Wednesday, January 1, 2014

An Interesting Year of Beer in 2013....looking forward to 2014

I've had a great year of beer.  Not that anyone could really have a bad year of beer.  I've been particularly pleased with the beers I've had.  I've made a lot of new internet beer friends through various online communities (Instagram, Beer Advocate, Twitter, etc.).  I've tried beers in 2013 that at the beginning of the year I never imagined I would get the chance to try.  Beers like Cantillon Fou Foune (thanks Jake and Rob), Founders Blushing Monk (thanks Russ), The Bruery Chocolate Rain (thanks Russ), The Alchemist Luscious (thanks Rob), and many others thanks to the many friends I've been fortunate to share beers with.

I had a great Dark Lord Day.  Probably my favorite story from that day was my Chocolate Rain story that my buddy Parker reminded me of the other day.  He wasn't there, but he's heard me tell the story.  The Bruery Chocolate Rain was on my list of beers that I wanted to experience in 2013.  I mean, there really isn't an official written list.  It's more just a few things in mind that would be nice to try.  The beer is difficult to get and it's supposed to be pretty good.  At Dark Lord Day you get to experience sharing many awesome beers with people throughout the day.  All in all I tried over 50 beers that day.  I was white girl wasted at the end.  After drinking all day, with no Chocolate Rain in sight, I exited the venue with my little sister.  On our walk back to the car I happened to look at the line of fallen soldiers on the ground.  Beers that were consumed and shared in the line and the empty bottles lay in a long row signifying their contribution to the day.  There it was.  A bottle of Chocolate Rain.  On the ground.  Baked in the sun.  I pick up the bottle.  I examine it.  There seemed to be maybe half a sip left in the bottle.  I took it to the dome.

I got yelled at by drive thru liquor store employee in Ohio.  When I say yelled at, I literally mean the guy screamed at me and cursed me out.  You can read about it here.  If you haven't read that post, it's definitely worth the read.  

I had incredible bottle shares with a plethora of great people.  Traded beer with great people.  Given beer to great people.  As a result I feel like I've made many new friends.  Stewards of craft beer.  Genuinely good people, with whom I look forward to spending more time in the coming year.  

I'm not going to go into any lists or anything like that.  There are many out there already.  I've just had a great year.

But I also want change.

I want certain things to get out of craft beer.  There is a certain elitist attitude that I see way to frequently.  Craft beer isn't about how many more Instagram followers you can get than I have.  It's not a "My saturday night is better than yours" kind of place.  It's not about trying to amass the most untappd badges and beating everyone else in the amount of unique beers you check-in to.  Be grateful.  Be humble.  Be supportive of each other.  I recently heard a story of someone who sent beers to another person.  The other person was miffed because the guy sent an Against the Grain Bo and Luke and called it a "shelf-turd".  Seriously?  You were given beer.  There is no place in craft beer for that kind of my opinion.  These are the kinds of attitudes that I would like to see disappear.  Replaced with more encouragement and support.  Encouragement and support are foundational pieces that facilitate growth in the craft beer movement. 

I'd like to see more blogs that are worth reading.  Hoosier Beer Geek gets it right.  They are professional, knowledgeable, educational, witty, and incredibly helpful.  There are way too many blogs out there that put out blatantly incorrect information and are written with the spelling and grammar of a third grade student.  It's sickening.  Too many people want a piece of the revolution and they neglect the things that are required to be taken seriously as writers.  Which is also a problem...they aren't writers.  Hell I'm not a writer.  I can say, though, that I generally have a handle on spelling and grammar...and before I put out information I sure as hell will research the topic so I can write responsibly.

I have a blog.  But I know and accept my place.  My writing isn't going to start a revolution.  I'm not writing to make it big and get noticed by breweries or distributors.  I write about stuff because it's fun.  I started this blog to pass along information and document my beer experiences.  Expressing opinions and sharing ideas is exciting to me.  It's nice to have people that read it, but I would do it if I had zero readers.  Would I like to write for a well established group?  Sure.  But HBG isn't knocking down my door and I don't know if I want to do the work required to contribute to something else.  I barely get out one measly post a month for myself.  There are other blogs out there, but none seem to quite fit my style or vision.  Which is perfectly fine.  And I do need to consider that maybe bringing my style and vision to an existing group that is different than I could actually be a good thing for my own personal growth. 

More important than blogs, I want to enjoy beer and talk about beer with my current group of beer friends and meet new people who share the passion we all have.  I truly believe the best thing for craft beer is conversation.  The more conversation we have the more unified we become as a group.  This grows the community.  And it's just a shitload of fun.  I honestly get more out of conversation with others than I do any single blog post.

