Happy New Year! I write this from the house of Steve and Renae in Iowa, where a group of us has gathered to spend the holiday together. We watched the tape of the ball dropping in New York, one hour after it actually happened, and enjoyed champagne and phone calls. All in all, it was a very nice New Year celebration, followed by drinking games and heavy sleep.
We got up this morning, cleaned up last night's mess, and watched some football. After an amazing fit of Iowa football from Orlando, we turned on ELF, a Christmas present Renae received, and I promptly fell asleep on their generously huge couch.
Now, we're contemplating getting some Chinese food. I'll fill you in when more happens, this year.
It's all arranged now. I am officially going to the Extreme Beer Fest in Boston at the end of the month. I'll need to think of some way to document it, as I can't simply do a Draught of the Week, though I admit that I'm long overdue in providing one. I have been to a couple of events like this before, and all I can say is that the flavors kind of melt together in memory, so properly documenting the flavors and taste experience of all the beers I try will be impossible. Instead I'll need to do something else, that is sustainable for the duration of the event(regardless of dulled cognitive abilities), and also makes you angry that you didn't make the trip.
I just made a small donation to GOAL, an organization brokering relief funds to people in the areas affected by the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean last month. I highly recommend doing the same. Every little helps, they say.
I held the tasting party for the "coming out," of the Nut Brown at my apartment on the 28th. Nathan, Matt, Joel, Susie, Randy, Cole, Stacey, Geoff, and Erp all came to enjoy the beer, and good times were had by all ... I think.
Susie, Cole, and Matt goof around over some Nut Brown.
Joel, Porter, and Randy catch up on my freshly vacuumed carpet.
Nathan and Stacey enjoy a beer or two, while Joel and Randy confer.
Joel and Susie were in town from New York, and they brought their new dog, Porter. He was fresh out of an eye operation, and was still a bit under the weather.
Nathan and Matt come back for seconds(or maybe thirds).
I wasn't quite clear on what was public beer and what was private beer, in the fridge, so Randy dipped into some of my personal stash. The fact that he enjoyed it was some consolation, though.
Cole, looking alert.
Joel, I, Stacey(slightly obscured by), and Susie enjoy the beer as is disappears.
I grin stupidly for the camera.
Porter, it seems, likes beer.
Then, Porter got all affectionate with me.
All in all, it was a successful get-together which I hope to repeat sometime soon. We all agreed that the beer needed a little more time to condition, as for many people it was a little more flat that it should have been. That said, everyone agreed that it was delicious nonetheless. Success!
It's been entirely too long since I have provided you with a drink. I have decided to rectify this, and Nathan helped. We prepared for the oncoming ice storm by going to Tanner's last night, splitting a plate of ro-tel cheese dip and sitting down to some very tasty beers. Assuming that because it's such a common beer, that it would be relatively reasonably priced, Nathan ordered a Fat Tire, which we later found out was $5 a glass.
I chose the only seasonal on the rail: Samuel Adams Octoberfest. It pours a deep orange copper color, and advertises Two Men and a Truck movering company.
The Oklahoma-USC game was on that night, and instead of getting caught up with the game, I chose more often to look out the window.
We enjoyed our beers, had some laughs, and called for the check. Upon seeing our bill for five beers and a cheese dip, I hastily finished my beer, paid, and we took our leave.
Ratings (out of ten)
Flavor: 7 (Tasty enough to make me notice it, and its sharp little prods of flavor all over my mouth.)
Body: 8 (The spiciness hits your tongue with spines of remindermentationing.)
Aroma: 6 (Smells pretty much how it tastes, I found.)
Smoothness: 7 (Unfortunately, it's so drinkable that you stop noticing it.)
Price: 6 ($4 for a 22-oz, and $3.50 for a pint. Not bad, but not great either.)
