Archive for September, 2011

A Journey to the Last Tap at the Airport

This evening I walked a distance that can only be described as the length of two football fields. Trust me, it’s a lot when you’re lugging a carry-on and laptop bag.

But see – when you’re on the prowl for a pint of craft beer, no distance is too great.

There are five different bars at the Buffalo airport, four once you have passed through security. All four bars seem to be stocked by a distributor that macro breweries keep on retainer.

Every single adjunct domestic and importer lager that you would expect was available. It was a craft heads worst nightmare. As I posted on Twitter, I was half expecting Freddy to show up and shake me out of a dream with metal claws.

A funny thing happens when someone like myself is placed in a situation like this – I try to trick myself into thinking a beer is not what it really is. Persuading myself that some creative aspect went into making that “beer”.

Sam Adams Light becomes “the new offering”, Guinness is a “rare ale” from the Isle of Eire, and Bud Light Lime … Ugh, I can’t keep this up. Bud Light Lime tastes like lime flavored sugar water – disgusting.

There’s gotta be something better.

I finished half the bottle before I said no more (masochistic much?). I got up and looked down the terminal where I knew the remaining three bars stood. I started a walk that I thought ended in a place I’ve already been to – macro hell.

As I walked past the first stop I glanced at the bottles and saw the same as before. But the taps proved different – something caught my eye.

I wiggled up to the front of the bar and did one of those awkward shoulder, neck, head reaches to get a better view over the guy sitting right next to me. He looked right at me, they always do, with a look saying “what’re you doing weirdo?”. Whatever – back to the taps – false alarm. Sam Oktoberfest – better, but still not good enough.

The second stop was worst than the first. One final bar left – literally at THE OTHER END of the airport. I start the walk.

As I approach the bar, it feels different. I don’t know why – I sense… craft beer optimism in the air. I glance at the tap handles.

Bud Light. LaBatt. Sam. Dundee?

Um, kind sir, Mr. Bartender – WTF is that at the end there?

Dundee Oktoberfest?

Wait, is Freddy playing a trick on me? When Daniel the bartender pours it, will cockroaches spill from the copper handle into that frosted (I know, right) pint glass? Is it a mislabeled tap that actually pours Bud?

Alas, it’s none of those. It’s actually the best Oktoberfest I’ve had all year. No lie. Of course, I’m not a huge Marzen fan so I can’t pretend to give these beers a shot – but I really enjoyed this one.

Malty, just the right amount of spice, and almost creamy and oily in feel – it really hit the spot. What a find.

Daniel explained that this singular tap handle is rotated with Rochester, NY’s own J.B. Dundee Brewery offering up IPAs, wheats, and stouts to those willing to try something different.

It was quite literally THE LAST tap in the airport. Amazing. Moral of the story, never give up. I certainly won’t in the future.

After I polished off two pints, I jumped in line to board my 4.5 hour delayed flight home. Mostly every other passenger looked frustrated, yet I sat with a look of content.

I found today’s holy grail.

The Daily Ups and Downs of Writing a Blog

I’ll be the first to say that I’m not an expert at public / social / blog writing.

I’ve been doing it for a month. By all sense of the definition, I am a total beginner.

As such, I have no experience in this, yet I do have an opinion.

And man, sometimes writing a blog is hard work!

Coming up with ideas is typically easy – there’s always something running through my mind. Something I want to get “down on paper”, something that I want to share with the small amount of people that are willing to listen to me.

The work begins once I have an idea. Usually I start off with a bit of research, which then leads to more research, which leads to reading, which leads to thinking, which leads to finding a creative spark .. and on and on the cycle goes.

Sometimes I find that “spark” rather quickly, other times I’m staring at a blank screen with what I’m ashamed to call writers block because a) I’m by no means a “writer” and b) I don’t believe I truly know what writer’s block is (like George R. R. Martin knows what writer’s block is).

When I do find the spark and words start to come out, it’s fulfilling. Letters form words, words connect into sentences, sentences create paragraphs. And usually after about an hour of focus I find myself proofing reading a decently sized entry.

I crop, caption and format pictures, upload them, and fit them where I think they make the most aesthetic sense. I add external links – then test them (afterall, broken links suck) through countless clicks of the “Preview” button.

Once all of that is done and I’m sitting here proud of what I wrote, a dark cloud of doubt casts a shadow over my creative efforts.

Who the hell is going to read this anyway?

It’s odd – I probably shouldn’t care. This is supposed to be as much a soapbox for myself as it is for the few people interested enough in what I have to say. But I do care – I want people to read my thoughts, ideas, and share them with other people.

Afterall, my mom finds me interesting. Maybe other people will too.

I battle the self doubt long enough to schedule my post and hit the “Publish” button. And then I wait. I wait as twitterfeed picks up the post and publishes it to Facebook and Twitter. And then I wait some more. And then I refresh some more.

I watch as the WordPress visitor graph slowly begins to live again (it’s probably been about 24 hours since my last post, right?).

