Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Take on Take The Black Stout

I have not hidden the fact that I am very much a fan of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, I even like the HBO version of it, now that I can say that I haven’t read (or reread as it were) the books in several years. I LOVE the books.

 It of course is natural that I would get all crazy when Ommegang announced the beer series they are making inspired by A Game of Thrones. I have now made my wonderful husband stand in line to purchase both the Iron Throne Ale and the Take the Black Stout  (did I mention how wonderful he is?). Of course, I am also a beer fanatic so I have been torn on whether or not to open the beer and drink it, or to cellar it and stare fondly at it imagining what it would taste like.

Eventually Blake had enough of my indecisiveness and grabbed a bottle of Take the Black Stout for us to crack open for International Stout Day, and to help celebrate some very positive news from my neurologist. I may have “over” documented the pouring of the beer, but like I said, it was a big deal to me.

The Take the Black Stout has an extremely rich coffee smell; Blake called it “Omigod good” smell (I think this should become a technical term). It was a gorgeous dark stout, which one would expect from a Take the Black Stout. The malt flavor is so strong, but there is also an even balance with the hops. This is not a weak beer in any flavor area.

 It was a wonderful dark stout, and I look forward to having our second bottle in the future.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Rant- About Fitting into a Box

In the last week I have been called a feminist beer blogger, and a "forgetter"; so ignorant to the work of feminists the world over and the work they have done, all they have suffered... I certainly don't feel like either one of those names fits who I am. I work very hard in my life to promote equality of genders and embrace the differences between people. I want to believe that the strong role models I have who support me or inspire me to be a strong and successful person will also help inspire and support my daughter. I want my daughter to be strong and happy, but so secure in who she is the world of naysayers and categorizers will tremble at her glance. Maybe that makes me a feminist? Maybe the fact that I signed up for women and gender studies as my minor gives me some sort of ability to call myself a feminist? I really don't think that fits...

Of course on the other hand I do on occasion think of issues without considering the gender or minority aspect involved; I am able to separate those issues of equality from other issues on occasion. I am sure some of you have seen this article which has gone wild from the Daily Mail on "The History Girls", if not you should read it. I could pick apart all of the things which I find wrong with the article (and there are many) and you could all agree or disagree with what I say. I however want to discuss the fact that these women have PhD’s, should be addressed as Doctor, and all of them have extensive knowledge in their field. My issue is not how they dress, I don’t really think that the clothes you wear should decide how you are perceived by society, but I understand it does; I also don’t think that all of these women are dressed up like sexual objects.
 No, my issue is the lack of respect for their intellect, both on the blogs which I read that are condemning the stylized versions of historians (these doctors allowed themselves to be photographed like that), and within  the article itself. The questions which are being asked are AWFUL! But the interrogated makes the best of it that she can. Why is it okay for society to be up in arms over the way in which a magazine (a magazine guys, not a journal or a recognized media outlet, a magazine) portrays the physicality of these women? Shouldn’t the main issue be why are we focused on what they look like, and not the questions that were asked? Why is this magazine so sure that it’s audience wants to know a bunch of phony BS like who would you go back in time to see? Is it because we can’t focus on real issues? What about women who actually take bullets for their beliefs, like Malala Yousafzai? I am well aware of the fact that women the world over cannot get education, cannot get medical care, cannot vote, cannot drive, cannot earn enough money to support themselves or their children… to me THAT is what the issue of modern feminism should be, not what someone who is smart enough to make up her own mind decides to wear or say. I am not forgetting the past, I am only trying to look forward to the future because there are millions of women who still don’t have any sort of equality, and if a puff piece in a UK magazine brings a wider audience to a field where people can learn empathy and compassion for fellow humans, then is that so bad?
Here is a good link to a blog which I love where the writer picks apart the article: How Did We Get Into This Mess?
If you want to know more about women in the beer world, your first stop should be : Women Enjoying Beer
And if you want to learn more about helping women and girls around the world build a better future: Because I’m a Girl

This lady here has some fantastic ideas on raising strong and fierce girls: Dr Frankenbaby’s Monsters

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Just Checking in

I have to admit that lately, I have been very focused on my school work. I am really enjoying the classes that I am taking this semester, and since I am getting closer and closer to graduation, I am becoming more and more obsessed with my grades...

That said, I have been trying to drink beer and write, but it turns out that either I drink beer and write for school, or I drink beer and fall asleep. I have reached a new level of cool... that is what I will call it anyways. With my 30th birthday less than 3 months away, I am very antsy to grow my blog, grow my career, excel at school, be an awesome mom, and the coolest wife ever.... the reality is something far less exciting I am afraid.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Craft Beer Infographic (makes me thirsty)- Guest Post

I get a lot of emails for this blog. It surprises me every day, but I do. I get emails from talented and not-so-talented people. One of the recent emails I got was asking me to share an infographic on the growing business of craft beer. This is a subject that has recently been under discussion a great deal, both in my private life, and in my beer life. I thought that this was a nice contribution to share with you all, so I hope that you enjoy!

