Breweries "Visited"

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Beer #21: Nebraska Brewing Co. or Goodbye and Good Riddance 2011, Go Eff Yourself

So everyone knows my Mom passed away this year.  Significant dates and holidays came and went since July and they were mostly bittersweet...until now.  The anticipation of 2011 finally ending makes my heart clench, takes my breath away, and my toes curl.  I've had rough years.  There was that year when every single one of our friends, cousins, neighbors and co-workers got engaged while I did not.  Ask Gary about that year.  I like to think about it as "The Year of Living Dangerously".  Beware of the next phone call or night out, it could send Marci into a lack-of-engagement-ring frenzy.  Amazingly that year is now behind us by twelve years.  Like I've said before, that man is a saint.  And my god, do I love him.

There was the year that I couldn't find a job to save my life and ended up getting stress induced migraines that were debilitating.  There were years that I lost grandparents or beloved pets.  But nothing like 2011.

So here I am struggling with some serious rage and sadness anticipating some champagne and wine with friends tonight and wondering exactly how I am going to do this.

Prior to posting edit: The answer is yoga and cooking like my life depends on it for four hours. There is something about butter, eggs, spices and a singular focus to...well...refocus me. So now I sit here ready to start my celebration of 2011's demise with Nebraska Brewing Company's Melange a Trois. It's a Strong Belgian Blonde Ale aged in French oak Chardonnay barrels. It comes in at 10% ABV and I'm torn as to how potent it tastes. It strikes me as surprisingly light, but there's definitely a kick. Gary will be sharing this one with me (it's a big bottle!) and I'll be curious to read his review.

It has a pretty vivid orange hue in my glass and poured with quite a head. It has a definite wine scent and I'd go so far as to say it drinks like a wine. It's dry like Chardonnay, but also tart, tangy/peppery. Do I like it? Yes. Do I love it? No. Stillwater Stateside Saison has it beat. I can still remember the taste of that one and I typically can't remember shit.

One final thought...I feel like there was a lot of loss in 2011 and there was for me. But there was also great joy and for that I am grateful. I'll elaborate further in future posts...I think this one is long enough. Happy New Year, people. Find a good beer, gather your loved ones and enjoy the ride. There is nothing better!

The Day When Giant Balls Drop

Beer# 21 Bengali Tiger/ Sixpoint Craft Ales, Brooklyn, NY
And so we come to the end.  Of 2011, not this blog or anything more drastic than that.  I'm not one for resolutions, so I'm heading into 2012 with the same list of things I want to do every year:
  • Do more for other people
  • Don't be so lazy
  • Run more/play basketball more/exercise more
  • Learn something new
If I'm managing to keep that list in check, I'll be doing okay in 2012.

The last beer of 2011 goes to Sixpoint, and we're going with their American IPA.  In the glass it has an orange-y copper color. Good example of what you get from an IPA, as this beer packs a floral aroma and a strong hop flavor.  Paired it with Mexican food; nice compliment to the spice of my dinner.  Haven't talked about the science behind beer here much with the exception of ABV, but I'll likely start mentioning IBU scores - a measure of bitterness within a beer.  When you hear someone talking about a very hoppy beer, the chances are the IBU score will be higher.  Bengali Tiger checks in with an IBU score of 66, an average score for an IPA.

Extra bonus: it comes in a 16oz can, so you can get the satisfaction of knocking back a pounder.... of great beer!  One of the interesting trends in craft beer has been the adoption of the can instead of a bottle.  First beer I've sampled on the list that arrived in a can, but certainly won't be the last.  Although it may be the only pounder on the list unless another craft brewery steps up their game a bit...

Thing to Think About Today:
Basketball + beer pong + PSU + Magic Johnson voice over + multi-angle cam =

I have no idea what this has to do with anything other than I was considering how the NYE parties of my youth have morphed into the quasi-mature gatherings of my 30's.  Oh, to be young again.  There are some days I wish we had digital cameras and social media when I was in college.  There are other days I'm extremely grateful there is limited video evidence of my youth. 

Best wishes for a safe and happy evening, and a prosperous 2012.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Woke Up Quick, At About Noon....

Beer # 20 Harvest From the Hood/ Philadelphia Brewing Co, Philadelphia PA
Inching towards the finish line on 2011, a year I'll be glad to have in the rearview mirror.  I'm an optimist, so I'm confident 2012 will be much better on many different fronts.  Right?  I mean, who expects the future to be worse?  The future is undefined, so we're allowed to paint whatever picture we choose.  I'm choosing to paint a sunny picture with balloons and puppy dogs.  Maybe even ice cream.

Enough with the painting!  I suck at art.

Today's beer is another local product.  Nice, refreshing hop taste without going overboard, and a rich amber color on this American Pale Ale.  Definitely will be drinking this again.  This beer is brewed in partnership with Greensgrow Farm, a leader in urban farming and education.  This urban garden is just a few blocks away from the brewery in Northeast Philadelphia - nice job making sustainable farming and brewing a reality.  The Philadelphia Brewing Co. brewery building dates back to 1885, when Weisbrod & Hess Oriental Brewing Company set up shop.  The brewery was closed 1939, and beer wasn't brewed on site again until PBC took over in 2001.  A relative newcomer on the scene, they also churn out solid offerings like Walt Wit, Rowhouse Red, and Newbold IPA.  Definitely worth a try.

Thing to Think About Today:
Most of my teenage years were spent in the 90's.  Which means in addition to my love of 80's comedies, I was also a huge fan of gangsta rap.  N.W.A. was a revelation; something completely different and unusual, even when compared to other rap music.  Although I had nothing in common with Cube, Dre, Ren, and Eazy, their music spoke to me anyway.  The minute I saw this beer, I thought of Boyz N The Hood, both the Eazy-E song and the John Singleton movie.  The iPod is rocking tonight, so I'll leave you with this combination of gangsta rap and what appears to be a typical day on the Main Line in this legendary Dynamite Hack cover:

"Little did he know I had a loaded 12 gauge/One sucker dead, LA Times front page."

Beer #20: Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber Lager

I just ate enough horseradish and wasabi to kill a rhino.  Here's hoping that my tastebuds are a hearty group of cells and don't fail me on my review of Flying Dog's Old Scratch amber lager.

Why did I pick this one?  One look at the label should explain it all.  What isn't shown in this picture is a quote from Hunter S. Thompson.  Dogs, gonzo journalism, the opportunity to consider Johnny Depp's acting skills...wait, what was I talking about?!?

Oh yeah, beer.  The very marrow of my existence for the next 350-odd days.  Old Scratch is good.  It's mellow, low ABV at 5.5% and just downright drinkable.  I would take this to my tailgate and enjoy it with friends.  It's got a good mix of flavors -- malt, a little bit of sweetness.  It's not going to challenge you, but it will hang out with you and enjoy a lazy Friday afternoon.

Once you're done reading here, go check out the story behind Flying Dog here.  It won't disappoint.

Until tomorrow, friends...when I wrap up Week 3 with Beer #21...what will it be? Will New Year's Eve play into the selection?  Be patient, grasshopper.  Hopefully good things are in store for us!

Update:  Big shout out to my little sister who is celebrating a birthday today!  Happy birthday, kiddo!  Keep on blogging.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

And to Drink... PERU.....!

Beer#19 Cusqueña/ Backus and Johnston, Lima, Peru
The title of this post comes from a scene from the absolutely classic film Better Off Dead, where the dingbat mom runs down the dinner menu for their French exchange student using her best/worst accent, "..Fronch fries and Fronch dressing and Fronch bread...and to drink.. Peru!" 

So let's have some Peru to drink, shall we?  We're heading straight to the Southern Hemisphere for today's beer, amigos.

When I sample the beer for the day, I like to jot down a few notes which I can expand on later.  Simple shorthand to get some of the key points down before I start blogging in earnest or writing about my day or what music I'm listening to.  I then head to the web to learn more about the beer/brewery.  Here are my first notes on Cusqueña:  "Basic, clean flavor, not very complex.  The Miller Genuine Draft of Peru?  Fun 11.2oz bottle."

