A Romp Through the Wisconsin Pumpkin Beer Patch

October 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

It occurred to me Sunday afternoon, as I was rummaging around in the refrigerator (and noticed that we have four—yes four—cold Wisconsin pumpkin beers), that The Boy and I have not done a pumpkin beer tasting at all this season, and Halloween is only a few days away. Oh. The. Humanity.

So what better time to do a Wisconsin pumpkin beer tasting than during half time of the Sunday night Green Bay Packer game? On tap last night: Lakefront Brewery Imperial Pumpkin, New Glarus Pumpkin Pie Lust, Horny Goat HornyCopia, Stevens Point Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale.

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Three ales and one Weiss. We kept the same metrics from last year: color, nose, taste, finish, bottle design, and yes, “pumpkiness.” Ready? TO THE PUMPKIN PATCH (aka…our apartment in Princeton, NJ).

Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale

First,  we have Stevens Point Brewery Whole Hog Pumpkin Ale. This recent find was shipped it out to us in a special package, along with some New Glarus (I love that the beer stays local, but it makes it really hard for us displaced Wisconsinites to enjoy some of our favorite brewskies). This ale is 7.5% abv and brewed with “real pumpkin and savory pumpkin pie spices.” Both of us agreed this one was a pleasant surprise. Not as much of a pumpkin flavor as we would have liked, but there’s a strong initial spice (not a bad thing) and the finish has a nice subtle pumpkin pie flavor. We’ve already got our eye on the Espresso Stout when we’re in Wisconsin over the holidays.

Horny Goat

 Alright. Horny Goat. Quick storytime: last December when the temperature was -10 with a double-digit windchill, The Boy and I ventured out to the Horny Goat brew pub just to check it out. We got some loaded tots (ahhhmazing!) and brownie porters (#nomnom). So naturally, when we were at Joe Canals in Lawrenceville, NJ a few weeks ago and saw HornyCopia (Horny Goat is a rarity around here), we were pretty excited. Then…we journeyed into the pumpkin patch yesterday night and were vastly disappointed. It almost tasted a bit skunked at first (?!). As the beer warmed up, it had a slightly better flavor, but this 6.3% abv “pumpkin pie in a bottle” (to quote their website) unfortunately did not live up to our expectations. It won’t stop us from visiting the brewery again, but alas, it came in last on our list.

New Glaurs Pumpkin Pie Lust

 New Glarus has a delightfully spotty (#cowpun) reputation; it’s the craft beer that’s brewed in Wisconsin and stays in Wisconsin. I highly doubt you can walk into a bar in the state and not find something from New Glarus. The Boy and I visited the brewery last spring when in town for a wedding (check it: The Wisconsin Brewery Mothership) and it was everything we’d hoped for and more…alas, this beer was not one of their best. Were our expectations too high? Perhaps. This Pumpkin Weiss is great for those new to pumpkin beers and who tend to order lighter things (we’re more stout and Belgian-style ale fans). We found it lacked the expected pumpkin flavor; we couldn’t detect at all. It honestly pains me to say that because we love New Glarus. Give us a Spotted Cow, Fat Squirrel (actually drinking one right now, in fact), or Scream IPA any day; this one can stay in the pumpkin patch. But, for those craft beer aficionados who like to keep it local and try different seasonal brews, this is definitely one you should try!

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Last, but not least, Lakefront Brewery’s latest seasonal release: Imperial Pumpkin Ale brewed with pumpkin, spices, vanilla, and aged in brandy barrels (I know, right?! #totallywisconsin). This one was a limited release and we weren’t optimistic about founding it out in Jersey, but lo and behold, Joe Canals comes through again! This ale has a higher abv than most of Lakefront’s other brews (9.5%)…which is probably why it came in at the top of our list. Like the others, the pumpkin flavor was not prominent; but the spices and warmth won us over. It’s a nice, stronger alternative to their popular Pumpkin Lager.

