Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Thoughts from the Old Stomping Grounds

April 10, 2011

Last fall I spent a few days wandering around my old hometown where I hadn’t lived in over 25 years. It was an interesting study in memory and change that I’m still writing about, trying to come to terms with what I remember, what I don’t, what the town remembers and what it doesn’t, etc. One of the things that fascinated me was the way I could pinpoint things that were buried under twenty five years of a reconstructed landscape. I was trying to remember an old dam and fire pit that I used to camp beside out in a wooded patch in the midst of long meadows that ran behind the “golden mile” of route 40. At that point it was still pretty much farmland and meadows everywhere. But the town has grown exponentially since then; those fields are now miles and miles of townhouses, malls, and roads. How then did I walk right to the point in the stream–now completely unrecognizable from memory, a complete different stream course and topograpy–and find the remnants of the old dam?

Yesterday, I wandered around another one of my old haunts, Brattleboro, VT. I only lived there about 4 years but it has been 21 years since I lived there. What I found interesting was that my experience was the complete opposite of going back to Frederick: here the changes were minimal. It’s really the same town, same landscape, but it felt completely alien. It’s still the old hippie haven I remember, but I had trouble acknowledging that this is the place I had lived. Sure, I got there the more I wandered around. Twenty years later, the Shin-La is still running with the same family at the helm and the flavors came back to me in a flash, the crisp dumplings, the fresh ginger, the really hot, really good KimChi–I’ve yet to ever find Korean food as good as theirs:

Mount Wantastiquet still looms across the river, the same scene I woke up to every day from our tiny apartment, 6 floors up above the railroad tracks (how I remember that bright morning sun flooding into the apartment as it crested Wantastiquet–being, as we were, too cheap and/or ignorant to get any kind of room-darkening shades).

(that’s our old porch with the yellowish railings in the middle at the very top–great place)

Sure some things have changed, but nothing remarkable. It’s all got the same feeling, despite say landmarks like Three Dollar Dewey’s (the bar where I really learned to appreciate good beer) now having long since become McNeill’s brewery in the old firehouse and the old Dewey’s building long since torn down, turned into a parking lot which is now so old that even it is being rebuilt:

Here’s the “new” McNeill’s, now going on 21 (Ray & Holiday were finishing it up when we left–we got to drink there several times in its early days when I was still coming back to Vermont to finish up school at Goddard and then my MFA at Vermont College, both “low-residency” programs in northern Vermont). It still looks pretty much the same, (well, except for the parking ramp that sprung up behind it) and still has the same long wood tables, dart boards, and green swirled tiffany lights over the bar that were all in Dewey’s as well (I do mean the same, not the same style).

Other things that have changed, though, are actually still pretty much the same. For instance, the hippie co-op restaurant I worked at has been out of business for about ten years (really longer, but it had a couple of “revival” periods until it finally went under for good I think in ’02 or ’03 (I could be wrong on that–fellow Vermonters feel free to help me with the story). Yet, the sign remains, the mural on the wall remains, the beautiful old sun-porch remains even if now looking pretty decrepit (but frankly the building was pretty decrepit back when I was there. I remember when we’d have dances, the whole floor swayed and buckled so much that I was sure it was only a matter of time before the whole place would fell into the lower level–a pharmacy at the time, so that’s changed, but “Everyone’s Books” merely moved down the block into the space so it doesn’t feel like so much of a change).

So what’s all this mean anyway? I’m not sure, but I spent a good few hours at McNeill’s last night (the Dead Horse IPA on cask was excellent, the Oatmeal Stout good, the Dark Angel imperial stout started out incredible but didn’t hold up for a whole pint) wondering why Frederick feels so alien to me yet so in my blood that I can’t seem to forget anything while Brattleboro remains fundamentally the same yet I feel so alien. Sure time spent in each is part of the equation; sure, the age at which certain impressions are made is part of the equation, but I don’t think those things really explain it.

