Thursday, July 31, 2014

Round Barn Brewery Public House

Round Barn Brewery Public House

We've been planning on a visit to the Round Barn Brewery and Public House in Baroda since the first time I read about it some time ago. While there are some good restaurants in SW Michigan, more options are always welcome, especially those focusing on craft beer and locally made wine. Round Barn is a one-stop shop for all your libation needs, as they are a winery, brewery, and distillery - awesome that Michigan is set up up so that can happen! Last week, driving around and looking at farms (future hops yard maybe?), my son and I finally timed it so we could check out this new dining option.

Decent looking architecturally, the interior has a typical bar look, with soaring ceilings, a view into the brewery in the back, and a long bar that stretches for much of the room. Tables are available inside and out, a nice perk when the weather is good or bad.

Pretty limited menu, with nary a burger or grilled cheese in sight. A true drawback in this area of great grass fed beef and good cheese. We decided to keep it simple and try one of the creative pizzas instead (at 12", it's enough for 2 or maybe 3 light eaters) - our choice was the fig and arugula pizza. I love figs and it was definitely an interesting choice as a pizza base, but it turned out to be too sweet for Tazer - he didn't even finish the pie, so we had slices to take home.

We were also there to drink - beer for me, root beer for him. Round Barn usually has 20 taps going, with flagship, seasonal, and experimental beers available. The best bet, in my opinion, is to get the flight, tasting 5 beers from across the menu. Economical and a good way to check out their options. The root beer was also good, according to Tazer, but unfortunately it's not brewed by Round Barn.

This is a good addition to the local casual eating and drinking scene and, with some minor tweaks, could be a great one. With plenty of beer, wine and liquor options, everyone can drink what they want and find something they like. The food was good, but the menu needs some basic down and dirty bar food, like the aforementioned burgers or grilled cheese. The higher level menu is nice, but sometimes you just want something simple with your beer.

Round Barn Brewery and Public House on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wine Wednesday: Yes Way Rosé

Wine Wednesday: Yes Way Rosé

I love rosé anytime of the year,  but there's something extra special about drinking it on a sultry evening or afternoon (or all day) with the lighter summer fare or especially with a nicely charred steak fresh off the grill. Such a versatile wine, and now there are oodles of crisp, dry rosés being made around the world that there is no excuse not to enjoy one today. Happy Wine Wednesday everyone!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Recommended Reads: Beers, Mushrooms, and yes, More Beer

Beer Guide to the Midwest

Michael Agnew took on the enviable though impossible task of surveying the Midwest craft beer scene. A Perfect Pint's Beer Guide to the Heartland is an immediately out of date look at breweries and brewpubs  in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois (adding Michigan might make sense but surely would overwhelm any writer on such a task). The book has some history and then goes state by state, with each entry giving the location, website, beer styles, Agnew's favorites and more. It's pretty exhaustive, but with a new craft brewery seemingly opening every day (hooray!), this is a book that is truly more of a "guide" than anything definitive. Still, if you're planning on any sort of travel in the aforementioned states, this is a great place to start figuring out what's near where you're going and  if the brewery or brewpub at your destination are worth visiting. The only thing this book can't tell you is whether the establishment is still around or if a newer, better option now exists.

Mushrooms of Illinois

Eat this, not that. Beyond fast food, that philosophy could save your life if you are picking mushrooms. Joe McFarland and Gregory M. Mueller, authors of Mushrooms of Illinois: A Field-to-Kitchen Guide,  know this all too well and go to great pains to remind everyone how dangerous fungi can be. This book is small enough to take into the field and also necessary enough to make it a requirement. Large pictures show common mushrooms, when you might find them in nature, and their look-a-likes that you better leave alone. Plenty of recipes are included in case you're not sure the best way to prepare any of the mushrooms you may run across.

Beer a Global History

The Sumerians brewed beer, so did your grandfather, probably. In Beer: A Global History, Gavin D. Smith discusses beer use, making, culture and more through the ages. Weaving science, arts, industry and more, the story  is told of beer's importance to us as individuals and as a species. A few recipes and other resources round out this small but useful tome.

