I took Friday off, both to get a ride in before the weekend started since we were heading out to a wedding in western Massachusetts and I wouldn't be getting in ride on my road bike, and to get an early start on driving to western Massachusetts. So I got the kids to camp and then got out for a reasonably fast road ride (for me), 35 miles at 17 MPH. That's about as fast as I've been this year so I felt pretty good about it. I also felt good that when a bee flew into my helmet and I managed to get my helmet off (and then confirmed it was indeed a bee) and stopped without incident. I've been stung in my head 3 times in the last few years and really didn't want to get stung again. After the ride I packed up for the boys and packed the car and the bikes (including trail-a-bikes and both boys' bikes) and went to pick up the boys with my wife.
The ride out Route 2 is a lot nicer than the Pike, at least in our opinion, and we managed to miss all of the congested sections of Route 2. The ride was pleasant and the boys were watching a movie and I was drifting between watching the road and catching up with everything folks on Twitter were tweeting about when, in the corner of my eye, I saw a sign, Beer To Go, and another in the same window, Element Beer. This is what it looks like in Google Maps Streetview, without the signs that caught my eye. I was introduced to Element Beer by my brother-in-law, whose taste in beer are much more eclectic than mine, and instantly thought, "we need to stop here." My wife, who was driving, said we had time and found a place to turn around and dropped me off and told me to go enjoy myself, probably thinking that I'd just grab a bottle and we'd be off.
But it didn't quite work out that way. I walked in, entranced by the bottles, all wrapped in paper, that I recognized from having my grimy little hands on a few bottles of Element in the past. The room was empty so I announced my presence and soon Dan, one of the brewers, came into the room. Element is a small brewery: the two founders and a part time helper along with a salesperson. Dan lived in my town in the past before heading west but seemed more of a western Massachusetts native (I'm a native as well, but it's been close to 30 years since I lived there so I've lost the glow). Dan calmly offered my a taste of a beer, or more accurately, a taste of which ever beers I wanted to try and had time for. Time stopped for a few moments as I tried the Dark Element, which I eventually bought a bottle of. I then tried the red and another and then, since my wife and sisters are gluten free, I tried the gluten free beer (and it's a fabulous beer, gluten free or not). And since my wife doesn't gravitate towards higher ABV festive beverages as I do, I tried also tried the 5% gluten free ABV. This all took just a few minutes but was pretty fun. Dan is a great guide and let me sip as much as I had time for and was great company as well. Finally I came to my senses and bought the Dark Element and the lower ABV gluten free IPA and headed out to find where my wife and kids parked.
Of course I was kidded when I got back to the car. I heard that my son said that I was drinking a beer instead of buying one (sort of true) and my wife said that I was learning to brew beer (completely false). But joking aside, they let me back in the car and we found our way to our hotel. I would highly recommend a visit to the brewery if you are passing through, or near, Millers Falls. It's a great room with a great host who will let you try some of the best beer in the universe. And, if you are lucky, your partner won't mind the time you spend trying out some of those beers.
Later that evening, we enjoyed a great dinner at Hope and Olive. In the morning we gave our younger son his new bike (with training wheels) and headed for the bike path from Northampton to Amherst. The little guy enjoyed his ride across the river and eventually we all went for a ride on the bikes and trail-a-bikes.
And we enjoyed the wedding that evening.
Oh, and that beer that I brought home? My brother-in-law and I drank it this afternoon. And it was fabulous. My wife is holding onto the gluten free one for a festive occasion in the near future.