Category Archives: General Booze Chatter

The Worst Beer in the History of the World

Please tell me I am not the only one who did this in her younger days.

That is: you cut off the edge of a big watermelon and scooped out the innards, leaving a melon cauldron of sorts, and dumped in a bottle of cheap vodka. You added some Sprite, pilfered from the dining hall. You allowed it to marinate for a couple of days. Then, you poured a nice big glass over ice, expecting it to taste like a Jolly Rancher. Instead, you discovered that watermelon-plus-booze is a foul combination. (But you and your friends probably consumed it anyway because, hey – you weren’t going to let a $15 bottle of Monarch go to waste.)

No? Just me?

You could be forgiven for repressing such a memory, as I apparently did when I picked up a six pack of watermelon-flavored beer a couple of weeks ago.

WATERMELON-FLAVORED BEER. I know. A lapse in judgment on my part.

I never would have given 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon a second look if I didn’t have quite a bit of respect for the brewery. Their standard IPA is solid and their Back in Black Ale is excellent. I figured that they wouldn’t bother releasing something undrinkable. I figured wrong.

It is, in fact, the Worst Beer in the History of the World.

(Possibly.)

Strike One: The first time I cracked open a can of Hell or High Watermelon, it was a sunny Friday afternoon and I was refinishing some furniture.

(Side note: I refinish furniture now. It’s, like, a thing. I enjoy it immensely even though it’s probably the worst use, ever, of my time. It took me three weeks to spruce up a pair of nightstands that I probably could have purchased new for under a hundred bucks.)

Anyway. I had been working on my project for a couple of hours and was parched, so I took a big swig of this beer, right out of the can.

I was not expecting it to taste like rotten ass, and hence, I nearly spit it out – which totally would have ruined my primer job and made me hate this beer even more. But I choked it down. Barely.

Unable to find words for what I’d just experienced, I tossed the rest of the can and resolved to try the beer again later. Maybe the paint fumes were messing with my head.

Strike Two: The second time I cracked open a can of Hell or High Watermelon, I enlisted help.

Some friends were over and we were having drinks on our roof deck. I stated my hypothesis – that I’d discovered the Worst Beer in the History of the World – and begged them to try it and tell me whether or not I was crazy. I brought up a can and passed it around.

Paying more attention this time, I was able to better grasp the specific qualities that made me want to retch. Hell or High Watermelon starts out fine: you take a drink, and it tastes like a normal light beer, crisp and bubbly and a little bready. But then it hits you: this very faint fake watermelon flavor that tastes like…perfume. Fake watery watermelon perfume. Perfume that would be marketed to tweens in a bright pink plastic bottle. And sold at Sears.

The consensus around the table seemed to be more “meh” than “oh my god you have indeed found the Worst Beer in the History of the World, someone should probably pay you a bunch of money for this making groundbreaking discovery.

But no one thought it was actually good. Or if they did, they were too polite to interrupt my impassioned anti-watermelon rant to say so.

And I’ll admit this: the can was polished off, by someone, at some point that evening. Hmm. So I guess the jury’s out on whether I’m crazy.

Strike Three: The third time I cracked open a can of Hell or High Watermelon, I did it to be absolutely sure.

Calling something the Worst Beer in the History of the World is an act that shouldn’t be taken lightly, so I gave it one last chance. Today, actually, over lunch. I poured it in to a proper pint glass and sipped it like it was an aged barleywine, pausing between tastes to stick my nose in the glass, trying to pick up a scent that might somehow enhance the beer’s flavor.

Um…nope. Still tasted like watery fake-watermelon perfume. Still disgusting.

Three strikes. You’re out, Hell or High Watermelon.

Bottom line: Hell to the no. What were you thinking, 21st Amendment? (Purchased at Greene’s Beverage, $10/6)

Lesson learned. Watermelon and booze don’t mix.

Or I guess I should say: learned again. Because apparently I have the World Memory in the History of the World.

Anyway. I’ve got three cans left if anyone wants them. I won’t be drinking this again come hell or high…something.

Five and ten

I guess you could say it was a weekend of milestones in multiples of five.

It’s been five years since my husband and I married, and ten since we graduated (from the same) college. As bummed as I was to miss out on the second edition of Vodka Heist, these simultaneous anniversaries called for a trip out to California, where both began.

So on Friday afternoon, we jetted from ATL to LAX, rented a car, and headed inland to the good old 909, the home of our alma mater. Saturday, we spent bouncing between the open bar and the various corners of our tidy parklike campus, doling out hugs and handshakes to old friends and professors, and recalling four years of shenanigans: the time we jumped in that pool? when we had a hubcap throwing contest on that lawn? how study sessions under that tree would invariably become afternoon naps?

College. Life was good.

You’d think I might have taken a few photos that day, but somehow the only event that I managed to document was the Craft Beer Class I attended in the afternoon.

Although it’s a liberal arts college, Claremont McKenna’s curriculum focuses heavily on practical education: economics, finance, politics, leadership. So naturally our beer tasting was paired with a discussion of the economics of craft brewing.

We also tasted some “dorm brew,” courtesy of some enterprising CMC seniors:

Their IPA was actually pretty decent!

On Sunday morning, having honored the ten-year milestone, we headed up to Sonoma to celebrate the five-year one. Obligatory smattering of wedding photos here.

And with that, I’m off to relax with my betrothed, taste some good Russian River wine, and maybe even seek out a Pliny or two.

Answers

I love you guys for indulging me on last week’s request for NAQs. Or I guess as they should be called: AOBIBYTQs. Asked Only Because I Begged You To Questions.