When I went to the web to learn more, it turns out Cusqueña sort of is the MGD of Peru, as this brewery is owned by SABMiller, the British company that owns/produces... Miller beer.  Hey, more M&A in the beer world!  I guess this is a good thing, as without that global reach, would I really be drinking a beer from Peru?  The beer itself dates back to the turn of the 20th century, when it was originally produced by the Cervecerìa Cusqueña in the town of Cusco.  That brewery was bought by Backus and Johnston years back - their completely non-Peruvian brewery name comes from two German settlers who started a brewery in Peru in 1879.  A rich and interesting history, but I wish the beer had a bit more to offer than 'fun 11.2oz bottle'.

Thing to Think About Today:
Have been spending a lot of time lately on a project for a client in Chicago, and will be spending every waking hour over the next two weeks focused on wrapping it up.  There are a million great things about the Windy City, but the next time you're in town and looking for brunch, be sure to hit Wishbone for an amazing meal.  Two locations, fantastic food, great atmosphere.  Don't get there too early though: they can't start serving Bloody Marys until after 11am on Sunday.  Stupid rules. 

Bonus and totally related thing to think about when in Chicago: Marci believes one of the best Bloody Mary she's ever had came from the outdoor Park Cafe restaurant in Grant Park.  Keep this in mind, as she takes her Bloody Marys seriously.

Beer #19: Klokke Roeland or Proof I Have Freakishly Small Hands

When I wrote this, there were approximately five hours separating me from another four day weekend.  It's nice being able to kill one of those hours by spending lunch writing instead of stressing about work. 

Since I have dinner plans this evening, I'm tapping (ha!) into one of my reserve reviews from a recent visit to Teresa's Next Door in Wayne, Pennsylvania.  If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you know you can find me there entirely too often!  For the past two weeks or so, they've been pouring from Brouwerij van Steenberge (Belgium).  This is awesome because you can only get this one at a very limited number of bars in the U.S.  Gary sampled one of the other options and wrote about here.

Klokke Roeland is a whopper coming in at 11% ABV.  It's served in an oversized snifter that I needed two hands to grasp since the stem of the glass was made for Andre the Giant.  This beer is worth pursuing if you are a fan of Belgian strong dark ales.  It has a mighty head and beautiful darkened amber liquid.  It tastes of caramel and Belgian beer sugar.  It was warming but not overly sweet.  I noticed undertones of fruit but it was not at all fruity.  Good stuff.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Drink this beer NOW. NOW!!!

Beer #18 Bitter Monk/ Anchorage Brewing Co, Anchorage AK
There are definitely places on earth where great beer just seems to natually come from.  Obviously I'm fond of Belgium, but here in the States there are a ton of great breweries in places like Pennsylvania, Colorado, Michigan, California, and Oregon, to highlight a few.  And just maybe you can add Alaska to that list.  Alaska?

When you think of Alaska, you instantly think of salmon, grizzly bears, cold weather, reality shows about sketchy crab fishing boats, and amazing beer.  Mmmm... crab legs.  Wait, beer?  YES.

Allow me to introduce you to the Anchorage Brewing Company.  Based on a recommendation from a bartender at Teresa's Next Door, I tried the Bitter Monk, which is triple fermented - once in the tank, once in a chardonnay barrel (with Brettanomyces), and once in the bottle.  My uncultured palate probably can't taste the impact all of these stages make on the flavor; all I know is the finished product is damn spectacular.  Cloudy, golden color with an even mix of hop taste and sour citrus notes.  You can definitely taste the sour from the Brett throughout, along with some oak from the barrel aging.  Plus, the label features some creepy old Dungeons and Dragons guy; not the typical monk from the monastery but I'm not complaining.

A newcomer on the beer scene (their website says, "Official website coming soon"), Anchorage hasn't yet hit their first birthday and they're already making a huge name for themselves.  This beer is almost guaranteed a spot in my Top 25 ranking this year.  Don't take my word for it - Draft magazine named Bitter Monk as a Top 25 for 2011 as well.  If you're thinking about trying this brewery, also give thought to the Love Buzz Saison, another fantastic offering.  Can't wait to sample all of the wares from this new but impressive brewery.  Proof that great beer can come from just about anywhere.

Thing To Think About Today 
As I type, I'm listening to some Talking Heads, one of my all-time favorite bands.  An unusual mix of pop and punk, the Talking Heads were one of the most prominent bands of the 80s.  If you're like me and you grew up at the same time MTV did, you've definitely seen their quirky videos - I can't see a movie with John Goodman without thinking of Wild, Wild Life.  As I can't decide between songs, here's two from the Stop Making Sense concert movie, filmed in 1983.  A must see for any fans of great, cutting edge music.   I'll leave you with this:  I would kill a drifter to see this band re-unite for just one concert.  I mean it.

Attack of the Abominable Snow Hippo

Beer #18:  River Horse Brewing Co.'s Belgian Freeze

Today I'm going to tell you about my favorite animal.  No, it's not the dachshund in his natural habit:  

It's the hippopotamus -- the COOLEST MAMMAL EVER!  Why do I enjoy the hippopotamus -- or the river horse in translation -- so much?  One:  Who could argue with that face?  Especially when he's hanging in the river?

Two:  The hippo, despite its quite unwieldy size, can outpace a human for short distances.  So if you piss one off in the wild, you better hope that you have more stamina.

Three:  It was believed that they were so bad ass that they sweated blood.  Thankfully science has proven that they do not in fact sweat blood, but rather a natural oil that acts as germ protection as well as sun screen.  Heck I'd sign up for this feature if I could!  I spend a fortune on sunscreen.

Four:  Egyptians both feared and honored hippos.  Fear due to the hippo's tendency to hang out in the Nile River.  Honor as the hippo represented the goddess who protected women during childbirth.  Sadly I learned that hippos no longer roam the Nile River while I was visiting Egypt.  But hippo figures abound such as this one:

(courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
I would have preferred to use a photo from The Egyptian Museum in Cairo; however, Arab Spring must have taken down the website because I couldn't get the link to work.  This one is made of blue faience.  Faience is a glazed non-clay ceramic material or silica, composed of crushed quartz or sand, with small amounts of lime, and either natron or plant ash. Its main ingredient was quartz, obtained from sand, or crushed pebbles to which was added an alkali, a bit of lime and ground copper as colorant. When fired, the glaze turns brilliant blue.  Seeing it in person is amazing.  Something that is 2,000 - 3,000 years old should not be so brilliantly blue.  

So in honor of the hippopotamus, the river horse, my favorite mammal, I'm drinking a River Horse Belgian Freeze.  Hailing from Lambertville, New Jersey, this is one river horse that people won't fear.  Unless you get freaked out by crazy beer logos:
(courtesy of the River Horse Brewing Co. website)

The abominable snow hippo turned out to be satisfying on this cold night.  It's malty (go figure, it is me drinking after all!) and has hints of caramel.  I don't notice its spice as much as other Belgian-style ales.  Toward the end of the bottle, I kept getting a hint of something slightly sour...not bad sour, just odd.  I don't know what to make of that.  Sadly I only have one bottle and I can't compare quality between bottles.  Did I get a funky bottle?  Did the spicy brown mustard with dinner mess up my taste buds?  It's a mystery.

Until tomorrow and #19...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hair of the Dog. Fleas not welcome.

Beer #17 Ruth/Hair of the Dog Brewing Company, Portland OR
Getting to do some writing late in the evening, so I'll keep this brief.  For both of you reading this blog, I'm sure you're all terribly disappointed.

I'm a firm believer in the hair of the dog theory of managing hangovers (although thankfully not in need of it lately), so let's ride with a beer from a brewery that must think likewise.  Hair of the Dog is a relatively small brewery in Portland, and to be honest I wasn't familiar with their work before seeing a bottle on the shelf at Wegman's.  The beer is an American Pale Ale with a very light color, but brings a lot of flavor along.  Hoppy, but subdued.  Could see myself putting a few of these back at a tailgate, when you're trying to drink by volume, yet still get some good taste along the way.  After drinking some really unique Belgians (and Canada's beer of the Damned), this is definitely a less complex offering.