I'm heading to Madison, WI all next week, and it looks like I'll be spending no more than two weeks at a time in KC for a while. Between now and May, I have three work-related trips planned, and just as many or more personal trips. More work trips will filter through, as the air warms up, and the training schedules crazify.
This week was supposed to be when I get most of the work done that I need to do for next week's trip(I'm flying solo on this one), but we got ravaged this week by a nasty ice storm, and I have been immobilized at home with a working car with an almost empty tank, with a fuel door that's frozen shut. I hope to make it into the office today or tomorrow, to get said work done, and my only hope, it seems, is for the weather to warm up. I just checked the weather, and it looks like it'll stay below freezing until tomorrow.
We sure are cutting it close.
I have completed the site survey for our exercise in March. Everything went very well, I think. Last night, I went out in Madison, and managed visits to the Great Dane Brewery, as well as the Come Back Inn- both sensational places to get a pint of beer. Fortunately, since this is Wisconsin, they don't really do pints, because there are plentiful other larger glasses they'd rather use. The average glass size last night was about twenty ounces.
My favorite place, though, was the Come Back Inn. One gimmick it held for me was that it was the first place I ever drank a beer in Wisconsin. Ten years ago(when I was sixteen) my brother, cousins, and I stopped unwittingly at this bar, on the way back from a ski trip to Cascade Mountain, up near the Dells. I mustered my courage while we were there for dinner and a warm fire, and ordered a Leinie's Red, and without hesitation, the friendly staff served me up a tall glass of beer. As I recall, it really hit the spot.
Eric, an old friend from college, joined me at the bar, and we talked about old times. As we reminisced about ruining each other's academic careers back in the Spring of '00, the friendly bartenders kept bringing us drinks, and charged us for about half of them. Needless to say, the free shots of Tullamore Dew didn't need to happen, but we still appreciated them greatly.
I have a draught of the week for you, as well, courtesy of the Come Back Inn. Now, however, I need to get some sleep, as my flight departs from Madison at the crack of noon tomorrow.
This was an excellent trip.
Sorry if I've appeared to be a bit slow on the updates. I assure you I have not been idle. I am putting together some things that'll make this site a little more interactive, and I've been articulating how to arrange that, and make it happen. The more I think about it, the more complicated it seems.
If you are thinking about how long it's been since there's been a new DOTW or Brewing entry, then yes, you're right. I was thinking that I'd make the DOTW wait until after I complete this piece of the puzzle I've been working on, but I realize now that it's been too long, so I'll get to work on that immediately after this entry is done.
Surprise surprise! We have a new DOTW
I traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, last week, and finished all the work I had scheduled to do in two days, in one. That left me with a free day, and hence, a free night for drinking beer. I consulted Beerfly, which has an entire category devoted to Madison, and found that the best rated place in town to get a pint was a local brewery called the Great Dane. I stopped by, and had a mouth-watering Monte Cristo, and two mouth-watering pints of ESB and IPA, before moving on to a great place, also listed on Beerfly, and elaborated elsewhere, called the Come Back Inn.
The Come Back Inn, adjacent to a more-authentic-than-most German restaurant, boasts one of the best tap selections in Madison, and some of the friendliest, most helpful, most knowledgeable bartenders I have seen in such a bar. They obviously love the business of evangelizing American craft brewing, and their playground(one quarter of it, anyway) is pictured here.
This is a closer look at the list of the beers that they currently had on tap.
They had a Tuesday night special, dictating that all these beers, in an 18-oz German-style mug, would run the customer $2.75 a pour. I got right to it, and helped myself to glasses of Bell's Two-Hearted(previously mentioned on BDC), Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Big Sky Moose Drool, and Anderson Valley IPA. Among these great American beers, however, I felt the need to review something local to Madison, and I chose Capital's cold-weather offering, Winter Skål.
It pours a color that is surprisingly light for a winter beer, but with a deep copper-brown hue, it's still handily darker than most beers one will commonly see. I think it should also be said that winter, if it's considered an entire style, is my favorite beer style, and if it isn't a beer style, then it's my favorite time to get a beer.
