Tasting Notes: Sour Beers at Arbor Brewing Company

As soon as I saw the announcement for this year’s sour beer release at Arbor Brewing Company, I Facebooked (gah! Is that a verb now??) my pal and ABC co-owner, Rene Greff, and asked her to please set aside tickets for me.  Rene rocks and she did and I paid over the phone and there you go and it was awesome and and and.  Yeah, really, I canz write a sentencez!1!!11!

Sorry, got a little excited about the sour beers.  Let me start by saying that for me, learning to enjoy sour beers was a journey.  I tend to be one of those “destination” people–that is, I want to know what I need to know and don’t necessarily enjoy the learning process.  (I enjoy the *teaching* process but I’m often inpatient with myself and want to just “get ‘er done”, as the kids say).  The first time that I tried sour beer was at an Ann Arbor Brewers Guild meeting.  I couldn’t get beyond the “sour” taste and didn’t enjoy it that much.  Then Jolly Pumpkin beckoned and I tried it again.  I still had a hard time with the “sour”, but I genuinely liked the underlying taste of the beer.  As I drank more Jolly Pumpkin, my palate got used to the sour taste and eventually began to enjoy it immensely.  It was a long haul but ultimately worth it.

On Tuesday, June 22, Jeff & I went to the Arbor Brewing Company, had dinner (I got my usual black bean tacos) and then walked to the next room for the tasting.  It was then that I realized that I forgot to bring any paper to take notes on and that my camera’s batteries had passed on (God needed some batteries and He called them Home).  I am by profession a public school teacher and therefore I am forced to improvise on a daily basis.  (Kid’s glasses broken? Use putty to mend.  No pencil sharpener in the room where I am helping the kids? Gnaw off the bark of the pencil.  And so on.)  During a bathroom visit, I realized that the paper towel would make a lovely notebook and so I took a sizeable chunk of such.  I was right–lookie here!

(Sorry, couldn’t fix the batteries…I’m not going to chew on the damned things  hoping that I will some reinvigorate some juice. I value my life, and my teeth).

Just like last year, Rene and Matt put on a nice slide show for us, talking about the Belgian style of beer, esters, yeasts, grains and different style types.  My favorite slide, of course, was the one that talked about the different scents and tastes you can pick up from beer.  If you didn’t know that some beer can smell like horse, wet blanket, barnyard, goat and “zoo like”, well, you do now.  Believe it or not, some of those smells are not as God awful as you might think (some are though).

Biere Divette:  This recipe is similar to the Blonde that you might be familiar with.  The Blonde was originally done as a Sour Blonde and folks loved it, except for that “sour taste”.  So, to meet customer demand, they changed it to a regular Blonde.  To avoid confusion (i.e. having a Sour Blonde and a Blonde on tap), the name was changed to Biere Divette which is a cool name.  This beer is brewed with bitter orange and coriander and aged in an oak barrel for at least one month (more like four or five months, Matt Greff said) and then aged another month (minimum) in the bottle.  I found this beer to have a slight ginger ale-y aroma and light sour taste.  Since the Blonde is the underlying beer, I was reminded of the famous Brasserie Blonde that the ABC and Corner have, but with that hit of sour that I’ve grown to appreciate.

Framboise:  Rene told us that Belgium is located between France and Germany (I’m not at all embarrassed to say that I hadn’t known that; geography is the one class that I avoided all during my many years in school) and so they “brew beer that tastes like wine”.  They use the traditional malted barley, hops, water, yeast, but they also use sugar, fruit and microorganisms.  For Kriek beers, they use cherries, for Peche beers, they use peaches and for Framboise beers, they use raspberries.  Be careful though, because some of the mass produced Framboise-style beers use extract.  This makes the beer look and taste like raspberry flavored syrup.  Yuck.  Our friends at ABC, fortunately, use whole raspberries and the taste is stunning.  The “base beer” is the aforementioned Divette, so you still get a nice sour blonde taste but with the added bonus of whole, ripe raspberries.  The nose of the beer was excellent and it went down very smoothly.  At 5.75% ABV, I could have easily drank a whole lot of this beer except that there was more to come.

Brune:  The next beer was the barrel aged sour brown ale that was made in 2005.  It has spent the last four years, patiently hanging out in its oak barrel.  The base beer is the Jackhammer which is a great beer on its own; it is remarkable after chillin’ in an oak barrel for five years.  This was my absolute favorite beer of the evening–nice balance of sour and Jackhammer goodness.

Special Reserve 2005:  This beer also began as Jackhammer, and spent its time in a Gueze innoculated oak barrel.  Well, waitaminnit, you might be saying.  I thought that the Jackhammer was used in the Brune? What’s the difference? Someone asked Matt and Rene that question, and the answer is simple:  the difference is the time spent in the barrel and the type of oak barrel that the beer lives in.  It’s absolutely amazing to taste the difference.  As I said, this was the same base beer as the Brune, but it was in a differently innoculated barrel and spent four years there.  To me, it tasted completely different than the Brune.  It had a lot of complex flavors and very little carbonation.  Here, the low carbonation was a good thing because too much might have masked the flavors, Rene said and she was right.

(Another picture of my tasting notes. If you look closely, you can see a little picture that I drew!)

The next beer was the Velvet Hammer (third).  This was a barrel aged sour brown ale.  The base beer was a small batch that was made a couple of years ago, called Spring Fever.  It was about 9% ABV and the style was Flanders Brune/Old Brown Ale.  (Originally, they were going to use their Dubbel as the base beer, but they sold out of it too quickly.)  The long aging process allowed yeasts and bacteria to develop the sour flavors.  I found this beer delicious, with caramely malty flavors nicely co-mingling with the sour.

