Revolution Brewing Launch Party in Chicago

By some happy coincidence, our trip to Chicago just so happened to land during Chicago Craft Beer Week. I’m a moderator for the beer app Untappd, so decided to check in with the other moderators who were from the Chicago area to see if they had any suggestions on places and beers to try. I heard back right away from Sean, a fellow moderator, who had all sorts of advice and connections. He was amazing and totally got us hooked up to attend a really incredible event, the launch party for Revolution Brewing’s new brewhouse. The event sold out weeks before we even knew we’d be in Chicago during their Craft Beer Week and Sean was nice enough to search around to find us four tickets.

The event was absolutely packed with Revolution Brewing fans. There was live music, food trucks, a photo booth, a DJ, and tons of samples of different Revolution brews. We picked up our official Chicago Craft Beer Week lanyards earlier on in the trip and felt very official heading into the party.

We got right to business and started trying some of the beer. First up for me was the Anti-Hero IPA, which I loved. Jason and Dane tried the Eugene Porter and Sam went for the Bottom Up Wit. We were all very happy with our choices.

The lines did get pretty long, so after getting our first beer we hopped in line to try some of the barrel aged choices. While we were waiting in line I finally got to hang out with Sean in person who I had been talking to through email, Twitter, and text during our trip and only met up with quickly before then to get our tickets from him.

Just have to love good beer people. We got introduced to a whole bunch more people, including Jessica who has worked on Chicago Girls’ Pint Out. That was super exciting since I’m so involved with MA Girls’ Pint Out. And Ted, who was just awesome and told me all about Revolution Brewing and the beer scene in Chicago.

As the drinks kept flowing we decided we all needed a little bit more in our stomach. We headed back outside to try out a food truck and went with The Slide Ride, a gourmet food truck serving sliders. We were all pretty happy with the choice.

We got to head back into the brewhouse afterwards and finish out the night trying a few more styles, listening to the DJ, and talking to our new friends. Overall, amazing night that we are so lucky we got to attend. Super huge thanks to Sean again for making it happen!

Taza Chocolate and Beer Tasting Event

A few weeks ago the wonderful people of Drink Craft Beer partnered with the lovely people of Taza Chocolate to host a “beer and chocolate love story”. The event featured four local breweries paired with different Taza chocolate. The turnout was amazing and the best part? It all raised money for the Greater Boston Food Bank.

We got there and were in a line just waiting to enter the building. It was chilly out, but everyone’s spirits were kept up by the Taza staff bringing around various chocolate treats like chocolate covered hazelnuts, chocolate covered cocoa nibs, and chocolate covered almonds. The 15 minute wait seemed like nothing with some stone ground organic chocolate to enjoy. Jeff from Drink Craft Beer also took some video footage of people waiting in line saying “I’m (fill in name) and I drink craft beer!”. Hope they put a finished video out soon!

At the door we paid our $3 – a bargain for the pairings and for a great cause (each $3 donation provided 7.5 meals to someone in need) – and shuffled in to try the first two beers and chocolates. In the first room was Naragansett Porter with Taza Mexicano Coffee chocolate and Peak Organic Mocha Stout with Taza Mexicano Salted Almond chocolate.

Zac from Naragansett poured the Porter to some (obviously) happy fans.

After that first room we ended up on a second line for the next two pairings that took us through the Taza factory. We got to see the equipment, read up on the process, and see the facility. Taza was founded in 2006 right in Somerville and makes chocolate in the traditional Mexican style. I don’t know how I have lived in Boston for almost 6 years without knowing the factory was so close.

Beer and chocolate share so much, even a fermentation process.

In the next tasting room we tried Sixpoint Crisp with Taza Mexicano Orange chocolate and Slumbrew Happy Sol with Mexicano Ginger chocolate. Again, two great pairings. At the Slumbrew table they were nice enough to also let us try My Better Half, one of their newer releases. Everything was delicious.

After we finished the tasting we wandered the Taza shop trying some other varieties and deciding what to buy. If you check in on Foursquare for the first time you get an offer for $5 off a purchase in the shop. We ended up getting the Salted Almond chocolate and chocolate covered almonds.

The event was great. Awesome job to Drink Craft Beer and Taza! We had a wonderful time and now would love to go back to the factory for a full tour. Great event for a great cause!

