Wednesday, October 22, 2014

top5 Craft Beer Joints in Viva Las Vegas!


Having been to Las Vegas four times this year for work trips, I've had the opportunity to scope the strip for craft beer. This top5 focuses on where to grab great craft pints in the desert... and believe me, this is no mirage, these places actually exist!

Vegas has forever been perceived as a hard liquor and cheap booze kind of place. Casinos, clubs, and lounges overflow with bottle service and top and bottom shelf hard liquors on the inside, while outside you're guaranteed to run into hundreds of dozens of people walking the strip sipping on cheap, sugary, neon slushy drinks through bendy straws or chugging 24 oz cans of Bud Light Lime in brown paper koozies. But that said, Vegas is a city that knows how to market to the masses and they are catching on to the rest of the Nation's obsession with the craft. Most of the places I list below have opened within the past year or two, with the exception of the Freakin Frog, which is local and national landmark. The Freakin Frog is also home to the Whiskey Attic, which has the largest collection of whiskeys in America. I've had the opportunity to visit both... my friends don't call me Nancy Whiskey for nothing! I enjoy whiskey so much so, that I've decided to also do a blog on whiskey tasting and profiling. I'm hoping to launch the site in early 2015, so if you're also a fan of whiskey too, you should keep a look out for it. 

top5 Craft Beer Joints in Viva Las Vegas!

So, you're in Vegas and feeling like a hunk of burning love for the craft? Then you should visit these tasty beer places in the Sin City, where you can respectfully go to cool your palette in the desert.

  1. Freakin Frog (off the strip, near the University of Nevada... and its totally worth the $20 cab ride) A super hard to find dive bar that appears to be closed in a dimly lit in a strip mall. My cab driver was even nervous dropping me off and leaving me, without me confirming with a friendly wave that they were in fact an open establishment. Inside locals wear down the bar stools and the bartender RJ would be happy to whip you up some fresh tater tots with honey, (it's amazing) the entire kitchen is a small grill behind the bar. This place is a gem of a find. Between their impressive selection of Belgian on draft and hundreds upon hundreds of bottles in their walk-in beer fridge, (see pic on right) there is something here for everyone who enjoys a frothy beverage. I'd recommend Gulden Draak or a regional Imperial Alien Stout and clearly the honey tots! YUM.
  2. Public House (located in the Venetian) As close to a Belgian gastropub you can find on the strip. Their bartenders are friendly and knowledgeable  and you can easily find Belgians, sours, and cask beers a plenty. I'd recommend Kasteel Rouge or a citrus mango Brett called Bright Moments by Tahoe Brewing or any local  Joseph James on tap.
  3. Michael Mina Pub 1842 (located in the MGM) Are you looking for a a local Nevada brew, from Big Dogs Brewing or a rare Gose? We'll you'll find them here. They have a wide selection of bottles and draft and great pub food. I'd recommend the pub burger with a side of their kale Cesar and wash that down with a Gosebrauerei or a rum aged Innis & Gunn.
  4. Todd English (located in Aria) Where world craft and fine hard liquor meet. Excellent selection of global beers on draft, including beers from Italy, Belgium, Japan and Switzerland! They always have a rotating cask, sour, and super rare/foreign beer. I'd recommend going during one of their happy hours, which is 5-7pm or 10pm-12am) when all draft beers are half off. Bottle list is impressive too, including a rare Swiss 225 Saison which is made with water from the Swiss Alps and aged in oak barrels. I didn't get a chance to eat the food, but everything coming out of the kitchen looked delectable.
  5. TAP (located in the MGM) The mecca for sports fans. It's a hot spot for cheering on your local team, while also providing spectators with an excellent selection of craft on draft. Come here if you want to catch a game, grab some great grub, and wet your whistle. May I recommend the Proper Ruben and a glass of Chimay Blanche or a Sculpin IPA.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Top5 Autumn Beers & Great Pumpkin recipes!

Autumn without a doubt, is my favorite season. It's that time of year when my Hunter boots and a scarf become part of my uniform. When the sidewalks and tree lines streets are glittered with color and a roasty fall breeze makes the golden and orange leaves dance along the street. It just brings a smile to my face thinking about it, not to mention it's also perfectly acceptable to have soup or chili for every meal and a pumpkin beer every evening. Yes, this is my season and I wanted to celebrate it by introducing my Top5 favorite fall beers that are in and out of Chicago area.

