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Software development, running, music & beer

Category Archives: beer

Other Places, Other Days

So, it’s been a while. About a year and a half to be exact. I’ve dabbled in the various forms of social media, and it now seems the time to get back to where it all started, blogging. I tend to get wordy, so it will be nice to stretch out beyond the restrictions of 140 characters. So what have I been up to?

– Music has always been an important part of my life, so I decided to start up a Tumblr for the main purpose of trying to post a song-a-day for an entire year. Today is day 132 and counting. (I also have a Spotify playlist I try to keep in sync)

– Working. Writing code from time to time. Exciting stuff.

– Beer. Budgetary restrictions put a damper on my pursuit of every buzzworthy craft beer release, so I have gotten slightly more serious about my homebrewing. I finally ditched the Mr. Beer kit and stepped up to a pretty nice five gallon setup, though I’m still doing primarily extract brewing. But I’ve been very happy with the results so far.

– Running. Something has to balance out the beer and the not-so-healthy foods that tend to go with it. Unfortunately, this was the first year since 2005 (when I ran my first marathon) that I did not run a marathon. So I’m stuck on 9. Need to at least get one more under my belt to reach a nice round number of 10. I did manage to get in a half though, the River Run back in September, and can proudly say I set a PR. It might have only been a 22 second improvement, but I’ll take what I can get these days.

So those are some of the things I’ve had going on. Obviously lots of other stuff has happened in the interim, such as my brother getting married, becoming an uncle (twice over), all the Cleveland sports teams continuing to lose, that sort of thing. Going to try to write these things more often going forward. If I forget, feel free to yell at me.

Dark Lord Day 2011

This past Saturday, I was able to be a part of what has grown into probably the biggest beer party in the country – Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, Indiana. While I had an awesome time, it has probably ruined every other beer release for my by comparison, because nothing can live up to this thing.

So yes, I was one of the lucky 6,000 to get tickets when the went on sale online back on March 19th. The fact that tickets sold out in about 5 minutes gives you an idea of what kind of demand there is for this event. So I have been planning this trip, along with my friend Kyle from Cleveland Hops since then. On Friday afternoon, we headed out for the 5+ mile trek west to Munster, which is the next-to-last exit off the Indiana turnpike before you hit Illinois. We made one pitstop along the way, at Fatheads in North Olmsted to pick up some growlers to share with others at the event (Headhunter IPA & Stone Age Imperial Stout).

After checking in at our hotel a few miles away, we decided to try to check out Three Floyds, expecting we little chance of making it in. But low and behold, we arrived and had to stand outside for 25 minutes or so to get let in, but then got seated at a table and it was surprisingly not crazy. There is apparently some weird restriction on how many people they are allowed to have inside, to where they only let in about as many people as they have seats for (most bars around here let in about 4x as many as they can seat). So I got my first taste of Three Floyds in a while. I started with the Zombie Dust which is really, really good. Kyle got the just-tapped Brandy Barrel Aged Alpha Klaus, a Christmas porter, which was solid. We shared a goat cheese pizza that was good, and I finished the night with a Three Kings, their recent collaboration with Sun King Brewing, a mix of their respective Alpha King and Osiris beers, a very solid combination. Was hard to stop there, but it was getting late and we had a big day ahead of us.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The next morning we awoke before 7, stopped for a quick breakfast and coffee, and headed over to Three Floyds in hopes of finding parking. We were in luck to find free parking on the street that was quickly filling up. So we got our gear and headed to get in line. I had a backpack with a ton of water, gatorade and snacks (all of which came in very handy), in addition to the growlers and bottles we brought. Despite being 2+ hours early, there were probably about 300 people already in line, and it quickly grew and grew behind us. It was kind of nasty for a bit with some stiff, cold winds, but once everyone started cracking some beers, the weather was an afterthought. We ended up behind some people from Wisconsin who we spent most of the time chatting with and sharing beers. We poured some of our Fatheads, which everyone liked, and they shared several Wisconsin beers from New Glarus Brewing, including the very tasty Wisconsin Belgian Red. Pre-arranged trades were going on all around us and there were some very impressive beers trading hands. Our WI friend pulled out a very sought after Bruery Black Tuesday and poured it all around, and wow, that was one heck of a beer. The definite highlight of the beers we shared that day.

At 10am, the sun decided to come out and stay for most of the remainder of the day, warming it up to a perfect temperature, and we made our way inside and went straight for the bottle line as we had group A tickets to get our bottles first. The line moved quickly, and once we got inside the warehouse, we traded our generic ticket for a Golden Ticket which we scratched off in hopes of getting the chance to buy one of the four special-edition varieties of Dark Lord. I did not win, but my friend Kyle did, so he got a bottle of Dark Lord aged in 23 Year Pappy Van Winkle brandy barrels, alongside the four pack of regular Dark Lord bottles that myself and everyone else were able to buy with their ticket, at $15 a bottle. (With bottles now going for over $60 each on eBay, seems like quite a bargain.)