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, Minnesota

Yes, I know. Tired of my Minneapolis trip yet? I feel like it sometimes takes me forever to get around to doing posts, so I’m still writing about my trip. But it was so awesome that I can’t just leave anything out!

My second night in visiting with Sam and Jason (right after leaving the MN State Fair for the second day in a row) we headed to the Town Hall Brewery, a brewpub in downtown Minneapolis. Sam found the place and loved their website so much that she decided we had to go. That and they have great beer. I was sold. Doesn’t take much.

Our main goals was to try a bunch of different beers. We had eaten so much at the fair that we didn’t need much in the way of food. Just some beer samples. The Town Hall Brewery made it really easy to try different styles with their different beer flights.

Sam went with a flight of their signature brews: Dortmunder Local, Masala Mama IPA, Hope and King, Black H2o Oatmeal, and West Bank Pub Ale. I decided to go with the seasonal flight: Smoked Hefe, Broken Paddle ESB, Tank Monkey Double IPA, Honey Storm, and a special infused beer.

There were some really interesting flavors between these 10 different beers. Some that stood out most to me were in the seasonal flight. The Smoked Hefe had some really intense smokey flavor, along the lines of a smokey bourbon or a whiskey. The Honey Storm was interesting too, with a sweet start and really oakey (is that a wordy? it is now.) finish.

All the signature brews were good, solid varieties. I especially liked the Hope and King Scotch Ale and the West Bank Pub Ale. To me, both were really drinkable and I could totally see them becoming a favorite for me with some growlers at home if I didn’t live so far away.

OK, and I know I said we weren’t really hungry, but somehow sampling 10 different types of beer makes you feel like you suddenly have an appetite again. So we ended up with the Spinach and Artichoke Dip and the Mashed Potato Pizza (!).

The dip was delish with the pita chips for dipping and the “pizza” was basically like potato skins on a pita. Carbs anyone? Perfect pub snacks for imbibing some delicious beer.

I would love to go back for an actual meal in the dining room. We sat near the bar since we weren’t planning on ordering much food, mostly just drinks. I loved that they had different flight options. The most appealing part of the Town Hall Brewery to me was their selection of in-house beer, so I was really happy that it was easy to try so many different kinds.

Thanks Town Hall Brewery for a lovely evening filled with 10 different styles of beer!

Surly Brewery, Minnesota

While in Minneapolis, Sam and Jason took me to an awesome brewery – Surly Brewing Co. Tours are only offered Friday and Saturdays, and they fill up really quickly. Sam signed up a month before I went to visit and had to wait a while for confirmation, so I was really excited when Sam told me we got a spot. I love visiting breweries and hearing their story. And trying the beer, obviously.

Just the name of the brewery should tell you it’s different. The founder, Omar, started homebrewing after getting a homebrew kit as a gift. After brewing some batches and getting great feedback from friends he started to get more serious. Omar enrolled in America’s Brewers Guild and completed his apprenticeship at New Holland brewing in Michigan. A brewery was purchased, head brewer recruited (Todd, who had actually gone to junior high with Omar and ran into him at a conference), renovations made, and by the end 2005 Surly Brewing Co. was up and running. (read the full story of how the brewery was founded on the Surly website)

Tours are free, but the brewery asks participants to bring a food donation which supports a local charity, the Emergency Foodshelf Network. We got there, gave our donations, and got some drink tokens in exchange. As if drinking beer could be better, we got to support a worthy cause as well.

There were obviously plenty of tokens to go around and try quite a few different brews. On tap that night was Furious, CynicAle, Bender, and Hell. Best beer names ever. We each started off with a beer (I went with Hell for my first, their summer seasonal) and went into the brewery.

This is our tour guide, Clint. And he started off the tour with “Hey guys, my name is Clint, but you can all call me Ginger Bear.” And I loved him.

Clint gave us the story of Surly, showed us this contraption…

… which is what Omar first used to start doing test batches, and told us about some of the things that make Surly different. Unlike many craft breweries, Surly cans all their beer. But when they started, they wanted to be able to serve a proper pint to their customers, which lead them to create a new can to hold more. Surly Brewing and Surly fans also had a huge hand in getting a bill passed into law MN, which has become known as the Surly Bill. More about that here if you’re interested.

Surly cans make a nice backdrop for photos too. So many uses.