 

Where to find the Great Pumpkin and other Autumn beers in Chicago

  1. Horse Thief Holllow Cheval Duex I'll be honest here, I'm a bit biased on this one. It is a fantastic Autumn spiced beer, it has the perfect amount of sweet potato and spice, and still tastes like a beer, it was even a Silver Medalist at this year's World Beer Cup, but I'm also good friends with the head brewer, David Williams, who also is one of the founders of CHAOS Brew Club. So proud of him and this fantastic tasty brew! If you're in Chicago you need to head down to Southside, where this pub resides in Beverly to grab a pint and some delicious grub. There food is top par and pairs excellently with the beers on tap. If you're free on Thursday Oct. 30th then you should consider this great craft beer event being held at the brew pub, where you'll hear The Legend of Horse Thief Hollow and other Chicago ghost stories, brought to you by History on Tap. Your ticket includes a sample of this beer among others, yum!
  2. Metropolitan Brewing Afterburner Oktoberfest Afterburner Another solid German brew from the crew at Metropolitan. I was at the Pop-Ip Taproom Event held back on Sept. 3 at Small Bar where I had one the of the first chance to taste this toasty sweet malty beer with a dry finish. It's definitely a go to Autumn beer in Chi-town.
  3. Revolution Oktoberfest In Chicago, we don't need a reason to throw a party, but this beer gets one all to it's own anyway. The release of Rev Oktoberfest in Chicago is always looked forward too, it is a refreshing, classic, crisp and tasty brew. Get it on draft at the tap room in a mug, or pick up a six-pack on your way home from work.
  4. Pipeworks Disperos De Batata This doesn't scream pumpkin, but it does scream tasty Autumn inspired flavors! I love this brew made with sweet potatoes and spices, it's a fall warmer-uper at 8.5% and it's so good, you should probably pick up two bombers the next time your at Bottles and Cans.
  5. Goose Island Oktoberfest This recipe of Oktoberfest is considered a classic BJCP style and found right in our own backyard. Sometimes us Chicagoans, give our Goose a hard time since they sold the majority of their company (58%) to InBev back in 2011, but they still make really solid beers, like this tasty Oktoberfest/Marzen. And 312 may be brewed in NewYork now, which makes me cringe a little.. but then again, you never hear any of us complain on Black Friday, do ya? 

When outside of Chicago grab these tasty brews

  1. New Glarus Staghorn This is a great, clean easy drinking Oktoberfest, one of the best I've ever had. If you find yourself North of the Illinois border, you should pick some up, cause this beer is only in Wisconsin!
  2. Kasteel Ingelmunster Pumpkin The name is a mouthful and so is the beer. If you like Belgian styles and decadent imperial pumpkin brews, look no further than this beer! Hard to find in Chicago, but I recently had it on tap at The Bad Apple, it's brewed in Belgium, so if you find yourself on the other side of the ocean this time of year, make sure to check it out, yum! 
  3. Anderson Valley Fall Horn' As far as Pumpkin beers goes, this one is a keeper. I've always loved Pumpking, but at times it starts to taste too sweet if you have more than one. Fall Horn' is just the right amount of pumpkin and spice and you should have no problem drinking a six pack. You can find it in Chicago, but it's native to California.
  4. Hoppin' Frog Barrel Aged Frog's Hollow Double Pumpkin Ale This a rare and really tasty pumpkin beer. If Hoppin' Frog does one thing right it's making a really good bold brew. If you can get your hands on one of these, pick it up. I bought mine the last time I visited the brewery which is in Akron, Ohio and it was already a year cellared. 
  5. Lakefront Pumpkin Also North of the Illinois boarder, located in Milwaukee, but you can find it in Chicago at Binny's and Mariano's. This is a classic go to pumpkin beer, a good staple to have around the house this time of year.

 

Great Pumpkin recipes!

I also love to cook, soups, stews, chilli... yum! And most of my dishes are Paelo... I try to leave the carbs to the beer, so I thought I would end this post with my favorite pumpkin, butternut squash soup recipes listed below and Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good (pic to the right), which clearly is not Paleo, because it's drowning in cheese, but it's always a hit a Fall party, including my brew club's CHAOS Harvest Fest party this coming Saturday, on Oct. 18th, where I'll be serving it. If you're interested in attending, get your tickets here.

Nancy Brew's Squash-tastic soup!
(Paleo and veggie lover friendly!)

