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Phantom Brewer Takes “Battle of the Bubbles” by Storm

Ok, well maybe he’s not a phantom, but my hubster certainly came from out of no where and took this year’s Battle of the Bubbles homebrew competition by storm!   Battle of the Bubbles is a local competition started last year, and continued this year as part of Frederick Beer Week.

I’m bragging you say?  You bet I am!

88 beers were entered in 21 different categories.  The hubster entered four of his homebrews – a Belgian IPA, a Southern English Brown, a Hellesbock and a Winterbock (my personal favorite).

Results were as follows…

  • Belgian IPA – 2nd place all around, 1st place in its category,
  • Southern English Brown – 1st place in its category
  • Hellesbock –  3rd place in its category
  • Winterbock – 2nd place in its category.

All went to the final round, with his Belgian IPA taking 2nd place all around.

We thought he’d come home with a few medals of honor, but when he collected his winnings, the stash included four huge ribbons; gift cards from local restaurants, Northern Brewer and White Labs (yeast); beer stickers; t-shirt; a tap handle; and a VIP tour of Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick for up to 10 people (don’t think I won’t be blogging about that!).

Holy cow!  We were two giddy kids sitting in the car, laughing and dumbfounded by all the goodies he’d won.

Rumor has it, my hubster is “the one to watch out for” next year.  That’s the best prize of all!

Cheers beers everyone!  

Cheers Beers’ First Beer Dinner

What better time to experience our first ever beer dinner than during Frederick Beer Week at our favorite hometown brewpub – Barley and Hops.  The Barley and Hops Spring Beer Tasting and Dinner not only featured their stellar house brews, but the event and the menu were all organized by head brewer and culinary creator Larry Pomerantz.  Each item on the menu, shown below, was designed to pair with one of Larry’s exceptional beers.

If you find yourself in Frederick, Maryland, stop by Barley and Hops for a quality pint or two and a great menu!  http://www.barleyandhops.net.

This was Barley and Hops’ premiere beer dinner  – hopefully the first of many to come (we’ve heard rumors that various themed beer dinners may be held quarterly!).  They seated 20 or more of us at a long family style table.  When beer and food are involved, it doesn’t take long for new friendships to form. We were all chatting and laughing and oohing and ahhing over the meal items as Larry explained his thought process behind the pairings and sought our reactions to tastes and flavor combinations.

Dinner is Served

We were so absorbed in the dinner that we missed most of our photo moments. Take my word for it…the cheese course was delicious!

Celery Heart Salad with Bacon Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp served with Larry’s fabulous Sugerloaf Saison and a Saison Vinaigrette.

Stout ice cream…a great way to top off any meal!

1st Course

A cheese course consisting of local goat cheeses that included a soft tangy baby swiss paired with his flavorful sweet and malty Highway to Helles;  a tangy cheddar that brought out delicious notes in the Tuscarora Red Ale; a spicy tangy jalapeño cheddar paired with the Hoptopsy ESB; and a magnificent soft zesty gouda paired with the Annapolis Rocks Pale.

2nd Course

A unique celery heart salad served with bacon wrapped shrimp, topped with a zesty saison mustard dressing, and paired with the Sugarloaf Saison.  The Saison is amazing by itself, but this course brought out the tangy citrus flavors in the beer.

3rd Course

A fork tender Cocoa and Ancho Chili Crusted Pork Tenderloin paired with his 80 Schilling Scotch Ale.  Wow, lots of smoky and chocolate flavors from the beer.  I would never have thought of matching a Scotch Ale with southwest flavors, but boy did it work.

4th Course

Stout Ice Cream with chocolate sauce – I keep telling you all that beer ice cream rocks!  By the end of this course, 20 people practically had their faces planted in their bowls trying to salvage every last bit.

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A Few Pairing Tips 

  • When pairing foods, match stronger flavored foods with stronger flavored beers….and visa versa.  Lighter foods with lighter flavored beers.
  • Hoppy beers pair well with hot and spicy foods.
  • Malty beers pair well with grilled and smoky foods

But the most important tip of all is slow down, stop guzzling, and pay more attention to how your beer and your food complement one another.  You might find that your meal is even more interesting and enjoyable.

Beer dinners are happening all over, so check out your local brewpubs and beer bars and find one near you.  They’re tasty, they’re fun, and you’ll learn how to get the most from two of life’s greatest pleasures – beer and food!

Bon Appetite and Cheers Beers!