Here we go, in the order received….

From Jess:

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

Somewhere with a combination of exquisite natural beauty and delicious food. I’m a city person (I loved living in NYC!) but ultimately, I’d be happy living somewhere more remote as long as the food scene was good.

Jackson, Wyoming comes to mind. Or the south of France. Or this little coastal town in Vietnam called Hoi An. Money and/or practicality are no object here, right?

If you could only eat 1 thing for a whole week, without feeling sick or getting fat, what would you eat?

Pad Thai.

Besides running, what is your favourite hobby?

Does drinking count as a hobby? I think it does.

Runners up: writing…and traveling, and hiking, and skiing. If I could figure out a way to get the writing to pay for the others, that would be delightful.

Are you planning on having children? Every blogger seems to be popping ‘em out at the moment!

Probably…although we’re not in any rush, and I worry that a child would be highly incompatible with my extremely self-centered lifestyle. Although being pregnant would provide great blog fodder, yes? THIS WEEK, BABY IS THE SIZE OF A QUARTER POUNDER WITH CHEESE!

From Caitlin:

How do you scale mileage when training for a marathon vs. half? Longest run, pace, variety of workouts, etc? Do you see value in cross training?

That is a tough question and obviously I’m not a coach or anything, but for me personally, proper training for a full marathon means a lot more miles than equivalent training for a half. I don’t know if it’s twice as much, but it’s up there. I think a lot of people train for marathons by simply adding in a progressively longer long run each week, and you can certainly do that (I’ve done it!) but it’s probably not going to get you in PR shape (it certainly never did for me).

Cross training, in my world, has its place. It doesn’t really have a place in a proper marathon training cycle…unless I’m injured or something, that time and effort is better spent running. But during the “off season” or for just general keeping in shape, sure.

How do you entertain yourself on long solo runs? (I ask this because once I get over 6-7 miles, I want to DIE of boredom.)

I get a lot of things during long runs – tired, cranky, thirsty, angry – but actually, bored isn’t generally one of them. I always have a little dialogue going with myself in my head and if I’m running in a place where there are lots of people around, I’ll make up little stories about them. (They’re often unflattering stories. Sorry, random people.)

I am, however, guilty of doing the “math in my head” thing, especially during track workouts. As in: “200 meters down, 2800 to go! Hey, that’s 1/15 of the workout done!” This is not a helpful way to think about things.

What is your favorite type of beer and why?

Overall, IPA. I rarely have an IPA that I don’t like! Other types of beer may be better  in certain situations (like it’s hard to beat a hazy wheat on a hot day, or a boozy winter warmer while cozying up to a fire), but IPA is delicious any time.

From Marie:

WRITE ABOUT YOUR VAGINA!

…and Melissa:

Write about other people’s vaginas!

Here is a photo of the plastic orchid that came with my generically furnished rental apartment.

Tee hee. I’m so clever.

From Brii:

Write more about how you started running in the first place.

Let’s see…I started running when I was 13. I was going in to high school that fall and I desperately wanted a letter jacket. So I looked at my options. Any sport involving balls was out; I was (and still am) afraid of the ball and have the reflexes of a tree sloth on Ambien.

That left swimming and cross country. The swimmers had practice in the morning before school which sounded pretty horrible so I went out for cross country instead.

I did okay my freshman year. I think I ran something around 24 minutes for our first 3-mile race. I wasn’t the fastest person on the team, or even good enough to make the varsity cut, but it seemed to come to me easily so I stuck with it.

Each year, I got a little faster. By senior year, I was pretty much living and breathing running and seeing times that started with 18. I set quite a few PRs that year…many of which still stand today.

I continued running competitively in college (DIII), but I never had the kind of focus that I did my last year of high school…and while I ran well, I probably didn’t live up to the potential that my coach saw when he recruited me. Oh well. I had fun in college. :)

And so…I’ve pretty much been running ever since. The longest I’ve gone without running has been a couple of months here and there for injury (of which I haven’t had many, knock on wood!) or because I was traveling. There hasn’t been a year that I haven’t raced at least a half marathon.

Sometimes I feel like I should have a better “story.” It seems like every other blogger has their OMG RUNNING JOURNEY, but I don’t really…it’s just something that I’ve been doing for almost two decades now. I can’t really imagine life without it!

From Megan:

Can you do another beer school series, or something like it? I loved those posts!

Booze School! I kinda stopped doing those because I was afraid they came off as know-it-all-y, but if people liked them, I can bring them back! I really enjoy learning about and researching types of beer/wine, especially ones that are unusual or new to me. (The hands-on part of the research is my favorite. Obviously.)

From Kimra:

Beers you love most/first beer you ever loved?

The first “real” beer I ever took a liking to was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. In my first post-college apartment, there was always a pack in the fridge!

As for beers I love most, of course, that’s harder. Nowadays, Great Divide’s Fresh Hop Pale Ale is probably my favorite Pale Ale. In the IPA family, it’s hard to top the Pliny the Elder (which I enjoyed when I was out in CA last December) or Dogfish 120 Minute, but those are elusive beasts. For a more readily-available IPA, Bell’s Two-Hearted is excellent, as is Dogfish’s 60 (or 90) Minute.

Why run a marathon (vs speedy shorter distances that don’t require turning over your whole life to 20-milers)(can you guess what I’ve been thinking about lately)?

I honestly don’t have a good answer on that one. I cannot wait for my marathon to be over so I can spend the summer/fall focusing on shorter stuff.