Thing to Think About Today:
This beer has me thinking about Portland today.  We're planning a West Coast trip next spring/summer which I'm already looking forward to.  Portland is a great city with top notch food and beer..... and incredible problem solving skills!

As an example of their creative thinking in action, let's see what happens when a giant whale washes up on the beachfront.  We send you to KATU Channel 2's coverage live (40 years ago) from the scene!

Beer #17: Howl Black Lager

The day of reckoning has arrived.  It's my last day of vacation.  You may wonder what joyous and relaxing ways I spent the day and I'll tell you.  I tidied up for the cleaning ladies who are coming tomorrow.  I also did some work.  I am just a barrel of fun, aren't I?

I also played Angry Birds like it was my job and started journaling again.  So there.  Part of the problem is that it is raining like it's the end of days and I felt more like nesting at home than venturing out in this monsoon.  I did manage to not crack a beer until 4pm.  I probably could have made it longer but I really wanted some cookies and needed something to drink with them.  Instead of eventually drinking a beer on a belly full of milk, I opted for cookies and beer.

Today's selection comes from Magic Hat Brewing Company.  I picked Howl Black Lager for a number of disparate reasons.  The label is fantastically creepy.  See photo for evidence.  There's something about the dark side that I find intriguing and if my beer can feed that need, then so be it.

My love/admiration/fascination with James Franco also played into today's selection.  Non sequitur, you say!  Not at all, I say.  James Franco starred in Howl, which is an experimental film about Allen Ginsberg's life and work.  If you're brave enough to screen this flick, don't come back and ask me if I do drugs.  I don't.  I'm just a fan of unique characters and the odd movie now and again.  Ok  more odd movies way more often than the average person.  Sue me.

I could write about my fixation with James Franco for long enough that I'd bore all eight of this blog's followers into abandoning me so instead I'll move onto my review of Howl.

Howl is a black lager.  It's one of Magic Hat's seasonal offerings.  It tastes of roasted, slightly smokey malt with a hop-induced bitterness at the end.  The bitterness doesn't linger.  I'm also noticing a more pronounced carbonation than I'm accustomed to for such a dark beer.

Despite rocking Rebecca Black's Friday on the iPod right now, I'm off to maintain my cultural integrity by reading the text of Howl and finishing this beer.

And if you have time, go try some of Magic Hat's other beers.  Among my favorites are #9 (easy to find in a bar), Circus Boy, and Vinyl.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Canada: Land of Mind Control Hockey and Flying Canoes

Beer #16 Maudite/ Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec, Canada
Last day of the "official" Christmas holiday, before it's back to work tomorrow for a busy year-end.  From our holiday weekend, allow me to recommend 30 Minutes or Less and Crazy Stupid Love.  Both great films, definitely worth the effort.  In all, its been a great past few days.  Hopefully these good vibes carry through New Year's and kicks off 2012 with some positive momentum.

Today's beer is our first Canadian offering, Maudite.  A Belgian Strong Ale with a nice amber color in the glass, and an excellent combination of sweet and malt flavors.  Citrus notes with spice, and a clean, crisp taste.  Excellent choice, and really interesting bottle art of some dudes riding a canoe through an eerie orange sky while a demon glares in the foreground.  My vision of a fun night, to be sure.  "Maudite" means "Damned", and the ancient legend behind the beer stems from lumberjacks in remote Canada who made a pact with the Devil to fly them back home at the holidays to visit their families.  As you can imagine, the flying canoe thing didn't end too well.  Should have probably went for Southwest airlines, where bags fly free.

Interesting note: yet another big beer M&A story, as Unibroue was bought by someone called Sleeman Brewery in '04, and then Sleeman was bought in '06 by Sapporo, a Japanese brewery.

Thing to Think About Today:
If we're thinking about Canada, we're thinking about the best movie ever made about Canada: Strange Brew.  What better movie to tie into a blog about a beer adventure, right?   I won't spoil the ending, but this film is the epic tale of the McKenzie brothers, two inept idiots who unwittingly uncover a mind-control scheme.... and hilarity ensues and a lot of beer is consumed along the way.  This scene won't make sense if you haven't already seen the movie, but watch it anwyay:

Take off, you hosers.  No use steering now.   Beauty.

Beer #16 Stillwater Stateside Saison

I ventured out to the King of Prussia mall today. What a nightmare. Are the sales really so important you'd run me into a parking garage pillar for that discount? Whatever.

I wised up and did what had to be done and then immediately headed over to Teresa's Cafe for some life affirming beers. I sampled a few but today I'll focus on Stillwater Ale's Stateside Saison.

It poured into my glass in an orange-golden color. It tasted strongly of the Chardonnay barrel in which it was aged. It had lots of subtle grape flavor throughout the tasting. The highly effervescent nature of this beer helped bring out the slightly grape-y flavors. It had a dry finish and I could have drank a few more.

After reading up on this brewer, I've learned he's a bit of a renegade. Stillwater doesn't seem to have a wide audience yet, but it's building a following. From what I've read Churchkey has a good offering of Stillwater and I know personally that Teresa's Next Door has a couple.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Beer #15: Lancaster Brewing's Winter Warmer or Jesus Christ, I'm Insanely Picky

I suppose I'm starting to compile a bunch of resolutions for New Year's Eve already because I've been spending A LOT of time recently noting that I am freakishly picky about things. I've stressed myself out over having the appropriate holiday or winter themed beer to review for this weekend. I have a very strong opinion on twist-style pens versus a pen with a cap. The correct answer is a pen with a cap and yes, my ridiculously sweet and thoughtful husband and I will be trading in the really beautiful but twist-style pen he bought for me tomorrow. The man is a saint. Seriously.

Maybe in 2012 I'll learn to relax a little. Who knows...

What I do know is that I picked a winner for today's beer: Lancaster Brewing Company's Winter Warmer. I'm learning that I like BIG beers with big ABVs. Maybe it's an efficiency or two and I'm feeling fine? Maybe it's an "I drank light, water-like swill in college and am making up for lost time" thing. Whatever the answer, I like this beer.

It's deep dark brown in my glass. It's sweet and roasted in my nose. I taste caramel, malt and it finishes with just a bit of bite.

Gary and I visited Lancaster Brewing Company this summer. If you are anywhere remotely nearby, please visit. The beer is amazing and the food did not disappoint. And the brewery has quite an interesting history that you can read here. When visiting places like Lancaster Brewing, I love to order the beer sampler. Great way to get to taste their wares. Let's just say it was a very good thing that I wasn't driving after experiencing their sampler:

Wow.  Just wow.

And on that note, merry happy holiday!

Closest thing to church today: Reverend Run

Beer# 15  Żywiec/ Browar Żywiec, Żywiec, Poland
Christmas has always been a fun holiday for me.  I have memories of coming downstairs to find a mountain of presents under the tree, spending time with family and friends, food, and laughter.  Our little tradition in recent years is to not leave the house on Christmas day, with the exception of going out to get Chinese food.  Christmas is hectic with shopping, wrapping, baking, parties, and travel, so we decided a few years back to keep one day where we just unwind by ourselves.  So far, we're off to a good start today: Marci made some apple cinnamon pancakes and I poured some Bloody Marys.  Looking forward to the rest of the day filled with beer, movies, General Tso, and relaxation.  On deck: Bridesmaids, Crazy Stupid Love, 30 Minutes or Less, and The Wire/Season 5/disc 1.

The beer today is Żywiec, a light tasting lager from Poland that brought a bit of hops along the way.  Taste of grass or grain but lacks a real punch, although the bottle sports a pretty sweet logo.  Beer giant Heineken now owns a stake in the brewery's operations, which likely helps their distribution.

Is this the best beer I'll drink this year?  No, but I still love it.  Żywiec has created a fond memory of spending Christmas Eve with my extended family (the Polish side, obviously) at my mom's house.  We're occasionally an odd bunch when we all get together, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Hopefully everyone is spending the weekend making lasting memories with their friends and loved ones as well.  Na Zdrowie!

Thing to Think About Today:
I don't even qualify this as a Christmas carol, because I listen to this song all year.  Christmas, as only Run-DMC can do it....

