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Day 29: Lockport, NY to Fairport, NY

Today didn’t have too much by way of scenery, but it had plenty by way of alcohol, so this post will focus mostly on the latter.

I got a pretty late start today, in no small part due to finishing up my massive post for yesterday. When I went to check out of my hotel room, the man at the desk also gave me some information on the area, which was useful to know but also delayed me further. The short of it is, I didn’t get on the road until 8:20. Fortunately it was cloudy and cool, albeit somewhat more humid than it had been.

From the hotel it was only a mile or two to the center of Lockport, where it became obvious how the city got its name: There’s a giant lock in the Erie Canal there.

Actually, the giant lock is relatively new. Originally there were five small locks in sequence, known as the “Flight of Five”. In recent years those locks have been restored and left open just to show what the canal looked like originally.

Incidentally, just from these photos it should be pretty obvious that the Erie Canal is quite a bit smaller than the Welland Canal; ever since the railroad became a big thing the former has only been used for recreational boating, while the latter continues to be used used for actual shipping.

After admiring the locks I headed down the path visible on the left in the second photo. Unfortunately, the pavement soon ended and it became a dirt path. I knew this would happen at some point, but it was still annoying. 10 miles or so down the path, I stopped in the village of Middleport for breakfast. At this point I noticed that biking on the dirt path had coated both me and my bike in a fine layer of dirt. Not pleasant.

Leaving the breakfast place, I decided I wouldn’t go back to the path but would instead take roads to avoid picking up any more dirt. Unfortunately while I was in the restaurant the wind had picked up, and it was a headwind. And now that I was no longer on the tow path, I had to deal with actual hills. So for the next 25 miles or so I fought headwinds while climbing hills. There’s not much else to say about that stretch. It sucked.

Around 40 miles in, I came out to Route 104 and crossed into Monroe County, home of Rochester. About the same time, the wind finally started to die down, so I was finally able to average better than 13 mph. Incidentally, while I was cutting over to Route 104, I encountered yet another type of “Bridge Out” sign— it effectively said, “Bridge out beginning 8/5”, so it was a good thing I was crossing on 8/4!

Rochester has more breweries per capita than any other city in the Mid-Atlantic, so I had already decided to devote my afternoon to beer. At this point my plan was to continue another 18 miles from the Monroe County line into northern Rochester and visit my first brewery there, since I didn’t know of anything else on the way. However, after 9 miles I noticed a small plaza on my left that had both a winery and a brewery next to each other. I hadn’t taken a real break (beyond a quick stretch) in 20 miles, and it was already a little after 1pm, so following a quick Google search to make sure they didn’t get unusually bad reviews, I pulled over and popped into A Gust of Sun winery. Yes, I did the winery before the brewery. I might finally be starting to get beer fatigue.

It turns out that A Gust of Sun is actually based in the Niagara region and this was just a satellite tasting room, but either way they had a full selection of their wines available. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I’m partial to dessert wines, so of course my favorite was the Late Harvest Vignoles. I’m also partial to Cab Franc, and while the one here wasn’t as good as the one I had back at Hamilton Cellars it still held its own. And call me fru-fru, but I followed up my tasting with a glass of wine slushie, and it was great!

Having finished at the winery, I headed next door to Griff Brewery. They’ve been around for 3½ years, but they still have a new brewery feel to them. (The owner said they don’t really advertise and instead rely on passersby and word of mouth.) They also make some pretty unusual beers, despite having a small number of taps.

The beer that really stood out as something like nothing I’d had before was the Pre-Prohibition Porter. I commented to the owner that it was unusually light for a porter, more the color of a brown ale, and he said that’s what porters used to be like 100 years ago. It’s only in more recent times that they’ve become more similar to stouts. The beer likewise had a lighter body than what I’m used to for a porter, but it had quite a complex flavor profile that’s different from anything I’m familiar with. Definitely worth checking out to broaden your horizons for what a porter is.

The other particularly interesting beer was the Stage hot pepper ale. It has four different hot peppers, of which jalapeño and habanero are the milder two! Even so, the heat it packed was pleasant rather than painful.

When I wanted to get my customary photo as I was leaving, a woman at the bar offered to take a picture with me in it, so here I am.

Somehow I managed to spend two hours between A Gust of Sun and Griff, so it was now a little after 3 when I left, and I wasted no time biking 9 miles to Iron Tug, which was conveniently on the same street. Iron Tug focuses on stouts, and I really can’t complain about that, since I like stouts. The best one, in my mind, was the Fluffer Nutter milk stout, made with actual peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. Some people might find that vile, but I’d get it again in a heartbeat! For non-stout beers, I enjoyed the Triple Fruited Sour, which was only mildly sour and which brought out the flavors of the grapefruit, mandarin, and passionfruit in it.

My original plan had been to go north to Lake Ontario from Iron Tug, since I was already on the north side of downtown. Then I looked at a map and saw that I was still 5 miles from the lake. Not wanting to add 10 miles to my ride, I scrapped that idea and will instead substitute views of the lake with lyrics from a great Canadian songwriter:

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams
The islands and bays are for sportsmen
And farther below, Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered

Scrapping a visit to Lake Ontario left me with a general idea that I wanted to proceed into downtown Rochester, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do or see there. So I asked the bartender and some patrons sitting near me. They suggested I take a trail along the Genesee River to Genesee Brew House. It was a good suggestion on both counts. The bike path afforded me a great view of Genesee Lower Falls and the river below.

It might not be Niagara, but even from where I was standing to take those photos I could feel the spray. As for Genesee Brewing, it’s quite something. It’s one of the rare craft breweries to actually date back to before the initial craft beer expansion of the 1980s. In fact, it originally dates to 1878. It closed during Prohibition but reopened immediately after repeal, and it somehow survived the beer industry consolidation of the mid-20th century. Besides Yuengling, you’d be hard pressed to find too many other craft breweries in the country with a story like that.

For the beer itself, Genesee still brews some recipes that have been essentially unchanged for 80+ years, but they also do more experimental beers. The people at Iron Tug recommended the grapefruit kölsch, and they steered me well. I enjoyed it so much on my flight that afterwards I ordered a full pint of it. It won’t knock your socks off, but it is one of the most refreshing beers you can hope to find on a hot summer day. (And if grapefruit isn’t your thing, might I recommend the lemon strawberry cream ale.) Oh, and my bartender was from southern Maine and was an alumna of Tufts, so it was nice to have someone to discuss New England stuff with.

Another recommendation of the people at Iron Tug was to go up to the roof deck at Genesee. Again, they didn’t steer me wrong. I don’t think I’ve been to many breweries with a view like this, which included taking in Genesee High Falls.

I was now three breweries into my day, but I had also heard really good things about Swiftwater Brewing, so I wanted to check it out before I left Rochester. It was another brewery that did not disappoint. They had a broad selection of beers, some of which were quite conservative and others of which were very bold. I tried a range, but my favorite by far was the boldest of all, the “Careful Man There’s A Beverage Here” blonde stout. Inspired by a White Russian, and with apologies to Jeff Bridges, it’s a pretty incredible beer with notes of coffee and vanilla that clocks in at 11.7%. The ABV was the only thing stopping me from ordering more of it! At a lower ABV was the key lime pie Berliner weisse. It paled in comparison to the blonde stout, but it was still quite good and I’d happily drink it again.

After that, it was just a matter of a final 12-mile ride to my hotel. I wanted to be a bit east of Rochester for the night so that I only have to bike 80 miles to Syracuse tomorrow rather than over 90. The finish is in sight!

Total distance: 75.8 miles
Average speed: 14.0 mph

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