These books were sent for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

WBC15: Finger Lakes Wine Region, NY

WBC15
 
It was quite disappointing not to participate in WBC14, as Santa Barbara seemed a beautiful location with lots of wines we had not had access to. Unfortunately, it wasn't in the budget, so it didn't happen. I was really excited to read that WBC15 was coming closer to home. The 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference will take place August 13-16, in the town of Corning, Finger Lakes region, New York. While we could fly to NY, it seems a perfect opportunity to take a few extra days and drive there, stopping to visit wineries in Ohion and Pennsylvania, tasting wines we've yet to try and adding a couple of states to our project along the way.

We've had some experience tasting the FLX wines over the last few years, generally the new Riesling vintages, but also reds, dessert, and ice wines as well. Quality across the board has been pretty high, so it will be exciting to taste the wines in situ. From photos and videos we've seen, the Finger Lakes are a gorgeous area and we cannot wait to see it in person.

I'll be extra diligent to include this trip into our 2015 budget - hope to see you there!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster)

Samuel Smith Old Brewery (Tadcaster)

Trader Joe's sells the Samuel Smith Old Brewery gift set - for $10, you get a 550 mL bottle of India Ale, Nut Brown Ale, and Oatmeal Stout, a branded pint glass, and a coaster. Pretty much a deal you can't resist (at least I couldn't). I added the Organic Chocolate Stout for good measure, because hey, it's organic, it's chocolate, and it's a stout - a perfect trifecta.

The Old Brewery at Tadcaster was established in 1758, making it Yorkshire’s oldest brewery. The brewing water is from 85 feet underground, using the original well. Their ales and stouts (except draught Sovereign and Extra Stout) are fermented in ‘stone Yorkshire squares’~ fermenting vessels made of solid slabs of slate, using the same strain of yeast since the 19th century. The brewery still makes and repairs all its oak casks; all Samuel Smith’s naturally conditioned draught beer is served from barrel.

These are really high quality beers, understated yet full of flavor. They've been brewing these beers for some time now, so they're onto a recipe that works. Even if you can't get ahold of the gift set, the individual brews are widely available, and should be on your wish list for tasting.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

#WineStudio Session XV – The Independent Spirit: Wines of the USA

#WineStudio Session XV – The Independent Spirit: Wines of the USA

Protocol Wine Studio's #WineStudio in July revisits Le Metro – Wine Underground because July is all about independence and this curated collection just happens to contain bottles from states you may not normally recognize as wine-producing regions. We're tasting wines from Vermont, Texas, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Virginia and meeting some independent spirits along the way. #WineStudio is here to school us on some of those states that are producing some kick-ass wine. As always, we’ll discuss each region: geography, grapes, climate, culture and cuisine and of course learn more about each winery and the good folk who lovingly produce these wines.


About #WineStudio and True Wine Culture: The True Wine Culture message is wine education, so that we may gain a better understanding of our world through wine and our part in that world – we’re continually searching and pioneering an American cultural perspective. #WineStudio prepares us to engage our brain and palate through this interactive online wine community.

Join us tonight and next Tuesday night, 8:00 PM ET, on Twitter - follow the hashtag #WineStudio.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Grand River Marketplace - Jackson, MI

We recently dropped off our kids at a summer camp near, Jackson, MI, and needed a place for lunch. While perusing local craft breweries, I came across Grand River Marketplace, which not only offered beer brewed on the premises, but food as well - win/win.

Grand River Marketplace

The Grand River Marketplace is in an old industrial building, with a decor heavily inspired by Steampunk, with some clever and interesting artifacts created by a talented artist. Mostly an open space with soaring ceilings and plenty of light courtesy of clerestory windows underneath the roofline, this is a comfortable place which probably gets pretty noisy when bands play.

We visited on a Sunday, which meant a limited menu, as they were serving a breakfast brunch. Since we were primarily there to taste beer and not eat (though we also did want lunch), we were happy to hear we didn't have to order from the brunch menu, but could also partake of some appetizers, which is what we ended up doing. Duck tenders, sweet potato tots, and tempura green beans all had great flavor, though weren't as crisp as we would have liked.