After securing our bottles, we headed over to the guest taps line which had gotten quite long at this point, even though not nearly everyone had even made it inside yet. We were in that line probably a half hour, and sadly the highly sought after Goose Island BCS Rare was long gone by then (since everyone we had talked to was looking to try that). I ended up getting an Oakshire Heart Shaped Box which was great. We then wandered around a bit and finally ran into some Cleveland friends at one of the picnic tables where we ended up sitting down at for quite a while, making all kinds of new friends along the way. Most of the table we shared with a crew that came by bus from Chicago. They had all kinds of beers, food and conversation to share. It was just a parade of beers, with people pulling out one after the other of really top notch stuff, including some really great homebrews. I did bring a bottle of my most recent homebrew, a Maibock, and got some really positive feedback from it (granted it was from people who had been drinking for several hours, but I’ll take it). We ran into more Clevelanders, including some people from Fatheads, who got us more food and more beers, and more of the guest tap beers that kept turning over.

Finally, when it started getting a little later, we decided to get in the line to go into the brewpub to try out some Dark Lord, what we had all come for after all. We were in that line for probably close to an hour, but I got more free food and we ended up behind some guys from Columbus who we talked with and eventually shared a table with once we got inside. I had a glass of the Barrel-Aged Dark Lord and the regular Dark Lord, and I sampled someone else’s glass of the Vanilla Bean version, and they were all top notch. While the entire event is a party that no one would want to miss, ultimately it is a result of the great beer that they produce, and this year is no different. I have heard some veterans say it is as good or better than any of the previous versions. I’ve only had it once before, and it blew me away then just as it did on Saturday.

I had no idea what to expect from my first Dark Lord Day, but it exceeded all of my expectations. Normally I am not one for big crowds and crazy events, but it was very well organized by the folks at Three Floyds, and everyone we met was very cool, and friendly, and super generous. Not to sound like a hippie, but there was just such a good, positive vibe that lasted for the entire day (despite all of the heavy metal blaring from speakers and the live stage). While the drive from Cleveland is pretty long, I will definitely be trying to get my hands on some tickets again next year and will hopefully get to share in this party again.

Here is a definitely incomplete list of the beers I drank (or at least sampled) on Dark Lord Day, in approximate order of drinking:
– New Glarus Spotted Cow
– Central Waters Brewhouse Coffee Stout
– Fatheads Stone Age Imperial Stout
– New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red
– The Bruery Black Tuesday
– Lowdive Brewing something
– Oakshire Heart Shaped Box
– Firestone Walker Double Jack
– Port Brewing Older Viscosity
– Sprecher Czar Brew (’09)
– Firestone Walker Reserve Porter
– Excelsior Thirteen Anniversary Ale
– Rogue Old Crustacean Barleywine (’08)
– Andelot Cuvee Angelique
– various homebrews
– Upright Brewing Late Harvest
– Haymarket Brewing IPA
– Fatheads Headhunter IPA
– Revolution Brewing Barrel-Aged Sodom
– Three Floyds Barrel-Aged Dark Lord
– Three Floyds Vanilla Bean Aged Dark Lord
– Three Floyds Dark Lord

A Tour of Hudson Bars

Last night my friend dropped by and Kristy and I took him out on a brief tour of some of Hudson’s finest drinking establishments. It was by no means a complete tour, but one can only drink so much responsibly in one evening. I like to joke about my boring life living in the outer suburbs of Cleveland, but honestly Hudson does have a pretty decent beer representation.

The first stop of the night was at my favorite (and closest) spot, North End. We managed to catch it on a rare non-busy Saturday night and get 3 seats at the bar (the actual restaurant was pretty packed though). I started the night off big with a Great Divide Grand Cru, which was really good and didn’t overwhelm me despite the 11% ABV. Then, per the bartender’s recommendation, we split up a bottle of Weyerbacher Heresy, a barrel-aged imperial stout that was a very solid brew, but a little lacking compared to some of the higher profile barrel-aged beers I’ve had in the past year. North End may only have 8 beers on tap, but they’re all craft beers and are usually pretty varied and not-too-common, which is great for me as I am always looking to try new things. And if nothing on tap fits your fancy, there is a great bottle selection as well.

