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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Smoke Jumper (Left Hand)

This smoked imperial porter was a good brew for the hot, pre-summer, KC weather. I think the smokiness brought about thoughts of bbq, grilled meat, and spring bonfires.

I had the pleasure of splitting this with a KC friend that I only ever get to see in Chicago. We met up at Beer Kitchen, a fine drinking (and eating) establishment in beautiful Westport.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This black brew had a light coffee-colored head. It was made up of tiny bubbles that hung around. The smokey malt was all I smelled. But it was a good smooth aroma.

Taste: It was creamy chocolate, but the light acidity and dryness cut that pretty quick. It was a smooth smoke and toasted malt. It was a nice changed from standard thick chocolate roast. The acid pulled off any sticking bitter aftertaste.

From the Left Hand site:
Here in Colorado we are blessed with abundant natural beauty.
Smokejumpers are those fearless wildland firefighters who specialize in parachuting into the wilderness so that we can continue to enjoy it. Smokejumper Imperial Porter is a tribute to them - a twenty-one degree plato porter made with barley malt hand- smoked by our brewers. Roasty brown in color, the long lingering smokiness wraps around flavors of molasses, toasted malt and an earthy hoppiness. Here’s to smoke in your glass, not in the woods. Smokejumper is the official beer of The National Smokejumper Association. www.smokejumpers.com.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What's in Your Luggage?

I think people tend to over pack. That groan when the taxi driver picks up your bag is not a good sign. For a few trips, I feel like I've only used half of the stuff in my bag. Every year for my longer trips I use the same packing list spreadsheet to make sure I don't leave a necessity (or useful item) behind. I never stress over packing though. 

The only things I need, and I make sure I have are on the following shortlist:
  1. Passport (or Drivers License if I'm staying in the States)
  2. Prescription Meds
  3. Credit Card/Check Card
  4. Prescription Glasses/Spare Contacts (If I lose a contact my whole trip will go by without me.)
Four simple things. If I need anything else, I can buy it. Knowing your absolute essentials is key to stress-free packing. If your list is more than five or so, you should probably think about it a little harder.


That said, there are a few things that make life a lot more easy for me on my faraway travels. The list looks long, but I can stick most in a single gallon baggie. I never have more than a small roller bag, even for 2 week trips. If you are traveling with others, try to split up some of the pharmacy-type items.
  • Water Bottle: This is a must have carry-on for me. Take the empty and fill it up in the airport. Take it on your adventures to save money and easy access. It's good for Mother Nature too.
  • Standard Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, comb you get the idea. I use a good soap for shampoo and shaving cream too. It's simple and leaves me with more room and less liquids to worry about. If you can find multi-purpose items, that's always best. Travel sized does make a difference. And you can trash the empties for more room coming back.
  • Wisps: These handy little one-use brushes are good to have tucked in your bag for long flights. No liquid, so no issues at airline security. It gives you that little bit of fresh to make you feel human again after a crammed overnight flight.
  • Sunscreen: Protection is very important for healthy skin if you're going to be out and about (throughout the year).
  • Tiger Balm: I'm an active traveler, and a good rub gets me ready for the next day's adventure if my muscles are aching.
  • Pain Reliever: Helps ease any aches to get you to bed and moving the next day. I'm partial to ibuprofen. Just take one that you know works for you. 
  • Pepto-Bismol Tablets and Imodium: They don't take up much room and when you need them....you really need them. Some countries (e.g., some EU countries) don't permit the sale of bismuth subsalicylate because of  past issues. Pack your own.
  • Benadryl:  Another small one worth the space if you need it. It will nip any allergies, rashes, or bites in the bud. Take it before bed and wake up irritation free. Get the cream if you want to avoid the drowsiness. If you are prone to seasonal/environmental allergies, bring your preferred allergy meds. With a new environment, your allergies might get triggered.
  • Chargers: Don't leave home without them if you want to stay connected. If you forget yours, you can always check the lost and found at the hotel. The front desk generally has a stockpile from forgetful travelers that they don't mind sharing.
  • Pen/Marker: Not all hotels have this freebie, and you might want to document your journey or take notes for your travels.
  • Travel Alarm Clock: Your phone will do, but you can't count on the hotel clock (if they have one). If you have a good wrist watch, that would work too.
  • Thin Foldable Corkscrew: A light-weight foldable corkscrew come in handy on long weekends or trips that might involve local wine. Many hotels have one (ask at the front desk), but it does come in handy. I have one that stays in the pocket of my luggage.
  • Eye Mask: This is a big one for travel abroad. No way I'd nap on the plane without it.
  • Travel Books/Dictionaries: If you are travelling to an unknown spot, these may be your lifeline. In the age of smartphones, they are still helpful in many cases.
  • Scarf/Light Raincoat:  If it's not winter or summer, you might want to prepare for rain. I have a very thin hooded windbreaker that tucks into a little bag. I have a super compact umbrella. I will generally just bring a shawl or scarf that I can tuck in my bag for that quick coverage until I can duck inside.
  • Shoes: They must be comfortable. If you must have some special shoes that won't work for extended wear, try to limit it to one pair. It's torture for some of us, but shoes take up the most space. Wear the big sneakers and pack the light sandals.
  • Clothes: As much as you are tempted, don't pack your whole closet. This one is a hard one. Especially in times with erratic weather. Resist the urge and bring a couple of layered outfits that you can rewear. Yes REWEAR. Do it. The world won't end. You won't stink. Just tell yourself that if you need more clothes, you'll just buy it there. If you know it's really hot, I'll concede that you may want a couple of extra shirts...but summer clothes are smaller, so it shouldn't take much suitcase real estate. Bring clothes that will transition well into the evening; there may be times where you can't get back for a wardrobe change before dinner.
  • Febreeze (Travel Size): In the summertime this will make your clothes go a little further (don't judge, it's true). Might make you more comfortable with the rewear.
  • I feel like MacGyver with some of these, but this is my list that keeps me prepared for my faraway travels. What do you have on your list?