Of these four, here’s our ranking: 1) Lakefront 2) New Glarus 3) Stevens Point 4) Horny Goat. Though, I gotta say, in the “pumpkiness” category, none of these was particularly…smashing. Maybe our expectations are too high and we’ve grown accustomed to Southern Tier’s Pumking (only the best pumpkin beer ever) and the imperial pumpkin ale from our local favorite, Weyerbacher. I think we both had higher hopes for all these Wisconsin brews…just like we had higher hopes that the Packers would pull off a win Sunday night. Too soon? #cheeseheadproblems

Feed the Twentysomethings/Tuppence a Growler

October 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

When The Boy and I moved into our apartment in Princeton in August 2013, we had recently traveled up to Providence, Rhode Island to see some friends and enjoy some theater…naturally, we came back with a growler from Trinity Brewing Company (like ya do). Not quite knowing what to do with the growler, we just set it next to the TV and, at some point, started tossing spare change into it, joking that it was our “vacation fund.” The change slowly began to accumulate and before we knew it, the growler was overflowing! So what did we do? Why, get another growler, of course (again, like ya do)! Though this time we kept it local and went to Triumph Brewing Company in Princeton.

Earlier this summer, we booked a trip to Walt Disney World over Halloween weekend. After that, the growlers really became the legit vacation fund. As many of you probably know, I worked seasonally for Disney for many years following my College Program in 2006 and had to let it go (haha, #disneypun) two and a half years ago (Intrigued? Get the full story here: The Dog Days Are Over). I haven’t been back down there since May 2012 and, among many other things, need to re-acclimate myself to full-price Disney (castmember discounts were amazing and so good while they lasted).

Well, the long-awaited magical trip is about a week away now (oh bother, where are my Mickey ears?!) and last night was finally the time to check in on those vacation funds. Here’s our M.O., coin by coin (ok, not really, we didn’t want to nickel and dime you with too many details):

Step 1: Pour thyself a drink (in our case, Michter’s on the rocks).

Step 2: Put on a Disney movie (Nightmare Before Christmas…appropriate, no?)

Step 3: Release the coinage.

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 Step 4: Think like Ebenezer Scrooge and start counting!

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Step 5: Add up each set of coins…by hand…twice…write it all down and do the math…by hand.

Step 6: Put the numbers in Excel to confirm the bourbon-induced math is correct.

Step 7: Separate the coins in bags to take to the bank whilst thinking about the plethora of ways to spend the money at the happiest place on earth (Hello, Epcot Food and Wine Festival!).

Step 8: WASH YOUR HANDS. OVER. AND OVER. AND OVER AGAIN.

Two Michter’s on the rocks, 2668 coins (including two Sacagawea dollars and coins from Canada, Jamaica, Ecuador, and Europe), two empty growlers, and 75 minutes later and…drum roll, please…we have a grand total $223.57. How amazing is that? Fourteen months of accumulating loose change, wow it all adds up! We were a little too overwhelmed to think of anything specific to splurge on at the moment, but I have no doubt we’ll come up with something and—I’m going out on a limb here—I know it will be simply magical.

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It’s Raining Lear

July 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

“And thou, all-shaking thunder,
strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!”

It all started when the virtual ticket lottery for Shakespeare in the Park was, well, much ado about nothing. (Which also happened to be the name of the first show of the park season…coincidence? You bet your Benedick.)

So for the second show of the park season—King Lear starring John Lithgow and Annette Benning—the boy decided to get tickets to his first performance of Shakespeare in the Park how Public Theater and New York Shakespeare Festival founder Joseph Papp himself only could have imagined: by standing in line with the masses in Central Park to obtain the tickets for free. Quick facts: Central Park opens at 6am; people begin lining up outside the 82nd street park entrance at what can only be described as “ass-o-clock” in the morning; when the park opens, another line forms outside the Delacorte Theater area; lastly, tickets are distributed (2 per person) at noon.

The boy left Princeton at 4:30am and got to Central Park just as they were opening up and got a cozy spot, 27 people from the front. As the hours ticked by, the line grew and grew…and grew. [I got a great play-by-play as I sat at my desk that morning]20140724-221657-80217722.jpg

After 6 hours of waiting, the moment arrived: ticket distribution. And he got ‘em!

