Not-so-local Hangout: Lion’s Pride

Note: This is a long overdue post! This visit took place in October.

Spoiler alert – Reed and I both loved this place. It made me declare myself a fellow beer snob (for a night at least) and he still says it’s his favorite bar, even though it’s 3,000 miles away from where we live. And we’re not the only ones, it has a 100 point rating on Beer Advocate. Pretty much the only thing we could complain about was the weather, which decided to deliver the first storm of the season shortly after we arrived and didn’t let up until well after we were tucked away in bed, dreaming of creme brulee – but I’ll get to that. 
We spent the whole day out-running the storm by driving north (which seems illogical, I know – but for the most part it worked). We’d left Massachusetts before noon and the friend we were staying with there said it started snowing 2 hours later and didn’t stop until 22 inches had fallen and their power was out. Yikes! We drove through much of New Hampshire, enjoying peak fall foliage and watching the sky get darker and darker. Lion’s Pride is a non-descript building on a non-descript road lined with the types of businesses you’d expect along a highway. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Lion’s Pride used to be a Denny’s or, more likely, a Dunkin’ Donuts. 

Inside it was warm and cozy and we settled in at the bar to wait for the rest of the group. It took us 15 minutes to decide what to order first.
35 beers on tap and the menu tended more towards the poetic rather than focusing on the style of beer. A lot of places with extensive beer lists seem to do this and it bothers me, I’d much prefer a sentence or two about each offering. Stone is an obvious local example – there’s simply too much on the menu to expect your server to be able to give you a description and tasting notes so I’m often left Google-ing so I don’t end up with a $10 beer I don’t like. But at Lion’s Pride it hardly mattered because the guy behind the bar, Ryan, was a knowledgeable and friendly resource at our disposal. He knew everything, and he wanted to share it with us so that our experience was a fantastic adventure – the very definition of exemplary customer service.

And this is just what’s on tap…
As more people joined our group I actually got less social as I focused on what to order next. I made a list in my notebook and wanted to make sure I got through it all. It began to snow outside. A lot. We went out to take pictures, it’s such a novelty for us SoCal people. And I began to worry about the inevitable drive to my friend’s house. In most beer bar situations I’m happy to be the designated driver, but this place was different…I was only part way through my list! Unfortunately, I was the only one authorized to drive the rental car so there was no haggling to be done. So as a compromise (if you can call it that, Reed was in a win-win situation) we stayed for 6 hours so I could get through that list and be sober to drive across the fjords of Maine in a blizzard. 
Here’s a rundown of the highlights: 
Schlenkerla Krausen: Campfire in a glass! This was actually one of Reed’s selections and I found it very strange that beer could smell and taste so smoky. I’d like to try it again now and compare it with Ballast Point’s Smoked Lager. I’ve never paired a smoky beer like this with some BBQ, but I assume it would be fantastic. Perhaps at our next beer pairing dinner…
Nuova Mattina: What a saison! Brewed in Italy with ginger and chamomile (amongst other ingredients) this beer is downright delicious. It tastes like a combination of beer and tea and, now that I know more, I would like to try it again – at room temperature.
Pannepot Wild: A 10% ABV powerhouse that smacks of cognac and sherry, this Belgian quad is almost more of an after dinner drink than a beer. I am a fan of brettanomyces yeast (the “wild” in the name) in general and, if money were no object, I would buy 5 bottles of this beer and open one each year to see what’s changed. Perhaps it’s the biologist in me (or the wine lover), but I like the thought of something being alive in my beer, eating away at the sugars and changing the flavors.
B. Nektar Vanilla Cinnamon Mead: I know, I know – mead beer but this was the perfect nightcap. #36 on the tap list of 35 offerings (see menu above), it was liquid creme brulee. I am still thinking about this mead (they don’t distribute to California). Sitting in such a cozy environment, high on my new-found appreciation of what beer could do, while watching snow fall out the window and sipping a glass of this to end the evening – well, it was just perfect. 
Sadly, it sounds as though our amazing server Ryan no longer works at Lion’s Pride and there’s rumors that it’s gone downhill a bit. At least Reed and I will always have that one visit, a night to remember if ever there was one.

My new favorite picture of us.