Throughout all of this we were free to go get more beer from the tasting room. Which we did. Frequently. And got through all the beers available on tap.

Then we switched over to the brewing process.

We got the full run through of how Surly brews their different varieties, asked questions, and heard about “5″ – a limited release brewed in honor of the brewery’s 5 year anniversary. We mentally noted to stop by a store on the way home to try and find some.

Visiting the brewery was a really fun experience. I love seeing different breweries and hearing how they came to be. Each has an interesting story to tell with some passionate people behind the beer. Surly was no exception.

The beers were really good. CynicAle was my favorite of all that I tried that day. It was light, perfect for late summer, and slightly fruity. I had a few of those… and all of them were delicious.

If you’re in the MN area, check out Surly!


Minnesota State Fair Part I: Food on a Stick

For my birthday a few weeks ago I went out to Minneapolis to visit my amazing friends, Sam and Jason, and their awesome pup Everett. One of my goals for this year was to get to the Minnesota State Fair, and it just so happened that the first day of the 12 day fair was on my birthday. Right after they picked me up from the airport, we were off to the fair.

I ate way too much delicious food to write about in just one post, so first up is foods on a stick. A major theme of the fair food was just about anything “on a stick”. You name it. Pickles, fruit, nuts, desserts, fried things, and even mashed potatoes. I feel pretty confident most foods taste better when they’re on a stick.

Pronto Pups were up first, hot dogs which are battered and fried. Similar to corn dogs, but the batter is totally different. I’m not a huge fan of corn dogs, so I wasn’t sure if I’d love these, but Pronto Pups definitely made me happy. There were 8 different Pronto Pup stands throughout the fair because it’s so big. No matter what section of the fair you were in, you were bound to be pretty close to a Pronto Pup stand.

Fudge Puppies are another fair favorite. Belgian waffles on a stick, coated in chocolate and topped with whipped cream and sprinkles. Granny’s Kitchen Fudge Puppies has been around for 21 years. We hit the stand at just the right time, when the line wasn’t bad at all. This was definitely a popular one and the line was crazy a few times when we passed by.

Big Fat Bacon, 1/4 pound of maple glazed bacon that’s seasoned and served on a stick. Probably the most unexpected thing I found on a stick at the fair. But one of the most delicious, if you could just put out of your mind that you’re eating a hunk of bacon that’s probably close to a billion calories. The things I do for my tastebuds.

Then we lightened it up a bit with chocolate covered fruit on a stick. It was smothered in chocolate, so not really healthy, but after Big Fat Bacon it did make me feel slightly better.

Totally milking the “on a stick” thing in the Agriculture building. No joke. Things on sticks were everywhere.

Jason just had to get a Nut Roll on a stick. Peanuts + Chocolate + Stick. He obviously enjoyed it.

And why not a pickle on a stick while we’re at it? It was actually kind of refreshing after all the fried food we had been eating. My stomach was beyond confused at this point.

And last, but certainly not least, beer on a stick! Summit Brewery, a local brewery near Minneapolis, had a sampler served on a stick. Had some Extra Pale Ale, Horizon Red Ale, and Oktoberfest and loved that I could just carry it around as I wanted on a stick. Best idea ever Summit.

Crazy enough, this was not even close to everything we ate and experienced at the fair so Part II will be coming in the next few days to highlight some more fair food. Two days at the fair definitely meant some major eating and drinking! More to come!

Hello from Sam Adams!

Just a quick hello from the Sam Adams Brewery in Boston! They have a new high-tech photo booth (minus the actual booth) for you to take a souvenir photo and email it to yourself or a friend. You can get a single picture or a photobooth style. No contest here for me. Photobooth, hands down.

Redbones, Somerville

Man, I love barbeque. We went out with a group of Dane’s co-workers to Redbones in Somerville for some delicious meaty goodness and were not disappointed.

We started up at the bar while they figured out our seating for 11, which was just fine with us. To be adventurous I decided to spin the Wheel of Beer and have my beverage choice made for me.

I ended up with number 16, the Opa Opa IPA. Thank you Wheel of Beer, for making an excellent choice for me. Never had that brew before but I really enjoyed it and I don’t always love IPAs.

As soon as we were seated it was down to business. An order of fried pickles and jalepenos, stat.