What I’m trying to work my head around is a half-formed theory in which changes in landscape and environment are a kind of working metaphor for memory, the way a city, say, is fundamentally the same as memory in which change overlaps change, history builds up and accrues in the sediment of place. As I say, it’s half-formed, it’s vague,  it’s more just an idea I’m trying to work through. What’s it all mean? I don’t know–I’ll let you know when I finish working on it (and then I won’t tell you anyway, cause I’ll want you to buy the book, right?).


Act and Empower

January 7, 2011

I’m happy to say we’ve just confirmed travel plans for me to travel to Uganda with the non-profit Act and Empower. This non-profit is working to improve the lives of the marginalized and impoverished Batwa pygmies. I’m not sure where my work will lead me, but my plan is to collect stories from Batwa villages, folktales and contemporary experiences. My good friend Kurt Koefod is coming too to document the Batwa in photographs. Together we hope that we can put together a collection of stories and images to help bring their plight to greater awareness. It’s a very exciting adventure and I hope we can do at least a little good. I am sure over the next months I will blog about this experience a good bit. In the meantime, please take a look at the website here. They’re doing good, important work.  With little education, no land, no social or political power, and a nearly 50% mortality rate for children under 5, the situation for the Batwa is critical,  so please give if you can–a little bit can go a long way.

The Year in Beer

January 1, 2011

Yes, I’m a beer geek. Just the other day I rated my 700th beer on ratebeer. If you don’t know ratebeer, you’ll probably say, “oooh.” If you do know ratebeer, you’ll say, “eh, OK, whatever.” I mean, there are thousands of raters who are over the 1,000 mark and many who have crossed the 10,000 threshold. I’m just out there in the middle with thousands of other raters, drinking our beer, taking notes, jotting them down and moving on. For what? I’ve been asking myself. I know that no one else reads such ratings and I’m not writing them for others. But for me? Well, I have become more and more aware that my ratings of a single beer can vary quite dramatically from one tasting to another, so how helpful are the ratings for me? The descriptions themselves become more about filling out the character-count for the rating to be posted than actually meaningful anymore (how often can I say citrus or pine or grass or dark fruit etc?). I’ve also found that the comparative aspect of ratings has made it almost impossible for me to give a score higher than 4.5 (and that’s pretty damn rare). Higher than that needs to be almost perfect in each category: aroma, appearance, taste, palate, and overall. So, does that Mikkeller look better than that Stone? Hmm, not so sure, so give it a 3 out of 5. “Overall” becomes this sort of catch-all category to really give the final number where I think the beer belongs–but the numbers seem dictated by my original ratings as I find it harder to rate some much higher than the quality beers I started with. I could go back and re-evaluate them all, but who the hell would have the time or desire to do that? So I’m back at the question, what’s the point? Why this desire to catalog all these beers. Is it just to say “I’ve been there?” Maybe. See, I’m cool.

I’ve previously argued that ratings ought to consider price in their evaluations–a 4.0 beer may be a great find at $7 and a really poor find at $15–so I’ve started to include that in my own ratings so I can remember what really seems worth shelling out the money for. But even that seems silly since I don’t carry my ratings to the store with me, so when do I look them up in order to be helpful? Well, yesterday I was talking with some friends about all the great winter beers that we love. I drink well at Christmas time. So I was trying to remember what good beers I enjoyed last year at this time and went back to that point in my ratings and realized what I suppose I’ve known all along: what ratebeer really is is a kind of diary/travelogue. So many important events in my life involve good drink and good food (yes, I can no longer pretend to be a radical, having clearly sunk into a bourgeois lifestyle for good) so keeping tabs of the beers I discover is also a round-about way to keep track of experiences. As I was backtracking to last winter, I flashed by the brewpubs I found on my travels over last summer which brought lots of good memories to mind. I remembered trips to visit friends and family as well. It’s a different kind of photo album. With that in mind, I thought that this year’s best of list would be my top ten beers of 2010 with “top ten” status being a combination of quality of beer and quality of experience. I mean, one reason my ratings probably would vary so much from one tasting to another is that context is an important part of the equation. We’ve searched for years for a port that MB would like, but the truth is the times she has enjoyed port have been when she’s enjoying an evening with friends at a restaurant or another festive setting; at home, she finds she doesn’t really like port. There are beers I’ve loved only to later discover that I don’t really like that much (though the discrepancy isn’t like MB with port–it’s more likely that I may love a beer once then later think it’s a really good beer rather than a great one), so I’ll give up on the rating as an actual rating and simply consider them memories. Here’s a snapshot of 2010:

10. Summit Imperial Pumpkin Porter: Summit has a great place in my heart. I’ve loved their pale ale from the day I first moved to Minnesota some twenty years ago. It’s not the most outrageous beer, but it’s very well crafted, clean, straightahead ale and it’s been there for some great moments in my life. Their other beers however are pretty hit or miss (more miss than hit). Their “unchained” series has been a real hit, though. Their most recent unchained is this pumpkin porter. It’s delicious. I discovered it on a visit to minneapolis in early December to visit friends. I sampled it first at W.A. Frost with the Koefods and proceeded to drink it throughout the trip. Yum.

9. Town Hall Masala Mama.  Same trip as the Summit. A frigid, snowy night, and MB and I at Town Hall Brewery getting some snacks and beer in a gap between visits to different friends. Crowded, noisy, with a really great beer and sweet potato fries. Just my kind of happy hour.

8. Green Flash Imperial IPA. Holy crap, this beer had the most intense fresh hop flavor I’ve perhaps ever tasted. I mean ridiculously fresh. A big fluffy white head that just wouldn’t die. Enjoyed this one over Thanksgiving weekend in our new Mount Vernon house, feeling nice and warm with this big be and our toasty fireplace roaring.

7. Central Waters Illumination. This is a really big beer, tons of malt and hops. I’ve had some decent Central Waters beers before (they’ve got a nice coffee stout) but nothing like this beer. This was great and it tasted amazing when I discovered it in a bar in Stevens Point on my way back from an artist residency on Isle Royale. I was tired and really in need of some good food and beer. This hit the spot.

6. Mikkeller Single Hop Amarillo. I actually blogged about the price of beers using another single hop beer as my foil, but the truth is it’s a really good series of beers–and I love the Amarillo. I had this one at the Lincoln Wine Bar when I got back from my trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. I was worried that it would be tough to come back to Iowa after two weeks out in Rocky Mountain, but it felt like home to go to the wine bar, listen to some great live bluegrass and drink this beer.

5. Dogfish Head World Wide Stout. This is just a ridiculous beer. Not much more to say about it. Had this one during my visit to Maryland for my Mom’s 80th birthday party. Kind of a tradition now when we get to Maryland to go to the Gaithersburg brewpub with Mom & Dad for a few pints.

4.Dieu du Ciel Equinoxe du Printemps. I’ve been loving what this Canadian brewery has been doing. And this is an excellent beer. Shared this with my friend Matt at his wine bar one slow day in early spring, a cloudy rainy day but really nice in the bar. This was right after we’d put an offer on a house in Mt. Vernon and it felt good to share this beer and feel comfortable in our new town.

3. Twisted Pine Imperial IPA. Had this one on tap at the brewpub in Boulder Colorado. I stopped here when I first got into town on my way to visit my cousins before I headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park. I was tired and a little dazed from the drive and it was baking hot outside, but I had the bar just to myself for a bit. I had their IPA which was nice, but when the bartender realized I was a beer geek he had me sample a few that weren’t actually on the list yet. This Imperial was great and a perfect start to this trip.

2. Rochefort Trappistes 10. This is perhaps one of the finest beers I know. I’ve had it before but it’s been a long time. I had this one on my birthday, a freezing cold night in February when MB and I went to Iowa City to spend the night, have a nice meal, and enjoy a few beers at one of our favorite places, The Sanctuary. I splurged on this and my birthday felt quite complete.

1. Stone Russian Imperial Stout. Another ridiculously good beer. We drank this to toast in the new year last year, just me and MB and a roaring fire and a bottle of Stone. This was when we resolved to make some big changes in our life over the next (now the last) year, most notably to move out of Cedar Rapids to Mount Vernon, a resolution we managed just as we planned. This was a perfect year to help us start a new chapter in our lives and to signal a good year. It was a great year indeed and we’re hoping the next one is as well, for all you Street Parade readers as well.  Happy 2011.