Next, we drove a little further south into downtown Hudson and made our second visit to Flipside (I reviewed my first visit over on Cleveland Hops last month). There was a bit of a wait, as we expected, but we grabbed a few drinks from the bar and the wait seemed to go by pretty fast. I had a Southern Tier Old Man Winter, and my companions both got the Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout. Everyone enjoyed their selection. The Old Man Winter I have had several times before and it’s nothing special, but a good session beer that pairs nicely with food by not overwhelming anything. After we grabbed a table, we all got burgers and an order of the sweet potato fries. I went with the Shawn’s Burger, named after the owner, which Michael Symon recently called out for being a copy of his famous Lola Burger. This was a great burger, and further proof that I think I am addicted to fried eggs being added to food, as I also recently made this discovery at Melt by adding one to a Chorizo & Potato grilled cheese. Not exactly a healthy habit to pick up. This also was my first taste of the sweet potato fries, which were great, and much more generous in serving size than the frites I had on my last visit.

The third and final stop of the night was local favorite Kepner’s Tavern on the old main street in downtown Hudson. I had honestly only been there once before, as it’s craft beer selection is almost non-existent, but it made for a nice cap to the evening. I went with a Dogfish Head Chicory Stout and sat back and enjoyed some crowd watching. This place seems to be the young person hangout, though there are people of all ages crowded around the small bar or hanging out in the booths in the back, enjoying some cheap beers and greasy bar food. We were right next to the jukebox (since when do songs cost $1?!) that seemed to be a crowd favorite with everything being played from Journey to Justin Bieber.

saved by old times

First off, I just noticed this is post #300 for me. The posts have been kind of sparse as of late, but it is nice to reach a little bit of a milestone like that.

Kristy and I just returned for the North End and their Holiday Beer Dinner. It was a five course meal, with each course paired with a holiday beer. The menu was as follows:

1. Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale w/ Homemade Pretzel with Dipping Sauces (a warm blue cheese sauce and a grainy mustard)

2. Anchor Christmas Ale 2008 w/ Shrimp Bisque

3. Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale w/ Venison, Beef, Duck Carpaccio

4. Troegs Mad Elf w/ Pork Medallions with Stuffing and Waldorf Salad

5. Bell’s Winter White Ale w/ Pumpkin Creme Brulee

The food was all excellent with the highlights being the delicious Shrimp Bisque, which was served in a clear mug, and the Pumpkin Creme Brulee was amazing. It was like a soft, creamy pumpkin pie. As far as the beers, I enjoyed them all. I think my top was the Mad Elf, a very high ABV offering that is like a belgian strong dark ale, which I had sampled once before and am now definitely a fan (and I found out Troegs, although from nearby PA, is just now started to be distributed in NE Ohio). I also really enjoyed the Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale, an amber spiced winter ale from CA.

Overall it was a really fun event, sitting around with a bunch of beer snobs in a communal sort of environment (we shared a table with some strangers which actually worked out nicely), with good service and a great, knowledgeable host. I believe that I heard they plan to hold another event like this in January, which I will definitely be attending.

just because

Another weekend is slowly winding down. Things started off with handing out Halloween candy at our house for the first time. Fortunately Kristy did some last minute stocking up, because our initial purchases would not have been enough to cover the large numbers of kids that came by. Strangely things suddenly ended around 7:20, and we had no one until 7:55, some teenagers of course, coming by in hopes of getting everything we had left (sorry kids, I get to keep some for myself). Afterwards, we headed down the street for a little get together one of our neighbors had stopped by to invite us to. We had only met them once before, during a summer “block party”, and had gotten along but never followed it up with anything. But we were there for a few hours, had some food & beer and had a really good time. So this time we actually exchanged numbers and emails, so hopefully we will hang out again sometime in the not so distant future.

Saturday I kind of bummed around the house for most of the day, besides a trip to the fitness center to get in a four mile run. I only managed to run 67 miles in the month of October, so I’m hoping to beat that this month and lead into a strong finish to 2008 and a good start into 2009 with my running. My 1,000 mile goal is going to fall way short for the 2nd year in a row. Hopefully my third try will be the charm in ’09. In the evening, we went out to dinner at Olive Garden (thanks to my coupon clipping and needing to use a gift card from last Xmas) followed by some furniture shopping in which we found what might be our future dining room table at Macy’s. We then headed to Bricco in downtown Akron for a birthday gathering for one of Kristy’s friends. It was a pretty cool place, though we had to stand around for over a half hour waiting for them to seat us despite our reservations. Since we had already eaten earlier, we just ordered some appetizers (scallops, and a tasty goat cheese/marinara dip with fried pita). I tried 2 new beers, the Bells Third Coast Old Ale and the Southern Tier Porter, both of which I really enjoyed, particularly the Bells. We also had front row seats to the line of people waiting to get into some “ultra lounge” night club next door for a day-late Halloween party. It seemed that sexy cop & schoolgirl were the choice outfits for the evening.