I can’t look at this picture without thinking about how delicious this was and how much I want it right this very second. I don’t love the jalepenos, but Dane takes care of those for me, and they give the pickles a nice kick.

Then on to the meat smorgasbord. I went with my favorite, pulled pork sandwich and beans. Dane went straight for the ribs. The pulled pork is super juicy and slightly smokey, and clearly my love of pickles plays out here too with some on top of my sandwich. Nice saltiness to go with the lightly sweet BBQ sauce. Dane’s ribs basically fell off the bone. They were super tender. Just what you want (or at least what we want) in BBQ ribs.

When a very chatty group of 11 people go basically silent for the duration of a meal once the food comes out, that’s how you know it’s a seriously delicious meal. Except for the occasional invitation to share with others (and there was plenty to share) there wasn’t a peep out of us.

Then there was this beauty, the Combo. Described as “whatever ribs we have on hand at the time” along with a variety of other meats, this platter is definitely not for the faint of heart (or light of stomach). Disclaimer: We did NOT order this, it was one of Dane’s friends from work. I salute  him.

There aren’t really any words to describe this beast, so I’ll just let you soak it in via the picture.

Loved Redbones this time, just as I have all the others. It’s really fun with a group and if you’re open to trying some new things. Portion sizes are big, and I never end up being able to finish my entire meal despite my healthy appetite.

My love of craft beer was nurtured with the Wheel of Beer, and I don’t think I would ever order any other way again now that I’ve done it. Go get yourself a beer and some pulled pork. You’ll love it!

Happy Mother’s Day Mama Bear!

Mama Bear, today I wish you a super happy Mother’s Day! Even though I can’t be in NY, know that I’m thinking of you today. You are the most generous, smart, and strong women I will ever meet, and I am so lucky to be your daughter. I have learned so much from you (although I still teach you a thing or two in the kitchen) and can’t wait to see you soon in Disney World!

To round out this Mother’s Day post, I figured I’d also do a recap of my Mom’s most recent trip up to Boston. We had such a blast together, and for my Mom the trip was filled with firsts. Her first trip to the Sam Adams Brewery, her first time at a Scottish restaurant, her first time trying chicken piccata. Mom, you’re just growing up so fast!

As soon as she got off the train at Back Bay, I picked her up and we went straight to Sweet Bakery on Mass Ave for some cupcakes and frosting shots. She had never been to Sweet either, and loved the all cupcake selections. We both went with Red Velvet, got a cup of tea and sat to enjoy.

Mom, you might hate this picture, but I absolutely love it. It captures the height of cupcake enjoyment. After Sweet, we went shopping for dinner, then went home, enjoyed some wine, and I made a delicious dinner.

The next day we embarked on Mom’s first time to the Sam Adams Brewery. She said it actually opened up her mind to the world of beer, and she was willing to branch out from her usual choices. I was so proud.

Mom’s first EVER Sam Adams Boston Lager. She’s a champ.

Turns out my Mom is an amazing beer pourer. Totally made everyone else there look like utter novices.

We went to The Haven, a Scottish restaurant, for Dane’s birthday dinner that night and she got a Skullsplitter. Needless to say she loved it, and surprised me when about a week later after a rough day we were chatting on the phone and she said “Man, I could really go for a Skullsplitter right now.” MY MOM SAID THAT. Honestly was not expecting that.

We had an awesome weekend together, so now I’m back to bugging her to plan her next trip back up here. This summer? What do you think Mama Bear?


MA GPO and Beeriety Sam Adams Brewery Tour and Brunch!

It’s so fun being part of Girls’ Pint Out! At the end of January we had an event with Beeriety at the Sam Adams Brewery and it was a blast. The event was called “Beer for Breakfast”. With a tagline like that, how could you go wrong?

I get to be the Official GPO Photog at all the events I attend, which is just fun for me. I’ve been to the brewery more times than I can even count at this point, but our GPO/Beeriety tour was V.I.P. status and they threw in some really awesome things for us.

We started out in the Ingredient Room for an overview of the ingredients used in all beer: barley, hops, water, and yeast.

After that, we got a special stop in the Barrel Room (where I’m still the Mayor, thank you very much), which is not included on any normal tours. It was interesting to hear a little more about why they now have the Barrel Room and learn about the different brews currently aging in barrels there.