Woodshed (Vintage)

After the sweetness of the Belgians at Vintage (Whippoorwill and Jinja Ninja), I needed some bitter. This oaked IPA did the trick. It had a good hop combination that went well with the barrel.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It had a very thick white head that stuck around. It left heavy lacing as I drank it down. The hops smell was very strong, as it should be. I smelled pine and floral.

Taste: It had a very floral bitter, but the woodiness from the hops and from the barrel were equally as present. It wasn't very smooth, and no malt sweetness was really there to balance it. I'd have it again though, just to make sure.

From the Vintage site:
Woodshed is a unique IPA experience- something of a hybrid British IPA/ American IPA, brewed with 2 types of oak chips for a truly distinctive flavor. English First Gold and Fuggles hops lend fruity and woodsy notes to the aroma, as well as a restrained bitterness, and an unmistakeable yet subdued oaky essence winds its way throughout this beer's character. Imagine a hearty, heavily-hopped ale riding in an oak barrel on a tallship to India 150 years ago.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jinja Ninja (Vintage)

I first tasted some of my friend's pint of this gingery double witbier. It was a nice change from the Whippoorwill so I ordered a pint for myself.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It was cloudy brown with a strong Belgian sweet and ginger aroma. The thin white head stayed the whole time I was drinking it.

Taste: It tastes as it smells, Belgian sweet and fresh ginger tang. Different, herbal, good.

From the Vintage site:
Never heard of a spelt-based, gingerlaced amber double witbier?! (That's because we just made it up.) Chock full of ancient grain wisdom and armed with a zesty fresh ginger kick, Jinja Ninja is here to vanquish the foe- beer boredom!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Whippoorwill (Vintage)

I met up with my friend in Madison, Wisconsin and headed over to Vintage Brewing Co for their brews and fish fry special. My fish at Echo was better...but the beer more than made up for it.

I was able to try three of their brews. I started with this Belgian-style Wit as a nice warm weather beer.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This yellow beer had a thin white head, with bubbles streaming to the top.

Taste: It was a little watery to me. I could taste all the Belgian sugars and yeast. It just wasn't as complex as I was expecting. Refreshing for the heat though. Of the three, it wasn't my favorite.

From the Vintage site:
Our breezy, thirst-quenching Belgian-style Witbier is made with portions of wheat and oats, and lightly infused with real orange peel and spice, for a taste as soft as fluffy clouds on a summer day!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Warped Speed (Lake Louie)

I headed out to Madison, Wisconsin a couple of weekends ago to enjoy Craft Beer week. While waiting for a friend, I walked to a spot near the hotel called Echo to enjoy their fish fry special, squeaky fried curds, and some local beer. After the long drive, I started out with this scotch ale.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This reddish-brown brew had a bubbly tan head. I could smell the biscuit malt over everything around me. It had heavy to moderate lacing.

Taste: The biscuit malt was the main player with a light bitter hoppiness. The caramel flavors rounded it off. It had a sticky aftertaste. Not a bad brew. Not as grainy as I'd generally go for.

