This past Thursday, 3/21, my wife made some calls and found us a ridiculous deal up in Laconia, NH for 2 nights stay. A 2 bedroom condo near Weirs Beach with a nice indoor pool set up for the kids and only 10-15 minutes from Gunstock Mountain. We pulled our stuff out of storage in the attic, packed as fast as possible, and hit the road, getting up there around 8:30 PM. Now, we skied a couple times last year, the last being at Jiminy Peak out at the western edge of Mass, where we did a few nights right on the mountain’s base. That was 3/11/12… so it’s been over a year since we touched the skis. We thought wed miss the entire season this year, due to various reasons.
Top off the $90 per night deal we found (2 bedrooms, kitchen, etc!) my wife got the adult tickets through liftopia.com for Gunstock at almost 1/2 price. Kids went in for half-day lessons which was the real expense, but even then, the lessons turned out to be private due to the lack of a crowd and time of season, and the lesson cost included full day lift tickets for them too, so we were able to ski with the girls after lunch. Let me say, we hadn’t been to Gunstock in 15 years… that time I skied the whole day with my grandmother’s engagement ring in my pocket to surprise my now wife with after skiing back at our hotel. Gunstock proved to be perfect for a family ski trip. No lift lines meant my wife and I got in a bunch of runs while the kids were in their lessons. So stopping around 3 in the afternoon was fine. We were there before the lifts even started.
So… where’s the beer related info?? Gotcha. As I said, we pulled this trip together last second and had no beer or wine to bring up (I prefer not to pack homebrew just because I need to treat it more carefully, with the sediment and all. Just easier to buy up north. So while filling the tank somewhere in NH, my wife ran into the gas station store and came out with beer and wine. She grabbed me some Long Trail Pale Ale. Now I’ve had this before, and honestly prefer their flagship altbier, Long Trail Ale, but she was proud of picking something for me, and I wasn’t going to complain. Long Trail’s Pale Ale is like most of their beers, a bit thin in the body. When I poured it into a glass, I realized I’ve only drunk this from the bottle in the past… as I would remember the insane head. It was highly carbonated and the head was one of those that looks like shaving cream, holding a thick shape that extended up above the glass’ edge, but held together regardless. I associate that kind of head with beers I’ve made using some wheat in the grain bill, but Long Trail’s site lists only 2-row and caramel malts. It also lists Centennial and Cascade for hops. I assume they use a high alpha hop like Magnum to bitter with given that bittering hops rarely contribute much to hop flavor or aroma when in a boil for 60 minutes. The hop aroma has some pine and citrus. Those aromas come through a bit in the flavor as well. I do find a bit of a mineral flavor in the finish however. There’s a slight bitterness bite which is nice. 5.7% ABV, 35 IBUs. Overall, not something I’d pick over many other good APAs out there, but as I’ve done in the past, when the alternatives are BMC or Sam Adams, I like it for a change.
So, had a few of those TH evening with the pizzas we made in the condo. Nice knowing we were there for two nights, so we didn’t have to worry about checking out AND getting to the mountain at the same time the next morning. On Friday, after getting the girls off to their lessons, and skiing a ton of runs, we all got together around noon and went in to the Powder Keg for lunch. Had a Shipyard IPA on tap. Reminded me yet again why I typically avoid Shipyard. Boring as hell this beer was. Not afwul, just nothing to remember or justify buying another. Saw that there was one on the beer list I’d never had, a Switchback Ale, brewed in VT. Guys at the next table had ordered a pitcher of it. Why not? It arrived in a shaker “pint” glass, obviously an unfiltered beer. Unfortunately, this was also rather bland. Not much in the way of hop aroma or flavor. Again, not terrible, just nothing to make it stand out in any way. Bummer.
Back to the slopes for a couple more hours skiing with the kids, then to the “resort” so the kids could make use of the pool before heading out to dinner. We hit Patrick’s Pub in Laconia. My wife and I had eaten here 15 years ago, likely with that ring still burning a hole in my pocket. I was hopeful for a better beer list, but it was fairly old school . Saw Woodstock Inn Brewery Seasonal on the tap menu, but unfortunately, it was gone, replaced by Harp. Ugh. I assume the Harp was there due to the recent St Paddy’s Day. Oh well, Long Trail Ale (altbier) on tap it was. And it was good. Reliable, a little malty, but still crisp and light in the finish. Went well with the pulled pork sandwich and sweet potato fries, that’s for sure.
Saturday consisted of a late checkout, then 3 hours at the pool again before hitting the road. Stopped at The Common Man in Concord, NH for a late lunch/early dinner. Got there and the dining room was closed (between lunch and dinner sessions) so we grabbed a high top table in the pub upstairs. Great atmosphere and good solid food. I opted for the chicken nachos plate for a meal. Been ages since I’ve ordered nachos out. Damn good! Went for a Harpoon “Dan and Rich’s Rye IPA” on tap. I’ve had it before, and while it doesn’t blow me away, it’s a solid, tasty beer. A bit lacking in the rye and late hops compared to many craft brew Rye beers out there, it’s still a decent beer. Good flavor without being too bitter. Coming in at 6.9% and using Centennial, Appolo, and Chinook in the kettle, and Falconers Flight dryhops, I do expect a bit “more” from it. Regardless an easy drinker, so one needs to remember that it’s almost 7%. A big beer for Harpoon standards, especially among their beers available in 12 oz bottles.
Beer aside, it was a great trip. Ski conditions were super, especially considering the time of year. No sign of ice anywhere on the trails, and no indication of bare patches at all. Plenty of well groomed snow still up there! Gunstock’s a relatively small mountain, and the Blue trails are likely Greens at many bigger mountains, but that’s all I need given the fact that it was the only skiing I’m doing this year. Skiing a Friday was still a wise choice as I’m sure it’s busier on Saturday and Sunday even in late March. And it”s only a 90 minute drive for us.
Back to reality now… all that gear needs storing. 😦