Inside the Harpoon Brewery

Boston, Massachusetts

It sounds like every MBA’s dream.

After a boozy summer tour through Europe, spend the second year of business school not sitting with recruiters but writing a business plan to launch a brewery. Obtain a liquor license, hire a couple of friends and start what will become the single largest craft brewery in New England.

Dream? Make that a reality for the founders of Harpoon. Twenty years later, their brewery continues to operate full-tilt at the same waterfront location in downtown Boston. A big fan of their beers, including the flagship IPA, we stopped by today for a tour and $5 tasting.

An energetic guide — your typical bearded, kind of hippie beer enthusiast — explained the brewing process which wasn’t nearly as complicated as one would think. In fact, there are only four ingredients in beer: water, barley, hops and yeast. But it’s the recipe (that is, how the ingredients are mixed) that gives beer its unique flavor.

Harpoon doesn’t typically brew on the weekends but a flood earlier in the week had set back production. So, we were able to watch beer go through the whole process, from boiling water in huge aluminum vats to the final step of bottling into kegs.

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At the tour’s conclusion, we got to the matter at hand: the tasting.

A bell rang and the taps opened as we sampled the IPA, seasonal, ciders, UFOs and premium 100 Barrel and Leviathan brands. The UFO White was one of my favorites — it’s brewed with orange peels and had this crisp spiced wheat beer flavor.

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After thirty minutes, the bell rang again and the taps closed off.

Walking back to the parking lot, it was hard not to start thinking of a business plan.

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Where urban luxury meets suburban blandness

Washington, D.C.

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Eric Ripert’s WestEnd Bistro, located inside the Ritz-Carlton hotel at M and 22nd street NW, has had all the makings of a D.C. hot spot since opening last November. There’s a celebrity chef, trendy $13 cocktails, locally sourced dishes — and views of an Exxon gas station?

Check out the latest in today’s Express.

D.C. bars prep for Super Tuesday gatherings

Washington, D.C.

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The turnout on Super Tuesday is expected to be large — and not just at polling places. As anticipation builds over how voters in 22 states will cast their presidential primary ballots, restaurants and bars in the nation’s capital are preparing to accommodate those who will be coming in to watch the results over patriotic potables.

The best places in the nation’s capital to watch the results — in today’s Express.

Heating up as winter sets in

Washington, D.C.

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As temperatures in the nation’s capital plummet, restaurants and bars are rolling out heat lamps and radiant heaters to keep patios and roofdecks toasty. Read more in my latest story for the Washington Post Express.

Photo by Michael Temchine for The Washington Post

Reflections on the Holy City

Charleston, South Carolina

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I’ve finally got a couple of minutes to jot down some thoughts on a great trip down to Charleston over Labor Day weekend. After an early morning flight there on Saturday morning, we were met with some overcast skies – but nothing that brunch at Hominy Grill and some shopping at M. Dumas & Sons, the preppiest, most amazing store I’ve ever walked into, couldn’t take care of.

After a quick nap, we geared up for cocktails at Social, before a fantastic dinner at Slightly North of Broad, locally named the Restaurant of the Year. SNOB had an awesome grilled peach salad, with arugula, walnuts, a hunk of goat cheese and a maple vinaigrette. It rivaled the main entrée, a sautéed squab breast with cheddar cheese grits and asparagus.

Post-dinner, it was time to visit the Silver Dollar, for a Playboy.com bar review. It was a true dive bar, packed with college kids. The owner, Steve, and his dedicated staff, took good care of us all night before we headed back to our room at the downtown Holiday Inn.

The next morning, after a quick and tasty breakfast at 39 Rue de Jean, we met with the world-acclaimed concierge, Kevin McQuade. He did not disappoint, offering a great walking tour that brought us through the Charleston historic district (but not before some shopping diversions on King Street — again) and then along the Battery and White Point Gardens, with views of Fort Sumter and the harbor.

We checked into our new hotel, the gorgeous Charleston Place, hit the gym (needed it) and took a swim, before changing for dinner at Coast (try the lobster and shrimp penne dish). Afterwards, on the suggestion of our pal Kevin, we met for Ed Macy’s ghost tour, which, believe it or not, wasn’t as cheesy as it sounds.

We got up early on Monday morning for an 8-mile run across the Cooper River Bridge (still hurting). Next, with the sun shining, we gathered the cooler for a couple hours at Folly Beach. And then, there was nothing like a barbecue feast at Sticky Fingers (had to grab a bottle of the Carolina Sweet sauce) to cap off a fantastic weekend.

I’ll post photos and a link to my bar review here as soon as I’ve got a chance.

Rulloff’s is for sale

Washington, D.C.

Back in college, whenever it came time to hit the bars in Collegetown, there never really was much of a question about where to go. Forget about Dino’s, Stella’s, The Palm or The Nines. It was all about Rulloff’s — and not just because it was the first place to accept Citybucks as payment.

You see, for as long as there’s been a spot at the end of its long first floor bar, Alpha Delts have called the place home. It’s where we went to celebrate, commiserate and hang out with the bar’s manager, Rene. And, it’s the reason why it was my selection as Playboy’s College Bar of the Month.

Now, a buddy of mine has sent me the big news: it’s for sale. According to the listing: “Rulloff’s is a successful and established restaurant/bar located in the busy Collegetown area of Ithaca, NY. Rulloff’s old world charm and collegial atmosphere has made it a destination spot for the extended Cornell community and Ithaca’s residents and visitors for 30 years.”

The bar generates around $1.2 million in annual sales (split 55%/45% between drinks/food) and its owner is asking for $350k.

Who’s with me?