Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Hangover

I cannot believe that November is almost over already! It feels like this month just flew by. Must mean I had a great time.
I wanted to write about the founding of the American colonies and the integral part that beer played in settling the “New World”, but unfortunately I got swept up in doing other stuff and wasn’t able to put together an all American Thanksgiving Beer Salute (that was the name I picked out). So instead you will have to check out what the Beer Institute (maybe I can transfer there?) has to say about the pilgrims and beer. They have some really great tidbits like:
“An entry in the diary of a Mayflower passenger explains the unplanned landing at Plymouth Rock: ‘We could not now take time for further search...our victuals being much spent, especially our beer...’”
How would the history of America have changed, and the history of American beer, if the Pilgrims had landed somewhere else instead of as soon as possible because they were out of beer? I will let you ponder that….

Over this long Thanksgiving weekend I was lucky to have my wonderful family around me, great food and fantastic beer.

One of the beers we had was one that I was super excited to try out, I may have even ask people to take pity on me and buy it since I couldn’t find it and send it to me. This much anticipated brew? That would be Ommegang’s Aphrodite. My wonderful husband picked me up a bottle and we tried it with eagerness this weekend.

Was it worth all the excitement? Maybe… I really liked the fizziness, the mouth feel and the middle taste note. I thought that the first and last tastes were far too sour for me. I understand that this is a beer brewed with Pear and Raspberry but I would have liked it to let me taste the fruit not just the sourness. I think that I would have enjoyed a Purple Haze more, because that beer at least lets the fruit be tasted. I am really trying to find fruit beers that I can appreciate… If you have any suggestions, please, I am begging you, send them to me!

Next on the list of beers that I tried for the first time is Goose Island’s Mild Winter. It is not news that I love most of the beers that Goose Island releases, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I really liked Mild Winter. I thought that the roasted flavors were well balanced with the hops… it was a mild winter beer as the name implies. Not super roasted and not overly hoppy, I would say that this beer is the perfect transitional beer for slipping into your winter drinking hat (I bought a new drinking hat this year!), or whatever makes you think of drinking a heavier beer with a smile on your face.

As I mentioned previously, we were going to have Pumpkin beer from Crown Brewing courtesy of my aunt… sadly when my uncle arrived to fill the growlers, they were out of pumpkin beer. So he got a couple of growlers of Winter Warlock (That link to Beer Advocate has my review as the first one!)
I had Winter Warlock warm, and I think that it would have been perfect had it been served cool. The malt was roasted until very dark, which is why the color is so dark, but instead of being bitter like some malty beers can be, Winter Warlock was semi-sweet. It had a fabulous coating in my mouth that made me think of winter. I love winter beers and this was such a great example of a one. Definitely had chocolate and coffee notes, but remained well balanced.
Do you have any suggestions for winter beers? Feel free to email me, sarah@hoppybeergirl.com. I may not be posting very frequently over the next three weeks, as I have finals in Mid December, so please accept my apology in advance.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What a Week! I think I need a vacation

What a week I just had! I don't think that my dance card has ever been so full! (maybe because when I try to dance it turns into an adult hokey pokey)

This past Thursday I hosted a Focus Group for Women Enjoying Beer, which was a ton of fun. If you have any interest in having fun and helping the beer community I strongly recommend that you get in touch with Ginger at Women Enjoying Beer! I know a lot of people told me that they couldn't make it on a week night, but that was fine because the small group that I did get had a lot of fun, and hopefully gave Ginger enough information. This isn't a beer tasting thing, Women Enjoying Beer is about gathering data/market research to pass on to brewers, beer companies, distributors and anyone else who will listen. I have to say that after the focus group, I will be thinking about my beer differently, so thank you very much Ginger! I hope to see you when you are in the Chicago area.