....and to all, a good night.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas is (almost) Here!!

Beer #14 Curieux/ Allagash Brewing Co, Portland, ME
Spending time with the family today, lots of laughs and story telling in store. Highlight for me is my nieces and our dogs pairing up - the girls are absolute animal lovers and they light up when they get to spend time with the hounds. Today's beer is another barrel aged ale, the Curieux from Allagash. Nice subtle oak flavor, just a hint of vanilla and some floral notes. Liking this one a lot. Would pick this over yesterday's offering due to the more subdued vanilla notes. Anything Allagash puts out is going to be great, so no surprise this one is delicious. Enough writing; time to enjoy the holiday.

Thing to Think About Today:
On Christmas Eve, it's a must that we go with the finest Christmas carol ever.  Everything else is a battle for second place.  I present without further delay: Bing Crosby and David Bowie's masterpiece:  Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.

Filmed in October of 1977 for a television special, this duet paired two diametrically opposed singers in the buttoned up Crosby and the buttoned down Bowie.  Regardless of their differences, they pulled this song off and created a beautiful moment.  Sadly, Bing Crosby would die just a month later before the special aired.  Should David Bowie ever show up at my house and ask to play the piano, we're definitely doing Panic in Detroit.

Peace on earth, goodwill to man.

Persimmon Trees and Kim Jong-il

Ever so casually at work last week, friends began discussing the phenomenon of Kim Jong-il looking at things. There's a blog dedicated to him looking at things. Seriously. Seriously? And yet I spent an inordinate amount of time looking at this blog. It's oddly fascinating. He looks at leaflets, fabric, sweaters, soft drinks, rice and so much more. Despite the many, many published photo ops, North Korea looks pretty bleak. So much for propaganda.

One highlight is the recently deceased admiring (can you call it admiring when he has the same flat look in all the photos?) a persimmon tree. Song broke out in my head and I invite you to experience it with me. Check it out here.

The juxtaposition of Kim Jong-il and the David Wax Museum is mind blowing. And you're welcome for the peek into the inner workings of my brain. It's an interesting place.

Today is Christmas Eve so what's more appropriate than a seasonal beer from Widmer? The Brrr seasonal is sweet in the nose, but very hoppy in taste - or at least very hoppy for me. It hits you with classic hoppy bitterness right in the back of the tongue. I guess that's satisfying for someone who's into that sort of thing. It's pretty friendly at 7.2% ABV. I got some citrus on further sampling and something spicy...maybe coriander?

I'll be celebrating the remainder of Christmas Eve with family and an Allagash Confluence. All signs point to me loving it...perhaps I'll report back later on how it goes. I guess that all depends on how much of my mother-in-law's boilo I drink!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lucky #13: 21st Amendment Fireside Chat

Remember those strange old days when beer in a can was passé?  Now it's all hip and cool in the can.  I bring this up because my journey to Wegman's gave me the opportunity to add a can to my six pack of single bottles.  Strange days indeed.

Why does my iPad take such shitty photos?
Today we're drinking 21st Amendment Fireside Chat.  This beer is definitely out of my norm - hoppy with clove and nutmeg and a lingering bitterness that I tend to associate with hops.  What drew me to this beer was the can's illustration of a very dapper Franklin Roosevelt sitting fireside with what looks like a brandy snifter but I'll lie to all of us and claim it to be a tulip glass of beer.  The website describes the beer as a Strong Ale with added spices and cocoa nibs.  I'm getting the Strong Ale flavor and the spices, but I'm missing out of the cocoa nibs.  I guess you can't win them all.

Sidebar:  The Breweries "Visited" section is getting out of control.  I'm thinking that section will become the 10 most recently sampled breweries with the complete list on its own page.  I'm also enthralled with the idea of saving all the cans and bottles we drink during this adventure for a final photo.  It's absurd, but so is this blog.

Christmas Eve Eve

Beer #12 Original/Innis & Gunn, Edinburgh, Scotland
Been chatting with a friend about bourbon today, which led me to think about something I wrote yesterday - no time to dream about gin.  I've come to realize that this beer adventure is going to put a serious dent in my consumption of gin, wine, bourbon, etc.  Not a bad thing, I suppose, as I'm committed to hitting 365* breweries this year.  However, I'm a well rounded imbiber, so I'm sure I'll add in some other drinks beyond beer to keep things fresh.  Besides, Total Wine is like Disneyland for adults, so I can't go too long without shopping there.

In the spirit of keeping things fresh, we'll change up from the Belgians for today's beer.  Had some time off this afternoon, so I opted for an Innis & Gunn Original, an oak aged ale. Nice copper color, strong whiff of vanilla as soon as you raise the glass, and that vanilla tastes carry through.  Maybe some toffee?  Maybe an iota too much vanilla?  Perhaps you'd prefer the spider graph's opinion for some science.  Anyway, the beer gives off hints of bourbon courtesy of the oak aging.  In fact, Innis & Gunn originally started brewing ale to use in flavoring barrels for a whiskey they were making.  As it turns out, the beer was pretty decent, so they decided to sell that too, and here we are.  Good solid pick for a cold winter's day.

Thing to Think About Today:
Started my morning off right by donating blood at a Red Cross drive.  Giving blood is a simple, painless, easy process that truly saves someone else's life.  I sincerely hope anyone who reads this blog will never need a transfusion, but if you or a loved one are in that position, keep in mind that the blood you will receive came from a donor somewhere.  At this time of year, people think about gifts.  Well, do everyone a favor and think about giving someone a gift that truly matters: the gift of life.  You'll be glad you did.

* - shout out to the comment giver that reminded us that we're in a leap year, and we can gun for 366.  Love it!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Dirty Dozen

Beer #12 Zinnebir/ Brasserie de la Senne, Brussels, Belgium
Too busy with year-end at work to think about much else today, but I did receive an awesome present from my team: a gift card to The Capital Grille.  SCORE.  I may be the easiest guy in the world to shop for: does it involve, eating, drinking, Penn State, or some combination of the three?  Then I'm going to love it, no doubt.  Safe bet I'm headed there for the steak au poivre in Courvoisier cream sauce, because why on earth wouldn't I order that?  I can also see a dry, dirty martini in my future.  Man cannot live on beer alone, or something like that.

But no time to dream about gin, as we have beer to talk about.  Another day, another Belgian, and after four Brouwerijs in a row, we hit a Brasserie.  Today's beer is Zinnebir, a Belgian Pale Ale with a light color.  You can taste grain with the first sip along with a hint of fruit, and it packs a welcome level of bitterness along the way.  At a manageable 6% ABV, I could easily see myself working through a number of these on any given night.  With all of the Belgian beers recently, I think I'm gradually learning how to speak Dutch.  Or French.  Or maybe both?  Although when I try to pronounce things, I end up sounding like the Swedish Chef.  Oh well.

Thing to Think About Today:
Think about sushi.  Dinner tonight was at the best sushi restaurant in the 'burbs, Blue Fin.  If you love sushi and live in the Philly suburbs, this is a must visit.  They recently moved to a new location, which is awesome, because previously they were in a strip mall that looked on the verge of being condemned.  Maybe they moved because it was condemned?  New place is much bigger, and they haven't lost their fastball - the sushi is as excellent as ever.  Hearing rumors that they were going to open up another post somewhere near Villanova... but I'm happy that they're at least in a location where the walls may not cave in on them.  I'll keep you posted.

Beer #12: Allagash Interlude

I could certainly live a life of leisure.  Mere words can't do justice to how much I'm enjoying having an entire week off.  I'm working out like a fiend, eating well, blogging mid afternoon (!), organizing the house...seriously.  If I didn't like having a paycheck so much, I'd quit my job.  Perhaps I'll start playing the lottery more.  

Today's beer is Allagash Interlude.  Two things influenced my selection of this particular Allagash.  

1.  The label tells me it's an ale aged in red wine barrels.  Win.
2.  It has Brettanomyces.  If you're curious enough to click that link, pay particular attention to the section on beer.  It lists a pretty fair number of my favorite beers.  I also like the description of what flavors Brettanomyces impart:  horse stable, bacon, spice, cloves, sweaty saddle, cheese.  Yes, please.  Win.