Next, we had the Velvet Hammer (fourth), which was released just this year.  This VH had the Dubbel as its base beer and you could tell the difference between this beer and the previous one.  (I apologize for the lack of notes on this one; Nature called, as it were.)

Finally, we had the Flamboyant Red, which is a wild red ale.  Again, the Jackhammer is the base beer and again, it tasted and looked different than the other beers for which Jackhammer was the base.  This beer was aged in newly innoculated oak barrels back in October.  It spent about six months there and then got transferred to bottles where it spent another couple of months. Imagine how excited this beer was to finally get drank!  As I said, it had a different taste than its sibling Jackhammer beers, and a lovely red appearance.  Along with the Brune, it was my favorite of the night.

(I drew another picture! That is Jeff and me standing under the sun.  Yikes! We’re a little close!)

So the moral of this story is that if sour beers ain’t your thang, don’t sweat it.  You’ll get there…start with something like the Divette and work your way to the Special Reserve 2005.  Your palate will thank you.

Black Licorice for Father’s Day

My dad has always loved black licorice; I have always not loved black licorice.  This worked out great when we would have jelly beans, as Daddy would always eat the black ones.  He & I have a lot in common, but not this one thing.

One thing we do have in common is that we are impossible to buy gifts for.  I generally request “no gifts” for this reason; my dad does too.  But Daddy is turning 67 this November and, well, I want to give him something while we are both here & of sound mind.  (I am talking about me, btw–he’ll live for years, mind intact.  Me? Not so sure about that.)  At some point yesterday, the idea of making black licorice dawned on me.

For a long time, I have been afraid to make candy.  Don’t know why, but something about the high temperatures and the possibly of burnt shit all over the place…maybe that was it?  At any rate, it is much easier than I thought and here is how I did it:

Spray an 8×8 pan with Pam or whatever you use.  Set it aside.

Put 1 1/3 cups sugar, 1 c Karo syrup, 2/3 c butter and 2/3 of a can of Eagle brand milk into a saucepan.  Stir.  Turn on the heat and keep stirring.  Clip on your candy thermometer and cook and stir until you get to 232 degrees.   Remove from heat when you get to that magic number.  (Obviously, I could not take any pictures, BECAUSE I WAS STIRRING! Sorry to shout.  I’m just not one of those take a million pictures every 10 seconds bloggers).

Now, put in about 1 1/2 teaspoons of anise flavoring and black food coloring.  WTF?? You ask.  Where the hell am I gonna get black food coloring? Well, you probably aren’t, so do what I did:  buy the multi-colored pack of food coloring and slop it all together.  I mixed red, blue and green and got a black color! Sweeeeet!

Now, pour the black mixture into your pan and let it sit.  When it hardens, slice it into pieces.

A few notes:

* The anise flavoring was overpowered by the butter.  So, I dabbed some anise onto a paper towel and blotted it on the tops of the candy.  It enhanced the “licorice” flavor and tasted more like how I wanted it to.

* Is this what licorice is supposed to taste like? If so, it’s f’in awesome!  The characters in the Matrix raised a similar question, wondering if the Ro-Bots had gotten the taste of their cereal right.  Take cream cheese for example…I love Philadelphia Cream Cheese too (mmmmm, on a bagel with lox, please!) but it isn’t what cream cheese is supposed to taste like.

*If, for some ungodly reason, you sat down and nommed the entire pan, you would consume 2,720 calories.  You’d need to do about 6 hours of Jazzercize to burn it all off…but it might be worth it.

Recipe adapted and modified from Epicurean.com

Original Gravity–2nd birthday & 20 beers

Back in high school, I had a crush on a guy we nicknamed Gravity.  You would have to shoot me to get me to remember his real name, but my best friend and I started calling him by this name because OMGWTFBBQ!!!!!!!! I couldn’t say his actual name!!!!!  That would make me BLUSH!!  So “Gravity” it was.  (Turn off your dirty minds, folks—it had to do with him suspending a pencil on a desk, making it look like it was defying all laws of gravity).  If anyone knows who this guy was, by all means go up to him and console him on what is surely a depressing life—I mean, he had a chance, man, he had a chance and never took it.  If that doesn’t ruin a man for life, then I don’t know what will.

Anyway!  The term gravity is a term used in brewing.  In brewing and fermentation terms, gravity means the specific gravity of the wort at various stages of the process.  Original gravity, therefore, is the gravity at the beginning of the fermentation process. It is also the name of a very groovy brewpub in Milan.

The Original Gravity is everything you could want in a brewpub—comfortable, relaxing, laid back.  It has a nice patio where Brad Sancho, the brewer & owner, grills.  (He also makes these baked beans that are the absolute best baked beans I have ever had, anywhere.  Don’t tell me if there’s pork in there because I am living my life presuming there isn’t.).  There is also the recent addition of an old school video arcade game and I may or may not have spent about $40 in quarters facing my old nemesis, Ms. PacMan.  I might have hurt my wrist a little, too.

It goes without saying that the beer is great.  This past Saturday, things were even greater because of a Very Special Episode ™ wherein the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild & Brad made twenty beers with the same wort, different yeast.  (And, true to all Very Special Episodes ™, the Brewers Guild contemplated going “all the way”—oh, and it was the OG’s second birthday! Ohhhhh…that sounds so, so wrong.).