Honorable mentions: Mikkeller Beer Geek, Sierra Nevada Southern Harvest, Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary, Bells Batch 10,000, Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper 2010 (many raters say this Mikkeller should be cellared for a year. I get their point that it can certainly hold up for cellaring, but to say it’s unbalanced or too sweet to drink now is just downright silly. Drink it!).

Catching Up

September 29, 2010

It’s hard to believe how long the Street Parade has been out of action. It’s been a crazy year since the last post.  Here’s a brief overview just to kick things up again.

In March we decided that it was time to move from Cedar Rapids over to Mount Vernon to be closer to school and be more of a part of that small town community. So we spend much of the spring working on our Cedar Rapids house which was in good shape but needed a lot of surface kinds of work in order to sell. Right about the time we got serious about the house, though, we were invited to go sailing in the Virgin Islands with my brother and his family. The timing was crazy, but the trip was amazing. A week of diving every day, snorkeling, sailing, good food and plenty of drinks. Here’s one of my favorite shots of MB at the helm:

Here’s my bro and Captain Jerry at the wheel:

And here’s the gang getting ready to dive:

Really an amazing trip. We got back from the warmth and incredible blue waters (we barely went on land at all for the whole week) to early spring cold rains and began work on our house in earnest. We hoped to sell it while the stimulus tax breaks were still going but it was not to be. We did, though, find a house in Mount Vernon (there aren’t a lot of houses there, so it’s kind of luck of the draw). We’d been half-heartedly looking for a few years but this year decided we really needed to do it. And this ended up being one of the nicer houses we’d seen over the years:

We closed on it at the beginning of June but kept living in Cedar Rapids as we tried to sell that house. I spent most of June painting and cleaning this house and working on the Cedar Rapids house as well. Here’s a shot of trying to figure out colors to get rid of the boring, 40 some year old dirty white paint:

About the time we were getting ready to move to Mount Vernon, I received word that I was chosen as artist-in-residence at both Isle Royale National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park for summer 2010. I had applied for several positions hoping to get one, and was quite pleasantly surprised to get two. It did seem fairly daunting, though, to do both as we were moving and still trying to sell a house. Particularly Isle Royale where I would have no phone or internet access and would be completely in the dark over the house.

On July 1, we moved over to Mount Vernon with minimal furnishings. We left most of our stuff in Cedar Rapids so that the house still looked lived in and would show better, but we had a bed and some chairs and set up camp at the new house. On July 5, I took off for Isle Royale. I drove to Houghton, MI then took a 6 hour ferry ride to the island.  This was my home for my time there:

No electricity, no running water, but as you can see there was propane for a stove and a refrigerator (I took two weeks worth of supplies with me to the island) and there was a large filtration system that I could use for drinking water from water I hauled up from the lake. There was also a “sun shower” I could hang on a post by the cabin or the VERY frigid waters of lake superior for bathing. It was an incredible experience, despite being very stressful in the face of our house situation.

This is the spit of land on Tobin Harbor where the cabin stands. It is buried in the pines at the very edge of the land. I’m looking at it from Tobin Harbor from a canoe:

And here is a view of Scoville Point which is across a cove from the cabin on the other side from Tobin Harbor. I spent much of my time out on the point, writing, hiking, swimming and marveling at the amazing colors of the lichens on the rocks:

Here is a sunrise from water’s edge on the cove side of my cabin, looking out over the vast waters of Superior:

I got back from Isle Royale to learn that MB had managed to sell the house while I had been away. She probably did a better job of it than we would of had I been there–easier for one person to just make the calls, I think, besides the fact that I’m just generally more stressed about financial things than she is. We certainly didn’t get what we’d hoped for for the house but in this market (especially in a generally depressed area like Cedar Rapids) we were incredibly relieved to have it sell. And MB definitely worked out the best deal we could get for it. We waited until all inspections were done and everything was signed off before we moved all our stuff to Mount Vernon, but by the end of July we were moved in. We weren’t closing on the CR house until late August, so the timing worked perfectly for me to still go to Rocky Mountain. I drove out to Colorado on August 1 and found this as my new home there for two weeks:

It was a ridiculously nice cabin. This one had electricity and running water (a much more “civilized” stay–for good and for bad) and actually had traffic (there are no cars on Isle Royale–in fact, I barely even saw anyone on IR) but here was my view:

And here’s where I got to hang out for my view:

Just an unbelievable two weeks. Every day I hiked above treeline (and wore my legs and feet pretty badly in the process–I’m still working through some plantar fasciitis I developed). Here are a few of my favorite spots.

Black Lake:

Rainbow Falls beneath Black Lake:

Mills Lake:

Sky Pond:

Hallett Peak and Tyndall Glacier (notice the ice climber sleeping on the glacier):

Chasm Lake:

Lake Odessa:

And I also got down to Boulder to visit with my cousins. Here we are in Nederland at the Carousel of Happiness:

I’m sure I’ll write more about Isle Royale and Rocky Mountain. I’m just catching up at this point.

I got back to Cedar Rapids in time to settle on our house in late August. It was a great relief to be done with that whole thing, although MB had been so busy at work and I had been gone so much that it didn’t feel like I even really lived there yet–we had barely gotten much out of our boxes yet, so I tried to get some things done at the house before I left again to take students up to the Wilderness Field Station outside Ely, MN.

I have taught several times at the field station, but I was recently named director of the program. So this year I went up as director and not as teacher. A very different experience. But I’m really excited to be part of the program and keep it going, and I’ll teach up there again next September.

Here is the cabin I spent much of September living in:

There is a generator for electricity in the day, but none at night; running water for cooking and drinking, but bathing is either in Low Lake or in the sauna every few nights. It’s an amazing place and a great opportunity for our students, many of whom have never been in the woods before. This is Low Lake with the infamous “swim rock” jutting out from the left:

And here is Low Lake in the lovely early morning fog:

Here is a group study session as students prepare for their mid-terms before heading out into the wilderness:

And here are students preparing for their adventures out into the Boundary Waters Wilderness. Pure chaos the day before:

I did not go into the boundary waters on this trip. I actually got to experience the field station with only a few people there–a nice quiet experience of Low Lake before I headed back to Mount Vernon. And now here I am back in our new home trying to feel settled and stay here for a little while before I take off on sabbatical adventures in the spring. It’s been a whirlwind several months and I’m glad to quiet down for a bit.

St. Louis

June 16, 2009

Last year at this point, MB and I were going to go to St. Louis for a long weekend but we got thwarted by the floods as almost all bridges to the east or west of us were unpassable.  We could have made it to Saint Louis but it was going to take us at least 3-4 extra hours and we bailed on the plan. It took us a year to try again, but we spent this last weekend in St. Louis. It’s a good town, plenty of good beer and food but also still a small midwest town at heart. What really amazes me is how quickly neighborhoods shift character, sometimes having a run-down neighborhood directly across the street from an upper-class neighborhood. For instance, we spent a good bit of time in Lafayette Park, an upscale neighborhood with a beautiful park and old townhouses like these:

lafayette#2 while only a few blocks away is some fairly run down sections of town. I’m not sure what to make of it really, but I find it gives the town a unique flavor. I know that all cities are really a kind of mosaic, but it seems even more so in St. Louis.  We spent some time chatting with Dylan, the beer guy at 33 Wine Bar & Tasting Room, and his take was that St. Louis is generally a pretty depressed town because it’s built solely on a river and rails infrastructure. But he sees the pockets of nicer neighborhoods expanding and his ultimate take is that there’s no city with more potential right now. In my limited exposure to the city, I think I get what he means.