From the Lake Louie site:
Brewed in the classic scotch ale style of the 1700s. with a deep reddish-brown color. Full of body, sweetness & flavor, with a smooth, lightly hopped finished. For the "Big Beer" drinkers among us.

Based on my notes....I could have wrote their description!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Date Night (Figure 8)

I found these notes hiding away from early spring.

I had been waiting over a year for this date-brewed barleywine to come back. I missed it last time it was brewed. I even went to a local liquor store to see if they had hidden away a growler or two. When I saw that they had brewed a batch I asked about it every time I went it. Was it ready? When will it be on tap? After the wait, this did not disappoint.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It was a cloudy dark brown (almost black). The bubbly head was just a ring around the top that stuck with it. It smelled savory and musky.

Taste: Well worth the wait and drive to get this one. It was like a thick date cake. It had the savory sweetness. It had a slight roast at the end. Was it like a good sherry? With the dark ripe fruit tastes, I thought it might be. A bit of cinnamon spiciness came through too.

From the F8 site:
Medjool dates plus a variation on Jumbo Love - this brew is even better than Jumbo

Friday, May 25, 2012

Indy Brew Trail

Indianapolis is a hotspot of brewing activity. Free thought, passion, and attention to detail, has made a number of established and new breweries quite successful. I drive down there just to visit these breweries and have a relaxing weekend. It's worth the trip. 

In talking to friends and strangers, I've found that many people outside of Indy don't know of the wonders of Indianapolis brewing. 

To help out, I've put together a map to outline the hotspots. I've put some short notes in to give you an idea of what you are getting when you visit, so you can plan accordingly. Some are just pick-up and tasting locations, some offer pints, some are full bars and restaurants. Some have tours too, if you want to check out their operations. All are staffed by a wonderful, passionate, group of beer-lovers.

Fair warning, this is Indy, not a major metropolitan area. There really is no public transport to speak of, and these spots are far enough apart to require drive time. Do not drive after visiting and tasting. Bring a designated driver.

Quick Run Down
See map for more detail and links.
Click through the Google map below for each location and notes. The blue pins are spots with tap rooms only. The green pins are spots with food too.


View Indy Brew Trail in a larger map

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Beer 101: Recap

Last night, I held my first Beer 101 session at Foodie's Marketcafé in Dyer, Indiana. It was a fun and informative evening. The session was an introduction to beer with a focus on standard summer brews. I discussed two of each type: pilsner, wheat, pale ale, and IPA. This way the students could get a good feel for the base of each style, while being able to see the differences the brewers bring to the formula with their unique recipes. The selection was a series of well-rounded brews. The shop is stocking the selection.
My goal with the session was to help the students better understand what makes up the beer and why they like/don't like certain beers.

After providing some background on the ingredients and how they impact the final product. I went through each type and discussed the basic make up and the differences that I could pick up on between them. The students were involved, asking really good questions. They talked of past beer experiences, what they've liked and what they'd like to try. With a small group, I was able to talk to each group and answer the specific questions they had about aging, styles, and breweries near and far.

It was a great group. Everyone was interested and attentive. They participated in the discussion. They were actually using this as an experience to find out why they like and don't like certain beers. (Cheers!) It was a diverse group of couples, singles, and friends. Everyone had a different beer background.
I feel that everyone walked out of there knowing at least one fact that they didn't know before the session started.


Popular Fact: Where did IPA get it's name? 
For those readers who don't know, IPA is an abbreviation for India Pale Ale. This style is a heavily hopped ale. The ales that the British shipped to the Indian colonies in the 18th century were heavily hopped to preserve it and prevent spoilage during the long voyage. The term is still used to refer to any hoppy ale. Some have even brewed Black IPAs (contradiction in terms).

Monday, May 21, 2012

Prima (Victory)

When planning my Beer 101 course, I decided on a summer focus. Starting that out with a pilsner was the logical choice. Problem is....I don't have many notes on pilsers. I don't really drink the pils, so when selecting two choice brews, I went with names I knew and trusted. I was trying to have two of each style that would showcase the similarities of the style, while having some different characteristics to show the range in each type.

For the pilsers, I went with Brooklyn's Pilsner, and this pils from Victory. Neither let me down. In a side-by-side with the two, I was really able to appreciate the differences and complexity I didn't know existed in this style.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It was a clear gold with a very frothy white head. It was very effervescent. It smelled slightly earthy.