Gary once pointed out a beer while we were out noting, "Hey, order this. It claims to taste like a funky saddle."  And I did. I've also been swayed by a beer description citing stink, stank, stunk as characteristics.  Judge away, folks, judge away. 

Oh, wild ale, how I love thee.  In the glass it's surprisingly orange.  It reminded me of Beer #6 from Dogfish Head in looks.  In my nose, it smelled like funky red wine...Merlot or Syrah maybe?  Even before the first sip, I was anticipating the sour effervescence hitting my tongue and I was not disappointed.  At 9.5% ABV and sipping on a big bottle, I found a friend for the evening.   

Sidebar:  I make it a point not to read anything about the beer I've selected for the day until after I write my post.  I'm using this exercise to teach myself to taste in greater detail.  Imagine my delight when I just read the description of Interlude on Allagash's website and discovered that it is, in fact, aged in Merlot and Syrah wine barrels.  Win.  

Go get yourself a win and try some of Allagash's beers.  They tend to be big and bold and full of flavor.  Until tomorrow and lucky #13...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Can I get a ruling?

Beer #11: Grand Cru /Brouwerij Rodenbach, Roeselare, Belgium

I'm not a lawyer, but I've watched plenty of Law & Order.  And what we have here is clearly a question on the laws for my list of 365 beers from 365 breweries.  Grand Cru is made by Rodenbach and it is amazing, but hold that thought for a moment.  Rodenbach is in turn owned by Palm, a brewery that has been acquiring other Belgian brewers.  The concept of 'big brewer buys up a smaller brewer' happens all over the globe, as Anheuser-Busch recently acquired Goose Island, a solid craft brewer in Chicago.  Why all the acquisitions, you ask?  Easy - craft beer consumption was up 10% last year, despite the overall beer industry seeing a decrease in sales.  The beer giants of the world aren't stupid, so obviously they're going to shift their focus to markets displaying growth.  If this means awesome beer gets produced and distributed to a broader audience, then GREAT!  If it means accountants will manage breweries and optimize resource allocation rather than allowing master brewers to experiment and go for broke, then BOOOOO!

So... do I count this as my beer from Rodenbach?  Does this mean I've crossed Palm and all of their associated beers off the list?  Another Palm-via-acquisition beer is the Oude Gueze Boon, a lambic I'm rather fond of.

The ruling: I'm counting this as a Rodenbach beer only, as they continued to brew in their main site in Roeselare, rather than any other Palm facility.  However, I'll keep Oude Gueze Boon on the back burner and see if I can't find other breweries to highlight before hitting another Palm offspring.

Enough Law & Order for one episode, so let's talk actual beer, not just beer business.  The Grand Cru is a Flemish ale, also known as a sour ale.  And I am in love with sour ales these days.  Rich color with a  tart, fruit scent and taste.  Hint of cherry along the way.  A tasty enigma: light yet complex, all at once.  I wish I was better at articulating the various flavor notes, but just trust me on this one: if you're looking for something a bit different, look no further, as this beer is destined for my top 25.  No matter what corporation pocketed the money I paid for this bottle.

Thing to Think About Today:
Today is Joe Paterno's 85th birthday.  I never met my grandfathers; both had passed away before I was born.  Therefore, Joe is my de facto grandfather, and I learned rich life lessons from him on prioritizing academics, philanthropy, respect, and hard work.  Joe would be the first person to say he wasn't perfect, and he'd be right.  However, he's still done more for the university, his program, and his community than anyone before and anyone who will come after.  Happy birthday, Coach!!

Let's Talk Oud Bruin or #11 Right in the Choppers

Oud bruin. Flemish brown ale. Sour beer, if you must. Or as I like to call it...sweet Jesus, it's heaven in my glass.

I love sour beer. As in love it like a fat kid loves cake. My holy grail is Blue Sunday Sour, but I'm not writing about that one tonight because I cannot find it. Anywhere. And I look everywhere. That makes me kind of sad but not too sad that I can't find joy in this glass of Rodenbach Grand Cru.

Rich dark brown in the glass and vinegar in the nose. It hits your tongue with an oh-my-god-what-is-happening moment and that's when it sinks've tasted nirvana. It starts with cherry, then comes the tartness that pinches your tongue and it finishes dry. So dry that it's almost asking you to politely take another sip.

It makes me want to write in hyperbole, it's that good. But with 350+ beers to go, I'll show some least for now.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Plans, Beers, Jelly of the Month Club?

Beer #10 Trippel van de Garre/ Brouwerij van Steenberge, Ertvelde, Belgium
Looks like New Year's Eve plans are falling into place.  Can't share them, don't want you people stealing my ideas.

Getting down to business - today's choice is the Trippel van de Garre, a trippel that masterfully combines a yeast & fruit taste, comes in an awesome glass, and packs a 10.5% ABV.  Oh, and it is DELICIOUS.  Could make my top 25 beer list when all is said & done.  Not easy to find either - this is only served at a few bars in the world (Teresa's Next Door in Wayne, PA and Churchkey in DC, to name two in the US).  So elusive, I can't find any mention of it on the brewery's website, as they only brew it for a select bar, who has only recently decided to export it to America.  Or so the internet tells me.  Next level maneuver:  order this  at Teresa's and you get a little cup of cheese cubes, which is apparently how they serve it at de Garre, the bar this beer originates from in Bruges, Belgium.  Keeping it real!

Other great van Steenberge beers include Piraat and Gulden Draak.  But only one beer per brewery, folks.

Thing to Think about Today:
As I write this, Mele Kalikimaka by Bing Crosby comes on the iPod.  Great song, but can't hear it without immediately thinking of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  Sure, we just shared some 80's comedy clips, but there's no law that says I can't share another.  Headphones on if you're reading at work for some classic Clark Griswold.  That's the gift that keeps on giving the whole year!

Happy Hanukkah!

In celebration of the first night of Hanukkah, I've chosen He'Brew Genesis Ale.. I'll leave it up to your imagination to envision the sheer joy brought to me by Wegman's beer department when I spotted this beer knowing that Hanukkah was mere days away.

And finally the day is here for celebration and sampling. I won't lie. Based on the kitschy label and crazy website, I wasn't expecting much. But then today at lunch, I shared news of tonight's tasting and He'Brew got a great review. It's a light brown ale - akin to a Newcastle Brown Ale. It's smooth...not too much malt and not too much hop. There's some citrus flavor at first and it finishes slightly chocolatey. I could definitely drink a few of these.

In case you're wondering, I'm not Jewish. I'm just an equal opportunity imbiber. Here's to you, He' #10 of my adventure. L'Chaim!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Taste the Rainbow! Or, actually, don't bother.

Beer #9 Guido / Brouwerij de Regenboog, Brugge Belgium
Week starts with work (obviously), and ends with another holiday party and a stop at Teresa's Next Door for oysters & beer.   One more holiday party, then the actual holiday this weekend, and then..... the countdown to see how long our neighbor keeps her tree lit!!! Last year, the damn thing was not just up in their living room but also lit every night until some time in early summer.  I like Christmas as much as the next guy, but there are boundaries, people.  Mind them.

Moving on to today's beer - a bottle of Guido. Dark and malty, brewed with honey and raisins.  Pleasing aroma and nice color, but a somewhat smoky aftertaste. Needs more honey, perhaps.  Maybe less raisins?  And a whole lot less smoky, dirty ashtray taste.  Not a winner in my book.  Courtesy of the awesome feature in Google Chrome that translates Dutch to English, I discovered Regenboog means "rainbow".  I also discovered the beer was named after Guido Gazelle, a poet & priest.  Which is good, because I was afraid it had something to do with Jersey Shore...

Will likely cross off a few more Belgians I'm familiar with before heading back for some beers brewed in the USA.