This beer gets right down to business, biting the tongue with a sharp, burning fizziness as it enters the mouth. This biting subsides as the beer slides closer to home, and is evocative of honey and a light sweetness as it takes the plunge down the throat. It may have been my imagination, but the beer, as it journeys along the tongue, shooting off new, impressive flavors as it moves, like a wagon full of ignited fireworks, seems to produce a sensation of a sort of rolling. The beer- the flavor, that is, has its own character that feels like it's determined to make you keep enjoying the beer well after the last of it has been carefully swallowed. Also, it burps well.
I had about twelve breaks, as the friendly bartenders kept bringing me free samples of their favorite beers, but after about a half hour, I finished the glass, and euphoria ensued.
Ratings (Out of ten)
Flavor: 9 (Complex honey flavor that wears its alcohol content on its sleeve.)
Body: 7 (Heavy brown beer that is evocative of drinking carbonated rum.)
Aroma: 9 (Smells exactly how it tastes.)
Smoothness: 8 (Goes down very smoothly, but makes you feel guilty for rushing.)
Price: 9 (At only $2.75 a glass, this beer was a steal, for its quality.)
Nathan and I went to The Brick on Friday night, for, "Trivia Riot," and won! We each walked away with $60 to pad our pockets, because of our "bet it all," strategy in the final round. It was a great deal of fun, and I am very anxious for the next trip, when we hope to take more people(and take home less in winnings), but I will miss it this weekend. I'll be in Boston having a raucous time at the Extreme Beer Fest with Carl, and saying hello to a select few other friends who will be in town for the event and otherwise.
Work, as usual, has been slow, with some meaningless political drama mixed in, to make it interesting. I look forward to running our exercise in Madison in March. We'll at least have something to fill our days with, in the days leading up to and including it.
Again, I extend the gravest apologies I can muster, for my pictures being down(for the most part). Matt the host tells me that the final, really final replacement machine is en route to its new home, at which point the DNS changes will be made, and will take effect, bringing you ridiculous pictures again.
I will have lots of information for you when I get some Boston down my throat.
As with every time I have visited Boston, my flight was delayed, coming in. I arrived about an hour and a half late into town, not because of weather, though admittedly, Boston has, since the first of the year received some of the heaviest concentrations of snowfall that it has received in recent memory. No, ironically, the weather was perfectly clear, with excellent visibility and flying conditions. No, the problem was some kind of mechanical problem on which the mechanics in Cleveland gave up, after about forty minutes of hemming and hawing. The direct result of this indecision, for me, was that I wound up standing up Bernadette who generously agreed to meet us out, by about an hour.
I finally arrived in town, and Carl met me at Government Center. We hopped on the D train to go to Carl's house in Brookline, when Carl offered to take my stuff back to his house, and I could catch the C train from Kenmore, to the bar where Bern was waiting. I happily accepted his offer, and got on the train that announced no stops, and had very few stops that were marked. When I watched the bar sail past, I hit the stop request button, and was let off about a half mile down the street. It was at this point that I realized the full severity of winter in the Northeast. I stepped off the train in a coat and gloves, and an arctic blast was waiting for me as soon as it was impossible to get back on the train. Shivering in the subzero temeratures, I hobbled between five-foot palisades of snow, on "shoveled" sidewalks, toward the bar.
I got to the bar, and met up with Bernadette at once, and set to having a conversation in one of the busiest bars I have seen in a while. However, bars always seem busier when you don't have a seat, I find. I say this because, we eventually found a table, once Carl arrived, and all was well. We enjoyed a tasty dinner, some even tastier beer(think: 90 Minute IPA), and nice conversation. After Bern bravely stayed out, talking with us until almost midnight on a work night, she took her leave, and Carl and I left soon after.