I want more exceptional Indiana beer.  The harsh reality is that there is a lot of mediocre beer made by Indiana breweries.  There just isn't a whole lot of creativity.  The most creative brewery around here is Flat 12, and they aren't afraid to swing and miss on a beer.  I love that approach.  Though they rarely miss.  There are a lot of good breweries out there, but not many that set themselves apart from the pack with a unique identity. If you are gonna roll out your brand by pushing an IPA, it better knock peoples socks off because there are so many IPA's out there that are mirror images of each other and lack that "wow" factor that is critical to make a splash.  With breweries like Fat Heads, Oskar Blues, and others recently entering the Indiana market, new Indiana breweries need to make beers that are going to be on par with the quality those others demonstrate.  It's all about the beer.  Not your marketing or your tweets.  If you don't have the product, it's not going to make it.  Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable and are wanting more out of their beer.

I want a place like Iechyd Da to be in Indianapolis...and we just don't have that here.  If you've never been there, it's a trip worth making.  Incredible food and great beers.  There is a reason they were voted the best brewpub in Indiana by the readers of Hoosier Beer Geek.   Black Acre is close.  As is the Broad Ripple Brewpub, which for some reason is overlooked by people here.  It's a classic brewpub.   In fact, I love the Broad Ripple brewpub.  It's a classic English style pub with great food, perfect atmosphere, and solid beers that aren't pretending to be something bigger and bolder than they are. 

Despite some of my criticisms, I am actually excited and eager to see what happens in this state in 2014.  My pipe dream is that breweries like Firestone Walker, Cigar City, Ballast Point, and Odell get their beers to our state this year...or at least state intention to do so.  I am thrilled to see the growth of craft beer in this state and am hopeful that all of the 35+ breweries planning to open will be successful and continue to grow the reputation of Indiana beer.

What do you look forward to this year regarding beer?  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Just a quick little post brought to you by an average Tuesday evening at my house. I have dabbled in photography for a long time. I am certainly not a professional. Still, I do enjoy breaking out the DSLR and snapping some quality photographs every once in a while. Tonight I felt compelled to capture my two favorite Flat 12 brews. Walkabout Pale Ale and Half Cycle IPA. Then I thought I might as well grab a shot of Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee. All three beer dominate in their own way. After consumption I feel like I need to restock on Walkabout. Good thing I will be visiting the brewery Thursday.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Bourbon County Madness

Where were you on Black Friday this year?  If you are a crazy beer geek....chances are you were stalking one or several of your local liquor stores trying to get some of this years Goose Island Bourbon County Stouts.  This year, Goose Island put out their standard Bourbon County Stout (BCS) along with variants such as Barleywine, Coffee, and Backyard Rye...which is aged in Rye Whiskey Barrels with Marionberries, Mulberries, and Boysenberries.

Additionally, if you live in Chicago, there is also a "Proprietors" version that's made with toasted Coconut.  Seriously.  This is the kind of release that gives beer geeks from all over the country a major wallop of blue balls.

I was out of town for Black Friday this year.  In an area of Indiana that doesn't see much of this type of crazy release.  My local shop, the one I've been giving my business to for the last 7 years, decided to host a one day event where they would sell everything they have....well, sort of....I mean they did hold some back for their sweet little raffle.  So that does give people like me a chance to get some from them.

A larger issue.  Many people complain that because ABInbev took over Goose Island that the quality of beer would decrease.  Admittedly, I was one of those people.  I had concerns.  Turns out I was dead wrong.  The ABInbev buyout has made Bourbon County Brand Stout available nationwide.  No way we can complain about that.  Ever.

This release has made the beer world crazy.  People who "hoard" these bottles are crucified for their loot.  People who post photos like these are crushed by the zillions of beer geeks who couldn't get their hands on as much of these limited releases as they would have liked:

The topic of hoarding is tough.  The name of the beer game is advocacy.  Are you truly an "advocate" if you get yourself a couple cases of the coconut BCS that is ridiculously limited?  To me, the answer lies in what you do with your bottles.  Personally, if you are willing to do the work required to get yourself 2 cases of Coconut....I say good for you.  Certainly, the people who fit this description generally do the beer community a favor by sharing these beers with friends and trading partners.  If you hoard and drink everything you have, I cannot in good faith call you an advocate of beer.  But I also have no right to bitch about it.  You did the work.   They are your beers.  They are yours to do with what you choose.  Are you gonna lose sleep over me saying you aren't an advocate of beer?  Probably not.  Does that matter?  Probably not.  In doesn't matter whatsoever.