Oh wait, I just got an email. Someone in Texas is now following me on Twitter? That’s pretty cool.

My friend just retweeted my post to 435 followers? Also pretty cool.

Whoa, an old co-worker that follows my blog just sent me an email asking me if I tried a beer I never heard of?!

And that’s when all of that previously felt doubt dissipates. It seems that, albeit small in numbers, there are people reading what I have to say about one of my favorite hobbies and they’re slowly participating in this community.

Here are two examples of what my friends sent me – welcome to the Craft Beer Community guys.

From Nate C – An email titled “craft beer enthusiasm”, Nate shared two links:

iTunes App
Thrillist Manhattan/BK Craft beer crawls

From Adam S – Asked me if I tried Mjolnir Beer yet.. Tried it? I never even heard of it!

So cool that these guys actually took time out of their day to share something craft beer related with me.

These are the types of things that will keep this blog going .. for at least another 24 hours 🙂

What has your experience been with writing a blog?

@traquairhouse Traquair Jacobite: Guest Review for @scbeerguy

Traquair Jacobite

Traquair Jacobite from Scotland

It seems like I’m a big fan of writing guest blog posts! It’s a good thing I spend a little bit of time putting some thought into my own blog, or else you’d be reading a blog full of links.

Here’s a thoughtful review that I did for Chris (@scbeerguy) and his website (www.scbeerguy.com).

Click here to read my review of Scotland’s own Traquair House Jacobite – a very interesting Wee Heavy Scotch Ale.

This was an awesome find and I hope you get a chance to try it one day!

Make sure you visit Chris’ site at www.scbeerguy.com for reviews, news, and a ton of other craft beer information.

What was the last unique imported craft beer that you enjoyed?

New Friends, New Beer, New Experiences – My First Bottle Share

BottlelineOne of the many benefits of my day job (which I cannot be more thankful for) is the ability to travel to many different places throughout the US.

Because I’m typically located in the same distant place for a number of weeks, I am lucky to have enough time to explore various local craft breweries and offerings.

During a recent trip to upstate New York, I stumbled upon two breweries at a local beer store whose beer simply interested me – so naturally I bought a few bombers.

Hop Warrior and Dragonslayer

The Selection: Hop Warrior and Dragonslayer!

Hop Warrior (Imperial IPA, 8%) from Rooster Fish Brewing (website) in Watkins Glen, NY and Dragonslayer (Imperial Stout, 9.5%) from Middle Ages Brewing Company (@MiddleAgesBeer) in Syracuse, NY quickly found their way into my collection.

Score! Couldn’t wait to try these beers out.

Fast forward a few days and I find myself being invited to my first ever Bottle Share. For those unfamiliar with the term bottle share – it’s essentially a gathering of craft heads with the intent of sampling a number of different beers.

Each invited guests brings 2 to 3 different bottles for eager beer fanatics to try. Figuring that not a lot of people would have been exposed to small breweries from upstate New York, I graciously accepted the invite and lugged my two new bombers to the event.

I was the newcomer and was familiar with only two other people – that didn’t matter. Everyone was incredibly nice, polite and welcoming. The guests introduced themselves, asked questions and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.

As we went through bottle after bottle of delicious craft beer from all over the country, I found myself relating the event to a craft beer festival except with beer not easily found at brewery tents.

The home run brew for me that night was the Reunion Ale ’08 brewed by Bison Brewing Company (@BisonBrew) from Berkeley, California. The Reunion Ale is brewed yearly as a memory to Virginia MacLean who passed away from Multiple Myeloma in 2007. Read more about Virginia’s story here.

Annually, different breweries participate in brewing the ale and there are frequent collaborations (check out this years Shmaltz and Terrapin Reunion Ale ’11 here).

The 2008 version was an organic red rye ale brewed with caraway seeds. Three years of aging did this little gem a huge favor by truly bring out the flavor. Fantastic brew.

Bottle Selections

Various Selections from My First Bottle Share

Other notable craft beers included products from Mikkeller (@MikkellerBeer), Schlafly (@Schlafly), Bell’s (@BellsBrewery), Founders (@FoundersBrewing) and the Sierra Nevada / Dogfish collaboration Life & Limb 2.

When it was my time to share, I found myself a bit apprehensive. I think I now know what home brewers go through when their beer is being judged at competitions – and I didn’t even brew the beer I brought!

I poured samples of Hop Warrior to the guests and eagerly awaited their response. Because no one had tried the beer before (including me), I was very curious about what they thought.

It was a success! Although not an extraordinary brew, the overall response was positive and I was happy to introduce the brewery to the event’s guests.

Unfortunately, not the same could be said about Dragonslayer. The craft beer had a rather unique taste akin to candy and plastic. Everyone was polite and thanked me, but I didn’t see too many folks grab the bottle for another sample. Lesson learned! You win some, you loose some.