I thought it was cold out before I got to the bar, but I had no idea. The icy blasts had figured out a way to penetrate my coat, and riddle me with gusts of laughter for not wearing a hat. Carl and I sprinted to the train station, and hopped on for about 500 yards. We had just gotten our shivering under control when we got off, and walked the rest of the way to his house. I slept that night under many warm blankets, and dreamed about springtime in Kansas City, which, incidentally, will be starting in a couple of weeks.
We slept through our hangovers on Friday morning, and hesitantly showered in the icy bathroom of Carl's apartment. Thank God the shower is high-flow and high-temperature. We lounged around the apartment until early afternoon, when we decided to go and have a beer or two at the Watch City brewery, where we idled with my favorite pastime: a pint and a conversation.
We went to Cambridge that night, and got some very tasty barbecue, and finished the evening off with a session at Shay's on JFK. We met some nice girls there, named Amy from DC, and Stephanie from Long Island, and had a very nice time.
I am sitting listlessly in Carl's apartment, as we pass some time before the actual reason for the trip(for me, anyway): the Extreme(I hate that word) Beer Fest. We're about to head over to Coolidge Corner for a nice walkabout and probably a warmup for our throats before we head to the fest. With that, I say good evening to both of you, my readers.
Carl and I took the T to the Arlington station downtown on Saturday night, and met up with Mike, a college friend of a high school friend of Carl. Once we convened, we made haste to the Cyclorama, where the beer fest was being held, and would start in about ten minutes. As we waited to cross a street, there was a young lady also waiting, and was starting to edge out into a non-crosswalked section of a six-way interchange. Mike asked us, "how will we cross," and I responded, "we'll just follow her." With that, we made a friend, and Rachel from Pittsfield, IL, wandered around downtown with us, in search of the elusive Cyclorama.
We eventually found the venue, principally characterized by the queue wrapping around the corner of the building, and assumed our places in line. We moved quickly to the door, and got inside about ten minutes after the event began. We didn't waste any time, either. Rather than muck around with each other, the three of us took off in almost completely incongruous directions, seeking the beer that would excite us most. We reconvened a short time later, each with a different-colored beer in our hand. More information will be available for this on the DOTW page.
We met some rowdy and raucous "bikers," who all brought matching t-shirts, and tried as much as they could with two hands. We figured they were okay, and met them at a bar after the event, for chips and salsa, beer, calamari, and onion rings. We hobbled back to Brookline in time to catch Weekend Update.
On Sunday, Carl and I went downtown, got some lunch at Fanueil Hall, and stared out at the harbor from the end of a pier until the cold drove us indoors, where we warmed up with some Harpoon UfO. We sat and enjoyed the late afternoon and the view of residents bailing the snow off their balconies with dustpans.
That evening, Carl left me to my own devices, so I met up with Bernadette at Davis Square in Somerville, where we pecked at some steak fries and Irish rye bread, enjoyed some great conversation and had an all-around good time. We closed out the evening with three rousing "strings" of candlepin bowling at Sacco's, around the corner from the bar where we met. She dropped me off at Harvard Square, where in lieu of getting on the T, I just started walking, pondering the wonderful weekend I had, and how sad it was that it was all over.
I walked back into Boston, where I met Carl at some Exxon station. We went back to his apartment, and over some beers I brewed and brought with me, spent the rest of the evening talking about my evening.
Carl woke me up bright and early this morning, and very generously braved rush-hour traffic to drive me to the airport, where I had the easiest time have ever had with check-in and security, and sat through two uneventful, undelayed flights back to Kansas City, where Geoff amazingly was in a perfect position to pick me up at the airport. As payment, I sponsored a Winslow's-flavored late lunch, and we rounded off the afternoon with a couple pints and games of pool at the Caddy Shack.
It occurs to me that I don't think I've had such a perfect weekend in my life, before. I must be doing something right.
//EDIT// 7:16 PM Feb 2nd:
The pictures from this weekend are now up.