I know what you’re thinking.  Okay maybe I don’t, but I know what I was thinking when first I heard of this endeavor—um, okay, yeah…are these all going to taste the same?  The answer, friends, is NO!  As some wise brewers have said to me, “You don’t make beer—the yeast makes beer.  You just put the stuff together because, you know, yeast doesn’t have opposable thumbs.”  (Okay, I added that last part).  The yeast did its job—with some help from the brewers.

White Labs Yeast kindly donated the strains of yeast.  Brad brewed the beer, the brewers donated carboys and squirted in the yeast and then it was just a waiting game…the wait was over on Saturday and it was totally worth it.  Jeff and I sampled most of the twenty beers (there’s a reason why we didn’t finish and I’ll get to it in a minute) and here is a rundown:

  • California Ale Yeast:  not bitter, a little sweet, very “clean” and balanced
  • English Ale Yeast:  no sweetness, got a hit of hops but they faded
  • Irish Ale Yeast:  malty, didn’t detect diacetyl despite warning of such
  • British Ale Yeast:  bitter, nice hop finish (my personal favorite)
  • Dry English Ale Yeast:  not as dry as I would have thought, not bitter
  • East Coast Ale Yeast:  very neutral, neither hoppy nor overly malty
  • Australian Ale Yeast:  very pleasant esters, dry, malty
  • European Ale Yeast:  nice taste, light, clean
  • Edinburgh Scottish Ale Yeast:  not bitter, touch of sweetness, nice malt
  • German Ale/Kolsch Yeast:  very lagerlike, crisp
  • Dusseldorf Yeast: a little harsh, maybe better suited to a different wort
  • Pacific Ale Yeast:  fruitier than other beers, nice malty taste
  • California Ale Yeast:  fuller bodied, a little harsh
  • American Ale Yeast Blend:  clean, smooth
  • Cream Ale Yeast Blend, Trappist Ale Yeast, Belgian Ale Yeast, Belgian Saison Ale Yeast, San Francisco Lager Yeast, Cry Havoc*

The differences between these beers were amazing. I realize that my pithy descriptions don’t do them justice, but trust me when I say that these were markedly different beers.  Again, it was the same recipe, but different yeasts.  It would (sorta) be like making the same cookie recipe but using different baking powders and having them all taste different.  (Yes, I realize that it’s not quite the same thing…that is why I said “sorta” J).

Special kudos goes out to the folks in the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild who staffed the event, to White Labs for donating the yeast, and of course, to Brad and the Original Gravity for hosting this event!  Happy 2nd anniversary, friends!

If you haven’t been to the OG yet, do yourself a favor and go.  Don’t get caught in that “OMG I can’t leave Ann Arbor!!!!!!!!” mindset that drives me absolutely batshit insane.  The Bubble will still be here when you get back.  And you will be full and happy.  Cheers!

*The last list of yeasts belongs to the beers we didn’t get to try.  I don’t make stuff up so I ain’t gonna lie to you and say that I tried them when I didn’t.  What happened was, in a nutshell, humidity.  Sitting outside in beer garden–>humidity + heat–>heat index of 97–>asthma goes haywire.  So that was that, but I’m glad we got to try what we did.

From My Friend, the Food Floozie

My friend Mary (aka The Food Floozie) had a lovely post over on her blog today and I thought I’d hijack it.  Not food related, per se, but it comes from a food blog so….

1. What do you think makes a good friend, or friendship?

A good friend is someone you can call on to help you out and they will help you, no questions asked and no complaints made.  This could be someone you knew years ago in college or someone you just met or someone you only know on the Internet but who steps up to help you.  One of my favorite songs is “You’re a Friend of Mine” by Clarence Clemons.  I particularly love the line that goes, “And you can count on me until the day you die.” I strive to be that kind of friend.

2. What is the last thing you bought & later regretted?
A pair of shorts from the Salvation Army.  They didn’t seem that short in the dressing room but once I got them home, I thought they were a little short.  They were only $2.99 though, so I’m not too bummed out.

3. Have you ever had a prank played on you?

Every April Fool’s Day, the kids go nuts saying things that aren’t true and then saying, “April Fool’s!”  I am not sure I would like to be the recipient of a huge prank though…I’m not sure how well I’d react.
4. What is your favorite theme park?

I’m not a fan of theme parks because I can’t handle the rides.  Since I have an anxiety disorder, I really don’t like to put myself through unnecessary stress.  I can handle water rides because I feel completely safe in water; not so in just plain air.  I do like water slides though, even though I perforated an eardrum on one when I was in junior high.

5. Have you ever seen someone else give birth?

Oh HELL no! I have tokophobia and would completely lose my shit if I had to watch that shit going on.  I’m getting freaked out just thinking about it.  Must stop now.

Thanks Mary for giving my friends a greater insight into me.

Can I Make Your Garden Grow?

Led Zeppelin had some whacked up lines, but I’ve often wondered about these from “The Houses of the Holy”:
Can I take ya take ya to the movies?
Can I take ya maybe to the show?
Will you let me be yours every truly?
Can I make your garden grow?

We must consider the source, to wit: Robert “I stuff bananas down my pants and run around with my shirt open and my hair flowin like Jesus'” Plant and Jimmie “did he or didn’t he sell his soul in exchange for rock and roll stardom?” Page.  I would hazard a guess that in these lyrics they mean something to do with sex, but I’ve been wrong before.  (I should mention that I am a HUGE Led Zep fan and say these words with the utmost love).