The rise of craft beer has been a noticeable trend throughout the last decade.  More and more people seem to moving away from the big 3 light beer companies in favor of locally brewed craft beer.  Those big 3 still have a strangle on the marketplace but the craft beer industry is on a steady rise. John Laloganes and Phil Mott, both Assistant professors at the Kendall College School of Hospitality along with the students at Kendall College helped to provide valuable insight into the craft beer industry as a whole which resulted in the infographic seen below:

Some key takeaways from the study and info graphic are as follows:

·         Craft brewers provide an estimated 103,585 jobs in this United States alone which includes serving staff in brewpubs.
·         Sales of craft beer nearly doubled from 5.7 billion in 2007 to 12 billion in 2012.  That number is expected to triple to over 36 billion in 2017. 
·         There are 2,403 breweries in 2012 which is the highest amount since the 1880s.
·         Irish Red’s pair well with burgers while Stouts pair well with deserts like Chocolate cake.
·         Nearly half of consumers would be interested in trying more craft beers if they knew more about the beers and where to find them.
·         Baby Boomers (32%) don’t enjoy craft beer as much as Millenials 43%
·         A total of 36% of consumers enjoy drinking craft beer.

The numbers don’t lie.  Get out and enjoy a craft beer with your fellow craft beer fans.  Cheers!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Beer Brined Smoked Turkey-Cooking with Beer (and fire)

I did something amazing. I smoked an ENTIRE turkey. I was afraid… very afraid. But it wasn’t like I was competing in a cook off or trying to do anything that crazy, and I have a pretty good track record with smoking meat… so I gave it a try.
I came across the Home Brew Chef’s website (which is awesome and you should check it out) and searched his website for a beer turkey recipe… which I found (here it is)
Beer Brine Ingredients:
Beer (about 6 cans is what I used, because that is what I had)
Ice and Water- enough to cover the bird completely and keep it cold while brining
2 Cup Kosher Salt
1 Cup      Sugar
4 Each    Bay Leaves
3 Bunch Thyme, fresh
3 Each    Yellow Onion, peeled and chopped
3 Each    Carrots, sliced
4 Each    Garlic Cloves, peeled and sliced
A few big dashes of liquid smoke (I am addicted to using this no matter what)
1 Turkey (suppose you could use a chicken)
A clean cooler or 5 gallon bucket (or cauldron if you have one I suppose) with which to bring the turkey in. I bought one of these bad boys at Home Depot

Mix together the brine ingredients well (excluding the water and ice). Make sure the water and salt is dissolved well. Then add the bird and enough water and ice to cover it completely.
Turkey is covered with brine, water and ice (yes those are flower shaped ice cubes)

Place in the refrigerator or ice cooler for 24-48 hours. My five gallon bucket didn’t fit in my fridge, so I packed ice around it and in it every 4 hours for 24 hours (I was very tired, but food safety is worth it)
Bucket in my sink
You can cook this in the oven just like a regular turkey, and I am sure it would be gorgeous, and delicious. But you know I want to use the smoker as much as I can.
Flaming hickory chunks
I used chunks of hickory to smoke this turkey, I thought I had apple wood as that was one of the recommended woods, but you have to make do with what you have. If you are using chips and not chunks of wood, make sure you soak the chips (Home Brew Chef suggested soaking in the beer you brine in which I thought was genius! So really check it out!)

Bird on fire
My 14 pound turkey took me 9 hours to smoke on low heat (I don’t have a thermometer on the smoker) I pulled it off when the meat thermometer read 165* F. If you don’t know, you need to check the temp of a turkey and chicken in the meat between the leg and breast, which is the densest part of the bird, and takes the longest to cook.
Then I let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving.
The finished product

It was one of the best turkeys I have ever made, and I make a mean Thanksgiving turkey
I used Summer Shandy, I thought that the citrus would make up for the lemon that the recipe called for that I forgot to buy… it was light but still gave the bird a great flavor. I think next time I might try something with a little more oomph, like an Oktoberfest (or even a pumpkin beer!!). I think I would stay away from dark beers; don’t want to overpower the turkey.

Let me know if you try it, and what you think. I have to tell you, I ate my turkey with the New Belgium Pupkick (pumpkin and cranberry) beer.

 I was hoping for a pseudo Thanksgiving thing in my mouth, but the beer fell a little short. It was good, and a bit sour from the cranberries, but not like Thanksgiving…

Friday, July 26, 2013

Winner, Winner, Something, Something

I have to say, I feel like I am getting the hang of this blog thing (maybe). I have been sent a book to do a giveaway with, and I successfully gave it away. Now I have been sent another book to review, and I am actually reading it! Next I will have some beer sent to me to drink. Life is good people, life is good!

Do you want to know what won the book giveaway? The following tweet did: the Garfagnana Velle, Tuscany where my dad is from. He can't do the trip anymore but I would have loved one last drink

My super secret judge thought it was a great place and a great reason to take a trip, and win a book. So congrats Jamie!

Jamie is on the Donkey.Banana.Show AND is in an awesome band, 13-Monsters. So go check Jamie out, and show him some love.

The best part of this, I get to deliver the book in person and be on the Donkey.Banana.Show!! WOO!

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Wet and The Dry- Book Giveaway!!!