Point is.  The beer community is loaded with butthurt.  It's honestly embarrassing at times.  We all see these photos of people on Instagram or Twitter who have loaded up on a special release of a beer.  Instead of butthurt, why can't we just be happy and supportive of people who have done whatever they can to get these beers.  Are they not supporting craft beer by buying what they can?  The vast majority of the people who get a massive stock of these beers end up sharing and trading to others who may have missed out.  Why do we get bent over this?  We end up chastising people who actually do a lot of good for the community.

Bourbon County Coffee is, admittedly, my favorite beer.  Hands down.  There are others that are in my top 5-10 of beers of all time, but Bourbon County Coffee is the beer I would choose to be stranded on a desert island with if I could only choose 1 beer.  So my favorite beer of all time is released once a year.  Am I a bad person for doing whatever I can to get as much of my favorite nectar as possible?  According to many beer geeks I would be.  Which is a shame.  Particularly because I give so much beer to other people. Yes.  By the time I have collected all the Bourbon County Coffee I have acquired I will have totaled about 2 cases of it.  Will I drink all of that?  Definitely not.  Buddies who got shut out, friends, family....they will be given some of the bottles I have worked hard to acquire.  Because I want them to know and experience my favorite craft beer.  GIVEN.  Not asked for anything in return.  Just given.  If I'm a bad person for that.  So be it.

Beer to me is about sharing and enjoying.  I think a lot of people take it a lot more seriously than that.  And for that I think they miss the point.  BTW, you can count on me using Untappd to check in to every Bourbon County Coffee I drink.  Sorry if that gets your panties in a bunch ;-)

Now, if you will excuse me.....I have a Bourbon County Coffee chilling that's probably ready for consumption.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Oh Macnivens

The life of a beer drinking father of two can be rough. It's hard to get out. Visiting favorite establishments seems like a chore most days. Every once in a while you get a bone thrown your way. Today is that day. 

Today my work schedule affords me a day off. With several home projects done, there is time to sneak away for a pint. A local bar, Macnivens, advertised tapping Three Floyds Zombie Dust last night and so I ventured down for a pint...or two. 

It's nice to be reminded of the gloriousness that is Macnivens. 24 lines and a hand pull. All filled with a phenomenal variety of local, regional, and specialty craft beers. 

I only get get here a handful of times per year, mostly because of circumstance. But I Love this bar. Classic in design. Loaded with character. Bar staff incredibly friendly and helpful. And the scotch eggs are the best in the city. 

Today they pour Zombie Dust, among others. Been several months since my last draft ZD. Generous 20oz pours and some fries with a taste of Sun King Wet Dream, a citra hopped IPA I am told.  A great start to my afternoon. 

If you have the opportunity, visit this fantastic bar and restaurant on mass ave. You will love it. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My First Drive-Thru Liquor Store Experience....

So my wife and I decided to take our boys to Columbus, Ohio for the weekend to celebrate my oldest childs 4th birthday.  He loves animals and we had heard great things about the zoo and aquarium in Columbus.  The drive to Columbus was quite an adventure.  Screaming and whining children consumed a vast majority of the less than 3 hour drive.  Halfway through the trip I mentioned that we left our beer at home and my wife commented that "we didn't plan this very well".  Truth be told, I had planned on not drinking much, if at all, while on this mini-trip.

Upon arrival in Dublin, a suburb of Columbus, I started researching area shops where I could maybe pick up some bottles to share with my wife on saturday night....once the kids were in bed.  I found a few places and decided that after we visited the zoo and aquarium, I would make a quick trip out to get a sixer or two and come back to the hotel.

If you haven't been to the Columbus Zoo, I highly recommend it.  What a fabulous zoo.  But afterwards, I was ready for a beer or two.  So I dropped the fam off at the hotel and went out on a mini-hunt.  I was quite strapped for time, so I only planned on hitting a couple spots.  Sawmill Beverage and Liquor and PJ's Drive Thru.  Sawmill was first, closest, and I hoped would satisfy the need.  However, upon arrival, I found the selection of craft and local beers quite underwhelming.  Only about 2 cooler doors full of craft and nothing all that interesting.

