Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame

Kim, brother Joey, Alex, and I went on a trip to Cooperstown, NY this past weekend to tour the town where baseball was invented, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and Ommegang Brewery. For me, this trip was the combination of two of my favorite things: fancy beer and our national pastime.

We started our trip early (at least for me) on Saturday morning and went to pick up Joey in Wenonah, NJ and see his new digs. His new place was much bigger than I expected and was very pleasant. From NJ, we then drove about North towards Cooperstown. The drive up was pretty short because traffic was moving briskly and we were catching up on stories. After about 5 hours, including a quick break for lunch, we arrived in Cooperstown for the first destination of our trip--Ommegang Brewery.

Ommegang is an American Brewery owned by Belgian company Duvel that makes very good versions of popular Belgium styles. The location in Cooperstown was chosen because it was once the hops-growing capitol of the US in the late 1800's and was already a tourist destination. Luckily we arrived at the Brewery right as a tour was beginning so we just jumped right in. The tour was very interesting as they showed us everything from the kettles where the grains are cooked and the fermentation vats in the brewering room to the bottling machinery and storage areas. The highlight of the tour of course was the free tasting of five beers: Witte (white ale), Rare Vos (amber ale), Hennepin (farmhouse or saison ale), Abbey ale (Trappist Double), and the Three Philosphers (Trappist quadruple ale). Although Alex could not participate in the tasting, he was a good sport to watch us gobble down several oz of each beer.

Following the tour of the brewery, we went to the hotel to unload the car and get settled in before dinner. Joe and I took a nap while Kim and Alex hit the hotel pool. When they got back, we headed out to Downtown Cooperstown to see the sights and grab dinner. We walked into Doubleday Field and visited several stores that sold mostly junk, but some gems were: a Phillies 2008 World Series edition of Monopoly and a really cool hat for the minor league team, the Montgomery Biscuits. The Monopoly set was $40 and they did not have a hat that fit me, so we I ended up walking away empty-handed.
The next morning, we woke up at 8 and got a pretty good free breakfast at the hotel before heading out to the Hall of Fame. It was cool that the admission tickets were printed with a Phillies themed graphic to commemorate their WS win last year. The Hall, as expected, was great and filled with all sorts of memorabilia from the founding of baseball in early 1800's to uniform pieces worn by players in the 2008 WS. It was amazing to bats used by Babe Ruth in his 60 HR season, Lou Gehrig's Uniform the day before he retired, Willie May's glove, and several Hank Aaron HR balls. My favorite article from the 2008 WS exhibit was the bat Joe Blanton used to hit a HR in Game 4 of the Series last year.

It was a fun trip, although too short, but I felt that we got to see everything that we were interested in. And according to Joe and Kim, the renovations the HoF made to exhibits really added to the fan experience.

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