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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Great Taste - Homeward Bound: Day Six

After pretty much sleeping for twelve or thirteen hours (OK, we had lapsed into comas!), it was time to start a fresh, new day.  No trip to Great Taste of the Midwest (or Wisconsin, for that matter) is complete without a stop at perhaps one of the most impressive craft breweries in the country - New Glarus Brewing Company.

Outside New Glarus Brewing Co.
New Glarus is just a short thirty-minute drive south of Madison, making it a natural choice as our first stop of the day.  Brewslut remembered how to get there, so I followed her lead.  We arrived early and, after purchasing our beer (a few mixed six-packs, two 500ml bottles of a new Sour Ale, and some 750ml bottles of Red and Tart [see below]), we took a quick stroll through the self-guided tour path and perused some merchandise.  We finally meandered into the tasting room, where Brewslut and I enjoyed a few samples.  I opted for two offerings I hadn't yet tried - Two Women, a "classic country lager," and Staghorn, a Bavarian Octoberfest style beer.  Both were solid, as expected.  For my third sample, I went with a favorite of ours - Wisconsin Belgian Red.  This ruby red cherry ale packs more than a whole pound of Montgomery cherries from Wisconsin into each 750ml bottle!  We always bring back several bottles of this, as well as Raspberry Tart, two of Brewslut's favorite beers of all time.  In the grand scheme of things, I'd rank these two as amongst the best fruit beers produced in the United States.  Yeah, both beers are that good!

Copper kettles at New Glarus
Before we left, we settled on our merchandise purchases.  I picked up an awesome new pullover hoody sweatshirt, a brick red T-shirt with the Wisconsin "thumbprint" logo on the back (a personal favorite beer logo of mine), and a sticker for our beer cooler.  Brewslut got a cool long sleeve, girl-cut, waffle-weave shirt.  OK... she likes adjectives!

Inside New Glarus' brewery
After a routine visit to New Glarus, it was off for lunch at The Glarner Stube in the heart of the town of New Glarus, WI.  Deuane and Carolyn had turned Brewslut on to this place during her inaugural trip to Great Taste, and it has turned into a must-stop every time we visit the area.  Plus New Glarus Brewery gives you a coupon for a free 8oz. beer at Glarner Stube when you visit the brewery and get a sampler wristband!  Even if you visit New Glarus and don't stop in at The Glarner Stube, the town itself is noteworthy and offers the quaint Swiss-style charm reminiscent of a picturesque European village. 

They were fairly busy when we arrived, so we snagged two seats at the bar.  We were thrilled to see both Tart and Red on tap, so we ordered one of each for our "free" beers.  For lunch, we enjoyed a perch sandwich (me) and grilled cheese (Brewslut).  Afterwards, we ran into our friends from Alabama, Jim aka "Uncle Jedi" and his wife Joan.  They too had succumbed to an "early night" after the previous days festivities.  "There's not much else you can do after Great Taste but sleep," said Uncle Jedi.  Brewslut and I wholeheartedly concurred!

Next door, we picked up a few 1/4 kegs of New Glarus Red and Tart for our friend Chris, who was gracious enough to pay for two full tanks of gas in exchange for "muling" home the kegs for him.  We also got to enjoy a few pints at his house when we got home, as well as a growler for "later use!"

And now for something completely different...


Enough said about that.

Our next stop was a Deuane-recommended brewpub in Michigan City, IN called Shoreline Brewery.  We arrived during "pitcher night," when Shoreline boasts $8 for a pitcher of one of its house beers.  Always the frugal (OK, cheap) patron, I opted for a pitcher of the Sum Nug IPA, which hit the spot.  (Editor's note: Curious about the name, I checked out Shoreline's website and found that it is brewed with Summit and Nugget hops.  So that answers that question!) We also were a bit peckish, so we ordered a vegetable tray that featured yams, beets and other items with bleu cheese.  It was quite tasty!  We enjoyed pleasant conversations with some locals at the bar, two of which ended up giving us 3/4 of a pitcher of Stella Blue, a light ale with a hint of blueberry.  While we didn't finish the pitcher, it was still pretty tasty.  In speaking to some other locals, we realized that our plans to return to Three Floyds were foiled due to the fact that we drove more than thirty miles in the opposite direction.  Epic geographical fail!  Not wanting to backtrack, we tried to put together a "Plan B" for our final stop before retiring to our hotel somewhere in the middle of Indiana.  We were pleased to find that we were very close to Greenbush Brewing Company, a new brewpub that had already been recommended by numerous folks at Founders earlier during the trip.  And let me tell you... I'm actually glad we experienced this little mishap, because it was one of my favorite stops on the trip!

