Okay, so a few weeks ago I was called to testify on a case in Davenport, Iowa. As a result of John Deere and Company having some sort of convention in Davenport, I was put up on the other side of the Mississippi, in Rock Island, Illinois. Got in late the night before, so I really had no time to do anything except grab a bite to eat in the Hotel's chain restaurant, but I finished with my case early the next day, which allowed me to walk around Rock Island for a bit, before I had to head off to the airport.
Now, I think I've said this before, but testifying in court, for various reasons, is stressful. Add to it that I now have three kids, and that I'm often not given very much notice prior to being informed my presence is required, and I think it's safe to say that the travelling part of my job is generally the most difficult. However, being a "lemons make lemonade" kind of guy, I've decided to make an effort to engage in certain activities that will make the trips more personal, more balanced, and more enjoyable. One goal, I've decided, will be to merge my enthusiasm for beer, particularly well-crafted microbrews, with the responsibility of travel. In that spirit, I've decided to try, whenever possible, to have a meal in a brewpub of the city I am visiting.
On this trip, I visited the Blue Cat Brewpub, which was about two blocks from my hotel. The city of Rock Island is quaint, in the most positive sense of the word. Walking along the streets, I couldn't help but smile as I took in all of the buildings, which seemd to have been there for quite some time. I have a fondness for older buildings, and Rock Island was full of interesting houses, churches, stores, etc. to look at. I took pictures, but unfortunately with my cell phone. Since I haven't figured out how to send pictures from my phone to my e-mail, those will have to wait.
Looking on the Mississippi was fun as well. The river has so much history, it is nice to simply spend a few minutes looking at the river, and thinking about some of Mark Twain's stories. It's amazing how much industry is still conducted on this river.
Finally, off to the Blue Cat, before I miss my plane! Walking inside, the restaurant felt like a brewpub, in that it was neat and clean, but there was no effort to be trendy. I sat at the bar, and the bartender was both quick and friendly. We chatted for a few minutes about the place, and he informed me they'd been in business for 15 years, a nice run for a brewpub. I asked about their beers, and settled on their "Off the Rail" Pale Ale, never a bad choice, especially if one needs to finish a bit quicker than usual. Given my time constraints, I decided to order soup insted of a meal. Being a "When in Rome" guy (in addition to a Lemons make Lemonade guy), my eyes were drawn to a soup I'd never heard of - "Chicken and Pickle Soup." I wasn't sure about that, but the bartender assured me it was delicious. Practicing what I preach, I took the plunge..and it paid off. The soup was delicious, with a clear soup base that was nonetheless thicker than your typical chicken soup broth, along with healthy amounts of chicken, noodles, and sweet cucumber. A few crackers were added to the mix, and I had a great lunch. I'm not trying to be condescending, but I felt like I got a bit of the "Midwest" experience having a soup like this, especially one I'd never heard of before.
The beer? Oh yes - very good! A bit darker than the typical pale ale, but had a great aroma and taste. Not too hoopy or bitter, like some microbrews tend to do with their pale ales (yes, there is a such thing as too much), and the beer was a perfect compliment to the soup, especially at lunch. The bartender was gracious enough to give me a sample of their "Classic Cranberry Ale." Normally, the fruit-flavored beers are not my favorite type, though I can appreciate a well-made one. This beer falls into the well-made category - not too sweet (like many fruit-flavored efforts), which I found particularly important for a cranberry ale, given that cranberries aren't as sweet as many other fruits. The flavor was good, but not overbearing. Overall, a delicious experience, both the soup and the ale, and I took home a pint glass to boot!
If and when I ever return to the area, I'll definitely return to the Blue Cat, and try some other their other offerings. In the meantime, as I go off on my occasional travels, I'll make every effort to sample some of the country's best microbrew offerings, and then fill you in!