But speaking of growing, my garden is growing! I planted some spinach and kale back in March and my little plants are ready to eat.  I planted “succession crops” a couple of weeks ago, so I will hopefully get another crop of spinach (and some lettuce) shortly.  The first batch bolted this past week so I had to pull it up.

See the blank space to the right of the kale? That’s where the spinach was. I just planted new seeds today!  You will also see celery plants along the front and broccoli plants behind them.  There are some cucumber plants lurking in there and I’m sure you see the giant ass rhubarb.

Since February, I’ve been growing tomato and pepper plants indoors. This is my first attempt at starting plants from seed, so we’ll see how it goes.  They seemed to enjoy their homes, on the warm plant pad and the bright overhead light, but I won’t know how they really felt about me until we see if they make it. They are really small so I’m not hopeful….

Shit. You can hardly even see them 😦

The biggest change to my gardens was the rototillization (sp?) of my front lawn.  I hate lawns.  Hate.Lawns.  Where I grew up, your lawn had to be perfect or else you’d get…well, I don’t now what you’d get because everybody’s lawn was always perfect.  Jeff & I don’t have as much lawn as I did growing up, but we still have enough.  I decided that I’d had “enough” (see what I did there? Genius!) and talked Jeff into letting me rototille the shit out of the lawn and plant stuff.

Except that OOPS! Apparently, you can’t rototill lawn so I had the pleasure of digging it out by hand.  Thank God my friend Jeannette helped and Jeff helped but much of the lawn was dug out by hand (or rather, by foot) by me.

The potatoes are up in most of the hills!!!

My other bed has bush beans, sugar beets and golden beets.  I threw some parsnip seeds in too.

The bush beans are along the right hand side there.  The beets are up but hard to see.

Here are my cabbage plants–some plants and some from seed…you can hardly tell the difference between the ones I planted from seeds and the ones from plants! There are also some pumpkin plants, watermelon plants and my big experiment–peanut plants!  I had three but the fuckin squirrels of course dug one up to snack on. God I hate those bastards.

Here is my herb/fruit bed:

I had a lovely strawberry growing but guess who had a snack again? To the right are the raspberry bushes, near the pinwheel are my tarragon and chive plants.  The oregano is in the back.  The pots have basil and dill.  You can also see my cute little bunny statue!

I would be remiss if I did not share with you the hops:

Tilt your head and you can see it just fine!

The All Grain Brewing Experiment

Jeff & I have brewed numerous gallons of beer together–there was the batch that went wrong and we ended up using as lawn fertilizer, there was the batch where we forgot to add half of the extract and the batch that ended up…smelly. Okay so those were the bad batches…the rest were great. But they had one thing in common–they were all made from extract.

There is nothing wrong with brewing using an extract. It just means that all of the sugar has been extracted from the malted barley before you even start the brewing process. When you brew using all grains, you have to extract the sugars yourself. We decided to try the all grain brewing process with an India Pale Ale called “Hop Scram” (which I kept calling “Hop Smoosh”, despite Jeff’s best efforts to school me on this). Jeff bought this at the awesome Adventures in Homebrewing store.

(Please note that this description is being given by an amateur and is written as user friendly as I could get. I just wanted to give a brief overview of the brewing process and under no circumstances whatsoever should you use this as a guide to brewing. There are many, many guides out there that you should use! Always follow the recipe directions, as well.)

Ingredients: water, barley, hops, yeast

Here is a picture of the 14.5 pounds of barley that we started with.

The first thing that you must do before brewing is CLEAN. If your equipment has any goop on it, your entire batch can be ruined. So Jeff cleaned and cleaned and even cleaned our sink which was nice. Then after you clean, you sanitize the equipment. I wasn’t lyin’ about this cleaning stuff, was I?

Start about 4 gallons of water a’boilin’ in a large kettle.

Next, you put that water into the large yellow container, which is called the mash tun. Then add the grains.
This is called “doughing in”.

Let the grains sit in the hot water in the mash tun for an hour. This is called “mashing”. While the mashing is going on, heat up 5 gallons of water (in the kettle) to about 200 degrees.

After the hour of mashing is up, you will use this new hot water to rinse the grains that are in the mash tun. I don’t have pictures of this because I had stepped out to go to a Lady Food Blogger event. Oops. Anyway, you simply pour the hot water into the mash tun and drain the water out of the bottom. (There is a special apparatus that allows for this technique. The rinsing technique is called sparging, which is one of the coolest brewing terms, IMHO). Remember that water that you are draining out? It is called wort. It is the sweetened water. Make sure you catch it in a pot or else it will just flow all over your patio and unless you dig licking your patio, you’re in trouble and have no beer.

Take the pot and return it to the burner.

Bring it to boiling. Add the hops per the recipe. In our case, we had Cascade, Centennial and Columbus. (Hee hee, we had that “fine Columbian…makes tonight a wonderful thing!”) Let it boil for an hour, or per the recipe.

Now you cool the wort. You can best do this using a . Now you transfer the wort into a carboy. Jeff has a funktastic way of doing this, using some magic kind of gravity. First he cleans the carboy and then he moves the beer. Lookie here:

Like magic!! Look at it go!

Now we must add the yeast. We get the yeast in cool bags that puff up and then we cut and then we pour the magical yeast into the carboy. Mmmmm. You then have to add oxygen to the beer which you can do with an oxygen tank thingie unless that thingie has no oxygen in it and then you kind of agitate the carboy and hope for the best.