Tap handles at Greenbush
Having only been open for a year and two months at the time of our visit, the young Greenbush Brewing Company is situated in Sawyer, MI, just across the Indiana border.  We were lucky enough to get there a little over an hour before they closed, so we were able to get food in addition to beer.  I wanted to try everything, so we went with the sampler tray, which included the following selections: Anger Black IPA; Dunegras IPA; Penitence Rye Stout; Distorter Porter; Sunspot Hefe; and Mr. Hyde Coffee Cream Stout.  All were solid to outstanding, and we decided on the Anger Black IPA to take home in a growler.  This may have been one of the hoppiest Black IPAs I've ever had.

All of Greenbush's employees were quite young (early to mid twenties), super friendly, and just really passionate about beer.  I simply loved everything about this place - the ambiance, the people, the beer, and the merchandise!  After enjoying our sampler, one of the assistant brewers offered us a complimentary snifter of a Russian Imperial Stout, which was fantastic.  He also gave us a brief tour of the kitchen and brewery area.  These guys are tiny but making some huge, flavorful beers.  We can't wait to return!

Pleeps enjoying the Greenbush sampler tray
After a long day of drinking and driving (OK, that just sounds bad), we retired to our hotel, a nicely appointed and modern-looking Hyatt somewhere in the middle of Indiana.  We slept well in a cozy king-size bed.

The next morning, we were ready to head home, but not after a stop for lunch at the Buckeye Beer Engine just outside Cleveland in Lakewood, OH. Last time we drove through, we decided to stop at The Brew Kettle, producers of Ringneck Brewing Company beers.  This time, we wanted to hit the Beer Engine, not only for the beer, but also for their great lunch specials.  Brewslut and I pulled up a seat at the bar and we each ordered the Spicy Black Bean Burger, which hit the spot.  While the Beer Engine boasts many great craft taps, we opted for the local Buckeye beers - myself, a 76 IPA and Brewslut, the Cleveland Porter.  I had forgotten how much I liked 76 IPA.  This is a cool little place with a varied beer selection and great staff (our bartender was particularly friendly).  Plus if you stop during lunch hours, you will get $1 off select pints and $2 off burgers and sandwiches.  Sweet deal, eh?

Buckeye Beer Engine tap handles
The Buckeye Beer Engine, sadly, was our last beer-related stop on The Great Taste Caper.  Brewslut and I look to make Great Taste of the Midwest an annual beer trip.  It simply is one of the greatest beer festivals in the country, and it also happens to be situated in one of the best beer drinking cities in the region - Madison, WI!  Until next time...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Imminent Liquidation III

That's right kiddies... mark your calendars for the return of "Imminent Liquidation"!

The Central PA Bottle Share event - "Imminent Liquidation" - is returning for its third consecutive year!  The event will take place upstairs at The Warwick Hotel in Hummelstown, PA on Saturday, March 2, 2013.