I also think that the longer distances are a security blanket for a lot of people. The longer the race, the more credit you get for finishing as opposed to finishing well…and in some bizarre way that takes the pressure off. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that even if you finish last, you’ve done something that most people consider pretty hardcore. In that regard, training for and racing a fast 5K can be a lot more scary than running a marathon; you’re putting yourself out there and there’s no real value in “just finishing.” There’s a real chance of failure.

Favorite/least favorite track workouts (I like stealing other people’s track workouts).

Favorite: Classic 12 X 400. I like that I can break the workout in to thirds and think of it like each mile of a 5K.

Least favorite: mile repeats. Ugh.

Possible controversy: Do you OMG! stop your watch while on training runs, and if so, can you still count your overall pace? What if it’s a stoplight vs. stopping to buy a week’s worth of groceries?

I do. It’s not my fault I got stopped at a stoplight!

In general, of course, I try to minimize the number of stops I have to make, especially if I am trying to do a quality or a pace-focused workout. That’s why I always try to go to a greenway or a continuous park loop or something when I do a tempo run.

As for long runs…unless you have your own personal on-the-go aid station set up, it’s hard to avoid making a quick stop to drink/refill water, eat Gu, etc. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with stopping your watch while you do that. As long as you get moving again as soon as you’ve done what you need to do, I don’t think it will matter on race day.

Grocery shopping, elaborate photography sessions, yoga breaks…all things I personally try to avoid while I’m running. But that’s just me.

And, since you’re thinking about maybe doing things other than running for a bit, what are some non-running/cross-training activities that you have previously tried and dropped like a hot potato?

Body Pump. You want to talk about boring? Give me a solo twenty-miler any day. I went a few times when I lived in NYC and the whole thing just seemed so contrived and predictable.

Cycling. It’s scary and it’s a pain in the ass – both figuratively and literally. I actually do own a good road bike and shoes and stuff and if I had a group to go with, I’d give it another shot, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s just not something I’m going to make the effort to do on my own.

Pilates. Meh. If I’m going to spend an hour writhing around on the floor, I’d rather be doing something more entertaining.

Heavy weight lifting. A few years ago, I worked with a trainer and for several months focused on strength training with lower reps and heavier weights. I actually didn’t hate it, but my running pace suffered, so I eventually backed off. And I don’t really enjoy lifting on my own, so I don’t do it as much as I probably should.

That’s it for this edition of AOBIBYTQs. Thanks for playing, guys!

2,011 in 2011: the failure

The best thing about setting meaningless and arbitrary goals is that when you don’t meet them…nothing bad happens. Hooray!

I suppose there’s the possibility that I’ll drink enough champagne with dinner that I go streaking through the streets in the hours before the clock strikes, thereby logging another 6.7 miles. But given that we’re staying in and laying low tonight, I’d say it seems unlikely.

But hey – I cracked 2K for the year! Not bad, eh? I don’t really know how many miles I ran in 2010, but I’m quite certain that I ran more in 2011. So I’ve got that going for me.

Here’s a quick look at the other meaningless and arbitrary goals – as outlined in this post from last December – that I (mostly) failed to accomplish this year:

1) Learn to bake bread: PARTIAL SUCCESS

I owe any progress on this one entirely to Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day. And I still whip up a batch every so often. But I never really progressed beyond the basic Round Peasant Loaf. Oh well. The Round Peasant Loaf is still pretty delicious.

2) Learn to drink Scotch: FAILURE

Did I ever show you the photo of the time that I tried?

That’s the same face I was making during my flight out to Seattle last week, when the guy next to me kept ripping these terrible farts – and then, to my horror, apologizing. Every time! Awkward! Because what are you supposed to say to that? Just pretend it wasn’t your fart and look around with a disgusted look on your face like the rest of us, dude.

Anyway, Scotch. Yeah, still not my bag. But I’m sure I’ll keep trying.

3) Learn to spell: SUCCESS?

This was a stupid goal to begin with because obviously I already know how to spell. I’m just lazy. Like, I noticed that I misspelled JUBELALE in my last post but am I going to go back and fix it? Probably not. (Also, I’m not sure it counts as a misspelling if it’s not a real word.)

So really the goal should have been LEARN NOT TO BE LAZY. But then I wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Overall, though, I’m giving this one a green light if for no other reason that I believe Words With Friends has improved my grasp of the English language. Or just allowed me to learn a bunch of random words that I didn’t realize were actually words. Whatever! I know how to spell them!

4) Learn to fix a (bike) flat: FAILURE

Utter failure. Except to pull it away from the wall it to remove the cobwebs collecting around it, I haven’t touched my bike all year. Pretty sure both of the tires are flat now, too. Doh.

5) Learn to jump turn: MOSTLY A FAILURE

I did end up getting out west to ski last spring. Each year, I think I probably do a little better with my form. But I’m still mostly a disaster when it comes to even the smallest moguls. It’s hard to have skiing goals when you live in the southeast. #southernerproblems

6) Learn to carve a bird: FAILURE

For Thanksgiving this year, I literally just tore the meat off of the turkey and plopped it on a serving platter, as it was just the two of us so who cares about having pretty slices? And personal hygiene?

Still…I’d love to take one of those knife skills classes or whatever. Maybe next year.

7) Learn to taste wine: SUCCESS

I drank a lot of wine this year. And I went to a Wine Bloggers Conference. Learning FTW! Still definitely not an expert, but I’m starting to feel like I can talk reasonably intelligently on the subject.

8) Learn about beer: SUCCESS

Again…definitely still a novice, but I have learned so much this year. I’m counting it as a success.