So I bolt quickly and head to PJ's.  Now, let me preface this story by admitting that I know absolutely squat about drive-thru liquor stores.  Having never been to one, it seemed cool to try out, but also a little strange in that I am the type of shopper who likes to browse a bit before buying...especially when I am in a different state.  So I arrive.  As I pull into the parking lot, I notice a couple things immediately.  First, there are many parking spots right in front of the building...which leads me to believe that I can park there.  Second, I see the coolers where all the beer is stored and there is a small path in front, which leads me to believe that I might be able to walk in.  Third, I notice a sign outside the building which indicates "NO ROLLERBLADING OR SKATEBOARDING ALLOWED".  Great.  It doesn't say anything about walking into the store.  That must be allowed...right?

So I park.  I am thinking to myself "I will just browse the selection, find what I might want, and get back in my car and do the drive-thru thing".  The last thing I wanted to do was to have the traffic of the store held up because I wasn't ready to place an order.  So I walk up to the store, right past the attendant, and start looking at the coolers.  Some decent stuff...I have a few interests.  I was browsing for at least 3 minutes outside the cooler when I notice a cooler door.  The door says nothing about employees only, so I walk in to the cooler.  I am in the back and I find 2 sixers of Jackie O's beers.  Amazing.  This is exactly something I would be looking for.  I was in the cooler for about 20 seconds, saw the Jackie O's and I begin to think "great, I'll go get in my car, drive thru and order those sixers" and as I take my first step toward the cooler the door, the attendant of the store storms in and starts screaming at me to...and I quote...."GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY STORE".  He screams at me.  And by screaming I mean screaming.  Now I immediately say "Ok".  I start to try and politely apologize and the screaming just continues.  I mean rage screaming here, and I'm not exaggerating, I wish I were.  He continues to say that I need to get the F out of his store.  As I am exiting the cooler I try to explain to him that I am not from this state and I didn't know how these shops worked.  The screaming's clear that this guy won't even listen to me...despite how polite I am being.  In a last ditch effort, I ask him if I can please drive-thru and buy beer from him, apologizing again...and I'm told "FUCK OFF".

This was a first for me.  I've never been kicked out of a liquor store.  I've learned that maybe not all drive-thru liquor stores are like this.  Most allow customers to browse around.  Regardless, I was quite shocked by the whole ordeal.  And sadly, I walked away without those sixers of Jackie O's...which stung the most out of this whole thing.

In the end I managed to get some Uinta Hop Notch and a Lambic for the wife.  We had an amazing experience at The Pint Room in Dublin, and I left Ohio feeling quite satisfied.

My question to you is this: is it normal for drive-thru liquor stores to allow people to walk into the cooler and browse before buying?  It's certainly possible that I missed a sign, although I was trying to be quite careful and notice any signage.  Was this guy over-reacting?  I have to reiterate that I was quite polite and apologetic...recognizing that I must have done something wrong here to deserve his rage.  Or do you think that he was just having a bad day?

Fun times in Ohio.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Crooked Stave

Just got back yesterday from Colorado, and before I get to my post about my epic trip to Crooked Stave, first you all MUST see this picture of my son Nolan with his very first cousin, Quintin.  Congrats to my sister and brother in-law on this amazing little baby.  What a great visit!!
On to the beer.  Our trip to Colorado was obviously a family driven vacation.  This doesn't mean I would completely shut out beer.  Within a few hours of arriving in Denver I had Pliny the Elder in my glass at Falling Rock Tap House.  For what it's worth, Falling Rock has a great tap selection, but when we were there the bartenders had zero clue what was going on which I found strange.

Anyway, I knew that during this trip I wouldn't have a lot of time for a brewery visit, and so I picked only one to visit.  In Denver I chose Crooked Stave.  I met my friend and trading partner, John, for a few early afternoon beers on Thursday.  Turned out to be a phenomenal visit.  The bartender, Ben, is actually from Illinois, and so we spent a lot of time talking about Midwest beers and such.  If you don't know about Crooked Stave, read up about them here.  Initially I didn't know if I was in the right place. The brewery is in the middle of an industrial park in what looked like an oversized storage unit complex.  Seriously.  Here is the picture of the entrance.

While small, which might be an over-statement, Crooked Stave is putting out massively awesome beers.  Only a few were on tap during my visit, but the Vieille with Motueka hops and Summer St. Bretta stood out as favorites, along with Nightmare on Brett and Razzy Vieille.  I've had a problem in the last year with getting on board with Saisons and Brett beers.  Crooked Stave is the brewery that showed me I could enjoy these styles.  In talking with Ben I also learned that a large amount of their visitors are from the Midwest or outside of the Denver area.  He said that they don't advertise and that a large amount of locals have never heard of them.  Which I can attest to because my brothers in-law live about 3 miles from the brewery and they had no clue what I was talking about.