More information and specific details will be revealed at a later time. However, we promise another awesome event with plenty of door prizes and ridiculous craft beer offerings. Get ready to dust off some bottles from your beer cellars!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Working at Tröegs definitely has its perks, but perhaps my most memorable experience thus far was capturing the coveted "Metal Brewer" trophy this past Monday night at the 2012 Metal Brewer Challenge!  If you are scratching your head in confusion right now, then perhaps I should offer a bit of backstory.
Several years ago, John Trogner came up with the concept of a co-worker party based around the popular Food Network series Iron Chef.  The premise was simple.  Tröegs co-workers would sign up to participate, get split into teams, and finally take part in a competition centered around a home-brewed beer, a food pairing, and a marketing presentation.  In keeping with the theme of the TV show, there is also a secret ingredient that must be used in the beer recipe.  Seems like a pretty awesome concept, doesn't it?  Since its inception, the Metal Brewer event has garnered legendary status among Tröegs employees and hardcore fans who happen to be friends of the brewery and its employees. Prior to Monday night's event, I'd been asked by brewery manager (now my boss) Ed Yashinsky to be a judge for the competition held in 2010.  I inevitably had a gig with one of my bands, so my good buddy Deuane took my place as the "local beer geek" on the panel of judges. 

The Stanley Cup of Tröegs!

 For this year's 2012 event, a total of eight teams participated in some pretty "stiff" competition.  There was a lot at stake.  For starters, bragging rights!  The winning team would also receive a bitchin' (and extremely heavy) Metal Brewer trophy, the Stanley Cup of the Tröegs Brewery world.  Also, losing the marketing competition simply wasn't an option, given the fact that I was hired by the brewery to handle its marketing duties.  But most awesome of all is the fact that the winning team will get the chance to brew its beer on the Tröegs Scratch Beer system!  How's that for incentive?
Picture used in our presentation to discuss "packaging."
This year's secret ingredient was "roots," so we could use anything like ginger, licorice root, yams... you get the picture.  Once we settled on using red beets and creating a beet Saison, I thought, "Well roots are bulbs, so let's keep it low-brow and go with a name like... Bulbous Knob."  This opened up the door for a series of dick jokes longer than the infamous penis of 70's porn star John Holmes.  The opportunities for sexual innuendo and double entendres were limitless!  My team was on board with me right from the start with regards to the marketing piece, which made me pitch the proverbial tent in my pants.
Bulbous Knob Brewing Company's phallic logo.
Our team consisted of the following Tröegs co-workers: myself, Jon Kaufman (an ex-student of Brewslut's), Dane Youtz, Matt Lett, and Matt Hasson.  Since I was primarily responsible for the marketing presentation, that left a few other positions available.  Dane had the most brewing experience, so he was a natural choice for the Head Brewer position.  Matt Hasson is a Tröegs sales rep, so he was put in charge of handling the majority of the sales presentation.  Jon and Matt Lett, who both work in the Snack Bar kitchen, took care of the food pairing and recipe, which turned out to be quite an interesting dish: The Bulbous Knob Dill-Doe (doe venison steak prepared with dill seasoning).  Jon came up with the name (way to embrace the Bulbous Knob philosophy, Jon)!

Bottom pic (l to r): Dane, me, Jon, Matt H. and Matt L.

As I mentioned earlier, our beer was be a red beet Saison called "Beet It," a play on words that was a no-brainer to work into the marketing presentation for a brewery called Bulbous Knob!  I thought it would be funny to work in a Michael Jackson reference (for obvious reasons), and designed the following beer label:
Label for "Beet It" - based on Michael Jackson's red zipper jacket
For the marketing presentation, I really wanted to do a video project and incorporate music, but I ended up going with a Powerpoint presentation due to procrastination and lack of video editing experience.  We also handed out fake brochures, newsletters, business cards, and drink coasters to the judges.  Despite some criticism from a few participants, I knew that dick jokes would get big laughs.  While there were many fantastic beers, I just felt that the chemistry of our team was unmatched and the presentation brought everything together as a whole package (no pun intended).  We essentially created an entire fictional brewery, complete with upcoming beers called "Money Shot Cream Ale," "The Morning Wood," and one I'd been dying to use for years... Ballzonchin Pale Ale.  All in all, it was a really fun event that came together quite well.  The food was great and the beer was, of course, awesome.  We celebrated our victory by filling up the trophy with "Beet It" and passing it around for everyone to take a chug.  Perhaps the Bulbous Knob team will re-appear at next year's event.  Next year's slogan: Slob on the Knob!  I can't believe I missed that one this year!!!
Suck it!!!