Frederick Beer Week is Back!

For more information about Frederick Beer Week, visit www. FrederickBeer.com.

It’s that time again!  May 12-19, Frederick, Maryland is all about beer (as it should be) as our fare city celebrates our 2nd Annual Frederick Beer Week.

If you’re not familiar with Frederick, we are home to:

Last year’s Frederick Beer Week started this annual event off with a boom, and this year’s events prove to be bigger and better with two beer festivals, beer dinners, beer happy hours, brewery tours, great music (some of it about beer), the Battle of the Bubbles 2 home brew competition, and so much more.  Check out what’s going on….

2012 FREDERICK BEER WEEK EVENTS

Saturday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

So if you’re if you’re in the Frederick area this coming week (we’re just a 30 minute drive from DC and Baltimore), come join us for some great beer and tons of fun for big kids and for the little kiddies too.   We’ll see you there!

Cheers beers!

Camping and Beer at Cape Henlopen, DE

November 3, 2011 1 comment

Home away from home at Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.

No year is complete without a camping trip to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  Cape Henlopen State Park is among our favorite camping spots, with bike access to gorgeous beaches, geocaching galore, hiking through the white sand dunes, a short drive to the downtown boardwalk, unlimited shopping, and of course some great beer destinations.

Beer and camping are like chocolate and peanut butter.  Although many state parks have banned alcohol in recent years, we’ve found that good behavior, coupled with inconspicuous hot pink iced tea glasses enable us to enjoy our vices without bother by the local authorities. So camping life is still good.

Cozy camper - fully loaded with room for two.

Camping supplies - important for survival in the wilderness!


Not Just About Camping

Cape Henlopen is a beautiful recreational haven for bikers, walkers, joggers, campers, hikers, geocachers, swimmers, kite flyers, surfers, bird watchers, fishermen, and the list goes on.

The beach is a quick bike ride away, and within a 5 minute drive is the main coastal highway with unlimited shopping.  If you need to stock up on wilderness supplies, then Cape Wine and Spirits in Lewes has the best beer selection at the best prices in town.

Five minutes further, and you’re in downtown Rehoboth Beach — home to none other the original DogfishHead Brewpub.  The Brewpub is a destination location for beer lovers and a must visit if you’re ever in Rehoboth.  It never disappoints and there’s always something limited on tap that can’t be found on the liquor store shelves.

Dogfish Head Brewpub in downtown Rehoboth Beach, DE

Lunch you say?

Head to the Pickled Pig Pub on the Coastal Highway – a great place to get pickled!  Top notch draught beer selection, and the best cuban sandwiches and fried pickled in town.  The locals are friendly, and there’s always a game on the tube.

Gordon’s Pond

After all that food and beverage, some activity may be in order.  We recently discovered Gordon’s Pond – an extension of Cape Henlopen.  A five mile trail leads you around the entire pond and along the beach back to your starting point.  Take the camera and capture some photos of the beautiful wetland marshes, full of wildlife and natural beauty.

Young, old, rain or shine, there’s no shortage of things to do in the Rehoboth Beach area, including Lewes (pronounced Lewis by the locals) and Cape Henlopen.  This community works hard to maintain it’s local presence and small town feel.  The area is warm, inviting, full of local events, and a great getaway for a long weekend or a relaxing week at the beach.  So enjoy your brews, and by all means…don’t forget the hot pink iced tea glasses!

Cheers beers!

Big Taste of Louisville – Fast Horses, Hot Browns and Bourbon Barrel Beer

Louisville, Kentucky, where the horses run fast, the bourbon flows freely, and the gentlemen always let the ladies go first.  I love the south and Louisville is chock full of southern charm.  A beautiful, bright and vibrant city, Louisville is filled with museums, sport arenas, waterfront recreation, riverboats, grand old hotels, fabulous restaurants, and of course bourbon.   They put bourbon in everything here – sauces, candies, cocktails, and the beer!

Arriving at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel

My business travel stationed me for two nights at none other than the  Seelbach Hilton Hotel, a gorgeous grand 4-star hotel located in the heart of downtown Louisville that dates back to 1905.  The Seelbach has entertained the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald (who mentioned this hotel as Daisy’s wedding location in The Great Gatsby) and Al Capone who dined regularly in the historic Oak Room restaurant.  The hotel has also hosted numerous presidents, historic figures and celebrities.  It was even featured in the film “The Insider”, with Russell Crowe.  It’s not often that I’d credit a hotel as the highlight of my trip, but the Seelbach is magnificent and the staff is flawless.