We managed to hit two brewpubs, Schlafly and Square One. I’m already a fan of Schlafly beers and they were nice on tap (we were at the tap room, not the bottleworks) but the service was pretty bad I have to say. Square One’s beers were solid but unremarkable, but we had a great time there. We had a really good waiter and enjoyed the outdoor seating. Very comfortable place.

square oneJust down the block is 33 Wine Bar which has a pretty fabulous beer list. We had some Founder’s, North Coast Old Stock, Moylan’s Hopsickle (amazing beer). Great place that I’m already looking forward to visiting again. Found a good Ethiopian restaurant and pretty nice Thai place. We also made it to the Hill for some Italian. We were really tired and hungry at that point, though, so I’m not sure we gave ourselves the time to make the best choice (especially since all restaurants had about an hour wait at that point); we found a good and entertaining restaurant, but nothing that special. A really funky place we discovered (well, really, we were pointed to it by the Yellow Dog) was the Iron Barley, a small hole in the wall in a residential neighborhood south of town. We got directions from our hotel that were so wrong on so many levels that it was amazing how much of town we saw to get to this place, but that in itself was interesting–and then the restaurant itself was a real find.

iron barleyGood food, good cask ale on tap, good vibe.

We also got over to Clayton to go to the Wine & Cheese Shop to stock our bar for the summer. Plenty of good finds that we can’t get in Iowa. And Dylan turned us on to a few other places we should visit on our next trip and let us know about STLHops.Com, a blog that keeps a listing of all the different things on tap at the different bars–a nice and easy way to learn where to go to hunt down some of those hard-to-find goodies.

In general, we spent most of our time walking (which is what we really do in any city, walk until our feet can’t take it any more) through the parks and neighborhoods, a long time wandering through the Tower Grove Park and through Forest Park and the zoo. On our way back north, we stopped by the Columbia River Bottom at the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi. Great birdwatching area with Dickcissels everywhere.

columbia bottomWe’re thinking about going back there at some point during spring migration.

A short but sweet little trip. Good food, good drink, some good walking and good birdwatching, all the stuff we love.

The Madison Haul

July 14, 2008

We had been planning to go to Saint Louis this last weekend, get away from the ever-present flood remnants for awhile, go to Schlafly etc. It’s about a 5 hour trip for us going down Route 61.  It might be a tad quicker going interstate down toward Peoria, but highway 61 is part of the appeal, a beautiful drive down through the Missouri bluffs along the river, a stop in Hannibal etc. The Iowa DOT though was a little sketchy on continued detours and bridge closures due to the floods, so we weren’t sure how much extra time the trip was going to take.  We decided it would be better to wait until the roads are definitely clear.

I found myself Saturday morning, then, unsure of what to do with our weekend when MB suggested going to Madison for the night. I’m always game for Madison (It’s a great town and a pretty easy drive) but we get there fairly often and I wasn’t sure about it. I asked MB why she thought Madison and she said, “Well, I’d really like to get that Sayur Lodeh (coconut soup) at Bandung.” OK, I thought, I can see the appeal. It’s a fabulous Indonesian restaurant and we can’t get it around here. Then she added, “I’m also worried about your beer supply running low. I thought we could check out the beer store that Bradley suggested.” It was a great reminder of why I love this woman so much!! Yes, she was worried about my beer supply, sigh….

So, off we went to Madison. I don’t think our haul at Steve’s was as big as Bradley’s recent haul, but we did pretty well:

Bells Hopslam
Bells Two-Hearted Ale
Lakefront Brewing IPA
Avery The Reverend Quadrupel
Andersonville Brother David’s Tripel
Lagunitas IPA
Lagunitas Maximus
Lagunitas Lumpy Gravy
Tyrenena Bitter Woman IPA
Tyrenena Chief Blackhawk Porter
Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye Ale
Bear Republic Black Bear Stout
Bear Republic XP Ale
Stone Ruination IPA
Stone Arrogant Bastard
Ale Asylum Hopalicious
Ale Asylum Contorter Porter