- (3) medium size sweet potatoes peeled/chopped/roasted
- (1) medium size butternut squash halved/de-seeded/roasted/de-skinned chopped
- (1) 15oz pack of organic pumpkin puree 
- (1) large vidalia onion (they are a bit sweeter than yellow onions) saute with coconut oil
- (1) 14 oz can of organic coconut milk 

Puree everything above and season to your liking. I like to add a bit of pumpkin spices, and some hot spices, like cayenne pepper or some sweet/hot yellow curries, I switch it up every time and taste/adjust as needed. If the soup in a little thick you can always add more broth or water to thin it to the consistency you like.  

I'll then divide up the soup in individual servings and freeze the containers so I have fresh homemade soup ready at hand for the Fall and Winter months. — This soup is also a spin-off one of my Autumn brews, Hot Squash, which I blogged about last year, but tweaked the recipe this year, when I brewed the all-grain version of it. Check back soon, to read the post on that brew.

Nancy Brew investigates:

What are your favorite Autumn beers to brew and/or drink?
Do you have a special go-to fall time recipe you'd like to share?

Friday, October 10, 2014

HOP to it!

Beer Hoptacular is back at the Aragon this weekend! Don't miss it. This beer fest does an excellent job combining beer, food, and entertainment. It is one of the premier craft beer events in Chicago, showcasing over 30 Chicago and Illinois craft breweries along with other top breweries from around the nation! You can also find me helping Illuminated Brew Works tonight, pouring some tasty brews! Cheers!
  
Tasty breweries pouring this weekend...

BREWERIES
5 Rabbit Brewery* |  Abita Brewing Company  |  Argus Brewery*  |  Ale Syndicate*  |  Arcade Brewery*  |  Atlas Brewery*  |  Baderbrau*  |  Begyle Brewing*  |  Bell’s Brewery  |  Berghoff*  |  Boulevard Brewing  |  Blue Moon  |  BrickStone* Brewery  |  Cahoots*  |  Destihl*  |  Dogfish Head  |  DryHop*  |  Empirical*  |  Firestone Walker Brewing Co.  |  Flesk Brewing*  |  Forbidden Root*  |  Founders  |  Goose Island*  |  Great Lakes Brewing  |  Greenstar Brewing*  |  Half Acres Beer Co.*  |  Illuminated Brew Works*  |  Jacob Leinenkugel  |  Jolly Pumpkin  |  Lagunitas Brewery Co.*  |  Lakefront Brewery, Inc.  |  Lazy Magnolia  |  Left Hand Brewing Company  |  Local Option*  |  Lucky Monk*  |  Magic Hat  |  Marz Brewing*  |  Middle Brow*  |  Moody Tongue*  |  New Belgium Brewing Co.  |  One Trick Pony*  |  Pig Minds*  |  Pipeworks*  |  Pollyanna Brewing Company*  |  Revolution Brewing*  |  Rude Hippo*  |  Samuel Adams  |  Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.  |  Slapshot*  |  Spiteful Brewing*  |  St. Killian  |  Stone Brewing Co  |  Temperance*  |  Ten Ninety*  |  Tighthead Brewing Company*  |  Traveler Beer Co.  |  Unity Vibration  |  Two Brothers Brewing Co.*  |  Urban Legend Brewing Company*

CIDER ROOM
Angry Orchard Hard Cider  |  Crispin Cider  |  Demunck’s Cider  |  Magners Irish Cider  |  Seattle Cider  |  Uncle Johns  |  Vandermill  |  Virtue-Cider  |  Woodchuck Hard Cider  |  Wyders

*Support your local Chicago and Illinois Breweries!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

RECAP: Beers of da Summer 14' (Belgian Addition)

I can't believe it's Autumn already. I walked out my place this morning heading to work and the sidewalk was littered with golden orange leaves swirling around. I feel like time is moving faster than I can pour my beer... and I've put off my Summer brews post long enough, so here goes my Summer brewing montage!

I'm also introducing a new format... I've come to terms that I'm a very visual person and I sometimes feel overwhelmed and bogged down about writing an entire blog entry about a single brew day given that I brew so frequently. I also must admit that I love data, so I'm going to provide some simple key notes on each brew and lots of visuals. I would love to hear your feedback on what you like about the posts too, Cheers!

 

Re-Cap!