I have a book to give away!! Well not a book that I wrote, but one that I read. It is a very interesting book too! The book is, "The Wet and The Dry: A Drinker's Journey" This book follows the authors travels around the world, and how different cultures use (or don't use) alcohol as part of their society.

Here is an excerpt from the book, "I am taking a few months off to travel and wander, drinking my way across the Islamic world to see whether I can dry myself out, cure myself of a bout of alcoholic excess. It is a personal crisis, a private curiosity. I am curious to see how non-drinkers live. Perhaps they have something to teach me."

Sounds like something you want to read, doesn't it?

Want to win a free copy of the book?? (I hope you do!!) All you need to do is tell me where you would go if you could take a wet (or dry) trip. Leave me a comment here on the blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter (@HoppyBeerGirl). Heck, you can even email me!! (Sarah@hoppybeergirl.com). Just tell me where you would like to go. I will randomly select a winner on Friday July 26, 2013 (that gives you a week).

Want another taste? Here is the synopsis I got on the book, "A rich Merlot with dinner. A fizzy mimosa during Sunday brunch. A tumbler of amber whiskey after a harrowing day. There are so many simple alcoholic indulgences our Western society takes for granted. For millions around the world, however, drinking alcohol is a strictly forbidden practice. As an acclaimed travel writer and author, Lawrence Osborne has traversed the globe and witnessed first-hand the complex relationships that exist between cultures and alcohol. Intrigued by the starkly contrasting views on drinking—specifically the Western tradition of permission versus the Islamic East’s culture of prohibition—Osborne set off on a personal journey through the world’s dry countries for a look at life untainted by the “demon drink;” a journey chronicled in THE WET AND THE DRY."

For more information on Lawrence Osborne, visit his website LawrenceOsborne.net or follow him on twitter at twitter.com/lawrenceosborne

This giveaway is a way of thanking my current readers.

Monday, July 1, 2013

An Alcoholic Tour of St. Louis- Guest Post

As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite things about writing about beer is that it has allowed me the chance to meet some really awesome people. One of those very awesome people is Heidi from we're better suited for a fictional world (Make sure you check out this blog, Heidi is brilliant, funny, and has a great sense of humor). Heidi very kindly agreed to do a guest post for me on some of the brews found in St. Louis (Thank you again!!)

The last year that I lived in Philadelphia, the city was really starting to gain a reputation as a great beer city. We have a good friend who is a brewer at Yards, and he had gotten my husband Dan a part time gig there. Dan did some quality control, worked the bottling line, made those variety cases (they pack up cases of single types of beer, then swap them to create the variety packs - high tech stuff), and sat down with the boss at the end of every day to taste the current production. It was was his dream job. Breweries were cropping up all over the Philadelphia area, Philly Beer Week was starting to be an actual important event for the city, restaurants started to have these intense tap lists. It was exciting. And then we moved to St. Louis. 

I only knew of St. Louis as the home of Anheuser Busch. As a lifelong horse girl, I do love those Clydesdales, but even at my low points I didn't drink Bud. We were bummed, to say the least. All of these wonderful things were happening in our city, and although our reasons for leaving (grad school for Dan at a top university with a more-than-decent chunk of scholarship money) were great, we still felt like we were going to be missing out on something important. 

Before we left, our friends, including the brewer at Yards, gave us a gift card for the Schlafly Brewery here in St. Louis. Schlafly is the largest independent brewery here, and is actually known to people outside the area, mostly because it was the first to boldly step up and challenge AB, and the notion that this was a one-brewery town. I hadn't heard of them, but that isn't unusual, I'm not really dialed into the craft brewers news, and with limited distribution outside of the state, we hadn't had a chance to try any. 

So, after we lumbered into town and unceremoniously dumped the contents of a sixteen foot moving van into our new apartment, we headed to the Schlafly Bottleworks to use our gift card for dinner. They have a good restaurant with an outdoor patio, and my brother still says the pulled pork sandwich he had there was one of the best sandwiches of his life. It was a nice way to end a long drive, and to get acquainted with the neighborhood and the city. Our waiter had a shirt on that said "Bier trinkt man nicht nur zum Frühstück" which my dad, a fierce German, adored and bought immediately. Beer is not just for breakfast anymore. 

Schafly Bottleworks

The Bottleworks, which is where Schlafly does the majority of their brewing and packaging, is only a few minutes down the road from us. According to their website, they brew over twenty different styles in this brewhouse, and fill over 1600 cases and 240 kegs a day. They apparently built this facility to meet demand and keep the production local. Later I learned that there is a second Schlafly restaurant and brewery located more downtown. The Schlafly Tap Room brews the smaller batches, Belgian-styles, oak-aged reserve beers, and fills the larger, 750ml bottles. The menu in the restaurant here is more traditional pub-fare, and, according to my husband, the beer on tap is better. I tend to find something I enjoy drinking at either location because, while their beers don't really ever blow your mind, they are consistently good. Also, not a Bud clone in the bunch. 

Once we got tuned into the local news, we realized that St. Louis was in the middle of a craft brewing renaissance just as Philadelphia had been. Small breweries were popping up everywhere, and within the first year we'd discovered Urban Chestnut, O'Fallon, Augusta, and 2nd Shift. To date, that list has swelled to include: Civil Life, Perennial, 4 Hands, Six Row, Square One, Morgan Street, Trailhead, Exit 6, and Charleville. Anheuser who? 