The Seelbach’s Rathskellar

 F. Scott Fitzgerald frequented the Seelbach’s Rathskellar, the historic “pottery room” located on the bottom level of the hotel.  The Rathskellar is, in fact, lined with Rookwood pottery tiles.  According to my counterparts who attended the opening reception held in the Rathskellar, the acoustics are so horrible even a small group can seem unbearably loud.  But I snuck down when the room was dark, empty and silent, and the door just happened to be propped open.  So I ventured in and felt as though I were in  the room of a castle as it conveyed renaissance and royalty.   The entire room was lined from floor to ceiling with pottery tiles, and the walls were lit from above, creating a quiet drama that made it easy to imagine the place coming to life with a roaring 20’s crowd.  

Supposedly the room contains hidden passages used by Al Capone, and ghost stories prevail.  Unusual Kentucky is a fascinating blog that includes some nice photos and more detailed points of interest about this unique Kentucky treasure.



The Old Seelbach Bar

The Seelbach Hotel is also home to the The Old Seelbach Bar, “one of the top 50 bars in the world” according to the Independent London.   I’m not sure what makes this bar one of the top 50.  It certainly has history and old time atmosphere,  or maybe its because they feature 44 select brands of bourbon.  I’ll bet they also stir up a heck of a mint julep.  But I bypassed the traditional bourbon and julip for a local microbrew – a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale produced by Alltech’s Lexington Brewing Company.  This strong ale pours a gorgeous dark amber color; it drinks smooth, sweet and malty; and its loaded with smooth delicious bourbon flavor.  One gentleman at our table took a small sip and said  “this tastes like someone dropped shot of bourbon in it”.  Yes, yes it does!  And I’ve determined that’s how I like my bourbon…in my beer.

Running Amuck in Downtown Louisville

The next day I found an hour to run out and explore.  Louisville is full of culture – music, museums, glass art.  I only had time for a quick walk to the Ohio River waterfront where I was met by several riverboats and some lovely views of bridges crossing over to Indiana.  Gambling in Kentucky is limited to horse racing, but visitors can board the riverboats or cross over to Indiana to play the slots and wager on a little table action.

A bartender later informed me that the view of Louisville from the Indiana side is breathtaking at night. And the week prior to the Kentucky Derby, the city sets off one of the largest fireworks displays in the world, second only to China.

The waterfront area is also home to weekly music festivals and concerts, as well as a waterfront park that rents paddle boats and offers river recreation for both visitors and locals.

B-Line for the BBC (Bluegrass Brewing Company)

Finally, I was freed up for the evening, and so I made a B-line for the Bluegrass Brewing Company (the BBC).  The BBC has a series of pubs throughout the Louisville area, and the beers are brewed on the premises, as demonstrated by the large brewing room that’s only visible through a window lined with shelves holding bottles of spirit.  I bellied up and started with a sampler – all great beers, ranging from a Kolsch to an Alt, an IPA, a Raspberry Mead and a Bock with an unusual (but good) hoppy bite.  However, the one that really got my attention was their Bourbon Barrel Stout.  Rich with chocolate, vanilla, bourbon and roasted malty goodness, this stout was so delicious that I had to fly a 4-pack home for the hubster, along with his and hers BBC t-shirts proclaiming “Beer is Food”.


Tackling the Hot Brown

I absolutely agree, beer is food.  But I still had to order some solid food in the form of a hot brown.  This Kentucky open-faced sandwich was first created and is still served at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. Different restaurants have their own versions, and the BBC bartender assured me that when in Kentucky, I had to have a hot brown, and the BBC’s version supposedly ranked among the best.

HOT BROWN Smoked turkey, alfredo, sliced tomato, crumbled bacon and wheat toast topped with cheddar jack cheese and smoked paprika 10.99

And so word spread across the bar that I was a hot brown newbie, and as the arrival of this monumental first approached, several servers shared stories of their hot brown initiations. The bartender was even prepared to call in the circus upon its arrival.  But the hot brown needed no added attention, as all eyes were on the newbie with the monster mound of evil cheesy cream covered artery clogging turkey on toast sitting in front of me.

I ate every last gluttonous bite and washed it down with a full pint of their amazing bourbon barrel stout.