9) Learn to apply mascara: SUCCESS

This one was easy. As soon as I started buying the good shit from Sephora instead of the crappy shit from Target, I stopped looking like I had fleas all over my face. I can handle spending 20 bucks on mascara a couple of times a year.

It’s true: money really can buy happiness.

10) Learn how to poach an egg: FAILURE

I don’t think I’ve even attempted this since I wrote that goal.

11) Learn to do a headstand: TOTAL FAILURE

I don’t think I’ve even attended a yoga class since I wrote that goal.

So, to summarize: My successes this year stemmed from drinking, shopping, and dicking around on my iPhone. Sounds about right.

In all seriousness, though, 2011 was a pretty good year. I trained pretty hard in the spring and ran a pretty decent half marathon. Then I trained pretty hard in the fall and ran a legit marathon PR (and a BQ to boot).  The latter ranks pretty highly among my favorite running experiences ever. So far, anyway.

So, really: who cares if I fell 6+ miles short of my yearly mileage goal? Or that I avoided my yoga mat and my bike like they were covered in cooties? Or that I can’t drink whiskey without making a ridiculous fart face? I’m taking some pretty good memories from 2011 when we say goodbye in a few hours.

As for 2012, there are some Big Running Plans and Mega Life Changes on tap in the months ahead. But I’ll save all of that for another post.

So…cheers to the new year! Be safe, have fun, don’t drink so much flavored vodka that you end up falling asleep with your head in a paper bag filled with your own vomit. (Not that I’ve ever done that…. #college)

Mornings are for suckers

My alarm went off at 6:30 this morning. Group run morning. It was dark outside. It had been raining when I went to bed, and now I could hear the swoosh of cars along the wet street below, indicating that it was probably still drizzling.

So I did what any rational person would do and turned that thing right the hell off.

I felt slightly guilty for about three seconds, then told myself to shut it. Because, really: summer is the time for early morning runs. When it’s the middle of December and there’s no reason I cannot run at noon…why on earth wouldn’t I just do that instead?

And I have to say…days like today might almost make suffering through the horrible and humid southern summertime worth it.

It is 55 degrees and sunny and I am going to go enjoy a leisurely long run under those blue skies…as soon as I finish this post + my coffee.

I like winter down here an awful lot. Remind me of this in six months when I’m wailing about the heat and humidity.

Anyway…I have a rare Saturday off of work, so as soon as I knock out this workout thing, I’m going to enjoy normal Saturday-like activities. (Which are…what again? Because I’m not going near Target today. Maybe I’ll just spend the afternoon with a beer and a nap.)

Don’t forget to enter the Brewed Awakening giveaway if you haven’t yet! It’s a super easy one. I’ve really enjoyed reading your responses as they’ve rolled in, too. Y’all have some good taste in beer!

[Also, a few of you mentioned that you’re thinking of buying the book, so I’ll pass this on from Josh, the author: if you buy the book directly from him, it comes signed, along with coasters and buttons made by his wife – aww! For more info: Brewed Awakening Autographed Gift Pack]

Any fellow lazies out there still procrastinating your Saturday workout? Let’s get to it, shall we?

Thoughts on ‘Brewed Awakening’ [+ giveaway!]

Not many beer stories start out with “when I was a kid,” but that’s how I’m going to begin this one.

When I was a kid, I remember vividly the interior of the refrigerator at our family lake house. My parents liked beer, as did my aunts and uncles, and so this shared fridge was well-stocked with a nice variety of brews: cans of Bud and Coors stacked alongside the local specialties, Rainier and Olympia. From time to time, a six-pack of Henry Weinhard’s bottles would also appear in there.

That must be the good stuff, I’d think to myself as I stabbed my Capri Sun pouch with its pointy orange straw.

But it wasn’t that my family’s taste in beer was unadventurous or lowbrow. It’s more that, until recently, to the vast majority of consumers in America, beer was beer. It was yellow and fizzy and something of a commodity; it was all Duff Beer.

In the last couple of decades, however, beer has become a different product entirely.

Exploring the various facets of this so-called craft beer “revolution” is the mission of Brewed Awakening, a journal-slash-guide penned by Joshua M. Bernstein, a Brooklyn-based food and beer writer.

Written in an easy, informal style, the book works its way through the trends in today’s craft beer: from newly cross-bred hop strains to styles of beer recently rescued from the annals of history, and from microbrewers to nanobrewers to homebrewers and everyone in between. A colorful magazine-like layout with lots of photos gives the book a coffee-table (or perhaps top-of-the-toilet-tank) feel.

“It’s easy to get caught up in ABVs and IBUs, but craft beer is all about the people behind it,” said Bernstein, who agreed to chat with me on the phone about our favorite topic and elaborate on some of the ideas discussed in Brewed Awakening.  And indeed “the people behind it” play a big role in this book’s story. Frequent (and often amusing) anecdotes from brewmasters and other industry folks give readers a fun peek inside the minds behind some of their favorite beers.

Here are a few of the things I picked Bernstein’s brain about:

Q: There’s a lot of page space in your book devoted to styles other than the one that, for many people, is the quintessential craft beer: the IPA. And at one point you quote former Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall saying that “sour is the new hoppy.” Have IPAs jumped the shark, or what?

A: IPAs are so popular because it’s a complete 180, a drastic departure from what people are used to drinking. It’s kind of like the gateway craft beer. You can move up the IPA ladder: more IBUs, higher ABV, double IPAs, triple IPAs, and so forth.