Grand River Marketplace

With 8 beers on the menu, we decided to taste all 8, not being sure when we'd be back (if ever). Some very unique beers, with a lot of fruit-inspired selections, some good on initial pass, all decent or better. These beers really started to shine once we got food, feeling more balanced and tastier when paired with the various appetizers before us.

With a distillery planned and wine also being made (or bottled) by Grand River Marketplace, this is a one-stop shop for Michigan foodies. The food was tasty, and, even with a limited menu, we really enjoyed the food and beer. If you find yourself in Jackson, MI, take some time to search this out for a meal. If you're going for the beer, choose a day other than Sunday to get a more diverse menu. Walk around the restaurant and check out all the cool industrial art pieces, both free-standing and on the walls.

Grand River Marketplace on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Untappd: Drink Socially

When I started getting more interested in craft beer, I tried to think of a way to keep track of what I was drinking. Keep the bottles or cans? Ummmm, where would I store them? Photos? Sure, but that's pretty static and not much information with just photos. My problems were solved when I came across the website Untappd.

Untappd

"Untappd is a new way to socially share and explore the world of beer with your friends and the world. Curious what your friends are drinking or where they're hanging out? Just check their profile where you can toast and comment on their beers! Untappd will offer you beer recommendations based on what you and your friends have been enjoying, so you’ll have no reason to not try something new! As additional encouragement, Untappd allows you to earn a number of cool badges for completing a variety of different criteria."
I've just started, but really enjoy using the website, more usually the app, to track what I've been tasting. Now I have an online journal, complete with photos, occasional tasting notes, and locations where I drank what. So simple. Love the founders' sense of humor, enjoy drinking to earn badges (with an occasional surprise), and I really like to see what others are drinking as well. If you're on Untappd, feel free to friend me: KovasP.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Wine Bloggers Conference 2014

Wine Bloggers Conference 2014

After WBC13, I was pretty excited to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference 2014, in Santa Barbara County,  as well as introduce Laima to the amazing world of wine bloggers in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Budgetary constraints meant we couldn't afford to go on our own and we didn't receive scholarships, as I did last year. Cheers to those who will be attending, see you around the blogosphere, and hope to see you next year!

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Contest: NAME THAT BEER!

The Rare Beer Club is collaborating with Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, NC to create this year’s Pints for Prostates/Rare Beer Club exclusive beer. Pints for Prostates raises awareness among men about the importance of regular health screenings and PSA testing through the universal language of beer and has been working together with The Rare Beer Club and U.S. craft breweries for the last five years creating inventive and exciting beers to help communicate their mission statement.

Fullsteam Pints for Prostates Beer Naming Contest

The beer will be featured in the club in September, 2014, coinciding with National Prostate Cancer Awareness month and will be named exclusively by the public, as anyone can submit names for the beers on the official contest page.

Fullsteam wants this special beer to truly celebrate their "plow-to-pint" mission, highlighting the diversity and beauty of North Carolina. To that end, they’ve crafted a Spruce Pine Gose, a piney, tart, and slightly salty beer, incorporating ingredients from the North Carolina mountains (spruce pine tips), Piedmont (winter wheat), and coast (Outer Banks sea salt). Contestants are encouraged to visit the brewery’s website to view other beer names to note the current voice and naming conventions used by the brewery.

Entering the Contest

Although the new beer will only be available to members of The Rare Beer Club, both members and non-members are invited to enter the contest, and submit up to three entry names for the new beer. The contest officially begins on July 3rd, 2014. Entrants will have until Friday, July 11th at 2 pm PST to submit up to three names. Finalists will be chosen by The Rare Beer Club, Pints for Prostates and Fullsteam at which time contestants, club members and the general public can vote for their favorite name. The contest winner will be announced on Monday, July 21st.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Anna Blessing's Locally Grown and Brewed

Anna Blessing Locally Grown Locally Brewed

I'm a huge fan of locally grown and brewed and being a locavore is good in many ways. It benefits the environment, the local economy, and the local community as well. In the best case, one would know where all the products used came from. Is it always possible? No, but here in the Midwest, we do have thriving agricultural and beermaking communities, making it relatively easy to eat and drink local if we put our mind to it.

