hopped sour, which as expected was dry, a little hoppy and very sour. There was a lemony lightness to it and it was very clean. I could guzzle this down (but I didn’t, of course). What I liked about this was it was vastly different from Collective Arts’ other sours, like the Guava Gose which was juicy and a little savory (with the addition of pink Himalayan salt) and the Prophets and Nomads which, to be honest, I don’t remember too much (I gave it a 3.25 on Untappd which means it was fine). Update: as it turns out, Prophets and Nomads is Collective Arts’ core gose so the Guava Gose is just Prophets and Nomads with the addition of guava. This explains why I don’t recall Prophets and Nomads too well.

One thing that unites these sours, however, is how border-line IPA they taste but in unique ways. The dry hopped sour was, obviously, a little hoppy and the Guava Gose had that juicy citrus flavor that New England IPAs take-on, almost like grapefruit. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to enjoy IPAs, but I tasted some similarities which explains why I like IPAs like Sloop’s Juice Bomb and Dogfish Head’s Flesh & Blood. Whether Collective Arts is aware of this or not, brewing sours that resemble IPAs is a smart tactic in a time when IPAs continue to reign supreme and sours are middle of the road. Some people feel that sours taste very unpleasant, just like how some people really can’t stand IPAs. However, the IPA train is packed while the sour bus is looking to fill seats.

At any rate, Marcella got her beer and drank it too.

Every coffee shop in Beacon

drink, Travel

I love two things: coffee and espresso. Luckily I work on Main Street in Beacon, New York, a hub of coffee shops and cafes just waiting for me to tear through them begging for a mid-day cup o’ joe. I’m trying to cut back, I swear. And yet, relapse never tasted so good.

My portal to Beacon’s coffee wonderland was Bank Square, the iconic coffee shop at the western entrance to Beacon’s Main Street. The interior is shabby chic complete with exposed brick and mismatched vintage furniture. I adore the yellow wall and this one chair with the same yellow colored velveteen upholstery on the cushion. Quite honestly, it never looks the same twice. There’s also an outdoor patio complete with string lights, perfect for a sunset date. I like the young, laid back vibe of the entire place. It can get crowded, however. The prime real estate is both good and bad: good for business, bad for the coffee shop intimacy that I love. The coffee is delicious, obviously. I don’t think any place on Main Street serves coffee that is anything shy of perfection. Now I rarely visit Bank Square due to my proximity to other coffee shops on Main Street. Nothing personal.

Geographically next despite the approximately ten minute walk is Big Mouth Coffee Roasters. All I have to say is damn girl. Big Mouth stole my heart the moment I stepped inside. The space is that perfect marriage of intimate and social with secluded spaces in the back to have a conversation, a more work-friendly space by the counter and window seating perfect for watching the eclectic neighborhood characters that walk by every day. Their logo is ingenious: a hippo peeking it’s head out of water. They feature local artists and host gallery openings and closings, supporting the art community present in Beacon. And the coffee is, mwah, perfection. I drink my coffee black (which shocks people for some reason) and Big Mouth’s dark roast has those deep cherry notes that just makes me want to bathe in it. Just kidding that’d be gross.

Next is my beloved and convenient Beacon Pantry. Coffee is literally seconds away. I can afford to walk back to my office without wasting a plastic lid! Coffee is quick, inexpensive and gets the job done. While they don’t roast their own coffee like Big Mouth does, they use the dearly beloved Stumptown roasts. Unlike Big Mouth, the Beacon Pantry is not just a coffee shop. They’re a full service restaurant AND specialty market, which is the REAL reason why I love them so much. The curated meat and cheese selection makes me drool almost as much as the wafting scent of bread that enchants my senses daily. Many a daydream have been spent simply thinking of the selection of butter. I’m thinking about it right now.

Next is Ella’s Bellas, a gluten free bakery and cafe just one block east on Main Street. Personally, I like their iced coffee. I’m not sure why. I just do. I must also praise them for their gluten free baked goods, but it is important to remember that glutenless baked goods will naturally taste different than glutened baked goods. Both of those words are definitely made up. After eating my fair share of sub-par gluten free goods in solidarity with my gluten-intolerant friends I can confidently praise Ella’s Bellas for doing something right in the gluten-free baking world.

Last but not least Trax, the easternmost coffee shop on Main Street, is the quiet, brooding guy if Bank Square is the loud, opinionated friend. It’s only fitting that they’re at opposite ends of the spectrum given their opposite positioning on Main Street, however I think they use the same coffee beans. Each location’s cup sleeves feature both logos. Regardless, Trax has the intimacy that I crave at Bank Square, but Bank Square has the decor I love. Trax brands itself as an espresso bar so naturally I tried a cortado. I loved the size of the drink and the barista’s artistry in pouring the milk in a perfect leaf atop the espresso. A perfect pick-me-up and effective remedy for a rainy day. I could spend hours staring out of the wide storefront window at the old brick buildings across the way. It’s definitely a good place to feel inspired.

Life is too short to drink bad coffee so don’t. Whether you’re close to Beacon or not, find a local coffee shop and support that business before resorting to a larger chain brand. Chances are your coffee will be better quality and your experience will be unique every time.