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I hopped on an express train from Princeton and we grabbed a bite to eat at one of our favorite Upper West Side eateries: Jacob’s Pickles. Bourbon, biscuits, and pickles—what could be better before a night of Shakespeare in the Park? For most of the day, we’d heard that a thunderstorm was on tap for the evening. Bring. It. ON. Being the smart and resourceful twenty-somethings that we are, we stopped at CVS to get plastic trash bags to use as makeshift ponchos (no umbrellas are allowed in the open-air theater during the performance and we weren’t about to pay $15 each for ponchos). #noshame #onabudget

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The performance started at about 10 after eight; no rain. Within minutes of the play beginning, a few flashes of lightning lit up the sky and purplish/orange clouds began to creep in from the west. We got 25 minutes in when thunder joined the party. No sooner did the stage manager come over the God mic with “hold” when it began to downpour. Everyone trickled out of the theater and huddled under the awning outside the space. Many left immediately, many waited for 10 minutes and left when the storm didn’t pass…and then there were the rest of us who waited hopefully with bated breath. Thunder [boom!]. Lightning [flash]. Rain [pouring]. Hey, it’s all part of the experience, right? Right.

After 20 minutes huddled with a gaggle of theater-loving folk under the awning, it was announced that we’d be resuming the performance in 10 minutes (thank you Shakespeare Gods). We went back to our seats, slid plastic bags over them, made little ponchos and covers for ourselves, and settled in for however much more of the production we’d be fortunate enough to experience. Here we are, decked out in garbage bags…like ya do:

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The drizzle was steady during Act I along with a few lingering flashes of lightning, but these actors were unphased (except for John Lithgow’s early admission upon returning to the stage and attempting to pick up where they left off: “I’m sorry, I’m completely lost.” That got a nice chuckle from the audience.). Early in Act II, the rain stopped. We got all but a five-minute reprieve when it started up again…tease. Though, Mother Nature couldn’t have planned it better: the rain began again just as Lear and his fool were braving a storm of their own and the king was building up to his “storm speech.”

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!

Before the performance started, we were at least hoping to make it to that scene. And we did. Everything from there on out was gravy. The rain steadily came down for the remainder of the performance and actually made the whole experience quite fascinating to watch. A particular moment in Act IV stands out in my memory: Annette Benning’s Goneril was being belittled by her husband, the Duke of Albany, and the subtle lighting combined with their positions on the complete opposite side of the stage from us really highlighted the rain pouring down on them and gave the scene such a cinematic edge. It was incredible. (I can only imagine what these actors can do when it’s not raining buckets on them and they’re not traipsing across a slippery stage.)

Fighting…deaths…end of play; it was now midnight. No need to rush out of the park for us. The next and last train to New Jersey wasn’t until 1:22. So we sloshed out of the park with the masses a la Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook and made our way to Penn. This was my first experience with King Lear and I think I can honestly say that nothing else will top it. Definitely a night out at the theater for the record books!

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Weekend in Photos: Washington, D.C.

June 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

The West Wing, House of Cards, Veep, The Daily Show, The American President…I’m a huge fan of political dramas and satires, yet I have no interest in actual politics (go figure). I first went to Washington, DC three years ago and was utterly fascinated by all there is to see and do; this past weekend was no exception. I traveled down to DC to galavant around the city with a college friend of mine and man oh man did we log the miles (I’m afraid to map it, but I have a blister on my left pinky toe to prove it). From wandering around the Newseum (journalism nerds!) and visiting various Smithsonian buildings and the Holocaust Museum, to walking across the Arlington Bridge, riding bikes around the entire Tidal Basin, and scaling the Washington Monument (ok, so we didn’t exactly scale it; we rode up the elevator, but it was still pretty bad ass) …We. Did. So. Much. (We also stopped at Foggy Bottom so that I could say I went to Foggy Bottom…I blame this clip from The West Wing: Root Canal).

The short trip was also a great excuse to play around with the Nikon. I still need to learn more about how to use the camera, but hey, practice makes perfect right? A handful of shots are below. The flags at sunset and looking across the still water of the mall toward the Washington Monument are my two favorites. #photogwannabe

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The Wisconsin Brewery Mothership

June 21, 2014 § 1 Comment

Real women don’t drink light beer.

Confession: despite being from Brew City, I haven’t always enjoyed beer. In fact, it wasn’t until moving to the East Coast that I became a bit of a beer snob; specifically, a Wisconsin beer snob.

