Tag Archives: Craft Beer

Getting off auto pilot

I love that feeling of turning onto a road I’ve never driven before. That moment when the familiar gives way to the unknown.
When your eyes fill up with brand-new views, and you have to work harder for every moment.
There is no auto pilot here.
When pulling off Highway 90 onto 18 in Madison, you can feel the transition more than just the four and five lines giving way to two lanes. You can feel it in the increasing number of pickup trucks, combines, clotheslines, Chevy Caprice police cruisers and supper clubs.

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Craft Beer in the Southeastern United States

Southeastern Craft Beer Road Trip
Southeastern Craft Beer Road Trip

I didn’t start out planning to do a Southeastern United States craft beer tour.

It just happened to turn out that way.

I’ve become a bit disillusioned by craft beer in the two and a half years since I moved to Chicago.

From hoarding to overnight lines for new releases to subpar beer pushed out as aging liquid and everything in between, the craft beer world doesn’t represent the community spirit that I have come to know in places like Oregon, Montana and Alaska. Small breweries bent on craft and who cater to their immediate audience are what represent the trueness of the profession or art form to me.

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Savannah on my mind

She always finds her Tardis
She always finds her Tardis

Gabrielle and I approached the breakfast buffet at the Comfort Inn in Columbia, South Carolina, trepidatiously.

That is to say we’ve been there before.

That moment when you walk into the foyer of whatever cheap hotel occupies every single exit from here to Modesto, and you discover that it looks like it’s been pillaged by Viking raiders.

The tables were covered in the viscera of yogurts and bananas, whose skeletons and skins bulged in a heap atop the trash can like a pile of bodies ready for the pyre.

Sloppy paper notes indicated the orange juice, waffles and sausages were gone. Forever.

So we made up toast with jam, salvaged the rest of the Fruit Loops and drank apple-juice colored water and headed to the pool, where I taught her my secret skills of playing the mouth trumpet in an echoe-y room.

“You’re really good at that dad,” she said.

“I know,” I replied. “I want you to put that on my grave stone.”

She just looked sideways at me and continued to swim.

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Ernestly Beer: Avery Brewing India Pale Ale

“Honey, does this beer smell like weed?”

As the son of a son of a sailor or a missionary kid, I’ll let you decide which, that’s not the usual way my beer conversations start. Especially with my wife who only recognizes the smell of weed from attending Jack Johnson concerts.

“Why yes, yes it does.” 

Having confirmed my own assessment of this particular beer’s general nose, I leaned back in a high-backed wooden chair to enjoy a rather warm and sunny Alaskan spring Sunday.

I picked up a six-pack of Avery Brewing’s IPA in cans on Friday, and by Sunday I had accomplished enough to feel like I could afford to sit down and enjoy one. 

We survived nearly six months of an Alaskan winter. I can’t tell you how good it felt to sit in the sunshine and feel that warmth. I don’t know if it was the reflection off the can or what, but I was actually a little sunburned. 

Avery’s IPA is a heavy duty sipper with a lot of character. Here are my notes:

  • Huge floral aroma that turns distinctly earthly (as in smells like weed) when it warms up. Some citrus up front with fresh tropical fruit and some candied ginger spiciness.
  • The malt is warm to heavy without feeling like you drank a 32-ounce steak. At 6.5 percent ABV, a couple will make you feel rather full. Biscuity malt characteristics balance nicely with the hard hop edge. 
  • Heavy mouthfeel as it warms up. May not be the best hot-weather IPA, but it certainly stands up to an Alaskan spring day.
  • Absolutely astounding with chocolate, especially any chocolate/caramel pairing. In other words, this beer is fantastic with creamy dishes or fatty and flavorful cuts of meat where the hop flavors can work their magic and provide a balance of sharp and light flavors.