Thing to Think About Today:
If you find yourself in Charlotte, NC - and let's face it, you certainly may - it would be a wasted trip without a stop at Dandelion Market for brunch on the weekend.  Nice beer list, and the roast beef sandwich is pretty awesome, but the reason you're there is for the self-serve Bloody Mary bar.  Ordinarily I feel the Bloody Mary bar is a scam: I'm paying for it, but you can't make it for me?  Really?  However, Dandelion Market steps up in a big way with a HUGE assortment of some well thought out fixin's.  A very, very generous vodka pour doesn't hurt either.  Kudos, Dandelion Market, for changing my opinion on the Bloody Mary bar.

Shit Happens

It's what you do next that matters. Tonight I lost a piece of pottery/tchotchke that I really loved. It belonged to my parents and was a million years old. I cried like a fool after finding it smashed to bits on the bathroom floor. Every time I lose something like this, it's like a muted version of my Mom dying all over again. Dramatic? Yes. Stupid? Yes. But I'm trying desperately to acknowledge these ridiculous responses to every day calamities and not allow myself to turn them into actual tragedies. Easier said typed than done.

Today we're drinking Belgian and this one even stumped one of my favorite bartenders. Tricky h, huh!

I couldn't find a website for Weissenoher Bonifatius Dunkel despite googling as if my life depended on it. This dunkel approached me with deep dark chestnut hues. It had no head (oh my!) and looked intimidating. Not to worry, it is surprisingly light. Upon first sips, it's sips, I found a hint of nuttiness. Then the chocolate settled in and I found happiness.

Until tomorrow and #10...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Beer #8: 't Gaverhopke Singing Blond

This blog was almost finished before it started tonight as I nearly choked to death on a deadly combination of spicy soup, a slightly too crisp sandwich wrap and beer. Beer in the nose is painful. So is choking.

A far better way to enjoy 't Gaverhopke Singing Blond Ale does not involve snorting it and I highly recommend drinking it. As I sipped it prior to dinner trying to discern the most notable flavors, I managed to drink almost half the bottle. I'm probably misusing sipping and should admit to gulping. Perhaps I should leave it at it's a great session beer. But per every definition of session beer I read, it mostly certainly is not. This one comes in at 9.8% ABV - nearly double the definition of session. Maybe it's just highly drinkable.

In the glass, it is a slightly cloudy golden liquid...a color I often associate with "Oh yeah, I'm going to like this." And on that note, I'm off to finish my beer and wonder why no one names beer after singing brunettes.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Decisions running through my head

Beer #8: Vicaris Generaal / Brouwerij Dilewyns, East Flanders, Belgium
Great day that started with a long walk by the river in Valley Forge. Only people out were some folks walking their dog - we brought Flash, but not the other two - and some dedicated runners.  Which made me realize I need to make a decision and make it fast: whether or not to sign up and run another 24 hour ultramathon next year.  Having run two 24 hour races in the past three years, it's time to put up or shut up for running one in 2012.  The upside is the race is an awesome adventure; running 50+ miles is something most sane people don't bother attempting.  The downside is the seemingly endless training. I love running, but I don't always love the amount of time I need to dedicate.  Plus, some of my fellow runners aren't running it this year, which is a downer.  Need to figure this out, and fast.

On to the beer.  Keeping with the Belgian theme (and I'll be spending a lot of time with Belgian beers this year), the next beer is another Belgian I wasn't familiar with, the Vicaris Generaal.  The beer has a reddish brown hue, and a rich, malty taste. The flavor is actually lighter than the dark color would imply.  Just a hint of sweetness, but nothing too overwhelming.  Plus, their logo is what appears to be a blue horse with a rocket pack.  Nice!  Very solid beer choice, and I feel like I'm back on track after yesterday's clunker.

Thing to Think About Today:
Caught the new Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows film - absolutely loved it.  Just as good as the last one, if not better.  Robert Downey Jr. & Jude Law nail their roles, as does the guy who also plays the British guy on Mad Men.  You know... him.  However, let's think back to an earlier time, when Robert Downey Jr was just on the cusp of stardom.  Back to School?  HILARIOUS.  Johnny Be Good?  SURE!  Weird Science?  YES!  How was he playing second banana to Anthony Michael Hall in not one, but two movies?  Damn the 80s were strange.

Well, at least I tried.

Beer #7: Jandrain-Jandrenouille IV Saison/ Brasserie de Jandrain-Jandrenouille, Jandrain-Jandrenouille, Belgium
I know what you're thinking: "this blog is totally the most awesome thing to ever happen to the internet!  But I wish the beer list was a bit more adventurous.  I mean, Victory?  Yards?  Brooklyn?  What's next, Yuengling?  Call me when they drink something not sold at the Wegman's in Malvern."

Consider it done.  You have any Jandrain-Jandrenouille in your fridge at home?  No?  Didn't think so.

Spent the afternoon at TJ's Everyday in Paoli, where they have 36 beers on draft and a wealth of other great options by the bottle.  Figured a farmhouse ale would be a nice, light & flavorful way to get the day started.   Eh... not entirely.  Tried a new beer that I've never sampled before from a brewery that I've never heard of before (as it turns out, the brewery is only 3 years old).  For a saison, it was fairly underwhelming.  It lacked any great flavor, really, and came off as slightly bitter but rather nondescript.  I was expecting a bit more, and it made me sad that I could have had something else for my hard earned dollar.  Such is the fate of the beer adventurer, I suppose.  Next time I want a saison, I'll grab a Saison Dupont instead.

Thing To Think About Today:
While sitting at the bar, we managed to catch a some college basketball on tv.  This is the first hoops I've seen from the young season (Temple vs. Texas).  I've been playing basketball since I was 8 or 9, and I still love the sport.  So, we'll leave you with maybe the best call from one of the best announcers ever, Bill Raftery.  Send it in, Jerome!  I love Gus Johnson, but Bill is old school at it's finest.

Saturday Afternoon Beers!

For Beer #7, I'm sampling from the selection at TJ's Everyday in Paoli (Pennsylvania). They have 36 beers on draft and much of it won't be found at your average bar.

I went with Kasteel Rouge. It reminds me of New Glarus Belgian Red, which is good because you can't get that one outside of Wisconsin.

The Kasteel is a brown ale infused with cherries. I'm not going to drink a lot of this one - it's pretty sweet. It's quite nice to look at in the glass...the color is awesome! Dark brown with hints of maroon when the light hits it right. It entices with cherry in the nose and is very, very smooth.

I would definitely recommend this one!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Escape from the week. And the mall if we're lucky...

Beer #6: Dortmunder Gold/ Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland OH
Spent too much time today following the progress of the perjury trial related to the PSU scandal.  I can't even begin to write about my thoughts on that - I'm furious about every single aspect of this mess.  FURIOUS.

You know who else is furious?  People doing their Christmas shopping at the King of Prussia Mall.  Stopped in over lunch today, and I swear people in the parking lot were on the verge of a knife fight over an empty space.  Trying to get out of there alive and back to work was like a scene from Escape from New York, except Snake Plissken at least got an awesome eye-patch and automatic weapons for his suicide mission.  People!  Relax and be nice to each other.  Two cranky old man posts in a row.... might be time for the weekend.

Kicked off Friday night by sampling Dortmunder Gold from Great Lakes, a nice golden lager.  Winner of a gold medal at the World Beer Championships, so they have that going for them, which is nice.  Good flavor, easy drinking.  Nice way to ease into a Friday night.  Other solid choices from Great Lakes include the Burning River IPA and the Edmund Fitzgerald porter.  I defy you to drink the porter and not sing the song by Gordon Lightfoot in your head.  The lake it is said never gives up her dead....

Thing to Think About Today:
Was thinking of some good restaurant recommendations to share, but there's NO way I can talk about Cleveland without also promoting their sensationally awesome tourism videos.  Fun Times in Cleveland Today and Fun Times In Cleveland Again.  If you haven't seen these, now's your time to shine.  Side Cleveland note: there used to be a tiny "brewpub" in Terminal A of the Cleveland Airport that sold nothing but hot dogs and Great Lakes beer.  What else do you need, right?  However, I heard rumors that it's closed... can I get a verification here?

Marci Rock is in the House!

In the slightly modified words of Ludacris:

It's Friday
Sticky, icky, icky
Sticky, icky, icky, icky

In the immortal words of LMFAO, I'm running through these halls like Drano!  At least in my mind, I'm in happy Friday mode.

