I’ve recently become one of those people who loves giving “experience gifts” like a fun event, show, or trip in lieu of a more concrete item. I just relish creating the opportunity for my loved ones to have fun and experience something totally new. In that vein, my brother and I brainstormed a special Father’s Day/birthday gift for my dad: a trip to Cooperstown, New York. Cooperstown has a lot to offer in the laid-back dad department: beer, breweries, and baseball. I thought it would be the perfect location for a family trip, just three hours outside of northern New Jersey.
My mom decided to sit this one out, so one Friday afternoon, Dan, my brother Russell, my dad, and I ventured upstate. We stayed at an Air BnB farmhouse located in Rose Boom, about 20 minutes outside of Cooperstown. The house was cozy and had a beautiful view and backyard space. It was a little remote, with no cell phone service, no television, and very limited wireless internet. We also found it to be slightly musty, but overall, it was a good fit for us and it got us to bond in non-technological ways. I personally loved stepping outside the back doors and right onto the beautiful deck, even just for a minute to grab some fresh air (or jump in the air).
Part of the appeal of this trip was the Cooperstown Beverage Trail. Once I saw a coupon for a free (yes, free) cider slush at Fly Creek Cider Mill, I knew that it would be our first stop. As soon as we unpacked and settled into our farmhouse, we headed to Fly Creek. They have a big cabin on a large plot of land which features a general store, lots of local gifts and foods, and homemade chocolate (I loved the chocolate covered Oreos). Of course, the most important part of this journey for us was the beverage tastings! Free samples of hard cider, wine, and liquor? Yes, please! Since I’m a lover of hard cider, I had to try all three of their offerings: original hard cider, raspberry apple, and sparkling hard cider. Dan and I even bought a bottle of the sparkling hard cider to take home. I tried a few Apple inspired wines too – most of them were pretty sweet but tasty, and the staff was very friendly and open to letting us try whatever we wanted. We all made sure to get our free cider slushes and sipped them while feeding the ducks in the backyard lake.
We ventured into downtown Cooperstown to browse around and get dinner. Not knowing much about the town itself, we pretty much made our dinner decision based on whether or not we could eat outside (it was supposed to rain later in the weekend). We chose Pioneer Patio, which was located in an alley, slightly off the main road of shops and restaurants. One of their staff enticed us with buy one, get one free drinks: I drank Rare Vos from Ommegang, which is actually located in Cooperstown, and it was delicious. I wolfed down a bacon cheeseburger (also delicious) and forgot to take a photo of my meal. That’s how you know it was GOOD.
The next day, my brother had pre-chosen our breakfast destination, Stagecoach Coffee. I don’t remember much except for the magical veggie burrito that I devoured in 1.5 seconds. All I need to see is avocado on a menu and there’s a 99% chance I’ll order it. This was a mix of lettuce, tomatoes, black beans, eggs, cheese, and creamy avocado goodness. The sweet tea was pretty good too.
Our next stop was the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum.
Someone (re: my dad) was very excited to embark on this part of the trip. As a fairweather baseball fan, I was a little concerned that the museum might not be worth the time and $23 admission fee, but we ended up having a pretty enjoyable experience. The museum is quite large, with a variety of exhibits ranging from the history of the African-American baseball experience to the modern-day Hank Aaron Gallery of Records. Even my brother found the Women in Baseball exhibit to be interesting. Here I am, posing with Yogi Berra in the actual Hall of Fame. He was, and has always been, my favorite player. Rest in peace, Yogi.
After the museum, we made an ill-fated trip to one of the main attractions in Cooperstown: Brewery Ommegang. Let’s just say there was a staff wedding that afternoon, so the entire place was closing down, and all tours and tastings were booked for the rest of the day. We were not happy campers (though we decided to give them another chance the next day). In the interim, we swung by another, smaller brewery called Cooperstown Brewing Company. We posed in front of the awning and then left.
Just kidding! We actually felt pretty darn special because when we arrived, the place was almost completely empty. We each participated in a tasting, with Dan and I getting a flight of four different beers: Old Slugger, Nine Man Ale, Benchwarmer Porter, and my favorite – Induction Ale. These craft beers were pretty delicious, but a little bit more malt-y (excuse my improper beer speak) and heavier than I normally drink. Either way, it was still pretty fun, and we got a private tour with the brewery’s owner who was extremely thorough and engaging. It was one of the best brewery tours I’ve ever been on. And because I couldn’t end the day without one more beer, we headed to Council Rock Brewery – more of a restaurant than a brewery – and had their Mango Wheat beer. YUM. Not to mention the garlic pesto fries and chicken tacos with fresh guacamole, peppadews, and chipotle aioli. Yes please.
The next morning, we packed our bags bright and early with the sole purpose of making it to Brewery Ommegang before heading back to New Jersey. It was time for us to experience the magical place that brews such Game of Thrones-themed beers as “Take the Black” and “Fire and Blood”.
This isn’t the best picture in the world, but it gives you a real sense of what the brewery looks like. It was designed to have a completely linear brewing process from start to finish, with bottling taking place all the way at the end of the building. It was pretty neat. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and really gave a detailed description of the history of the land and why it was chosen to be the site of the brewery, as well as of course going into detail with the brewing process. I loved it.
Aside from totally geeking out over Game of Thrones beer (which I did by asking to pose with the Thrones-themed beer tap), I have to say that Ommegang really blew me away in terms of the length and quality of the tour and tasting.
We paid $5 a piece for five different beers during the tasting. The bartenders also put out some delicious pretzel snacks with all kinds of beer-inspired dips: think blue cheese, horseradish, and dill. The five beer samples during the tasting were Witte (wheat beer), Hennepin (saison), Rare Vos (amber ale), Gnomegang (blonde ale), Abbey Ale (dubbel ale), and Three Philosophers (quadrupel ale). I honestly enjoyed all five of them, which is pretty rare for me, as I’m still developing a taste for certain types of beer. They were all pretty refreshing, and I was a pretty big fan of the adorable souvenir glass they gave us. After the tasting ended, we hit the road back to good old New Jersey.
Well, there you have it. A weekend of beer and baseball. I would highly recommend Cooperstown for a weekend getaway for families, couples, or even a group of friends. Fun times all around!