While the term "focus group" sounds like we had to do a lot of focusing, we were able to sneak in a few beers... I happened to have one of my favorites, Matilda from Goose Island...Matilda is a very rich flavored beer that is extremely well balanced. If course I am a sucker for Belgian style beers, but this one is very exceptional. If you haven't had a lot of experience with Goose Island's "vintage" beer collection I strongly recommend you get experienced! Sophie is another one of my favorites... and if you are in the Chicago area you have to go on a weekend Brew tour at Goose Island, I like Goose Island on Clybourn best.

Saturday I had my first official beer blog meeting at Duke's Alehouse in Crystal Lake. I will spare you all the details of the meeting, but know this, there will be some new stuff coming your way! So what can  I talk about? How about the beer? I had a very interesting beer from Belgium that was a mild stout. Troubador's Obscura was not really what I had expected, but was even better. I thought that the rich malty flavor wasn't overpowering like in some stouts, and there was a creamy mouth feel like you could have just taken a bite of beer ice cream (they do make that stuff BTW, and YES I am going to try it). I thought that this was a fantastic beer, probably because stouts sometimes make me feel super full and like I have a burnt taste in my mouth.

It must have been a Goose Island sort of weekend because after my beer meeting with Matt I got home and opened Juliet to share with Blake. I guess I didn't remember Juliet being so sour, but since it is a beer infused with Blackberry, I suppose it should have been obvious. I think that I just don't really like fruit beer... I mean, I know that Juliet is a good beer, but I still have a hard time finishing it. It wasn't really sweet, it wasn't really hoppy, it wasn't really malty... I got mostly a faint taste of blackberry and then sour. Blake liked it more than I did, so if you are okay with sour beer or fruity beer, you may love this one.

Now it is time for something completely off the wall. Have you heard of this "spa" in the Czech Republic that does Beer baths? Yes, you need to click on that link and see the lady taking a bath in beer... The brewery (Chodovar) is devoted to welness through beer. Can't say that is a clause I am not behind 100%, but bathing in beer seems like a bit of a waste. If you have some time, I highly recommend that you check out this from one of my favorite (and no longer on) shows, Three Sheets. The host (Zane Lamprey) actually has a beer bath as a hangover cure... hilarity ensues. So does anyone want to sponsor me to go to the Czech Republic to try this out? For blogging purposes of course... I need a beer vacation, don't you think? If you are interested in sponsoring me, or have any questions, email me at sarah@hoppybeergirl.com

Monday, November 7, 2011

Where have all the Turkeys gone?

I have a complicated family, and since I got married the holiday situation has only gotten more confusing. Inevitably someone doesn't get visited and their gift sits on my stereo cabinet for a full year until next Christmas.Christmas has always felt like something that needs to be overly coordinated, something that is supposed to be done efficiently rather than magically. Whatever the reasoning, I always find myself looking forward to Thanksgiving, the day of turkey, football, napping, lounging and drinking... What happened to  other people looking forward to Thanksgiving?? All I see is Christmas stuff!! We are seriously one week into November, we are talking like SEVEN weeks before Christmas... in my book that is close enough to two months to not even mention, much less put out commercials and push Santa ornaments on unsuspecting shoppers looking to get clearance Halloween stuff.

The thing that I am looking forward to almost as much as not having to cook this Thanksgiving?? Pumpkin beer courtesy of my sweet Aunt Linda, from Crown Brewing Company in Crown Point Indiana. She swears that it is like pumpkin heaven in a glass. That sounds like the perfect accompaniment to stories about guns and pilgrims and zucchini casserole.

Thanksgiving isn't the only reason that November is cool either! No. Another thing that I am really looking forward to is Women Enjoying Beer!! I am hosting a focus group and really looking forward to it. We are going to be at a fun local bar, Lindy's Landing, and Ginger from WEB has been fantastic in helping me set it all up.

What is your favorite part of November? Are you all about the Black Friday deals, or are you like me, all about the cozy post-turkey/post-beer feeling on the couch on Thanksgiving? Whatever gets you through the month, we can agree on one thing, and that is beer (because I am assuming you like me or beer to be reading this blog).