Ben graciously allowed us to take a stroll through the back, where we saw barrels and foudres and barrels and foudres and Cantillon bottles and fermentation tanks.  It's amazing how many barrels they can store in such a small space.  Here are some pictures of the barrels and such things:

One of the things I found humorous was the picture below.  Ben spoke about how they are pretty much renting this space and one of the signs is explicitly about storage.  Clearly they are breaking rules, which is partly why they are moving soon.
 What a great little bar.  Literally.  The second photo below essentially is the whole view of their taproom.  It's a blurry picture, so I apologize about that, but you get the idea.

 I managed to get 2.5 pours of beer from the tap room, in addition to 2 samples of the Razzy Vieille and Nightmare on Brett.  The Nightmare on Brett was my favorite of the day along with the Summer St. Bretta.  The Saisons were quite lovely.  Bright, smooth, loaded with citrus and just enough funk to make you quiver with joy.  Can't wait for a return trip.  These guys are gonna blow up the beer scene in a matter of years.

I was able to get some proper glassware and several bottles to bring home with me.  Thanks to the staff at Crooked Stave and to my friend, John, for such an incredibly awesome trip!!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Visit to Iechyd Da Brewing

Being from Northern Indiana originally I have been really excited to see the growth of Craft beer in that region of the state.  One of the most interesting spots for me has always been Iechyd Da Brewing (pronounced yah-key-DA).  My family frequently travels to Goshen, IN to visit family, and we are generally so busy that I never have time to break away and go on a brewery adventure.  Iechyd Da had been on my "must visit" list for quite some time.  I was finally invited by my buddy Justin to visit this spot on a recent trip to Goshen and we made plans to visit for lunch and some beer tasting.

Nestled in the heart of downtown Elkhart, you can not miss the red and black dragon sign on the outside of the building, which makes this brewery incredibly easy to find.  Admittedly, downtown Elkhart is not the most aesthetically pleasing areas I have explored, but places like Iechyd Da are going to start re-vitalizing the Elkhart scene....I have no doubt.  Upon walking in you find a seating area to the left with some awesome barrel tables by the large windows.  There are also some modern couches and chairs which really gives the patrons a variety of awesome seating options.
To the left you will find a chalkboard listing the food menu and specials, more tables, decorative artwork, and a few high top tables surrounded by bar stools.

As you scan the rest of the room you are immediately drawn to the bar area, which is where we immediately ventured to.  Several barstools surround the L-Shaped bar top.  Plenty of lighting and friendly faces surround you.  The place is quite inviting and comfortable.  It just feels like a great place for fun, food, friends, and of

After selecting our seats, maybe the most impressive attraction of the bar was directly in front of us.  The massive wall of Iechyd Da mugs.  Made by a local potter, these mugs are available to Mug Club members only.  I don't have all the details of the Mug Club, but once it has been established, it's become somewhat difficult to gain a new membership.  The mugs are fantastic.  Each one unique and sporting the symbol of the brewery on the front.  The Dragon.  Justin and I spent quite a bit of time discussing the mugs and which ones we liked the best.  Truth be told, I would be thrilled to have any one of them.  But I don't live locally and so membership to this mug club is likely a dream I won't be able to fulfill. :-(  Here is a part of the Mug Wall.

Justin and I ordered a pizza and appetizer to share.  The food was outstanding.  We had stuffed mushrooms that were loaded with sausage and jalapeno's.  The pizza was full of flavor with garlic, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, and goat cheese.  I would eat there any day of the week.

However, the most important part of any brewery is the need of good beer.  Again, Iechyd Da exceeded my expectations.  Of course, I have had a couple of their beers via growler samples previously, but on this occasion I felt that I needed to get the full flight of samplers.  My favorites of the flight were: Big Pit Porter- very robust and flavorful porter; Revolution- a solid IPA ; 13-an American Black Ale loaded with complexity; and the best of the bunch was Gumption- a double amber loaded with citra hop deliciousness. All of the beers were on the good to great level....but Gumption was the head of the class without a doubt.

Overall a fantastic outing to a great spot in a recovering economy.  I love what Iechyd Da has brought to downtown Elkhart.  I also purchased a taster glass and a snifter for the road.  I am very much looking forward to a return trip to this brewery.  If only they could fill a growler with Gumption for me to take with me to Dark Lord Day!!  That would be amazing!!

If you haven't been there....stop what you are doing....and go now.  Seriously.