Allow me to take you on a tour of some of my favorites: 

Urban Chestnut Brewing Comany
Urban Chestnut Brewing Company - Traditional German styles. If you're a fan of the more unusual styles, or "girly" beers (look, I like the Abita Strawberry Lager - shut up!), you might have a hard time here, although they do have a pretty smooth wheat beer that you could probably get behind - the Schnickelfritz comes to mind. These beers all remind me of my dad - the smell as a young kid and the taste as an adult, and so I love it for that. They have a nice tasting room with a good, simple menu, a new outdoor garden. As with many of the new breweries, they are committed to sustainability and their brew house boasts solar panels, composting, and water conservation capabilities. They have cool merchandise designs, and t-shirts in girls sizes (!!!). These guys bottle and keg, and this is the local beer that you are most likely to see out of state - we've seen it on tap in Philly. In more recent news, they've acquired a new, second location across town from the current. Once operational, they will ultimately be able to boost their output to 100,000 barrels per year. 

Perennial Artisan Ales - Possibly one of my favorites. These would be at the opposite end of the traditional spectrum from UCBC. They're unusual, creative, very good, and you are likely to find something for everyone. They have very few beers that remain consistently available, most are seasonal or small batch.

Perennial Artisan Ales
They focus on using locally sourced ingredients, such as the Black Walnut Dunkel from Missouri Black Walnuts, or the special run (and insanely hard to get) Sump Coffee Stout, brewed in collaboration with Sump Coffee, a local coffee house and roaster. These guys manage to create a massive amount of hype on some of these limited releases, with people lining up for hours, and paying people to stand in line and buy bottles for them when there is a bottle limit on the sale. Don't know how I feel about that. Anyway, the co-owner and brewer is a Missouri native who previously worked as a brewer at Goose Island. The building is an old converted factory in South City and is, unfortunately, quite a hike from just about any place else you might want to go. The menu, though, is worth it. It's simple, changes frequently, is locally sourced, and compliments the beer nicely. They have an outdoor patio with a fire pit for cold days. This brewery bottles (the label design is fantastic) and kegs, but the bottles are all the larger size and are, unfortunately, on the pricey side. Better to stop by the brewery for a taste. 

Civil Life Brewery - This is more fun than your average brewery. The space is interesting in that it's one large warehouse, but has a tasting room built into one side. The tasting room has been designed to look like an old-world pub, including the outside, which is brick and has faux gas lamps. There is also an upstairs portion where you can look down into the brewhouse, or into the pub.

 They also have a garden outside to sit and sip, and a window to order from without going back inside.

 I know this isn't making sense - it's hard to describe. You'll just have to visit to see what I mean. Now, for the fun stuff: The pub has an assortment of games available for you to play while you drink, including a wooden version of Connect Four for you to verse your bother in and relive your childhood (I did). Then, in the space between the pub and the brewhouse there is a wall with two dart boards, and a bulls head.

What's the deal with the bull, you ask? Well, there is a ring hanging above it from a string, and there is just enough length of string to get the ring over the bull's horn. So you swing the ring and hope for the best. It might be the greatest parlor game I've ever seen. When my brother was in town, we spent an hour on it at least (he's a guy who loves to throw things). When my brother came back to visit a year later with my mom, we even got her to play. I desperately want to show you the photos, but I think she'd be mad at me.

 But back to the beer. These are all leaning more toward the traditional side, 4-6% alcohol range, and are solid and consistently good. Not too many knock-outs, but better than Schlafly in my opinion. They actually have a pretty big selection, and the cool thing is that they sell them in 8-ounce sizes for a mere $2.50, which allows you to try them all. They have a good, simple menu with decent sandwiches. As a Philadelphian, I'm not often impressed with the sandwiches here, but these get the job done. Civil Life's Brown Ale is on tap all over town, and is one of my favorites, hands down. They currently don't bottle, so the distribution is limited. 

4 Hands Brewing Company - A small brewery all the way downtown, but within walking distance of Busch Stadium. On many summer days, the tasting room is full of people wearing Cardinals gear, which doesn't bother me unless it's a day my Philadelphia Phillies are in town. The selection here is smaller, but might be the best out of the ones that I've described. Again, they're a little more on the traditional side, but they do occasionally reach that mind-blowing level. They have a terrific menu in their tasting room. It is simple, affordable, and changes frequently. It was developed with a local restaurant owner, Dave Bailey, a guy who seems to be single handedly attempting to revive St. Louis's somewhat desolate downtown through food. All of his restaurants are pretty damn good. I should note that I have, on occasion, seen 4 Hands on tap in the Philly area, and was surprised, but excited. In talking to the bartender at 4 Hands one night I learned that it is because the brewer's wife is from the area, and they used to live there so they still have connections. Cool.

While the brewery isn't as entertaining as Civil Life, they do have a Foosball table, and they frequently host food trucks in their parking lot. Obviously I like the brown ale because that's my thing, but I also drink the Single Speed Session and love it.  