All seems right with the world. Steve’s is indeed a well-stocked store and worth the visit. They don’t have the Belgian stock like John’s Grocery in Iowa City does, so we’ll still just hop down to John’s for the Belgians, but I liked the west coast supply of beers like Bear Republic and Stone. Yumm. And indeed we had a good dinner at Bandung and some good beers at Great Dane Brewing. I’ve been to Great Dane quite a few times and really enjoy the place and have always been fond of their beers. I must say that this time something seemed a little off, though. Some of their bigger beers were lacking body. For instance, their Texas Speedbump IPA, which has a ton of hop flavor, was surprisingly watery in body. As was the ESB. Their APA, though, was quite nice and creamy. And I had a Belgian Pale that started out on the watery side but really filled out as it warmed up a little. Nice, spicy pale. Now we’re back to being money poor but beer rich. I think a nice mid-summer cook-out tonight with some Hopslam is in order. Sigh…


June 24, 2008

So I promise not to turn this blog into a post-flood requiem. To that end, I shift gears back to the truly important matters, like beer.

MB and I recently went back to Maryland to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday. Glad to say he’s in great shape and still kickin’ in high gear. There was a big bash, but our real mission was to go to one of the Dogfish Head franchise bars that has opened not two miles from my folks’ in Gaithersburg Maryland. In fact, it was our first stop in town.

That’s Mom and Dad, mom with a Lawnmower Light (she was a good sport, but this was not the bar for her in terms of beer) and Dad with a Shelter Pale Ale. That’s MB’s 90-Minute IPA in the foreground, mmmm….

And that’s me, sleepy from travel, but thoroughly enjoying a Raison D’Etre. Nothing like a pint of that stuff to kick an afternoon into gear. I also had their Indian Brown which was surprisingly nice, says the man who doesn’t generally go for Browns. It had a unique spice to it.

Now, as much as I love Dogfish Beers (and they are indeed some of my favorites), I was hoping for something much more from the brewpub. It really was a fairly standard fern bar, although the vegetarian options for food were certainly above par. What I was really bummed about, though, was that they had none of the harder to find beers that I really wanted to try. The Raison D’etre was superb to get on tap, but they didn’t have the Raison D’extra. The 90-minute is one of the best beers around, and it was a pleasure to have on tap, but I was looking forward to tasting the 120-minute. The spring Aprihop was done. No Immort Ale. No Black & Blue, no Red & White, no worldwide stout, and none of the “brewpub exclusives.” Again, I don’t begrudge Dogfish anything here (just keeping brewing big strong beers, guys!) but I really thought that the brewpub would offer a bigger range of their beers. Oh well, I guess I have to go to Delaware.

Anyway, it was a great way to open up the weekend festivities for my Dad. Looking forward to many more Birthday visits to come!

It’s why we work so hard, right?

March 30, 2008

MB and I have been trying to work out a trip west for June during that window when I’m not teaching and she isn’t yet into the thick of fall book orders and it just hasn’t been happening.  It got very frustrating and we were coming up with all kinds of other plans, but really California’s been our goal this year.  So I finally said, screw it, let’s just go before my school year’s done.  It’s the nice thing about Cornell’s schedule (and those loyal readers out there already know those things that I think aren’t so nice) that I can shift and manipulate my work load so that I can take a little time.  It’s not ideal and I’ll probably spend a lot more time on computer than I really want to on vacation, but it’s going to be a good trip.

The plan is to fly into San Francisco, spend a day or two there, then make a big loop up the coast and down through sonoma wine country.  Not sure how far up we’ll make it given time constraints–Eureka is dubious–but we’ll make it up past Fort Bragg and do some hiking and exploring in some of the redwoods there.  If we can make it up to Humboldt State Park to see the big reserves of redwoods, that will be great, but if not we’ll still be happy.  So the goal is coast, redwoods, beer, wine.  Breweries that are definitely on the slate include North Coast, Anderson Valley, Bear Republic, Russian River, Marin, and Thirsty Bear.  Feel free to suggest any others that we definitely shouldn’t miss.  Wineries we’re going to be more spontaneous about.

Like I say, it’s not the best timing and I’ll probably spend too much time fretting about the things I should be doing, but we both need to get away and see something new about now.  Watch this same bat channel for brewpub reviews!