The stats:
- Brewed between Feb.-Aug. 2014
- 28 batches of beer
- All batches were all-grain
- 13 batches were Belgian styles
- 5 batches were Smoked/Pepper beers
- 4 batches were American styles
- 2 batches were Sour styles
- 1 batch was for barrel aging
- 1 batch was an English style
- 1 batch was a German style
Listed below are only 13 of these batches, "da Belgian beers." The other brews will come in later posts specifically highlighting some key topics which I've already been cultivating. 

Beers of da Summer 14' Belgian Addition


Oh So Hossa
Marionberry Belgian Triple 9.5%
- Brewed batches 2-3 (bottled + kegged)
- Brewed for NHC Competition (Awarded a silver certificate, scoring higher than 33/50) Served at NHC Club Night.
Brewing notes: A favorite of mine, but pricy to brew, because I need to special order the puree from the Pacific Northwest. I'll continue to brew it, but maybe limit to only 1-2 batches annually in late Spring.
(Pic to left:
first keg pour! A little too much carbonation, but I love the rich red color and pink head, yum!)


TruTrip 
Belgian Triple 8.5%
- Brewed batches 1-2 (bottled)
- Brewed for HOPS for Youth,  charity event.
Brewing notes: I'm kind of a back-wards brewer, having dived into the weird flavors and now back tracking to brew the classics. There's no funny business in this one. It was tasty, but I prefer to brew the unusual. The next time I reach for a classic Belgian Triple it might as well just be Karmeliet, no need to try and reinvent that!
(Pic to left: shows the FG reading)


Ginger Aw-Snap!
Belgian Wit, with pink grapefruit + ginger 6.5%
- Brewed batches 2-4 (bottled)
- Brewed for Hamburger Mary's Competition
Brewing notes: I love this beer and batch 4 was by far the best. I'll continue to brew this annually, it's a fantastic beer for everyday refreshment and perfect for pairing with any Asian BYOB dish.
(Pic to left: at
Sing's noodles in Chinatown sharing some homebrews with my culinary friend, Loni, who works at The Spice House. SO GOOD!)


LegitWit
Belgian Wit 6.5%
- Brewed batch 1 (bottled)
- Brewed to review classic style. I'm an experimenter when it comes to brewing. I wanted to taste my base beer for Ginger Aw-Snap! This one is stripped from of all the shenanigans that I usually add in the secondary.
Brewing notes: No funny business, it's a legit Wit.  
(Pic to left: side-by-side comparison to Snap, at Sings)


French Kiss
Saison with lavender + lemon thyme 8.5%
- Brewed batches 1-3 (bottled, kegged, bottled)
- Brewed initially for International Women's Day demo at BrewCamp organized by Hail to the Ale,
Brewing notes: I used lemon-thyme and lemon zest in Batch 2, so the lemon was very pronounced. Batch 3 I used just thyme, lemon zest, and the same amount of lavender and it was more sweet and balanced. Batch 3 was more to my taste.
(Pic to left: herbs added to the secondary.)



You're Such a TART!
Strawberry Rhubarb Belgian Tripel 9.5%
- Brewed batches 1 (kegged then bottled remaining)
- Brewed for MARZ Brewing competition
Brewing notes: I love to eat and bake pie... this was inspired by some of those flavors. Many of my beers are inspired by my experiments cooking and baking in the kitchen. And this tasted like pie, a tart pie! It was a pricy and laborious brew, she took almost 2 months before she was ready to be kegged, but she's such a tart, I'd brew her all over again.
(Pic to left: glamor shot during the competition)


Bleed Cubby Blue > Boo-berry
Blueberry Basil Belgian Tripel 9.5%
- Brewed batches 2-4 (bottles)
- Brewed for myself and CHAOS Harvest Fest
Brewing notes: I brewed this beer very late in the season, hence the name change. The blueberry is very delicate and doesn't disturb the yeast flavors of the Tripel and I love basil contribution. Speaking of... I need to make my basil cider soon. 
(Pic to left: sparging, using the paddle to evenly distribute hot water over the grains in the mash.)


Nancy Brew investigates:

What are your favorite warm weathered beers to brew and/or drink?


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Calling all Home-brewer Flavor enthusists!

This month has been busy! I've been helping organize our 2nd Annual HomeBrew Flavor Challenge along with my home-brew club CHAOS and Nielsen-Massey, purveyor of fine vanilla and flavor extracts, located in Waukegan, Illinois.