It was a good evening, indeed.  Sometimes work offers unique experiences, and travel is a nice perk when given the chance to explore the local sites…and the local beer.  And based on my short time in this grand city, I’ve come to the conclusion that no one mixes their bourbon and beer like Kentucky brewers.  Just one of the many reasons why Louisville, Kentucky tastes so darn good!

Cheers beers!  

The Worst Pick-up Line Ever

During a recent visit to Madison, Wisconsin, my husband, my dad and I bellied up at the Great Dane brewpub for dinner. Over a few beverages, we began chatting it up with our lady barkeeper – a very nice young woman, and very attractive with long dark hair, olive skin and big brown eyes.

Now one trait I did not inherit from my father is his interest in trivial, geographical, historical, statistical details.  Maybe its a guy thing, I don’t know, but he always comes up with questions like “which states produce cranberries”, “how many lakes do you think are in New Hampshire?”, or “how long is the Snake River?”

Anyway, at some point during dinner, after we’d all had a few beers, our pretty barkeeper came over and asked how everything was.  We gave the usual responses, “great”, “fine”, “couldn’t be better”.  Just as she was about to turn away, my dad piped up and said, in the most serious tone, “I’d like to ask you a question”.   She turned and looked at him smiling and broad-eyed, eager to respond to his question.  Of course, I had to sit up and listen too, since the tone indicated that this wasn’t gonna be just any ordinary question.  Then out it came….”can you tell me, what is the population of Madison?”

Apparently, he’d had enough beers to determine that, being a resident of Madison, this young lady most certainly would know the city’s population.  She, on the other hand, looked dumbfounded and blind-sided .  I doubt she’d ever been asked that question before…ever.  I, on the other hand, being the respectful daughter that I am, busted out laughing, smiled at the poor woman and assured her that I didn’t even know the population of the Maryland town I’ve been living in for the  past 16 years.  Then I proceeded to give it a google on my phone, and informed them both that the population of Madison is roughly 233,000 people.

After she so kindly excused herself and moved far, far away to other end of the bar, my dad leaned over to me and said ever so quietly and in a joking manner, “If that had been a man, he would’ve known the answer.”   I quickly fired back, “Oh no, no, no….if that had been a man he would’ve GIVEN you an answer, but I doubt he would’ve KNOWN the answer.”

After dinner, the three of us left the bar and as we walked down the street, my husband started ribbing my dad.  He laughed out loud and said “that had to be the worst pick-up line ever!”

So there you have it.  If you want to send a lady quickly running to the other end of the bar, just ask her the population of her resident town.  Who knows, she might even give you the right answer!

Cheers beers!

Bell’s Brewing Company – Best Darn Brew in Kalamazoo

The only bad thing about Bell’s beer is that we have to drive to Virginia to get it.  One of our all-time favorite craft breweries, no way we were passing up the chance to stop in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Since the brewery isn’t open for tours, we settled for the next best option – dinner at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe.

Bell’s Cafe is located in a rustic wood building with stained glass windows, and high ceilings lined with wood beams. A beer drinker’s sanctuary of sorts. The chalkboard tap list is surrounded by tribal masks, one of which resembles a Dr. Seuss character. There’s a casual quirkiness about the place, and an old fashioned vibe.  Fresh roasted nuts are served in paper boats, they offer a long list of old fashioned soft drinks, and the menu includes interesting updates to some old classics. The prices are reasonable, and the beers are sold in 12 oz, 16 oz, and 20 oz glasses.  If you read my SimplPlea for Half Pints blog, then you’ll know what a fan I am of smaller sizes!

My first beer was a limited release, draught only brown sour ale called The Wild One. Hands down one of my favorite beers ever. A tart, sweet, fruity beer aged in oak barrels and brimming with funky sour flavor from the wild yeast.  I also had the Oarsman, a golden wheat sour mash that was a light, crisp, fruity mild session beer, similar to a farmhouse ale with only a very mild sourness.

They also had a number of IPAs on tap, including the Oracle Double IPA (DIPA) Ale, a delicious strong, citrusy, malty, hoppy brew that clocks in at 10% ABV.  If you’re lucky, you might find this one in bottle form.

But no visit is complete without heading next door to their general store.  Lots of great Bell’s takeaways, including homebrew supplies.  Another fun brewpub – they rarely disappoint – and it was truly a great beer experience as the restaurant features quite a few small batch, draught only beers that you won’t find anywhere else.  So the next time you’re up Michigan way, head to Kalamazoo for some darn good brew by Bell’s Brewing Company.

Cheers Beers!

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