But Pilsners and Lagers don’t get a lot of love. I like a big hoppy IPA as much as the next guy, but I have to be realistic about how much I can drink in a night. People hear ‘pilsner’ or ‘lager’ and they think of Bud. But I think we’re going to see a return to pilsners and lagers. You don’t have to have a 9% or 10% beer to have a lot of flavor.

Q: There’s also an implication that many breweries might choose to brew the big hoppy stuff because it’s effectively easier, masking mistakes or inconsistencies. Are hops a scapegoat?

A: Well, brewing beer is a low margin business, and some styles – IPA, big stouts, porters – are much more forgiving than others. But at the end of the day, I think it’s a market driven decision. People want to buy those beers.

Q: So what’s the next big thing in beer? Is sour indeed the new hoppy?

A: I don’t know, but the number of brewers doing sours right now is incredible. Sours are going gangbusters. It’s a different part of the palate. Sour beers are great dinner table beers.

Q: Speaking of dinner tables…I’ve spent some time with both wine people and beer people over the last couple of years. I have to say, the communities are quite different. How does the beer world differ from the wine world?

A: With wine, everything is put on such a high pedestal. Beer has a much lower barrier to entry than wine. You can spend two bucks on a single bottle of craft beer and get a lot of flavor.

And beer people are down to earth. There aren’t a lot of jerks in the craft beer world.

Q: Okay…so here’s something I observed. Your book? Is mostly about dudes. Why do you think craft brewing such a male-dominated thing?

A: I can tell you for certain that that is changing. The number of women involved is definitely growing.

It’s a big misnomer that beer is so closely associated with the men and the male ego. I mean, think of Budweiser commercials. That’s not craft beer. Go in to any great beer bar and you’ll usually find an equal mix of men and women.

Q: What’s the best way to become a craft beer nerd? Any tips for those of us who are just getting started?

A: When I first started getting more in to beer, I had a rule at the supermarket: If I didn’t know it, I’d buy it. Don’t be afraid to have a beer you don’t like!

Bottom line: As I am nowhere near being a beer expert, I actually learned a lot from Bernstein’s book, and from chatting with him as well. My single criticism of Brewed Awakening is this: given that it’s chock-full of specific beer recommendations and discussion of what’s happening right now in craft brewing, I fear that it will be dated in a few years. Because if Bernstein’s thesis is correct, this is an industry that’s changing very quickly.

But that’s no reason not to read it. And if you’d like to, I’m giving away a copy of Brewed Awakening to a reader!

I know there are a lot of giveaways going around blogworld right now, but here’s why you should enter this one:

1) It’s not a damn cookie thingy in a mason jar.

2) Even if you’re not a beer person, it’s an fairly interesting and easy read. And it would make a great holiday gift or stocking stuffer for a beer lover in your life!

3) The cover of the book opens up in to this Beer Map. As a map nerd and an aspiring beer nerd, this blew my freaking mind. I spent like an hour staring at it. (Sober.)

4) It’s super easy. Just leave a comment stating the name of the last beer you consumed. Doesn’t matter if it was tonight or last week or last month. (Bonus entries if you just gave birth and can actually remember  back that far.)

I’ll pick a winner on Monday (December 19) at midnight EST. (Priority shipping will still get it to you by Christmas!)  Cheers, and good luck!

Fine print: Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. FTC disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book for review as well as another to pass on, but was not compensated in any other way for this post.

For the shower beer lover in your life

When it comes to shower beers, I was totally a late bloomer. In fact, it was just a couple of years ago that I first experienced the delightful combination of cold carbonation and hot steam. I know. I can’t believe I never did this in college, either.

(In fairness to me, I lived in a dorm for all four years of college and shared a communal bathroom with fifty other girls. When shower time came around, I was more concerned with keeping my flip-flopped feet away from whatever grossness lurked on the shower floor than I was with getting my booze on.)

Anyway, I guess you could say I’m making up for lost time, because these days shower beers are a regular event in my bathroom. (Like, at least a couple of times a week. I love them.)

Where to rest your shower beer between sips is always a challenge. It’s gotta be away from the spray and safe from flying suds, yet easy to access. That ledge on the edge of the tub, between the shower curtain and liner? Seems ideal, but it’s kind of a danger zone, actually. One too-strong swipe at those curtains and your beer is going down the drain – or all over your floor. (Shower Foul!)

Until recently, I’d just plop my shower beers alongside the shampoo bottles, which worked okay. Then I discovered the ShaKoozie.

For real. It’s a shower-mounted koozie. I love America.

Because, really, who hasn’t thought to themselves, at some point: Why don’t showers come with cup holders? I am so glad that someone decided to make a product to address this oversight.

The ShaKoozie is a two-part device. The sticky “launch pad,” with its heavy-duty velcro patch on the front, mounts to your shower wall:

Congratulations, your shower now has a nipple.

The second piece is a koozie outfitted with a drain hole and a complementary velcro patch:

Simple, but brilliant. Once that thing is stuck on the launch pad, it doesn’t move, and I was surprised to find that the velcro doesn’t seem to be affected by water.

And as a bonus, the ShaKoozie is equally at home on your bathroom counter, keeping your beverage cold while you blow-dry your hair.

What I liked:

  • Easy installation
  • Portability of the koozie unit
  • Novelty (It would be an awesome conversation starter if you happen to be sharing your shower with a special friend!)