Taste: It tasted earthy and ended with bitter-ish citrus. It was more bitter than your standard pils. This sharper flavor made for a very crisp brew. While it had a maltiness to balance it, it wasn't as creamy or as sweet as Brooklyn's Pilsner. A good contrasting flavor. As it warmed it got more sharp, leaving a bitter aftertaste.

From the Victory site:
Heaps of hops give this pale lager a bracing, herbal bite over layers of soft and smooth malt flavor. This refreshing combination of tastes makes Prima a classy quencher in the tradition of the great pilsners of Europe.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spicing it Up: Coobah-5 Rabbit Dinner

For my birthday, I was taken out to the 5 Rabbit Beer dinner at Coobah on North Southport Ave. I've had their beers before, but was excited to try the Huitzi. I was not disappointed. While I was very full, the portion sizes were small enough to avoid gluttony death!

Coobah is definitely on my list to go back to. Good music and good atmosphere. The chalkboards and menus boasted great food and a good selection of cocktails (rum, tequila, and others). With the Latino-Filipino fusion, the menu and cocktails looked complex and amazing. They had a patio that looked comfortable. They had free parking too.

I took some really great pictures. I embarrassed myself with my bright flash, but it was my birthday after all. And...none of the pictures saved. Not sure if it was the lack of network connectivity, or if my notes app just got buggy on me. So....you'll have to imagine how visually appealing this whole meal was. And believe me, it was plated up very nicely.



Course #1: Scallops paired with Huitzi Midwinter Ale
with hibiscus, ginger, rhubarb and coconut bisque

This course was so delicate in flavor and texture. It paired very well with the Belgian Strong Ale. It brought out the subtle hibiscus. The bisque complemented the honey flavors. The honey balanced out the crisp rhubarb and tangy ginger. The complex flavors all melded well together with a scallop that melted in my mouth.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

90 Shilling (O'Dell)

It has been years since I've had this amber ale or anything by O'Dell. I saw this bottle on the menu at Francesca’s on Taylor and figured it would go well with my avocado and palm heart salad and big bowl of pasta! My notes are brief; I didn't have time to take in-depth notes while enjoying the food and company.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: Creamy off-white head with heavy lacing. Gold-amber color. Floral hop aroma.

Taste: Floral hop. Bitter. Malt aftertaste. Slightly creamy, but light in consistency. It wasn't as grainy as I was expecting. Still delicious as it was 600 or so beers ago!

From the O'Dell site:
We introduced 90 Shilling, our flagship beer, at our opening party in 1989. For a while, we’d been wondering what would happen if we lightened up the traditional Scottish ale? The result is an irresistibly smooth and delicious medium-bodied amber ale. The name 90 Shilling comes from the Scottish method of taxing beer. Only the highest quality beers were taxed 90 Shillings. A shilling was a British coin used from 1549 to 1982. We think you’ll find this original ale brilliantly refreshing, and worth every shilling.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Summer Bitter (Goose Island)

I had a cask pour of this bitter at the Clybourn GI pub. My experience with Juliet was a wonderful one-off experience. I actually ended up trading this bitter with Mr. K after about half way though the pint. In typical GI fashion, it was not impressive. I still respect them getting these styles out to the masses.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: It was gold with an exceptionally creamy head. I smelled that unique bitter yeast.

Taste: It was watery wort. It was missing something. I tasted the bitter yeast (that corn taste I get from it), but that's about it. Bitters are not supposed to be bursting with complex flavors, but this was really not good. It wasn't foul, just not good to me.

From the GI menu:
Honey color, nutty aroma, biscuity malt flavor, medium body.

Juliet (Goose Island)

Why do I keep torturing myself trying GI beers when I know I don't love any of them? Is it because they are awful enough to avoid entirely? Is it because I like the pubs so much? I don't know, but in this case (out of many) I finally had a really good one!

I saw this Belgian Sour on the menu with a $25 price tag. I paused, but, why not? Well, I don't like most of their Belgian collection. Matilda and Lolita left something to be desired. I blame it on the moment. But it worked out.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This brew was the color of a rosé. The head was a thin ring of tiny lingering bubbles. It smelled sweet and sour. Belgian sugars and Belgian yeast.

Taste: It was like a Monk's Café...which is a very high compliment coming from me. That is the sour that I measure all sours against. It was sweeter than that Flemish sour. It was a fruity sweetness. I was torn between drinking the bomber by myself and using that extra glass I asked for to share with Mr. K. I shared. It should be shared. It is a beer that people with many different tastes would enjoy.