This concludes our tour on the up-and-coming world of brewing in St. Louis. I am sure that I could write another post in a few months time and I would have several new breweries to add to the list. Despite my frequent gripes about the city, great things are, indeed, happening here in terms of beer, and dare I say it - you should consider checking it out! 

**I have been asked to include this picture of  Connect Four at Civil Life, make of it what you will, I sense just a little sibling rivalry***

Monday, June 24, 2013

When You Know, Without A Doubt, That You Are No Longer Cool-And May Never Have Been

If you didn't know, I have a younger sister (6 years younger), who lives in the city, and has cool friends, and a cool apartment, and a few cool jobs, and a cool band. Usually I am just so excited to go see her that I forget that her world, and my world (almost 30, with a soon to be 4 year old, steady job, husband, and no social life that I can escape to without snacks and juice boxes in my purse) seem to get further and further away every time we see each other.

Recently I went to see my sister's band (Property of Saints) play at the Township with 13 Monsters. I was a little worried that I might embarrass my sister in front of her new drummer by falling asleep in the bar (which I did once before at Goose Island but that is another story). Prepare to witness my epiphany-of-no longer-cool.

Conversation between me and my friend Amy at work before going to see my sister:

Me:        I just have to remind myself to have no more than two beers because I have to get up early tomorrow to pick up Autumn from my dad’s.

A:            How early do you have to be there?

Me:        Christie’s band is the last to play, and the first band doesn’t start until 9… so it will be a long night. If I have alcohol on top of that I will fall asleep in the bar (again). Blake still teases me about the last time… but I woke up at 4:30 this morning to take care of his daughter, so I think I deserve to sleep at the bar if I want

A:            Gotcha.

Me:        I really turned into an old person there didn’t I?

A:            I know how you feel. But you have to get over the hump of your normal bedtime. On Saturday, I was exhausted around 9:00 but I got up, started moving around and I was ok.

Me:        That is why I am going to do my best to not drink…

A:            Or wait until later in the night to start drinking.

Me:        Yeah, usually I get handed a beer upon entering a bar… I think that might not work. We are supposed to get there around 8 to eat dinner with the band. I am not sure how to tell them that we are old and usually eat dinner around 5:30/6:00 and 8:00 or later might turn me into a gremlin

A:            City people never eat dinner before 7:00… but then again I normally don’t either.

Me:        That is because you are some sort of Human/City dweller hybrid!

A:            This is true.

Me:        Well I suppose you are mostly human… 

What do you think, does handing out crackers to the hungry people make up for the fact that I put the crackers in my purse for my daughter and make me cool? Does having a beer blog make up for ordering coffee all night at a bar? 

PS, Be sure to go check out both of those bands, and give them a listen... your ears will thank you

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Smoked Meat and Awesome Sauce-Cooking with Beer

I did something that I am very proud of this weekend. I smoked a brisket! The most tasty brisket that I have made to date. As you know I have made brisket several times using beer to braise it, with much success. I decided to go outside my box a little on this one, mostly because we had a Memorial Day cookout and I promised everyone smoked meat (I also made drunken chicken but that will be another post).

We of course had to go get the brisket, which was a lot of hard work, as you can see. The peanut simply could not hold in her enthusiasm (the mustache is from her smiley face cookie)
I got a 5 1/2 pound beef brisket. I made a dry rub of Chili Powder, Nutmeg, Ground Ginger, Season Salt, Garlic powder, Basil, black pepper, and Goya's Adobo. I mixed it in all in a bowl, reserved some (about 1/8) to put in the mop sauce, and then rubbed it on the meat. I am not really good at measuring things, so I am going to say I eyeballed it, and it was all about equal parts (except the garlic powder; the one I have is super strong). 

Massaged Meat
I suppose the next critical step is to start the fire... If you have a smoker, we used cherry and hickory chips for the brisket, and it turned out fantastic. I started the coals after I rubbed the meat to give it time to absorb some of the awesomeness I massaged into it. Once the coals were hot I added my soaked chips. If you are a smoker aficionado then you could probably teach me a thing or two, so please don't judge me too harshly.

The Mop Sauce
I have never mopped a meat while it was smoking... I am not sure why, it was insanely easy and the results were AMAZING. This is what I did for my mop sauce

I did about 1/4 cup of yellow mustard, a bottle of a delicious IPA (from Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee), as many shakes of the Tabasco as I dared do, I recommend you use your own judgement on this.
Oh and I almost forgot this!
Worchestershire Sauce (or wrrchssshhhshhure sauce)
Add the dry rub that we set aside earlier and mix together. VOILA! You have my very own Awesome Sauce. It is tasty, it makes meat super tasty, and it smells sooo good!

Awesome Mop Sauce

I did one good mop on the brisket before I put it on the smoke. 

 Then I went back every hour and a half and mopped again. My 5 1/2 pound brisket took about 6 hours to get to temp (185* F).

This is where I would like to put in my picture of the finished product... but it disappeared as soon as it was carved! It was delicious! Spicy and smokey, with a nice hoppy/mustardy bite. I am drooling again...