What I didn’t like:

  • Lack of portability of the launch pad unit (once you stick it, you’re stuck with that spot)
  • Apparently the damn thing doesn’t refill itself! (Ba-dum-bum)

Overall, I’m very happy with my ShaKoozie experience and would recommend it to anyone looking to take their shower drinking to the next level. It would make a great stocking stuffer for a beer lover, and I’ll bet this bad boy would be a hot commodity in any of those white elephant steal-the-gift type games.

Want to try one? I have TWO ShaKoozies to give away!  Here’s how to enter:

Mandatory entry:

1 entry: Check out ShaKoozie on Facebook, like them, and leave me a comment saying that you did

Bonus entries (leave a separate comment for each entry, please):

+1: Tell me what kind of beer (or other beverage) you’d put in your ShaKoozie
+1: Tweet about this giveaway – “Step up your #showerbeer game. Enter to win a @ShaKoozie from @shelbyvanpelt http://wp.me/p1LeS6-1hz”
+1: Blog about this giveaway
 

I’ll pick two winners at random on Monday, December 5 at midnight.

So go get it done. If you don’t at least enter, you’ll regret it next time you lose a beer because your cat knocked it off of the toilet tank.

For more ShaKoozie info, check out their online store (and hilarious FAQs).

*Thanks to Phil at ShaKoozie for giving me a ShaKoozie to review and two to share! Aside from that, I have not been compensated for this post in any way, and all opinions are my own. There are no affiliate links in this post.

ME ME ME part eleventy; or, a ten things meme

Okay, I kind of love being tagged with these random Blog Awards. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s lovely to know that someone is actually reading this drivel.

Also, hello, easy blog post.

So, thanks, Lisa over at Cow Spots & Tales for saving you all from…that.

This award seems to have evolved as a hybrid of two awards.

But the bottom line is that I’m supposed to tell you ten things about me. I can do that!

1. Every day, I must Q-Tip my ears.

Must. I don’t care that the Q-Tip package says not to put it in your ear canal. IT FEELS SO GOOD.

And they have to be real Q-Tips, not the generic store-brand cotton swabs. The tips of the generic ones get all puffy and loose and threaten to dislodge themselves in my ear canal. (Which is probably why you’re not supposed to put them in your ear canal…)

2. I have lived in every major region of this fine country.

Except for Texas, which I do consider to be its own region. And in which I have absolutely no desire to live. Sorry, Texas. North Carolina is as far south as I go.

In many senses “home” will always be Washington state, where I was born and raised – but I feel fortunate to be able to associate that word with so many places and experiences.

3. I still don’t really know what I want to do with my life.

I really don’t. Any ideas?

4. I’m totally a cat person. And totally not ashamed of it.

You probably know this if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. I heart kittehs.

The art of food-dish stalking at its finest.

Because although dogs seem fun, as far as I can tell, their activities consist mostly of chewing on your personal belongings, urinating and/or threatening to urinate on your floor, barking, and whining. What a colossal pain.

I’m not ruling out the possibility of owning a dog someday, and in fact, I think it would be nice to have a canine running partner. But the part where you have to get up early in the morning so that someone else can go to the bathroom? Bitch, please. (Pun intended.) I don’t even get out of bed in the early morning for my own peeing needs. I consider it, then roll over and go back to sleep.

Also, my cats will never annoy everyone else in the apartment building by yapping all damn day, nor will they shit all over public spaces, inadvertently causing innocent strangers to step in their excrement with their brand new running shoes. (Guess what happened to me yesterday?)

Cats FTW.

5. Requisite random fact item consisting of things I will not eat:

Canned mushrooms, deviled eggs, sea urchin, banana peppers, olives, raw tomatoes, creamed spinach, black licorice, sauerkraut, blood sausage, Cinnamon Raisin bagels. And anything pickled.

Agree? Disagree?

6. Requisite random fact item consisting of things I have eaten (mostly abroad) that sound horrible but actually weren’t that bad:

Cow brains (best tacos I have EVER eaten), pigeon, goat, kangaroo, shark, snake, alligator, frog legs, fried crickets (they taste like potato chips), Durian fruit (smells much worse than it tastes).

Okay, that’s enough about food.

7. I’m afraid of the ball.

Any ball. It doesn’t matter. If it’s headed toward me, I’m diving in the opposite direction. I will never be a trendy kickball/flag-football hipster.

But on the plus side, this probably why I am sitting here writing this quasi-running blog today. Because the only reason I went out for the cross-country team as a freshman in high school was because all of the other sports involved flying balls. And I’ve been running ever since!

8. I love Chardonnay.

This summer, I went to the annual Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville, VA. Even though I don’t blog exclusively about wine…it was a great time and there was OMG SO MUCH WINE. It was fantastic.

But being around people who are much more thoughtful/picky about wine than I am, I definitely got the sense that Chard is the new Merlot. Unfashionable. Too obvious. For amateurs.

Well, you know what? I love the stuff. I love it buttery and I love it oaky. I love it served young and fermented in steel barrels, and I love it a little older and earthier. I daresay it’s favorite type of wine. Even if that makes me unfashionable.

Be right back, pouring another glass….

9. I’d a million times rather have money to travel and do fun stuff than have a big fancy house and fancy car.

Renting is underrated. That is all.

10. Guess what? I’m running the CALIFORNIA INTERNATIONAL MARATHON in Sacramento on December 3!

Good thing I’ll be able to put last weekend’s 20-miler to good use!  I’m thrilled, and this race actually works out perfectly with my schedule. I’m beyond excited to see one of my best friends and former teammates, Newt (um…not her real name…and I’m sure she’s glad that her college nickname has stuck with her) who lives in the area. And hopefully run a strong race on a fast course.