Now you must put the lid on the carboy–remember to clean and sanitize it first!! Then you can put the carboy into a cool, dark room. You can see it here, living in our spare room.

Why, yes, those are CDs, pictures and broken clock radios that you see in the background. Cuz that’s how we live.

Take copies and send it back to the homestead and show ’em how we live up in here.

Now we have to wait…about 3 weeks in the case of this beer. At that point, we will put it into our CLEAN and SANITIZED keg, give it some CO2 and then wait about a week. After that, the sky–errr, 5 gallons of it anyway–is the limit!

One Tank Trip: Frankenmuth Breweries

Most things from my childhood have either disappeared or changed.  My elementary school? Demolished and now it’s just a field of grass (and for the record, I will never forgive the city for doing that).  My first library?  It’s now merged into some huge building complex and the original building is gone.  The mall that we went to? Changed beyond recognition.  Most of the restaurants and shops that we went to? Long gone.  I understand that things can’t stay the same way forever, but it still depresses me to think about what is no more & will never be again.

Fortunately, a place that loomed large in my childhood–the city of Frankenmuth, Michigan–is still the same.  Well, not exactly the same. But they changed in the right way.  And by “right” of course I mean the way that I think things should change; to wit, expand with caution but keep the old stuff the same.  The two big restaurants–Zehnders and Bavarian Inn–are still there.  I can still go to the bathroom in Zehnders that I went to with my grandma.  I can still go to the shops on the main street where my mom bought me toys and candy. Meantime, they’ve added some hotels and a bridge and a riverboat.  This to me is the best of both worlds–I can walk on the bridge or stay at the jazzy hotel if I want to…but I can also still have my picture taken in front of the Zehnders sign like I did with my grandparents back in 1980.

About every other year, I convince Jeff to go up to the Ragtime Festival that they have at Zehnders.  They always show silent movies on Friday night and I like to go to those.  This was an “on” year so we went.  The carrot for Jeff (and me too, even though I do love those movies) was a trip to the two breweries in Frankenmuth:  Black Forest Brewhaus and the Frankenmuth Brewery.

We rolled into town on Thursday & had dinner at Black Forest.  The beer was great and so was the slogan on their pint glasses:  Cures what ails you; ales what cures you.  I thought that was cute.

My favorite was the Grateful Red.  It was, in fact, one of the best reds I’ve had and it was my selection for my pint of the night.  It was a lovely amber color, smooth and malty tasting.  The “tongue feel” was that of a full bodied beer, yet not too heavy.

Our sampler also had the Mr. Mojo Weizen (bonus points for creative name, even though I’m not a Doors fan).  This was a true wheat beer and I am not a huge fan of wheat beers.  Jeff is though and he drank it right up.  The Woody’s Light was your typical “crossover” beer.  It was good for a light–a classic golden ale with three kinds of hops–and my dad would have drank it.  The “would Daddy drink it?” scale measures from 1 (“you know I don’t like that fancy stuff you make”) to 5 (“it’s not a cold Budweiser but it’s okay”).  I would rate this one at about a 4 in that he would have made a small face but finished it.  Next was the Prairie Squid Blond, which had a sharp “Belgian” taste to it.  The description said it was a subtle Belgian taste but I picked right up on it.  It was slightly sweet, with a dry finish.  Next was the McGale’s Ale, which is an English ale.  This was a great English ale–bitter with a great hit of hops.  Super aroma, too.  The IPA was not available (“we had a catastrophe”, our waiter said cryptically) and this made for a nice substitute.  The last two beers in the sampler were stouts.  The first was Black Monday Stout, which was full bodied and malty.  I picked up on a “smoky” flavor that was lovely.  The other was the Black Tooth Stout, which was one of the better stouts I’ve had.  It had a nice hoppy taste, smooth and creamy.  It went well with the smoked salmon that I had for dinner.  It also made me think of my friend Cindy, who we call “Stout Girl”.  She would have been pleased with these selections.

On Friday, we ate brunch and wandered around town for a minute.  Then we decided, hell, it’s 5:00 somewhere and went to the Frankenmuth Brewery.  Cuz that’s how we live.

Jeff and I went to the previous incarnation of the Frankenmuth Brewery when, unbeknownst to us, the beer was being brewed offsite somewhere.  This time, there was no mistaking that the beer is being brewed right there.  The equipment was shiny and pretty and looked new.

The bad news was that they, like their fellow brewery across town, were out of the IPA.  The good news is that it didn’t matter so much because everything else was so great.  Our sampler’s “special” beer was an Easy Brown Ale, a Southern England style beer.  It was a lot lighter than most browns that I’ve had and a little sweeter.  It had some nutty undertones and a nice hop finish.  Since it was 3.1 ABV, one could drink a lot of this beer if one did not stop oneself.  Next was the Cass River Blonde Ale.  On the “would Daddy drink it?” crossover beer scale, I’d put it at about a 3.  I think he’d drink about half and then go looking for the Budweiser.  I liked it though as it was hoppier than a usual crossover beer.  There was a Pilsener which was a typical pils–light and crisp.  Not bad, not great.  The Red Sky had more of a grainy taste than the red from Black Forest.  I think I would have liked it a lot more if I hadn’t had that awesomely creamy red the night before. (This beer was Jeff’s favorite and his choice for his pint).  Nevertheless, I wrote that the red was “surprisingly complex” with a roasted taste and dry finish.  I’m not sure what I meant by “surprisingly complex”, but there you go.  The American Pale Ale (named “Batch 69″…hee hee I just said 69) was a nice hoppy beer, not as hoppy as my IPA would have been, but still good.  The Munich Dunkel had a toasty taste to it that made me remember those flying toaster screen savers from back in the day.  Oh goodness, with the “surprisingly complex” red and flying toaster dunkel, maybe I had drank too much?  (It’s all good though cuz our hotel was right across the street!)