So there we have it, that is my awesome mop sauce. If you make it, let me know how it works for you. If you have any suggestions on improving my grilling or smoking techniques feel free to come over and show me, I am always glad to try someone else's cooking.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mother's Day Wish List 2013

Holy cow! (I love that exclamation) It is almost Mother’s Day! Because I am a sucker for tradition, I thought it was time that I get off my butt and write you my Mother’s Day wish list (this is the still valid list from last year)
First on my list is beer (did I mention that I can drink again!)
I love shopping on Lets Pour because they have some hard to find beers, and some great deals… SO if you were to go to Lets Pour, here is what I would like:

Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu- I really love this beer

Okay who am I kidding? I will take any beer.

And take a look at this beautiful Homebrewing kit on Etsy!!

Of course, clothing is always a nice option

Especially if there are dinosaurs involved!

I will not say no to jewelry either

I hope that you have a great Mother’s Day, and wish you all the best. I look forward to spending my Mother’s Day putting in a new patio and drinking beer with my family.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Disappointment-Or Something Like It

If you saw my Fear post last month you know that I had some unusual news about my brain. I left you with the knowledge that I was scheduled for tests to determine what is going on with me and some of my misgivings.

Since that post I have had my lumbar puncture (Not something I will be willingly signing up for again), I have been in the hospital a few times, and I have reached what I think was the level of despair which I hope I never reach again. I have had several very painful, physically and emotionally, weeks.

My lumbar puncture was able to confirm that I have "almost three times the amount of CSF(cerebral Spinal Fluid) than normal people". This confirmed the diagnosis of Pseudo Tumor Cerebri. In essence Pseudo Tumor is caused by some trauma to the brain or neck, it takes between five and eight years to first appear as an inflamed optic nerve. There is a nerve that runs down your brain that absorbs the CSF which your body produces daily, lubricates your brain with it, and then you pee it out, normally. My brain however thinks that there is a tumor on this nerve and will not let it absorb any of the CSF that my body is producing. The build up of the Cerebral Spinal fluid puts pressure on my brain, causes the optic nerves to become swollen and also causes debilitating headaches.

I am now on some medication that stops the production of pretty much all fluid by my body. I am always thirsty because I always have dry mouth, but I don't have a bad headache. I do however have constant tingling in my hands, feet, and face from the medication, a loss of appetite  constant heartburn (even though I feel sick when I eat), fatigue, and everything tastes off. So, I suppose that is better than getting a headache once in a while, right?

Oh, and then there are the other side effects that the doctor didn't really discuss with me. You see one of the effects of this medication is that alcohol can cause "extreme" headaches. I suppose that isn't a bad thing to avoid generally, of course I do happen to rather enjoy my beer blog, and writing about beer is difficult if I can't drink it. I haven't tested this out yet. I am afraid to. I want to see if my body will lash out at me for trying to hold on to one of the things that I enjoy so much in my life, but I am afraid to find out. If I can't drink beer anymore that might be almost as devastating as the other thing that this medication is stopping me from.

You see, for a year now we have been trying to have a second child. We have not been successful with the assistance of my doctor, and we were ready to move on to the next step and see a fertility specialist. This of course has its own cloud of disappointment and guilt associated with it. With my new medication (which I will be on for the rest of my life unless my condition miraculously goes away) it isn't safe to be pregnant. I haven't told many people about our struggles to get pregnant a second time, and I feel awkward talking about it now. This medication has sort of sealed my fate as a mother. I know that I should be grateful that I have one healthy and wonderful daughter, and believe me I am. I always wanted to have a large family, but now that is not even a little bit of an option.

So if you see me randomly crying or looking sad these days it could be for any of those reasons. I am disappointed, I am angry, I want to scream and shout, I want to cry, I want to tear my hair out to make this go away, but the part that I am having the most trouble with is the fact that there is nothing I can do. My doctor swears that he doesn't know why this goes away in some patients and not in others, he said all we can do is monitor it and adjust my medication  dosage as needed.

Now I feel completely exposed and vulnerable. I am trying very hard to find the things that I once enjoyed so much and savor them. I am trying to throw myself completely into every second I have with my daughter and husband, but at the same time I have a dark cloud in the back of my mind telling me that my life wil never be what I wanted.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Obed and Isaac's Microbrewery and Eatery

Recently the fam. and I decided to go down to Springfield, so I could go to a symposium that my professor was speaking at, and Blake and Autumn could play in the pool while I was gone. One of the things I do whenever we go anywhere is search for local beer. Someone may have rolled their eyes at the amount of time I spent looking for beer in Springfield before we even left, BUT it paid off big time.

Springfield is pretty small, I mean I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, so I was expecting it to look like a city... but it really seems more like a big town I guess. Springfield seems to be a city in transition. There were plenty of foreclosed buildings, but also a lot of beautiful historic homes. The city has a historic past (Home of Honest Abe, and Route 66), the state capital, several museums, and has a state university. These things don't really seem to be the foremost thought when you get there. This city which is supposed to represent (in my opinion) the state of Illinois looks vacant. One of the few areas that looked well maintained was the historic district in downtown. This is where I found the gem.