(Also, we were planning to head westward for a wedding the following weekend anyway, so there are plane ticket synergies there, too.)

So. Still bummed about missing Greece, but now throwing myself in to training for CIM. Seven weeks to go!

I think I’m supposed to pass this meme-award-thingy on to some other people. I’ll go ahead and tag a handful of blogs that are perennial favorites…feel free to meme if you want to (and I know that some of you love a good meme…)

Cheaper Than Therapy

Angry Runner

The Cookie Battle

Stylish, Stealthy & Healthy

Loteria Chicana

Leftovers 4 Lunch

Meals for Miles Blog

The Rundown

110 Pounds and Counting

Braise the Roof

I know memes are fun, but perhaps these ones are done. So I won’t be offended if y’all pass, but just know that I tagged your ass.

(Oh yeah, I love to rhyme. How did that not make it in to my random facts?)

Until tomorrow, when we discuss serious topics like world financial markets….

Just kidding.

Sparklin’ Hurricanes

Hey, did y’all know there’s a hurricane barging up the east coast this weekend?

All of the projections foretold that Raleigh was likely to be on the outer edge of Irene’s path, but just in case, I decided to stock up on supplies on Friday. Naturally, I went to the liquor store.

As I smugly placed my bottles on the checkout counter – one bottle each of light rum and dark rum – I confided to the cashier: “I’m making Hurricanes this weekend.”

“How very original,” he replied dryly.

I guess I wasn’t the only one who had that idea.

So I decided to make something a little different.  You could call it a Mimosacane.  Or a Sparklin’ Hurricane.  It was delicious.

Sparklin’ Hurricane

  • 1 oz light rum
  • 1 oz dark rum
  • 2-3 oz 100% mango-orange juice
  • Splash of sparkling wine or Champagne
  • Maraschino cherry, + 1 TSP of its juice

Combine both rums and juice in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake well and strain in to flutes.  Add 1 TSP juice from the maraschino cherry bottle.  Top with a splash of bubbles and drop a cherry or two down to the bottom.

This is a wonderful thing to drink on a Saturday afternoon, or on  any day where you’ve basically written off any possibility of productive activity on account of circumstances beyond your control.

(In other words: every day in the life of a spoiled household pet.)

Downtown Raleigh ended up getting a full day of solid rain and wind, but nothing too crazy – at least compared to what the coastal cities have or will experience(d). Around here, we eyed the windows suspiciously as they rattled in the gusty wind and jumped every time we heard the startling bang of a transformer blowing, but we never lost power, thankfully.

Bizarrely beautiful post-Irene sky:

(Unedited photo.  Crazy colors.)

Well, there’s a bottle open, so…

I’ve been seeing this LA BUBBLY stuff at Whole Foods for a couple of months now.  I can’t seem to shake the feeling that it’s some sort of hipster joke, but I have to admit, it’s not a bad sparkling wine.  It is apparently of Chilean origin but I have no idea what’s in it.  Fairly aggressive bubbles with crisp apple and lemon, but also a little hint of something more comforting, like vanilla or hazelnuts or sugar cookie.

Bottom Line: Yes, actually, I think this is a likable bottle and a decent buy. (Purchased at Whole Foods, $13.)

Okay…back to watching Caddyshack.  (At least I’ve got that goin’ for me!)  If you’re in the storm’s path, stay safe and dry!

Booze School, Holiday Edition: Happy IPA Day!

Hooray for the first-ever International IPA Day!  Also known as: put down that Corona and drink a real beer day.

I kid.  Sorta.  I actually have nothing against Corona, but if you’re not an IPA fan because you think it’s too bold for you, I urge you to give it another chance.  When I first started drinking (real) beer, I struggled a little with IPAs, too.  But now they’re my favorite style of beer.  Like so many of life’s more complex consumables, enjoying IPA takes a little practice, a little thoughtfulness, and a little time to warm up to.

Think of it this way:  If someone had never had chocolate before or was a professed non-chocolate-fan, you wouldn’t give them a hunk of that uber-dark 72% cacao bar, right?  No, you’d give them a damn Hershey bar.

Anyway.  Let’s talk a little about IPA before we talk about how to make the leap.

What it is: IPA (India Pale Ale) is a version of Pale Ale that has more hops and (usually) higher alcohol content.  It’s a very flavor-forward style of beer, often characterized by heavy aromatic floral and citrus and a bitter aftertaste that can leave your mouth feeling a little puckery and dry.

Origin: IPA has nothing to do with India in a modern context (although it does pair nicely with a big plate of butter chicken).  The style originated in Britain in the 18th century as brewers began adding more hops (which act as a preservative) and more alcohol to their standard “light” beer to decrease spoilage as the bottles made the long voyage around the tip of Africa and over to south Asia.

Apparently Englanders at home liked the taste of the hoppier beer, too, and brewers began to produce the “India Pale Ale” for domestic sale as well.  So although refrigeration and the establishment of Asian breweries eventually made the need for IPA obsolete, the style (and the name) stuck around.

In America, IPA has been a huge hit with craft brewers for the last two or three decades.  Beer nerds will argue about American IPA versus the modern British/English style and whether either one is truly close to the original incarnation, but I’m not going to get in to that.  In my (limited) experience, I will say that the American style tends to be a little stronger and a little hoppier than its contemporary Euro counterpart.  But I haven’t had many British IPAs because they’re not terribly prevalent over here, so whatever.