I saved the absolute best for last–the Hefeweizen!  I never in all my life would have thought that I would fall in love with a Hefe but I did! It didn’t have that “harsh” Hefe taste that I don’t love but rather was spicy and fruity and very lightly hopped and just divine!  In fact, it was my choice for my pint.  When Jeff and I returned that night, it was my choice for my pint again (along with the American Pale Ale and the Blonde).  Again, peeps, fret not because our hotel was literally right across the street.

So both breweries get the thumbs up.  The real finds were the Red from the Black Forest and the Hefe from Frankenmuth.  Jeff and I also got to see some way cool silent movies and join in the sing-a-long (and by Jeff and I, of course I mean, I) prior to our second trip to the Frankenmuth Brewery.  Perhaps the most giggle-icious thing that happened (after the silent movies) was our second trip to the Frankenmuth Brewery.  Our bartender looked at me oddly when I ordered the APA.  “Have you ever had one before?” he asked.  “Oh yeah,” I said politely.  “We are beer geeks so we know all the styles.”  “Good,” said he.  “Cuz we have lots of people coming in here and ordering it because of its name and then not drinking it.”

Moral of today’s story? Don’t be a douchebag and order a beer just ‘cuz it’s named Batch 69.  Cheers!

Westwind Milling & the Crosby Mint Farm

The story of Peppermint Jim & the Crosby Mint Farm is one of those that you just want to not be true. You want to say, “Oh no way…this could not have happened! Nuh uh” or, if you are me, you want to go, “Oh no you dinnit!”

But yeah, it happened, uh huh and yeah they did. As some folks might know, the Crosby family almost lost the farm to a bank. Through a financial system that I don’t really understand, they got it back!! I don’t want to belabor the story, as you can find it here or here. But I want you to think about something: the farm has been around for almost 100 years. Think of the last 10 businesses that you patronized. How many have been around that long? The last 10 business I patronized were: the Corner Brewery, Jolly Pumpkin, the Beer Depot, Sweetwaters, Pacific Beach Burritos, a gas station, Hiller’s, a coney island & a convenience store where I got a pop. While I love some of these businesses, not one of them have been around anywhere near approaching 100 years.

I have been following this story for quite some time. So when I saw that Peppermint Jim himself was going to be the guest at a Westwind Milling dinner, well, I had to go. I should first say that these dinners are only $15 and it was well worth it! We had creamy carrot soup (which I believe had real cream in it; when I tried to make it, I used 2% and it tasted like milk-ass), a salad bar (hoophouse grown greens), bread (of course!!! :)), a baked potato bar & homemade peppermint fudge ripple ice cream for dessert. Guess where the mint came from? Just 3 drops of mint oil went into four gallons of ice cream and it was the perfect amount.

So during dessert our man Peppermint Jim talked about the foreclosure process. He sounds like I would have been during the same process–forthcoming, willing to admit my mistakes and trustworthy. Sadly for him,the bank dudes didn’t reciprocate. So P. Jim was being honest, thinking that these folks just couldn’t be that evil and that at some point, their true light would shine and they would help him. But they didn’t. They were out to screw him. And screw him and screw him and just when he thought the screwing was over–that’s when the real screwing began.

While he was talking, I was thinking to myself, “Let’s go kick their asses!” It would be like the Saturday Night Live skit that reimagined the end of It’s a Wonderful Life where they remember where Uncle Billy left the money and all go and kick the shit out of Potter. A much more satisfying ending, btw. If the 40 or so of us at the dinner had possee’d up, we could have done some damage, I’m sure. (Oh yes yes I know violence isn’t the answer…except that what they did is enough to get your ass beat. It surely is).

I am not sure how much P. Jim would want repeated, so I don’t want to say much more (please email me privately if you want more details). But the point is, boyfriend and his sister and many others worked their butts off to get that farm back. The work has just begun, but Jim seems more than ready for the challenge. In fact, he said that he goes to bed at night, excited about getting up the next day to keep on doing his job. Honestly, when have you ever felt that way? That’s an awesome way to feel.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the night was what happened after. I picked up some more spearmint oil before Jeff and I left. Peppermint Jim had told a cool story about how he was selling his mint and came across a crabby woman and later, a crabby man. Both complained of headaches and were, well, crabby. He put a dab of spearmint oil on their temples and continued to chat with them. A minute later, they each said, “My headache isn’t gone!” PJ said, “Just give it some time” and they chatted more. In both instances, the crabapples turned to leave and then turned back and said the exact same thing, “Hey! My headache’s gone.” I had no intention of using the oil for this purpose, but I thought I could bring it to school and maybe give it a sniff when I was feeling stressed.

Jeff & I decided to stop by the French Laundry in Fenton before heading home. (Great place, btw). As we were at the table, I realized that my head was starting to hurt. I didn’t have any Ibuprofen with me, so I thought, “What the hell?” and dabbed on some spearmint oil. I promptly forgot about it, and continued to chat with Jeff. About ten minutes later, I said, “Hey! My headache’s gone!”

I should say now that I don’t believe in aromatherapy, homeopathic medicine or alternative medicine. I respect your opinions if you do believe in this stuff, but I do not. Please don’t take offense, as this is just my opinion and opinions, as I’m sure you know, are like assholes. No harm, no foul. So I never expected this to work, except when it did.