Then we headed to the Brew House, to learn more about the process of beer brewing. And because I’m a crazy shutterbug, I got the tour guide to take this picture of our group. Of course, I would be the only one in the entire picture without their eyes open.

Then into everyone’s favorite stop, the Tasting Room. Again we got some special treatment here, with a tasting of 4 different styles of Sam Adams (normally 3 are offered). Our awesome tour guide was Kate, who made sure we were taken care of.

We got to leave with some fun swag too,  a free Sam Adams Perfect Pint glass and keychain, before hopping on the trolley to the famous Doyle’s. The trolley ride was definitely unique. Our driver was great and kept fun music pumping, but also liked to have some fun with the brake which kept us all holding on to whatever we could to keep our balance.

We got to Doyle’s and enjoyed brunch, coffee, and more beer. At the suggestion of our waitress, I had Sam Adams Chocolate Bock mixed with Sam Adams Cherry Wheat. Never would have thought to do this on my own, but it was so delicious. As was my french toast.

Thanks to the organizers of the event, Becca from Girls’ Pint out and Sarah of Beeriety! Lovely ladies doing lovely things to make good beer more accessible to the masses.

Speaking of which, did I mention the next event is coming up this week? GPO and Beeriety are co-hosting the Winter Warm-Up at The Haven in Jamaica Plain on Thursday, February 10. Flights of Scottish beer, good people, and a restaurant with antlers as part of their decor. You should come. It’ll be a good time.

Cheers until next time!

Sam Adams December Open House

I think my love of Sam Adams and benefits of living so close to the Boston brewery have been well documented here, and one of the best parts is their monthly Open House. The invitation to the Open House goes out in the monthly What’s On Tap newsletter via email. You have to sign up really fast and spots go really quickly. When you sign up you can bring one guest (meaning you need a coordinated effort if you plan to go with a group). Dane and I both signed up so we could bring Sam & Jason, who would be up visiting and had never been to an Open House.

Each Open House usually has some type of theme to it. This time it was co-hosted by Dancing Deer Baking Company, and different beers were paired with their brownies and cookies. I was really excited about this.

Since it was December, the brewery also had a Toys for Tots toy drive. Each person who donated would get a special tasting – which I thought might be the new Infinium since it had been released a week earlier. We had a lot of fun picking out gifts to bring. I hope the kids enjoyed them as much as we enjoyed picking them out!

When we got in, we checked in to get our tasting tickets (3 free samples of your choice of the Sam Adams on tap at the brewery), and then made our toy donations. We were really surprised to find that our free tasting was for Sam Adams Utopias 2009! I honestly never thought I’d get to try this rare brew.

We started out with a sample. The brewery had their Holiday Kolsch on tap, which I had never heard of and figured I had to try. That’s another beauty of the brewery, sometimes you’ll get to try things that you will never find anywhere else. The Holiday Kolsch was light and refreshing. Wonder if they’ll release it on a larger scale.

After we had a sample, we ventured out to see what Dancing Deer Baking Company had to try. I wanted everything. I started out with the Snickerdoodle cookies, but gave the Peppermint Brownies a try too. OK, let’s be honest, I tried everything. So good, but the Snickerdoodles were my favorites.

There were pairing suggestions for everything that Dancing Deer had with them. Which of course we tried. Favorite pairing probably has to go to the Fezziwig Ale with the Snickerdoodle cookies.

Then we headed into the Barrel Room for our Utopias experience. We learned a bit more about the 2009 release, and found Dancing Deer even had a cookie to pair with the Utopias. Molasses cookies. Because we needed more of a reason to try the Utopias. I have a weakness for molasses cookies and these were among the best I’ve ever had.

Utopias are released every 2 years in a very limited quantity. The 2009 brew was a mix of different batches that were aged in barrels once used for brandy, sherry, cognac, and bourbon (some aged up to 16 years). This along with the addition of maple syrup, gives the beer a really interesting flavor, with 27% alcohol by volume. It really is meant to be consumed like a brandy, by sipping on a small serving. Oh, it also retails for anywhere from $150 on up. Probably the biggest reason I never thought I’d try it.

Oh, and I’m also the mayor of the Barrel Room. That’s right.

Do yourself a favor and sign up for the What’s On Tap newsletter so you can get in on these fun Open House events! Until next time, Sam Adams…

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