But it is Friday at the end of a very long week and I am done, spent, toast, finished.  Time to kick back with Beer #6 -- Dogfish Head's Raison D'Etre.  And by #6, I mean the 6th beer in the 365 day brewery challenge.  If I make it to six beers tonight, someone needs to ask Gary to get video because I could very well end up dancing on the coffee table.  And that's not going to end well.  The coffee table was one of those build-it-yourself deals from Target purchased about 13 years ago.  There are days I fear that a strong sneeze may do it in.

Raison D'Etre is a deep mahogany ale brewed with Belgian beer sugars, green raisins and a sense of purpose.  It says so on the label!  Is it weird that I think I taste bleu cheese too?  Maybe it is today's diet of really old granola bars throwing off my taste buds.  Maybe my taste buds are as shot as my brain right now.    Please don't hold my slightly off-kilter taste buds against this beer.

There is something about Belgian beer sugar that just does it for me.  Of course, it also has great malt flavor so that may factor in as well.  I don't know what green raisins taste like but they are definitely working with the beer sugar and malt.

Other beers that I would recommend from Dogfish Head are Midas Touch and Festina Peche.  If Gary were writing this, he would be all over their IPAs.

I should have sampled Hellhound on My Ale and then drawn parallels to Flash (introduced last night).  Today Flash learned after 14 years that he could pull out the drawers and attempt to climb a "drawer ladder" to the counter.  Really, Flash?  You are 14.  Or at the very least, I'm too old for this shit.  Evidently the lure of baked goods and sriracha chex mix was too much for him.  Google sriracha chex mix.  Thank me after you make it and devour the entire bowl.

iTunes just shuffled to our wedding song...Wreckx-N-Effect's Rump Shaker.  Maybe I'll rally after all.  Until tomorrow and #7...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dear Asshole,

Beer #5: Unearthly Imperial IPA/ Southern Tier Brewing Co, Lakewood NY
The world is a disaster - I'm convinced of this.  There are a myriad number of reasons: global warming, unemployment, religious strife, wealth disparity, terrorism, Newt Gingrich, the Kardashians.  We're totally screwed, right?  

This notion of impending doom is particularly on my mind today courtesy of the asshat who decided to hit the side mirror on my car last weekend.  Checked in with dad, we're looking at $800 for parts + labor, as I can't just replace the cover, but rather need to replace the entire mirror assembly.  Can I afford it, sure, and I have insurance to reduce that number, but it's the principle.  Own up to what you do, good or bad.  Mess up?  Solve it, don't drive away like a coward.  Society works best when we don't smash my mirror and drive away.

I often say that I like dogs more than I like people.  I'm not kidding.  Dogs are loyal.  And honest.  If a dog hit my mirror, he'd pony up $800 worth of Milkbones and own up to what he did.  Unlike the dipshit human who smacked my car.  

Beyond the rage of forking over money to pay for someone else's mistake, I had a very good day.  Out with some co-workers I love for a happy hour.  Home for take-out + today's beer, an IPA from Southern Tier.  Much more of a hop bite than yesterday's selection, and I'm enjoying it.  Despite seeing it appear on shelves near me more frequently this year, it took me a while to try Southern Tier.  Once I tried their products, I haven't found one I don't like.  Did the graphics on their label keep me away?  Being called "Southern" despite being from upstate NY?  Don't know, don't care.  Glad I came around.

Thing to Think About Today:
It came up randomly on the iPod today, and it has put me in a better mood since hearing that I get to pay money to fix someone else being a dick.  Of course I'm talking about John Denver and The Muppets doing the 12 Days of Christmas.  Awesome, right?  Sure! However, that's not your thing to think about today.  Instead, I leave you with Ode to Joy performed by Beaker.  Beethoven's masterpiece?  Beaker's magnum opus?  Yes to both. Indubitably. 

Army of Dachshunds, represent!

He's a booze hound and a card shark!
Meet Flash.  He's 14 years old, acts like he's 2.  He's part dachshund with a bit of terrier and a touch of Satan.  And I love him. 

He is a lover and a curmudgeon.  He's aloof but needs to know where Gary and I are at any given point in time.  He'll give you the business and then give you some more.  He was also a notorious arm humper back in the day!

Tonight we're drinking Ithaca Beer Company's Excelsior! White Gold. It's a wheat ale that's a bit hoppy but mostly malty. I'd describe it as feisty on the palate - lots of great flavor. At 8% ABV, it's not for the faint of heart but tame compared to some of my favorites.

I really wish Wegman's had more variety from this brewer as I would love to try the Excelsior! Le Bleu or Old Habit. Maybe Santa reads my blog and will surprise me! I've also had Ithaca's Apricot Wheat. Tastes like heaven in the summer!

I have some work to do...I'm one glass in on a 750ml bottle.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Feeling grateful...

Tonight my team at work celebrated the holidays together at our annual holiday party. Sitting there, laughing, having great conversations and enjoying the company of friends, I was reminded just how lucky I am to work with these people. Some of us have been around for years - a decade in fact - and others mere months. But you would think we've known each other for far longer based on the laughter and good natured ribbing. It's so much easier to put in the blood, sweat and tears when you keep company like this!

I'm also grateful to hear from a friend, who I don't ever see. Sometimes the most random message means the most. I'm also grateful for my husband, who expands our music collection like it's his job. For example, my morning commute included:

Lou Reed Walk on the Wild Side
Mystical Shake Your Ass
Public Enemy
R.E.M. Sidewinder
Tribe Called Quest
Pearl Jam
Ludacris Move Bitch
The Killers Human

I think there was also some John Legend in there and a few other things that have fallen out of my head since this morning. Thanks, Bob, for keeping it interesting!

Tonight's beer was Yards Brewing Company's Brawler. I'm a malty kind of gal and most other choices were on the hoppy side. I chose well. Brawler goes down smooth and is easy on the ABV...really the definition of a session beer. This should be more people's go to beer.

Tell me, what are you grateful for?

How many sit-ups is that?

Beer #4: Philadelphia Pale Ale/ Yards Brewing Company, Philadelphia PA
Another day in December, another holiday party.  Like all Americans, this season challenges my waistline with baked goods, parties, and drinks.  The eating gets compounded with less sleep which leads to less desire to wake up and run in the morning.  Embarking on a beer challenge isn't exactly going to help my desire to not gain an extra ten (or fifteen) pounds this winter.

The average beer has about 150-200 calories per 12oz serving.  That number tends to go up significantly for beers with higher alcohol content, and let's face it: I often have more than 12 ounces per day and they're often strong.  Round that number up to 300 calories per day and some quick math suggests that over the year, I'll be adding over 109,500 calories to my diet through beer alone.  Probably waaaay more.  

So I was already going to consume a bunch of beer throughout the year, but damn: 100,000+ calories sounds like a BIG number.  Sounds like motivation to get up and run tomorrow morning, regardless of how tired I might feel.  Sigh.

Tonight's function was at a bar with some decent local brews on draft, so I chose a pale ale from Yards Brewing Company.  Nice pale ale that could be a bit hoppier for my taste, but definitely a solid choice.  I actually prefer their Extra Special Ale, if given my druthers.  Marci was at a separate function, and curiously enough also chose a Yards beer.  Clearly a demonstration of our telepathic connection.

Thing to Think About Today:
I'll be pulling a pair of these bad boys on tomorrow morning to try and wipe a few hundred calories off the ledger: a pair of Vizi-Pro orange Saucony ProGrid Triumph 8s.  Mildly overweight guy in day-glo orange shoes?  Aw, yeah.  If you're in the market for a neutral cushioned, plush yet responsive running shoe, look no further. Get a pair in neon orange and easily shave a minute or two off your pace.  Might burn a few extra calories in the process....

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Beer #3 Sorachi Ace/ Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn NY
Day three.  Still alive.  Fridge still stocked.