So many varieties: American craft brewers love to raise the ante, so naturally, just being stronger, bolder and bad-asser than regular Pale Ale isn’t good enough for IPA.  You’ll see double IPAs, triple IPAs, black IPAs, and who knows what else they’ll come up with.

The doubles and triples are simply bigger and bolder versions of the regular.  And Black IPA is a relatively new style of beer which, as I understand it, typically uses roasted malts to produce a beer with many of the characteristics of a dark beer, but the hoppy quality of an IPA as well.  (It’s a really fun style of beer and I’ve never had a “Black IPA” that I didn’t enjoy!  But I’ll save that for a separate post.)

How to Drink it: I approach a pint of IPA the way I do a glass of red wine: it’s something to be sipped and enjoyed.  IPA is not typically a beer that you want to crack open on a sunny afternoon when you need a quencher.  It is a beer that does well when you’re camped on the sofa for the evening and want something to sip on while watching a movie.  Grab an IPA and you won’t be getting up every twenty minutes to go to the fridge for a refill or to the bathroom to pee. Because you’ll likely be drinking the same beer for most of the night.  I rarely drink more than one or two IPAs in an evening.

If you’re a new IPA drinker, stick to a basic IPA.  Don’t go for the doubles and triples.  And for the love of hops, don’t use it to play beer pong or flip cup or whatever.  That is what Nattie Light is for.

Food pairing: Perhaps this is just me, but I think that IPA pairs very well with food – especially with a juicy burger or steak, or something slightly sour and salty, like a gyro or Greek salad. Sometimes when drinking beer with dinner, the beer sometimes becomes simply a thirst-relief apparatus.  But IPA can hold its own against a plate of food as capably as a glass of wine.

The one food-IPA pairing that I don’t particularly care for, though, is IPA + spicy food!  If I’m drinking beer with a hot plate of wings, I need something that I can gulp quickly to cool my mouth off.  IPA is too bold for that. (Not to mention the calorie factor…relative to other beers, IPA tends to be fairly calorie-dense, which is yet another reason to savor it and enjoy it slowly!)

Five to try: It was hard work, sampling all of these over the last few weeks.  You’re welcome….

1) Stone IPA (Escondido, CA)

Stone’s offering is probably one of the best known and most widely-available IPAs out there.  And for good reason.  It’s a classic American IPA: herby and citrusy and of course quite hoppy, but not in a hit-you-0ver-the-head way. Overall, a very smooth beer and a good choice for IPA newbies.  6.9% ABV.

Bottom line: Worth getting if you haven’t already tried it, or if you’re just starting to dabble in the IPA world.  Solid beer.  (Purchased at Fresh Market, $9/six)

2) Avery Brewing IPA (Boulder, CO)

Another very drinkable and enjoyable beer.  At the outset, you’re hit with pretty strong citrus and pine needles, but Avery’s IPA offering quickly mellows out and becomes a highly drinkable and thirt-quenching beer.  Minimal bitterness and dry-mouth aftertaste.  Not the most complex beer in the world, but that’s okay with me!  Bonus points for the can, which is pool/beach/picnic friendly. This one would also be a great choice for someone looking to pop their IPA cherry. 6.5% ABV.

Bottom line: Yes, get it!  If you can find it.  I got this at a specialty wine shop and I don’t see much of Avery around grocery stores and bars here.  But I’d buy it again if I found it!  (Purchased at Seaboard Wine, $8/six)

3) Breckenridge Brewery 471 IPA (Breckenridge, CO)

Disclaimer: I’m just not a big fan of gin.  It tastes like a pine tree to me.  A gin and tonic?  Reminds me of something I’d use to clean my bathroom floors.

But I know a lot of people who like that flavor, so when I say that this beer reminds me of a G&T and for that reason I really didn’t enjoy it, I realize that I’m dealing with a personal bias here.

There was just…a lot of pine.  Although for a double IPA, I will say that it went down fairly smoothly.  I smelled more booziness sniffing it than I tasted drinking it.  9% ABV.

Bottom line: If you’re a fan of Hendricks martinis…get it.  It’s not for me, though!  (Purchased at Total Wine, $2.49/12 oz)

4) Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA (Milton, DE)

This 90-minute IPA from Dogfish is the big guns when it comes to American Double IPAs.  I’d heard it talked up all over the place before actually trying it, so I was afraid I’d be disappointed.

But I wasn’t.

There is nothing about this beer that isn’t enjoyable.  One sip gives you so much: initially, the hops and citrus dominate, but then it smooths out with a nice caramel malty finish.  The mild carbonation danced in my mouth as this beer went down easy.  9% ABV.

Bottom line: Worth the hype!  (Purchased at Whole Foods, $11/4)

5) Mojo Risin’ Double IPA (Boulder, CO)

Earlier this year, I tried the regular Mojo IPA, and found it a little lackluster, with lots of weird banana-like flavors.  On Marie‘s recommendation, I decided to try their double.

I like the double better!

The color and the taste are both bright orange.  Instead of banana, I got lots of orange, grapefruit, tangerine, clementine.  Not so much of the floral or pine character.  Overall, it’s a bright and peppy beer, with only a little alcohol burn on the palate – which is amazing, considering it’s 10.5% ABV.

Bottom line: If you don’t mind a heavy dose of citrus (and a high ABV!), get it (Purchased at Total Wine, $3.50/12 oz)

Happy IPA day!  IPA fans out there – did you celebrate?  And what’s your favorite bottle?

Sources/more reading: AZ Central: “What’s in an IPA?”; All About Beer’s “Mythbusting the IPA” (awesome read for history/beer nerds); Beer Wranger’s “IPA: A History”