Towards the end of the night, I even had the opportunity to try the elusive and hard to acquire Samuel Adam’s Utopias, a 27% American Strong Ale. Although I am extremely appreciative of the complexity of brewing such a beer and the guests willing to share it, I found it a bit overbearing. This is certainly a beer enjoyed very seldom in small sipping quantities.

Overall, my first bottle was a complete success and made me eager for more I’m already thinking about hosting my own bottle share with old and new friends alike.

What was the experience like at your last bottle share?

It’s still summer in Belmar, right? Beer on the Pier Event!

I know that it’s September already and although summer officially ends the day after this post is published, wouldn’t it be nice to come back for a fun filled Saturday in Belmar, NJ?

Well, here is your chance!

In the past month, I’ve gotten involved with a great group of guys and gals at newjerseycraftbeer.com. This group of devoted craft heads aims to spread the knowledge about the craft beer community throughout the state of New Jersey.

Beer on the Pier

Beer on the Pier - Belmar Marina, Sept 24th!

Our devoted leader, Mike K (@NJCraftBeer), recently requested the support of NJCB reporters to help talk and pour beer at the second annual Beer on the Pier event in Belmar – and, like with most craft beer related things, it was very difficult to say no.

I will be engaging on a long journey from Jersey City to the Belmar Marina to participate in the event as a proud representative of NJCB. I am very excited for the opportunity as it will be the first time that I will be volunteering at a craft beer related event.

Click here to read more about the event including the VERY long list of breweries that will be present including the likes of Weyerbacher (Easton, PA), Sixpoint (Brooklyn, NY), Oskar Blues (Boulder, CO) and Terrapin (Athens, GA).

Listed on the ballot are also a couple of local NJ breweries including River Horse (Lambertville) and Cricket Hill (Fairfield).

Don’t you think this is a great way to spend a Saturday? Hope to see you there!

Do you plan on making it out to the Beer on the Pier event?

I Have Never Done 100 Miles Before: Twin Lights Bike Ride!

Bike New York LogoThis Sunday at 5:30AM I will be waking up to do something that I have thought about doing plenty of times but never had the opportunity to do. I will be participating in my first 100 mile (aka Century) bike ride.

Now, now – I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself – what does this have to do with craft beer?

Well, outside of the fact that cycling is another one of my hobbies, not much really! But this is my social and creative outlet so I figured I’d share with you what my plans are for Sunday.

Along with the Dive Cycle crew (more on them in a minute), I will be partaking in the Bike New York (@bikenewyork) Twin Lights Bike Ride in Highlands, NJ. Like most cycling events, this day long extravaganza includes several routes including 35, 55, 75 and 100 mile journeys. Check out the route maps here.

Twin Lights Ride

Twin Lights Ride Logo

As you can imagine, the shorter distances are fairly simple and are geared towards the biking beginning. Once you start moving up into the 75 and 100 mile range, you will need a good road bike, strong road tires, and spare tubes galore.

Throughout the day on Sunday, I will be tweeting my progress as I traverse through this crazy escapade that the Dive Cycle crew and I have embarked on.

This is the second race that the three of us will be riding together as we completed the 42-mile 5 Borough NYC Bike Ride earlier this year.

Although I’m not yet a member, I have requested to be initiated into the one woman, one man crew who prides itself on riding and diving hard. The term “dive” comes from “dive bar” as the duo, Kelly and Scott, frequently visit dive bars along bike routes in Western NJ and Eastern PA in search of good craft beer.

You will have to drink a pint of beer with a goldfish in it while cycling in a circle in order to be initiated.

Unofficial Dive Cycle Logo

Unofficial Dive Cycle Logo - New Version Coming Soon!

Whether this is the truth or not, I will have my pint glass ready. And goldfish or not, we will definitely be celebrating with a craft beer after the race!

Wish us luck!

What’s the longest bike ride you’ve ever gone on and did it involve craft beer?

Update: Century Fail! Unfortunately, Dive Cycle did not finish the 100 mile bike ride we originally anticipated on completing.

As a very childish prank, someone (still unknown) spilled a box of tacks on the road at around the 50 mile marker. All three of our front tires were affected, and although they remained filled with air for another 6 miles, the air ultimately began seeping out causing flats.

By the time we reached the next rest stop (which was now closed), it was too late to continue. We waited two hours for a ride back to the starting point. All things considered, we were very happy to have finished 56 miles. We’ll get that century soon enough!

NJ’s own @RiverHorseBrew Lager: Guest Review for @DailyBeerReview

River Horse LagerI recently met Rob via twitter (@dailybeerreview). He is an avid craft beer blogger and runs a daily review site (www.dailybeerreview.com).

Rob asked if anyone wanted to do a guest review for his blog, and being the “cool” guy that I am – I did just that!

Click here to read my review of the River Horse Lager (brewed in Lambertville, NJ) on the Daily Beer Review!

Make sure you visit Rob’s site, www.dailybeerreview.com, for pure dedication to craft beer reviews.

What was the last great beer you had that was brewed in New Jersey?