by The Usual Gang of Idiots

The Commander here: Summer is slower and more relaxed in E’ville, as it should be. But slower and relaxed does not mean boring with nothing to do.

As you may recall, on my last summer hike to Ellicottville, I rode over with friends and trekked to John Harvard’s for a little beer sampling. This time we met in E’ville proper, right in the “flashing yellow light” heart of town. For me, the heart of Ellicottville is the Gin Mill, both because of its location and the atmosphere inside. The walls boast of its history, the floor of its longevity, the staff of its “welcome-ness.”

I was invited to meet up with The Usual Gang of Idiots (UGOI), so I brought my wife along for the ride and moral support — you see she has more morals.

Parking has always been easy for me. There is usually a spot close to where you want to be. If it is a busy time in town, you can usually find a space down by the post office or back of EBC. This time I found one right in front and met the gang sitting in the back dining area.

During ski season, the UGOI can be found sitting at one of the window seats — arguably the best seats in town — for an early Saturday lunch. So this was my first time sitting in the back. The back area is more kid friendly, which is good because we have been known to be a bit childish at times.

One reason, probably the most important reason, we choose the Gin Mill for our ski season lunches is the selection of draught beers. They can offer whatever they fancy and what they offer, we fancy. They have also been known to open the doors early for us when skiing was not so good and the beer sounded oh so much better.

Our server Bree (I can remember this name … it’s a kind of cheese and I like cheese), put beers in front of us. On this early summer weeknight, I started out with a Loose Cannon IPA that hit its mark. Bittersweet hoppy start, smooth middle, with a hoppy end. My wife, was rearranging the table and spilled her beer — and after a gasp from the crowd — Bree, one of the bartenders, and owner Ed rushed in for cleanup.

Our dinner started with a sampler appetizer. It offered a little bit of everything, from deep fried pickles to zucchini fries to more traditional onion rings. It was a perfect choice for our party. Then, I tried their everyday offering, French onion soup, and I can see why they offer it every day. It was fantastic! I have sampled many in the area and theirs is top shelf.

My wife and I split the Firecracker Burger, (beef patty, pepper jack cheese, tomato, lettuce and a spicy sauce) and signature Gin Mill fries. The burger was red, white and blue GOOD with a good jalapeno kick, but not overpowering. I hope they keep this on the menu year round — maybe call it the UGOI Burger. The fries were golden, seasoned and light. I finished my meal with a Smutty Nose Porter and had a nice conversation with the bartender.

Cranky Pants here: Once again, the Commander dragged me over to Ellicottville and forced me to have a good time. I also brought my wife, as I am not to go out unchaperoned. We walked into one of my favorite places in EVL, the Gin Mill. One of the main reasons I love the Gin Mill so much is its 24 different taps. Each one pours a unique and great beer.

Upon entering, I instantly recognized one of the bartenders. He is one of my co-workers from my day job — it was his first 15 minutes on the job and I had the honor of receiving his first pour. (He also had the honor of his first cleanup courtesy of Mrs. Commander.) I sipped a perfect glass of Loose Cannon from Heavy Seas Brewery in Halethorpe, Md. It’s a great beer that has six different kinds of hops that are added three different times during the brewing process. It’s an excellent IPA that’s bold enough to stand out with spicy foods, such as the Firecracker Burger, which I also had. As the Commander said, I wish they would make it part of their regular menu.

My second choice was Elder Betty brewed by Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington, Vt. It’s a Weiss-style ale brewed with elderberries. I’ve had Elder Betty before, but never on tap — it’s a much better beer on tap. The bitterness of the berries complements the hops and, being a wheat beer, it still stays light. I can see enjoying a few of these on a hot summer day, with a DD of course!

The Commander and I were off in Maine for a week to marry off his number two daughter and along the way, we sampled more than a few brews. Now, we’re back to continue our EVL adventures.