Anna Blessing's books, Locally Grown and Locally Brewed (both published by Midway, an Agate imprint), make that abundantly clear.  

Based in Chicago, Blessing tours the immediate Midwest, showcasing farms that provide artisanal products that are justly celebrated in some of the city's top restaurants. Ranging from small urban farms to generational family businesses, the focus is on sustainability, community, and connections. Information on the farms, their websites, restaurants they work with, and recipes fill each chapter of Locally Grown, and are an inspiration to find more of these kinds of businesses to support.

Expanding beyond the immediate Chicago area, Blessing moves further afield in Locally Brewed, though still stays in the Midwest. Each brewery is introduced, foibles and fancies explained, and the brewer's personal musical peccadilloes examined. If you can read this book and not want to reach for a local handcrafted beer, you've been brainwashed by too many corporate beer ads.

Both of these books are a locavore resource on a very personal scale. Beyond simply relating information about these various entities, Blessing manages to personalize them and inspire one to eat and drink local. Though written about the Midwest, these books are important for everyone that aspires to know where the food and beer they ingest come from. Reading these books might be the inspiration to learn about the important producers in your area, going beyond the immediate farmer's market and brewery.

These books were provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Wine Wednesday: Champagne Quote

Champagne quote Napoleon

I didn't expect to get caught up in watching the World Cup, but even with so many displays of bad showmanship and pretend injuries, it was exciting to see the U.S. team go farther than anyone expected. Napoléon Bonaparte's quote about Champagne is spot on - we celebrate their achievement but also mourn the loss.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Growing Hops at Home

This Spring, one of the gardening projects I took on was to plant some hops rhizomes in the backyard. There's a part of me that is seriously considering making the investment and starting a small hopyard - there is a shortage of hops in general and it also would be amazingly cool to drink a beer that had been made with my hops.

Hops Varieties

I had built 2 raised beds along my fence, which had plenty of sun and also 2 trees at each end that I could incorporate into a temporary trellis system. I ordered 3 varieties of hops from a seller on eBay: Amalia, Glacier, and Nugget. Unfortunately, he wasn't trustworthy and only sent the two latter varieties. I planted those and then worked on getting my money back (hops rhizomes aren't cheap!). After I got that mess sorted out, I ordered the Magnum variety from another seller. This one also delayed shipping, but ultimately I got the rhizome and got it into the ground. It's growth is clearly several weeks behind, but it's not that important this year anyway.

My trellis system is quite simple - I put in eye hooks into the two trees that are at opposite ends of the raised beds. Between the two trees I've stretched clothes line, then dropped Natural Sisal Bundling Twine for the bines to attach to. Even though they look like vines and act like vines, hops shoots are actually called bines with a "B." Vines use tendrils to attach themselves to a support, while bines have stiff "hairs," hence the use of rough coir or similar twine to give the bines somewhere to stick to. We'll see if the clothesline is strong enough to support the bines as they get heavier - the benefits are the low cost (I already had the clothes line), the ease of putting it up, and the ease of bringing it down for whatever reason.

Simple hop trellis

All three rhizomes have sent out bines. I've begun to train them onto the twine in a clockwise fashion, which is the direction hops bines naturally grow. "The rotation of the shoot tip during climbing is autonomous and does not (as sometimes imagined) derive from the shoot's [sic] following the sun around the sky – the direction of twist does not therefore depend upon which side of the equator the plant is growing." (Wikipedia)

If I do expand on this initial planting, I'll look into planting actual plants and not using the rhizomes. Hops are susceptible to a variety of ailments and apparently rhizomes are a good way to spread them around.

I'll write up part II of Growing Hops at home at the end of the season or maybe earlier if it seems worthwhile.

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