We take our beer seriously in Wisconsin. From Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee (OMG best brewery tour I’ve ever been on!) to Capital Brewery in Madison and a recently discovered favorite, Central Waters in Amherst (excellent coffee stout!), Wisconsin is chock full of amazing craft brewers. But the first Wisconsin brew I introduced to The Boy, as well as many of my co-workers, was of course none other than New Glarus Brewing Company’s claim to fame: Spotted Cow (naturally, followed by Fat Squirrel and a seasonal fave that’s now extinct, Laughing Fox). Spotted Cow is a refreshing farmhouse ale and, according to someone who shall remain nameless, “there’s a cute little cow on the label.” What’s not to love? Plus, it’s pretty much a guarantee in any bar in the state. For the win!

While enroute to Madison last weekend for the wedding of a childhood friend of mine, we took a slight 45 minute detour (or perhaps pilgrimage is more apropos?) southwest of Madtown to New Glarus to hit up the brewery. Following a fish fry at a little dive bar and pre-gaming with a New Glarus sampler (4 samples for only $5.50…I love Wisconsin prices), we headed to the brewery with only about an hour to spare before their 4pm closing time.

Set atop a hill just outside of the downtown New Glarus area, the brewery itself is as amazing as the beer (and we didn’t even go on a tour!). The outdoor area has a “ruins” type feel to it as you can see in some of the photos below (I was also having way too much fun my new camera and was fascinated by how the sun lit up the beer and really brought out its color…spoken like a true Wisconsinite, no? Or a photography/beer weirdo, take your pick!). We sampled nearly everything they were offering! New faves were the Scream IPA, Two Women, and the Strawberry Rhubarb specialty, though we also sampled the Back 40 Bock, Serendipity, and Totally Naked. Yes, we got Totally Naked in New Glarus (wink, wink). Though we only had time for a quick tasting (and it’s about a 2 hour drive from Milwaukee), New Glarus is definitely worth the trip through all the farm fields of southwestern Wisconsin for any lover of local craft beer. We definitely plan on going back for the infamous hard hat tour! After all: Only in Wisconsin!

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From Shyness to Nikon

June 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

I am a shy person (perhaps contrary to popular belief).

Always have been (hey, at least I can admit it, right?). Moonlighting at the House of Mouse for all those years forced me out of my shell; though my role required no talking, lots of miming, quick thinking, spontaneity, running around in a dog costume, and complete anonymity (#truestory)…which, let’s be honest here, was really why I enjoyed it so much. With that role came photos. Lots and lots of photos. It makes my head hurt thinking about how many  family vacation photos I’m in…but I digress. Needless to say, I’ve never had an issue with having my picture taken (except maybe for those middle school years… *shudder *).

I appreciate the art of photography and enjoy taking pictures, but never really thought much of it. I think the evolution of Instagram and working in arts marketing has made me 1) appreciate good photography 2) made me realize that simple, inanimate objects are beautiful and can have depth and 3) candid shots are priceless. After a few years of casual browsing (and being satisfied with the photo quality of my various iPhones), I decided it was time to use my tax refund for something fun: a DSLR.

It took countless hours of research (wavering back and forth between Nikon and Canon…good grief, it was exhausting) and the knowledge that I am a complete novice and need to actively teach myself how to not only properly use the camera, but to use it to its full potential. Challenge accepted!

Saturday evening, The Boy and I took the new Nikon D5300 out on our nightly stroll. We have a long way to go, but our first spin with it wasn’t too bad (see above). And after an hour or so of toying with it, a Dogfish 90 Minute was most definitely needed (also, see above). The camera overall is pretty stellar. The biggest selling point for me was the built-in wi-fi. It was a little higher than I originally wanted to pay, but I can already tell the built-in wi-fi will be well worth it!

Not that I needed more convincing to spend my tax refund on a high-quality camera, but since I brought up the House of Mouse earlier…The Boy and I are headed down to Orlando this fall for a little trip over Halloween weekend. Not only will it be my first time back in nearly two and a half years, but also the first time I will be going as a guest and not a cast member. Talk about a change in perspective! Also – Milwaukeean nerd alert – I can’t wait to see what kind of funky shots I’ll be able to get of the infamous “Recombobulation Area” sign at the airport when we’re in Wisconsin next week. It’s truly the little things.