Obed and Isaac's Microbrewery & Eatery is inside of a beautiful, but unassuming historic home. The Architecture of the restaurant, and the neighboring home (owned by the same people) is beautiful. There is quite a bit of a story behind these two buildings, they were not originally located in the historic district, but were moved. You can check out some pictures from the house moving on the website.

The interior of the restaurant is very vibrant and bright, with a gorgeous bar, amazing wood and glass features, and some really extraordinary artwork on the walls. When we walked in Florence and The Machine were playing, I knew that this was going to be a good place for lunch.
I feel really awful, because I was enamored with the portraits that adorn the walls in the restaurant  but cannot find the name of the artist. If you know who the artist is, please let me know.
Portrait of Abraham Lincoln

Portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln
Portrait of another woman

Since it was early on a Saturday afternoon, it seemed pretty empty, we got seated right away. Shortly after we ordered the beer flight, the place started to fill up. We managed to try every beer they had, that they make.
The Beer Menu
My Beer Flight

I was very excited about the chance to get flights and try all of the beer. I asked our waiter for suggestions, but alas, he wasn't able to give us any, he just pointed to the beer menu and told me what type of beer they were (which was clearly on the beer description)

Another pic of my beer flight

The beers were good. I really liked the Ditzy Blonde, Obed's Pride Amber Ale, and the Black IPA that Blake got in his flight. We even bought some of the Ditzy Blonde to take home.

The beer and the environment were the best part. I got a horseshoe... I had no idea what a horseshoe was, but my rule is if they say it is a local specialty or a chef special, try it. Maybe it is an acquired taste, but the Horseshoe seems to be an open faced sandwich (on a bun) smothered in a cheese sauce and covered with fries. It seems like a whole lot of starch for me. It could have been me, maybe I don't understand the appeal.

Despite my less than ecstatic lunch experience, the place is awesome. If you are in the Springfield area, you really should check it out. I hope that Obed and Isaac's leads the march for Springfield to rebuild itself, and embrace it's history, while remaining current and vibrant. A few more places like this, and Springfield could be a destination in the middle of the prairie.

Monday, March 11, 2013


If you know me, you know that I don’t take things lying down. I get up and I make things work, I don’t let fear of the unknown stop me. I have very little tolerance for weakness in myself, especially when it comes to getting things done on time and correctly. There isn’t anything that I put above the love I have for my family, and my desire to make a good life for them (hence the full time job and school).

Recently I started having trouble with my health, like really scary stuff. I went in to my normal eye doctor to get an eye exam, because I wanted to get some contacts (which I still haven’t gotten BTW). During the course of my eye exam he noticed that my optic nerves were swollen. I got to have fun pictures taken of my optic nerves, which allowed him to see that indeed I have swollen optic nerves. This was the beginning of a long conversation about my history of headaches. You see, I have had terrible headaches for as long as I can remember which sometimes last for several days. They have over the last few years gotten pretty bad, leading me to have a sinus surgery last January to theoretically make them go away. I also know that the second you tell a doctor that you have headaches, they want to run a bazillion tests on you to see what is causing it, or they tell you that it is all in your head. So after several minutes of talking about what could possibly be causing my headaches, and my optic nerves to become swollen, my optometrist decided to send me for a second opinion.

It took me longer than I had anticipated getting in to see the ophthalmologist I was referred to, due to an emergency involving a penny and my 3 year old daughter, and then a death in the family. I went into the ophthalmologist fully expecting to be told that I had nothing to worry about. My vision tests all came back good, except for my optic nerves being swollen. I mentioned to the ophthalmologist that I had started to get random dizzy spells, usually at the same time as the headaches. This made her decide to send me STAT for a CT scan of my brain. So off I went, with my now very worried mother in tow, to get my CT scan and wait for the doctor to read it and call me. After about an hour’s wait (which felt like an eternity) the ophthalmologist called me to tell me the good news, I do not have a large or obvious tumor on my brain. Yes, that was the good news… they couldn’t rule out a small inconspicuous tumor or anything else that could be wrong with my brain that would be causing these weird symptoms. So what is the plan to figure this out I asked… she said that the next step is seeing a neurologist.

The soonest I could get in to see the neurologist was a week and a half from my ophthalmologist appointment, and almost a month since my optometrist appointment. We now know that I have papilledema (swollen optic nerves) and are looking to determine the cause. There is nothing I can do but tell myself to remain calm and wait to see the neurologist. Until the Sunday night before my neurologist appointment... I started to get dizzy, but the dizzy wasn’t with a headache, and didn’t seem to be going away. I proceeded with my normal work schedule, and went to my neurologist appointment. He made me do some sort of sobriety test in his office, then told me nothing except that he is ordering a spinal tap (Joy!). I made sure to mention my dizziness to him, but he didn’t seem concerned, said he couldn’t tell me anything until after the spinal tap. Okay then…

Neurologist appointment was on a Monday, dizziness started Sunday night, and continued to get worse. Wednesday I was too dizzy to go to work, and had a terrible headache. The dizziness continued to get worse and Thursday I went to the ER, where they gave me a shot of Valium because I was silly enough to admit that I have been dizzy since Sunday, and was afraid that there was something wrong with my brain. They did an EKG because I was having anxiety, and were able to rule out pregnancy and ear infection as the causes for my dizziness.