Flash forward to yesterday. I have TMJ and it flares up on occasion, necessitating the use of my mouth guard that holds my jaw in place. I slept in it, took it out, brushed it (that’s a hoot, believe you me) and put it in its little case to take to school. I couldn’t wear it right away because I was about to enjoy my delicious coffee on the way to work. As I was about to leave, I saw the spearmint bottle on the counter. I dabbed a little on and ran out the door.

When I got to school, I ate my oatmeal and then went to get my mouth brace…except that my jaw didn’t hurt anymore. I know that this could be coincidence–and probably is–but it’s still kinda cool. You know what else is cool? Helping a 100 year old farm stay in the family. If you have some extra cash and want some mint, go here , buy some, make some mint ice cream and the invite me over. And if you do, I’ll give you exactly one free pass to call me Peppermint Patti.

Happy Beer Break!

My school district was on Spring Break this past week, but you know & I know that for me this really means BEER BREAK!! Not a break from beer, silly, but a break in my daily schedule that allows for more beer consumption.

In the last post, you saw that I delineated my workout tips. Before I start blabbing about drinking my weight in beer, I should say that I am now doing the Insanity workout. My friend Rene lent me the DVDs and they don’t lie–it’s insane, alright. At the end of each workout, the trainer (Shaun T) encourages us to eat right and to replenish the calories we just burned with something called the Recovery Drink. I know that he really means beer, so there you go. Thanks for supporting my habit, Shaun T!

Here is the calendar of my beersumption with Insanity workout in italics:

Saturday (4/3): Plyometric Circuit. You jump and do plank shit and people on the DVD collapse. Met some friends at the Packard Pub, which opened recently. I had some Wolverine Beer WITH the brewer, marketing guru & other people from Wolverine Beer. I like this beer. I am not normally a fan of lagers because many lagers all have a “blah” taste to them, but this is a good, honest, crisp beer. And my friend The Beer Wench has a hand in it so you know it’s good!

The only downside to the night was when The Kids started to come in. I don’t mean little children (and people who know me know that I am not a fan of children in a bar) but student-kids. I haven’t felt old in a few weeks, but I felt old. They were playing quarter bounce & had matching Pub Crawl shirts on & I saw a Chi Omega sister wearing her letters (she was drinking water, for any stickler Chi Os reading this) & this all inspired me to tell Jeff, “Let’s hook up & go back to your apartment. I’ll do the Walk of Shame tomorrow.” I kept this up all the way home, until we realized that I had keys to the house & my name was on the deed so the charade was over. Sigh.

Sunday (4/4): Power & Resistance Circuit Training. One of the minions on the DVD admits to feeling like shit. She does this crap for a living; how do you think I felt? Jeff & I went to the Corner for a beer. I had an Ypsi Gypsy & it was delicious!

Tuesday (4/6): Pure Cardio Circuit. The people on the tape could not finish the last exercise (plank jacks)…I did squats instead. There are a few things that mark the beginning of spring for me–my magnolia tree starts blooming, my dog sheds his winter coat & Arbor/Corner releases its Bavarian Bliss! Coming in at about 5.5% ABV, it is rather easy drinking. The nose is spicy & citrusy. The body is smooth, not too heavy and it finishes dry and spicy. Get it while it’s here!

Wednesday (4/7): Day off from Insanity! Arbor Brewing Company honored the repeal of Prohibition by brewing a special beer called Ladylegger and offering it for sale for 25 cents. That’s right…your eyes do not deceive…25 mf’in cents!!!!! There was a limit of four because otherwise, I’d still be sitting there drinking. It was a delicious pale ale with a hit of apricot. I was surprised that I liked the apricot taste as much as I did…it was refreshing & delicious. I took a picture of my receipt which showed the 11 beers consumed by Jeff, our friend David and me but I don’t know how to get the pictures from my phone so you have to imagine the most lovely sight: 11 beers @ $2.75. God smiles.

Thursday (4/8): Plyometrics again. Ugh. The long-awaited IPA tasting at Arbor Brewing! I will blog about this under separate cover, but I will say that the discoveries of the night were the Hop Stooopid & Bill’s I.P.A. Lot from Arbor. They also have the best buffet ever at these things, so many meatballs and perogies were consumed.

Friday (4/9): Pure Cardio again. Suck. Our Ann Arbor Brewers’ Guild had its monthly meeting at the Original Gravity. I fully intended to not drink much and of course I fully drank too much. Oops. That is some good beer, let me tell you. I got to meet Janice, who introduced herself as someone who reads my blog so right there we are friends 🙂 Always cool to meet someone who actually reads this thing 🙂 I also decided that should I wake up Saturday back in the past, I would be a madam. My friends agreed that my girls would be well taken care of & I would do a nice job of this. Thanks! Sadly, I woke up in 2010 this morning so we’ll never know. By the end of the night, I was flying which is what I do when I’ve drank too much…I wave my arms and fly around. Fortunately, Jeff drove us home; I wanted to fly.

Every day from 4/10—?? Need a beer break, for real this time. I will have to ignore Shaun T’s demands to drink a “recovery beverage” and drink water instead….suck.

Weight Loss

Sorry, no snazzy title today!

I have lost some weight since the beginning of the school year. I didn’t follow any diet plan or eat grapefruit or take pills or anything. I used simple math–calories in, calories out. I know that it is not quite this simple, because fiber calories are better than fat calories. But I also used common sense. An entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey is about 1000 calories. Obviously, you can’t go through life eating one of those + 500 additional calories and say, “Hey! I’m only taking in 1500 calories a day!!1!!!11!!” I mean, you could, but that would be stupid.

