Monday, September 15, 2014

Piney River Brewery: An Excursion!

We had a serious amount of fun this summer! We did not do a great deal of traveling, but in late August, we did spend a weekend in the Ozarks—as in, more deeply in the Ozarks. (Jefferson City and Columbia are technically “Ozark Border”—we have a taste of it, but it’s not as pure as when you go down, say, to the piney woods of Shannon County!)

We started that weekend on a celebratory note by visiting Piney River Brewing Company in Bucyrus, Missouri, Saturday afternoon, August 23. (It was interesting that not a month before, we had visited Bucyrus, Ohio, which the Bucyrus in Missouri is named for!)

Bucyrus, Missouri, is not at all a big town. It’s not even a “four corners”; it’s more of a “wide spot in the road” just east of Houston, Missouri (the seat of Texas County and the hometown of Emmett Kelly, the famous “Weary Willy” clown). And the Piney River “BARn” taproom isn’t exactly easy to find! If you’re interested in visiting Piney River Brewing like us, make sure you know the hours they’re open (only weekends at this point), and where you’re going before you get to Bucyrus. Why? Because you may have trouble getting an Internet signal in that area. Don’t depend on your “device”!

So I’m warning you: Check your Google map way before you get close, or you’ll be stopping at the tiny Bucyrus, Missouri, post office, asking for directions. (By the way, I’d like to thank the lady there that Saturday, who was kind enough to offer us what directions she knew. You big city people, you don’t know how nice people can be until you ask for, well, any kind of help, in a small town.)

More on the drive in a little bit. Let’s get to the fun part, the brewery! Check out Piney River Brewing’s website, okay? Then, you’ll want to friend them on Facebook, so you poor cusses who don’t live in their distribution area can find out when their products are finally available near you. I’m sure it’ll soon be available in St. Louis and Kansas City, but for now, hmmph. It’s pretty much exclusive to the Ozarks the beers celebrate.

Since you can perfectly well visit their website on your own, you can see for yourself how they won gold in the 2014 World Beer Cup for their Float Trip Ale, and gold in 2013 for their Old Tom Porter at the Great American Beer Festival. Pretty good for a brewery that started in 2010!

I won’t go into their beers too much, except to say “fresh and delicious!” and Hooray! Their beers, the names of their beers, and their lovely designs celebrate the Ozarks, including its natural and human heritage. (I hope they’re paying their designer well, because her designs contribute greatly to the joy of their beers.) I love it that their beers celebrate raccoons and river eddies, Missouri mules, float trips, and hot dates down on the river.

(Someday, maybe they’ll see fit to make a brew after North America's one and only native marsupial! Dear Piney River people: May I humbly submit--the “Opulent Opossum Stout”??)

The “BARn” is a renovated seventy-year-old barn that’s been made into a “nanobrewery” on the ground floor, with a spacious taproom in the second-story loft, along with a deck with a beautiful view of . . . well . . .

This is really out in the boonies, folks!

Here’s a little slideshow of our visit there.

Not knowing when they opened, we were early and waited outside while the band (it was bluegrass, y’all, and they were good!) moved their instruments and equipment into the BARn.

Though we were the first ones there, many other folks showed up, everyone driving on gravel roads to get there. It must be gratifying to have established something that people will go far out of their way to get to!

It was a regular little crowd in there! For those of you who are interested in all the particulars, here’s the details about what was on tap that day:

They really made that barn into something remarkable. You know it’s impressive when even the lavatories stay with the down-home theme.

But seriously, folks, be prepared for the drive. That photo at the top of this post was of Highway ZZ, the last stretch of paved road before you reach gravel Walnut Grove Drive, which the brewery is at the end of:

Fortunately, we arrived just as one of the Piney River guys was setting up their sign. It was encouraging we were on the right path!

We got the sampler tray, which had seven beers and (thankfully) a printed list of the beers we were tasting. I hadn’t tried their Sweet Potato Ale before (I’m usually skeptical of “flavored” beers, as they are usually too overdone and cloying), and I admired its subtlety. The Bronzeback Pale Ale (named for Missouri’s celebrated smallmouth bass) seemed especially delicious, though—maybe because its refreshing brightness complemented the heat of that weekend. And the hot, dusty road we took to get there!

(A digression: Beer and wine tastings forever remind me of the “France” episode of Absolutely Fabulous: “This is the one! . . . This is the one!”) Ahem. Oh, well. It wasn’t like that at all, but I think of it, and it cracks me up.

Finally, I should mention that the Piney River Brewery is indeed located near the Little Piney River. As you drive on Highway 17 from Houston to Bucyrus, you drive over the Big Piney River at Dog’s Bluff Public Fishing Access. All of it is very near the brewery. Isn’t it pretty?

Dog’s Bluff is a beautiful spot to have a picnic, or go swimming or wading. This scenery is inspiring, to anyone in need of rejuvenation. No wonder they make such inspired beers in this area!

Now, don’t you want to take a little drive, through hills and hollers, to the bustling metropolis of Bucyrus, Missouri? Now that we’ve been to the Piney River “BARn,” we can recommend it!

Note: Thanks to Sue, for letting me use so many of her excellent photos. All the ones in this post that look good are from her!

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