In an otherwise quiet day, I'll pause to share my beer preferences.  Easy enough - does the description of the beer have the words "coffee", "burnt", or "toasted" involved?  Then I probably don't like it.  Everything else is good to go, although I lean towards the hoppy, malty, or sour.  Wasn't always this way.  Last winter, I tried to drink my way through a bout with the flu by stealing all of Marci's good stouts from the fridge.  Great idea in theory.  Until I realized that it was only making me feel worse, leaving Marci with a collection of half-drank stouts/porters and leaving me with a strong dislike for beers that taste like toasted, burnt coffee.  I know I'm missing out on some great beers, and every now and again I break the rule and order one.  Just can't get back on board, though.

Day three brings us the opposite of toasted, burnt coffee: the Sorachi Ace, a unique, bottle conditioned beer from the folks at Brooklyn Brewery.  Brooklyn is a favorite of ours, as our fridge has been home to their varieties such as Local 1 & Local 2 (can never remember which is which), Brown Ale, East India Pale Ale, Summer Ale, etc. etc.  Their Sorachi Ace is a classic Saison farmhouse ale, with hints of lemon and a smooth & dry finish.  Originally brewed in a French-speaking region of Belgium, Saisons are traditionally thought of as summer beers due to their light texture and how easy they are to drink.  Obviously, I'm drinking this in December, so I don't really care about that shit.  The interesting name comes from a hybrid hop first developed in 1988 in Japan, and the brewery uses a single farm in Oregon to source the hops for this lovely brew.  Consider that your odd fact for the day, and drink one of these when you get a chance.

Thing to Think About Today:
After dinner (pizza) and blogging, the evening will conclude with a watching of Horrible Bosses. It co-stars Charlie Day, better known (?) for his portrayal of the demented Charlie Kelly on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  I use demented in the most reverential way possible; this show is one of the funniest things I've ever come across.  To celebrate, I share one of the most unusual yet hilarious 90 second scenes in the history of this program - the birth of Dayman.  I could explain what's happening here, but I won't.  Just watch the show.  Trust me.

The Bee's Knees

I had no idea that phrase was British in origin until I Googled it to determine whether the said bee was plural or possessive. Yes, I am a nerd like that. (Sidebar: I also got in a *HEATED* debate first thing this morning about the possibility that at one point in time, two snowflakes were in fact identical. After quoting many facts about size and shape of dust particles, exponential possibilities of cloud height and formation, temperature and humidity variables and the gazillion possible combinations of these factors, I gave in by ceding it could be possible. I also mentioned that monkeys could fly out of my butt.) But I digress...

Tonight's beer is an ale brought to us by Fuller's Griffin Brewery. The organic Honey Dew is brewed with honey and it is delicious. It's a full-bodied ale with a strong but not overpowering scent of honey. The honey flavor is light and gives this ale an interesting twist. I wouldn't call myself a huge fan of ales, but this is one I never pass up.

Bees have had a tough run lately (read about it here). Let's hope those bees make it because Fuller's needs them.

I'm off to watch Horrible Bosses and enjoy the rest of this bottle.

p.s. Big shout out to Wegman's tonight. We just restocked our beer shelf for the next few nights and I still feel like a fat kid in the candy store every time I visit the beer section! Sheer happiness!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Short trip for beer #2

Beer #2: V-12/ Victory Brewing Company, Downingtown PA
Upon hearing of this adventure, someone asked me if 365 different breweries even existed in the world.  In need of readers, I answered, "Read and find out!"  On the surface, that isn't a bad question when most people have only ever sampled from a dozen or two.  Most people only know mass producers like Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, or national brewers like Samuel Adams.  Maybe Heineken and Guinness and Amstel Lite (even though it's made by Heineken these days).  You get the point.

However, if you're willing to experiment, there's an entire universe of small (and not so small) craft brewers out there making some wonderful, exciting, delicious beers. We're lucky enough to have one of them in our backyard - Victory Brewing Company.  Okay, so it's 16.9 miles away.  Practically in our backyard.

Brewing since 1996, Victory cranks out some impressive offerings now available from coast to coast, and some great food at the brewpub as well.  For today's selection, I chose the V-12, a Belgian ale that manages to blend a crisp finish with a fruit taste along the way.  And the name?  An overt homage to horsepower: this tasty beer checks in at a sizable 12% alcohol by volume (ABV).  For the uninitiated, your can of Miller High Life is around 4.8% ABV.  Wine lives in the same neighborhood as the V-12.

Beware.  A delicious, easy drinking beer that can absolutely send you to bed early.  But that's the fun of experimenting with beers, no?

Thing to Think About Today:
When in Nashville, TN your trip cannot be considered complete without a visit to the Pancake Pantry on the West End (  You'll wait in line, outside, possibly for up to an hour.  Maybe more.  However, it will be 100% without a doubt worth it.  Get the Grill Cook's Medley, and hell yes ask for two pancakes on the side.

Day 2: Breckenridge Brewery

On the second day she drank porter. Vanilla porter from Breckenridge Brewery to be exact. It's effervescent, chocolatey and surprisingly light given its dark complex color. I love being surprised by the scent of my beer. This one smells of rich vanilla. Not cloying but organic...exactly what I want to relax with after working for 12 hours today.

I took an ok shot of my beer but I don't know how to use my iPad yet so no photo for you!

Check out what Breckenridge Brewery has to say about it.

Also if you ever find yourself near Breckenridge, do yourself a favor and visit this brewery. Their beer sampler is not for the faint of heart. It's only outdone by Tommyknocker Brewery. Another go to if you're traveling in that part of the country. Because why wouldn't you want to tour around and see one of the most beautiful places on earth while sampling some very awesome beer?

On an odd note, I'm surprised it goes so well with my dinner of cheesy eggs.

Until tomorrow...cheers!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In the Beginning

In the beginning, there was this:
A joint project where a married couple would spend the next 365 days blogging about beer, life, food, film, beer, music, sports, books, beer, dogs, beer, and whatever else crosses our path. But really, beer. An entire year’s worth, as a matter of fact. The challenge is this: to drink 365 different beers from 365 different breweries over 365 days. And to survive along the way. Now, some background: Marci and I are both undergoing the challenge, so we don’t need to each drink the same beer or the same brewery. So, mathematically, you might see us talk about 730 beers or breweries (although likely not). Beers we drink must be commercially available to get on the list. It’s cool that you brew an awesome home beer with eggnog and lighter fluid, but it’s not getting on the list (apologies). If you’re looking for an in-depth description of the flavor profile or the underlying notes or whatever, you’ve come to the wrong place. Check or some other site for that sort of thing. This is more of an explanation of beer at the intersection of life, my day, what I’m thinking about, and whatever else ends up on these pages. Be flexible. Go along for the ride.

On with the show.

Beer #1: Resurrection/The Brewer’s Art, Baltimore MD
The idea came for this project came during a dark period. My mother-in-law, Louise, was terminally ill and we were making near daily runs down to Manassas, VA to see her before she passed. Leaving our home in the suburbs of Philly, we stopped in Baltimore at The Brewer’s Art, a great restaurant/brewery/bar in the Mount Vernon neighborhood. The seed for the idea came from a friend who has completed “beer adventures” in the past: A beer from all 50 states, 365 different beers in a year. As we couldn’t just totally rip him off (thanks, Pat!), we went next level: 365 different breweries in a year. While we talked that night, Marci and I enjoyed more than one of the house beers along with some fantastic food, and for a brief period of time, we found an oasis of peace and laughter in an otherwise truly miserable experience. The best beer that night was Resurrection, and we bought some take-out to enjoy at home. An abbey-style ale, there’s a sweet and malty taste that goes down easy. If you're ever in Baltimore, you need to stop here and drink this beer.

If I lived a block away, I’d drink at The Brewer’s Art all the time and meet tons of interesting and good looking people. And I’d be happy.

Ironic, in a small way - in the midst of losing a loved one, there was a Resurrection. And it was good.

Thing to think about today:
In this space, I’ll share something to think about each day. It will be completely random, but completely worth your time. Trust me. Today, I’m going with “For the Price of a Cup of Tea” by Belle and Sebastian. If this song doesn’t put you in a good mood to start a year of drinking beer and writing, I’m not sure what will. Thank me later.