 

Just Another Roll of the Dice

May 26, 2014 § 1 Comment

Let’s talk about the first time I saw Springsteen in concert…

…that was last weekend. The boy, being born and bred in New Jersey, is quite an avid fan (to say the least). A few months ago during the heat of graduate school when Bruce announced some U.S. tour dates, he jumped at tickets to The Boss’ last stop on this leg of the tour: Mohegan Sun Casino Resort in Uncasville, CT. Sounds simple right? Not so my friend. To my surprise, Springsteen tickets are not an easy thing to obtain. Additionally, Mohegan Sun Arena has a capacity of less than 10,000 people which made the tickets even more difficult to obtain. Thankfully, the Gods of Rock n’ Roll were on our sides and we were able to obtain 2 tickets, in the second to last row of the top mezzanine. In any other arena, these would be your classic “nosebleed” seats, however for Mohegan Sun Arena they were perfect. We drove up to Connecticut on Sunday morning (following a rocking Saturday of volunteering at McCarter Theatre’s gala benefit) and came back Monday afternoon…talk about a whirlwind weekend!

First, Mohegan Sun is a giant playground for adults: I’m not just talking about all the flashing slots, roulette, etc, but the number of restaurants (oh hello, Bobby Flay), bars, night clubs, shops (Tiffanys and Coach?!)…seriously. Not being casino/gambling folk, needless to say the atmosphere was a little overwhelming. After making no less than 3 laps around the first level of the resort (maybe it was only 2 laps…it felt like we were going in circles), we ultimately settled on Sol Toro Tequila Grill. Then we sat back, relaxed, sipped our Riazul Anejo neat (wicked smooth tequila), and noshed.

[Quick Springsteen Diversion] Back in February, we found a $5 bill buried in the snow in a Wegmans parking lot. How lucky, we thought. We should do something fun with it! Buy a lottery ticket? Mmm, maybe. Months passed and it sat and sat on a table by our front door…you can see where I’m going with this, yes? Great. [End of Quick Springsteen Diversion]. Now…which slot machine to choose? Let’s go find a row where there’s no one around so if we can’t figure it out, we don’t look like idiots. Gorilla Chief it is! (for the record, there was no particular motive for choosing a slot machine with a scary-looking gorilla on it). The $5 went in…we pushed a few buttons…no money…pushed a few more buttons…bye, bye $5. #uberfail

Gambling fail

The concert itself…where to begin? Springsteen is a man who lives, breathes, and sweats Rock n’ Roll. The energy that this man has at the age of 64 is beyond impressive. If only all of us could look and be as energetic at his age (*crosses fingers*). He opened by coming out and yelling “Did you lose your money?” and a song called “Roll of the Dice” that I was unfamiliar with. As merely a fan who has heard his music as its been played in our apartment, I was expecting to know a few songs. Four songs in…none. Oof, we could be in for a long night, I thought, there might be darkness on the edge of this town tonight. Luckily, a little girl no older than eight brought a sign she made requesting “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Woo Hoo! I know this one! Sure it was May and in the upper 70s outside, but for those five minutes it felt like the holidays. Everyone was belting out the song! )PS: check out the video on the song link!

Us! Santa ClausGreen

According to my ultimate Bruce source, The Boss was bringing out all the deep tracks that night which, to the hardcore Springsteen fan (i.e. The Boy), made the night really exciting, but to the casual fan (i.e. Me) it was a lot of unfamiliar territory. I know some songs by ear and some songs by name, but not many by both ear and name (gimme a break, I’m still learning). I got a nice taste of “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” “Frankie Fell in Love,” “Adam Raised a Cain,” “High Hopes,” “Cadillac Ranch” (a song that someone—I won’t say who—frequently plays for me because of the Wisconsin shout out in the studio version), “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” “Badlands,” “Born to Run,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” and the stirring, concert-concluding “Dream Baby Dream.”

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Overall, my first Bruce concert was a fun, cultural, exciting, and emotional experience, which is only to be expected when you are watching Bruce Springsteen and the “heart-stopping, pants-dropping, earth-shocking, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making, history-making, testifying, death-defying, legendary E Street Band.”