From the GI site:
Fermented with wild yeasts and aged in cabernet barrels with blackberries, Juliet is a tart, fruity, complex ale. Notes of wood, tannin, dark fruit and spice make Juliet an ideal beer to suggest to Pinot Noir enthusiasts and beer drinkers who are fond of Belgian sour ales.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bonfire of the Valkyries (New Albanian Brewing Company)

I discovered a bottle of this smoked black lager nestled in with a crafty order I placed with a local friend. Surprises are wonderful, are they not?! She knew of the intrigue black lagers hold for me. She knew that I enjoy a good smoked brew. She knew the way to make my day! I waited for a nice, chilly, gray day to enjoy this smokey beer.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This black brew had a caramel-colored head that dissipated quick-ish with a bit lingering on the top. I smelled smoke. I smelled roasted malt.

Taste: The first taste was that smoke, but it moved past to a sweet malt. It was a good balance. Like a yummy smoked sausage and incidental maple syrup. It was light in consistency without a strong aftertaste. With all of that going on, I'd have liked to see a little roast in there. Still very good.

From the NABC site:
Smoked Black Lager, everyday version: We couldn’t find the rule in the German brewing playbook that prohibits crossing Black Lager with Smoked Lager, so we went ahead and did it. Let the Reinheitsgebot sue us if it doesn’t like it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rabbid Rabbit (Three Floyds)

It's note catch up time! I have a few good ones in here.

I had a bottle of this Franco-Belgian Farmhouse ale that I was going to drink for Easter. I lost track of it, but I was finally able to enjoy it. I remember not being overly impressed with it the first time I tried it, but I was still looking forward to drinking it again. It has been in my booze lair for over a year, but it was still fresh and delicious.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This straw-colored brew had a white fizzy head. It was very effervescent with bubbles streaming up the sides of the glass. It smelled yeasty and passion fruity.

Taste: It was thicker and creamier than expected. It was very carbonated with a bitter ptih aftertaste that lingers. I tasted the citrus fruitiness as well. It was a little herbal (chamomile?). I liked it. A light sourness and still a bit hearty.

From the FFF site:
This Franco-Belgian style Farmhouse Ale has an effervescent body and a light straw color. Rabbid Rabbit, with it’s light malt body, augmented by spices, is a complex and frothy beverage with a deceptively high alcohol content. March release.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pilsner (Brooklyn)

This is one of my pilsner selections for Beer 101: A Taste of Summer. I normally don't drink pilsers, but I really like Brooklyn beers. They are especially good for sharing.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This gold/straw-colored brew had a solid frothy head. It settled to tiny bubbles. It has a standard lager yeastiness to the aroma. It smelled like lemon juice.

Taste: It had a very crisp flavor. The citrusy acid cleans the palate. It was yeasty. It was complex for a typical pils. No off aftertaste. If you like lighter brews I recommend it. It's a good summer brew.

It mentions floral in the description. I definitely got more lemon juice scent. I'll have to see if I pick that up next time.

From the Brooklyn site:
Brooklyn Pilsner is a refreshing golden lager beer, brewed in the style favored by New York’s pre-prohibition brewers. In the 1840’s, the pilsner style emerged from central Europe to become the world’s most popular style of beer. Like its ancestors, Brooklyn Pilsner is traditionally brewed from the finest German two-row barley malts. Germangrown Perle and Hallertauer hops provide a crisp, snappy bitterness and fresh, floral aroma. The flavor of the malt comes through in the finish. We ferment Brooklyn Pilsner at cool temperatures, and then give it a long, gentle maturation (lagering), which results in a beer of superior complexity and smoothness. We believe that you will find there to be none finer. Unlike mass-marketed so-called pilsners, Brooklyn Pilsner does not contain cheap fillers such as corn or rice, nor does it contain any preservatives or stabilizers. Brooklyn Pilsner is the real thing.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Beer 101: A Taste of Summer

I've been away, but rest assured I have some great posts lined up. I have a recap of an amazing 4-course dinner at a nice little Cuban-Fusion joint. I have notes for some standard and fantastic brews. I even have drafts for some travel posts.

I've been preparing for a Beer 101 session highlighting some good lighter brews for summer. I'll have two each of a pils, wheat, pale, and IPA. I think it will be a good introduction to beer for some locals. I just hope I don't bore them with too much background discussion. Once I get talking about beer, it's hard to stop! I believe it is only $20/person, which is a great deal for good beer, hors d'oeuvres, and a fun time!