Heavy Handed IPA
This weekend we had two very surprising beers... surprising in a good way. My wonderful co-worker Gail brought me Heavy Handed IPA from Two Brothers, because she knows I like beer and she is sweet (but I won't tell anyone). I was surprised at how well balanced this IPA was... I mean, the label says it is very hoppy and the name hints that it is a beat up your mouth beer, but again, Two Brothers has showed me that they craft their beer carefully and lovingly. What I expected to be a heavy hops flavor was mellowed out by the malt flavor and even a pop from the yeast. Heavy Handed had a really nice mouth feel that helped balance this beer. Admittedly I don't normally buy IPA's but this would be one I wouldn't hesitate to pick up for myself.

Farmer's Tan
The other beer that took me by surprise was Southern Tier's Farmer's Tan Imperial Pale Lager. This also was a beer that wasn't what I expected. The label tells the story that this beer is dedicated to the farmers who have and continue to labor in order to provide us with the ingredients we love so much for our precious beer. After reading that I thought that this would taste like a farmhouse style Saison, a little hoppy with warm malty and yeast flavors. I was surprised at how the hops took over the beer. It was definitely not what I expected, but it was still a good beer. I probably wouldn't go out looking for this one as I thought that it was nothing special, and I do prefer a maltier beer where you can taste the yeast... but if you are a hops-head you might like this refreshing beer.

I have to admit that I chickened out... Blake bought us Two Brother's Hoodwink Dark Sour Ale, and I just couldn't muster the nerve to crack it open. I don't like sour beer, as a rule I avoid sour beer. The first thing that you learn when exploring beer is, if it is overly sour, it has gone bad. I guess my taste buds are old fashioned, because I keep hearing that "sour is the new bitter". The new fade of sour beers is supposed to appeal to the people who go for the super-knock-your-tongue-out-of-your-mouth IPA fans, I am not sure I can get on board with that... Blake thought that Hoodwink would open my mind to all that a sour ale could be, and he might be right, but this week, we won't know.

My grandfather will be glad to know that, though I chickened out on the sour ale, I paired my beer this weekend with a discussion about bacon (and bacon wrapped pretzels!) and watching a show about guns... Now, if only I had bacon wrapped pretzels, it would be a perfect ending to my day.

P.S. I totally thought that Snoopy was holding a gun to get Woodstock's bowl of bacon... It appears that a small image fuels my gun/bacon train of thought

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Beer Picture Contest!!! And the winners are....

I am sure the anticipation is just killing you!!! Who won the beer picture contest? Who gets a free t-shirt and random other stuff?? Well I can't say the competition was tough.... I only got one submission, though very creative and fun, there was only one. So Jeni and Allison, congratulations! I will be sending t-shirts and random stuff to you guys. I expect to see a new picture with you wearing my shirt soon!!

If you missed it, here is the winning picture again:

What did my esteemed judging panel have to say about the picture?

Michele: OMG! OMG! I haven't done that in ages....we used Pabst! Milwaukee's Best Ice, That too and "generic" and yes, in NE we had generic white/black label beer.

Blake: weird...

Me: LOL! That is super classy! I love it!

So there you have it.  

This is where I would usually start talking about our weekend beer experience... unfortunately we didn't have any beer this weekend. I blame it all on my husband.

Not this one, my fantasy husband would never do that (probably because he doesn't really exist)
This is the one who made me miss out on beer!

He spent the weekend in the hospital and that meant I spent the entire weekend worrying and trying to be a grown up. Let me tell you, that was no fun. What put him in the hospital you ask? Well (he is going to be upset with me for "over-sharing") he got bit on the ear by a venomous spider. I am not even pretending that I could make that up!!  He is home and recovering, and not yet shooting spider webs out of his wrists... but if that happens you had better believe I will be cashing in on that!

Anyone have any ideas on what we can make Blake's super-human name when the spider venom changes his DNA? Have any suggestions on beer I need to try? Want to just email me? I would love to hear from you! Sarah@hoppybeergirl.com 

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