How much weight have I lost? I have no idea. I don’t do scales. I can tell you though that I was up to a size 16+ and just bought a size 10 dress and a size 8* dress this past weekend. Having said that, I should add that I was thisclose to fitting into size 8 shorts, but then couldn’t even get a leg in size 12 shorts. So who knows? Then I found a pair of size 14 shorts that fit perfectly…but my old size 14 shorts from last summer are about 3 inches too big for me. So again, who knows?

How did I do this? First, I planned my meals. Until the weather got cold, I ate a whole wheat muffin, 1 T of peanut butter and a dab of jelly for breakfast every morning. When the weather got cold, I switched to oatmeal with fruit (blueberries, bananas, raspberries) on top. For lunch, I had a whole wheat wrap & 1 T of peanut butter for lunch, a banana, and a 1 oz. bag of chips. For my snack, I had a protein bar. When I got home from school, I might have had a salad or one of those 100 calorie snack bags. (Okay, those aren’t the healthiest, but they make a good after school pick me up). Once the weather got cold, I started having vegetable soup with the banana and chips. Dinner was the only wild card, but I still used common sense, trying to keep it to < 800 calories. I only drank coffee & water, most days. I also exercised 4-5 times per week. I did Jillian Michaels workouts 3-4 times per week and pilates on the other days.

I kept track of calories burned & calories eaten. This was pretty easy to do given my “set” eating schedule. I used this website to help me figure out how many calories I was eating. When I made my own recipes, I used this website to help me figure everything out. When it comes to burning calories, I used this website.

Here are three things that I learned. Your mileage probably will vary:

1) It’s really all about calories. A wise friend of mine who works for Weight Watchers told me that you can lose weight just by cutting calories. If you have the willpower–and don’t consume beer like I do–you can probably get by with just ingesting 1500-1800 calories per day and be okay. I tried to lose weight for over a year with very little success. I just concentrated on exercising and never gave a thought to caloric intake. BIG MISTAKE. You HAVE to limit your calories. It makes all the difference. And speaking of calories….

2)…Many many MANY things have more calories than you think. I got into the habit of checking restaurant websites prior to eating there. For instance, I visited the Big Boy website prior to lunching there, and ended up with a reasonably calorie lunch. But one day, I decided to get my lunch at Einstein Bros. Bagels. I figured–shit, I’m getting a salad and a bagel, who gives a shit? I got my food and came back to school to eat. I thought there was a lot of cheese, so I picked around most of it. I skipped the nuts and only had half the dressing. I ate all of the lettuce and the whole salt bagel that came free with the salad. Good thing I modified this because it turns out that this salad has almost 900 calories in it (when you eat all the dressing, cheese and nuts). The bagel has 350 calories. Now, common sense should tell you that cheese has lots of calories but 900 calories for a fucking salad?!?! I could have a few beers for the same amount of calories. So the warning is–check your calories carefully. Food has more calories than you think & you never burn as many calories as you think. Speaking of burning calories….

3)…Do not confuse burning calories with a workout. Walking burns calories. So does shitting, screwing, breathing, smoking, talking on the phone and playing chess with Grandpa. But none of these things constitute a workout. A workout is when you get your heart rate up to its maximum level for a sustained period of time. To wit, walking for an hour will burn about 150 calories for a person of my weight. But cardio interval training will burn about 550 calories in 40 minutes. See the difference? Most people don’t walk an hour; they walk maybe half that with their dog and think it’s a workout. It’s not. Walking around the block with your dog is better than sitting on your ass watching TV, but it will burn less than 100 calories. When you then consume a 500 calorie Dairy Queen sundae, you have done more harm than good.

Now I know that many people have lost weight by just walking and doing no other exercise. And that is awesome–hell, I wish I could! But I have to believe that a) they weren’t eating many calories and/or b) they were walking for hours at a time. I also don’t buy the “walk for 15 minutes four times a day” racket. Again, it is better than sitting on your butt, but it is still not a workout. Again, your heart rate must be ramped up for a sustained period of time. Of course you will burn more calories than you do by just talking on the phone, but unless you make other changes, you will not see results.

I know this will irritate some people, but I say it still. I say it because I went through it…I tried walking for 15 minutes three or four times a day. I tried walking for an hour. And it simply didn’t work. The only thing that has worked for me are circuit training workouts that push my heart rate up for long periods of time. If you can lose weight just by walking–God bless you! I am endlessly jealous.

I should add that NONE of this was easy for me. Many people have said to me, at various points in life, that I am one of those people who “looks at food and gains weight”. I find that saying very insulting, btw, and will usually respond by saying, “Why do you say that?” This puts the person out on Front Street for saying something so asinine. Nevertheless, there is some truth to that statement in that weight does not “fall” off of me. I am not one of those people who loses like 8 pounds of water weight in a week. I am not one of those people who loses a lot of weight in a short time…it is pound by pound, day by day. If you see me on a weekly basis, you likely will not notice the difference because, as I said, the weight does not “melt” off of me. It comes off slowly, begrudgingly, angrily. I still have about 30 pounds to go, and I actually am not looking forward to my goal weight simply because I have absolutely no idea how to maintain weight. I mean, I do, but I am not sure how successful I will be at maintaining a healthy weight. I guess we will see.

*Okay, it is stretchy material, but still.