 Let me tell you what 4+ days of incredible dizziness will do to your psyche. I was certain that I was going insane, like lock you up crazy, because everything was like I was drunk on a boat, without having anything alcoholic to drink in days. It was the worst part of being drunk, and it wasn’t going away. I was sick to my stomach from it, I was exhausted from it, and I was finally scared. I can handle a lot of things, but the thought that maybe I was seriously losing my mind, or that I had tumors on my brain causing me to slowly lose it, it was too much for me. I couldn’t drive, I was afraid to walk anywhere without someone with me, I couldn’t read because the words wouldn’t stay still, and forget about working on those two papers I had for school. I finally felt overwhelmed and defeated. The thought that I might not be able to do anything with my daughter had me nearly paralyzed with fear.

I decided to drag myself to my general practitioner to see if he could do anything to help me. This was three days ago now, this past Friday. I managed to get through the entire story of what was going on without breaking down, even though I was certain he was going to say there was nothing he could or would do until I saw the neurologist again. He checked to make sure that I didn’t have a sinus infection, my blood pressure was normal, I didn’t seem to be going crazy. He said that I have benign vertigo. And the best thing that I have heard in years, was that there is medication to stop the dizziness! Yep, I could wait nervously for my spinal tap without going insane. He assured me that it was only a band-aid for what was causing the dizziness and the papiledema. We can’t know anything for sure until the spinal tap. Okay, whatever, I know I am not losing it. He told me that the chances are it is not a tumor causing this problem, but a disease known as Pseudo Tumor CerebrI, which is not something that is terminal, and is something that can go away. What a relief!

This brings me to the end of my post. I don’t know what is wrong with my brain. I do know that the anti-vertigo pills are working. I know that I want to write about and drink beer, but I can’t while I am on these meds. I know that I am still scared, in spite of my best efforts to get past those fears. I know that I am worn out from this ordeal already, and it has only been a month and a half. Why am I writing about this on my beer blog? I am not sure, but I thought that I would feel better by writing what was going on…  Now I guess all I can do is wait for the spinal tap in two weeks. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Russian River Brewery-Pliny the Younger

As Hoppy Beer Girl mentioned in a recent post...we are here to bring you all things “West Coast”! Just to give you a little background on “Beatnik and McMatherson”, we are a husband and wife team residing in the Northern California region. We were taken with the story behind HBG, and what it means to experience the pure artistry in beer making, as well making memories together with your loved one. So while we may not be 100% girl, we are elated to bring you new and exciting beers as the "Team HBG West Coast"...Our locale is 1.5 hours from Tahoe, 1.5 hours from San Fran, right in the heart of food and wine region near Napa Valley. Our hopes: To introduce you to new beers not often received east of the Rockies, as well as show you the exciting journey getting to these places. So let us begin with the grand fashion!

Speaking of journeys! We've all heard many times that it's not the destination but the journey getting there. Well earlier this month we were treated to both a journey and destination when we set off to sample what is regarded by many in the beer drinking community as “the best beer in theworld.” I'm talking about the unveiling of the 2013 batch of "Pliny theYounger." Pliny the Younger is a unique and heralded Triple IPA (by the by...anything hoppy is revered out here) brewed once a year by the gang at Russian River brewers in Santa Rosa, California. Santa Rosa is about an hour north of San Francisco up "the 101" [side-note: Google "SNLCalifornians" for a skit highly accurate of how Californians talk about their highway system]. Rolling hills and marshy wetlands line the highway framed by mountains on both sides north of San Francisco making for a beautifully scenic view. We had run off on a Tuesday morning, just so that drive would be mellow. We didn't sight-see much on the way up due to anticipating a crowd at the brewery (yes even on a Tuesday morning). We did however get to drive through the winding Sonoma area on the way back, stopping for some Fro-yo in Napa (but that's another story). When you arrive in Santa Rosa, it has the classic old town feel. Russian River brewery holds a prime spot right in the middle of it all.


Approaching RR we could already see the line formed for the establishment. We arrived right at 11am when the Brew-Pub opened and waited roughly 30 minutes to get a chance to stand at the bar. The people were diverse ranging from Mohawk to Business suit, from newly minted drinker to wise sage of all things hops. 

The Pub itself is a comfy and lively venue, offering food, swag, and a plethora of intricate brewed creations. 
We were compelled to order, and received two 10oz glasses of the enshrined brew. You could smell the floral hops wafting from the glass, even held at a comfortable distance. Color PTY was a nice rich golden hue. As for flavor, complexity is an understatement. This is considered a Triple IPA, yet the hops are controlled, floral, milky, and smooth. Unquestionably this beer has mammoth flavor and a commands respect while drinking (imagine that part in any movie when the stud or babe walk into the room and all eyes are on them). We aren't usually one to jump on the hops train, but this is one fine beer...by far the best IPA we've ever had. As for being the best beer in the world? There is no doubt that it is great beer, deserving of all of it's accolades. And there is no doubt it reigns in the top 5 beers I've personally experienced. I personally feel fortunate, to have had the opportunity to be within a short drive to an amazing experience. If the rest of our tenure goes like this, it's going to be one great journey...with several wonderful destinations.

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