Today I did next to nothing besides going to the grocery store. Kristy is very under the weather, so I’ve been hanging out with her a good part of the day. I watched a bit of the Browns game unfortunately, and saw the last rays of hope fade on their season. Hoping this week brings some good news, such as a new President-elect much unlike the guy in office now, and hopefully some more stock market recovery like we saw last week.

sleep walker

It’s been a while since my last post, as I’ve been keeping myself pretty busy as of late. A few weeks back, I took a Friday off (something I wish I could do every week) and headed up with the soon-to-be-Mrs to Debonne Vineyards to finalize some of our wedding plans. Fortunately this included some wine tasting so we could decide which wines to make available to our guests at the reception. We were pleasantly surprised to find out they recently added a microbrewery to their operation, the Cellar Rats Brewery. They only had one beer available that day, a rather tasty wheat beer, my favorite summertime style. So now it looks like we might be having some beer at the reception after dinner. We also met up with the DJ recently and finalized the music plans, including the banned songs list (sorry guys, no ‘Macarena’ or ‘Mambo #5’).

Last weekend was the annual Vintage Ohio, which I believe this was our 4th straight year to attend. I’ve noticed that I’m slowly developing my wine tasting palate as there were a number of wines I tried this year that I didn’t particularly care for, whereas in the past I was more of like “wine is wine, tastes OK to me”. The weather was perfect, and the only downside was I spent way too much as we were leaving, buying about a case full of assorted wines which we had tasted and liked. As for Sunday, I was doing my best to play Mr. Homeowner and finally paying some much-needed attention to my lawn, trying to clear out some weeds and water the dying grass.

Last night, Kristy and I met up with a number of our friends at the local Winking Lizard to celebrate her turning the big 3-0, a fate which I myself am facing just over 2 months from now. Tasty beverages, food, laughs and much conversation was enjoyed and we ended up staying out pretty late, so I was up way past my usual lame Friday bedtime of 10pm. I picked up their glass-of-the-month special, the Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale which I enjoyed, but was nothing super special.

Today, I did absolutely nothing. I just rented the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith game, and made my way through the entire career on easy this morning. It reminded me of why I liked them back in the day, as they were one of the first bands I can remember really getting into like back when I was 12 or 13 and the album ‘Pump’ had just come out. I then enjoyed watching the Indians win a rare Saturday afternoon game with an ever rarer complete game effort from the Byrdman. I then made a tasty pasta and broccoli dish for dinner, and we finished off the evening with custard from the local Rosati’s. The flavor of the day was Grandma’s Cookie, which was pretty good. Now it’s about time to head off to bed and get ready for a 10 mile run tomorrow morning, which looks like it is going to be very nice and cool, perfect running weather and the kind of summer day you can get up and actually look forward to getting out and running.

lively and refreshing

This evening I went out to dinner with my parents and a few of my cousins and enjoyed one of my favorite Missouri things, a Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat Beer. Even though Boulevard Brewery is actually located in Kansas City, it’s pretty easy to find places across all of Missouri that have their beer on tap. The Boulevard Wheat is a citrusy beer that is very light in color, though cloudy in appearance, and is supposedly the “top selling craft beer in the Midwest”. It is also noted that it is reminiscent of turn of the century wheat beers that were produced before the advent of modern filtration. All I know for sure is that it is good stuff that I wish I could find easily in Cleveland.

I don’t claim to be any sort of beer expert, though I think I could be classified as a bit of a beer snob. I rarely drink much alcohol at all, but on the few occasions I do, I always try to find something other than the standard Bud/Miller/Coors fare. I’m a huge fan of Cleveland’s own Great Lakes Brewing Company which is always the safe bet for me. My favorite is their Burning River Pale Ale, though the Holy Moses White Ale, Dortmunder and Christmas Ale aren’t far behind, though I’ve never tried one of their beers that I’ve actually disliked. I’m always a big fan of Woodchuck Draft Cider, Bell’s Amber Ale (out of Michigan), Brooklyn East India Pale Ale and a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember at the moment.

So when it comes to choosing a beer when I’m out, I’m usually somewhat picky, but I’m always open to new things. I know what I like (IPAs, wheat, ciders, rice, hefe weizen), and what I usually don’t prefer (dark – anything I can’t see through, fruit-flavored). So I usually try to pick something within those guidelines, and I always try things from local brewers when I’m in new cities. If the pickings are slim and I really want a beer, the safe, more mainstream beers for me are Sierra Nevada, Samuel Adams seasonal, or Heineken.