If you like experimenting with your brews, this is the competition for you! There are two categories, Vanilla (29A) and Other Flavor (30A). Nielsen-Massey provides the extract flavor you choose to brew with. You'll determine the amount of flavoring you're adding in your beer recipe. The competition is BJCP sanctioned and open to any home-brewer 21 and older. You can brew any style of beer as long as you include the flavor you are registering. The competition consists of a first, second, and third place winners for each category along with an overall best of show.

The first place winners from 2013 are shown in the photos.
(top) 29A: “Peter The Great’s Baltic Porter” A Baltic Porter brewed with Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract, by Brad Pausha, with Square Kegs Brew Club.

(bottom) 30A: “Return Of Stoopid” A Belgian Tripel brewed with honey, spices and Orange Blossom Water, by Bob Brown, with HOPS Brew Club.

Available Vanilla Extracts and Flavors include:

• Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
• Organic Fair-trade Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
• Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Beans
• Tahitian Pure Vanilla Extract
• Mexican Pure Vanilla Extract
• Pure Vanilla Extract (Proprietors Blend)
• Pure Vanilla Extract
• Pure Almond Extract
• Pure Chocolate Extract
• Pure Coffee Extract
• Pure Lemon Extract
• Pure Orange Extract
• Pure Peppermint Extract
• Orange Blossom Water
• Rose Water
 
The competition website is now open through Oct. 5 and (2) 12oz brown beer bottles must be submitted between Nov. 14-24 to locations outlined on the registration site. This is a perfect time to try something new and experiment with flavors! Space is limited to only 100 entries, so sign-up now!

If you have more questions about the competition please contact nmextract2014@gmail.com 
(Photo credits Nielsen-Massey)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Design Beer Geek out!






































I'm a total sucker for good design and craft beer. I just saw this post on twitter this morning and had to do a proper shout out on the blog. This is AMAZAPANTS! I only wish I had thought of it first.... and I'd really love a 426 right now, yum!

Read all about the beer can design here from AdWeek. Cheers!
(Photo credit Txaber)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Home is where the hops are!

























The Chicago Tribune, "RedEye" did a feature story on my homebrew club, CHAOS
(Chicago Homebrewers Alchemist of Suds). If you're in the Chicago area pick up
a free copy today, if not you can read all about it online here. Cheers!

Nancy Brew investgates:
- Are you a homebrewer? If so, what are you brewing this Fall?
- Just a connoisseur... What's your favorite go to Fall ale?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

You're such a Beer hoarder!

OK, yeah... I'm a bit behind on my blog... it's Summer, I'm training for the Chicago marathon, I'm studying for the BJCP (took the exam last month... *fingers crossed*). I'm cycling to and fro, here and there, even literally flying off the handle sometimes... no worries, "It's just a flesh wound!" But I'm still brewing (almost) weekly... and yeah in my spare hours, I'll squeeze in a lil Pitchfork, or other music concerts at Lincoln Hall or Shubas, and oh yeah I'm social and I go out with friends to Farmhouse for a tasty craft beer and a friendly face, or eat some delish sushi at a BYOB joint like Nori, and that silly lil full time job also gets in the way.... So finding an extra few hours in the day to write up a new brew log, while also being distracted by the shinny object (aka the Summer sun)... well it's been on the back (banjo) burner. So sorry dear friends if you've felt neglected. I've thought of you and isn't it the thought that counts? And no worries... I haven't stopped brewing, quite the opposite. I've been so busy brewing and living, so much so that I haven't had time to write it all up. Which means many more Nancy Brew adventures to come. I'm going to make a better effort to be on top of it. And here is a hint at what's been happening... my beer mosaic (see pic). As you can see there are plenty more rounds to go around in the near future... Now is the time to go outside, go to a beer garden, have a BBQ, sit on a porch and drink a tasty craft beer with a friend... It's Summer after all, enjoy it! Cheers!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Top11 Tuesday... My Top11 picks for 11 days of Chicago Craft Beer Week

Chicago Craft Beer Week (which is really 11 days long, cause we're Chicago and we can't fit all of our beer drinking events into 7 days) is one of my favorite weeks in Chicago. I've been attending the events religiously since it started 5 years ago, and I can say without a doubt, it's not to be missed. Usually I try to enforce the Top5 with lists, because any more than that can get overwhelming, but since there are 11 days of events I thought I'd highlight my 11 favorite picks, one for each day. I hope your livers are ready people... here we go!

Thursday May 15 - BUG

Beer Under the Glass, also known as BUG, is one of the hottest tickets during CCBW, it sells out almost immediately every year. This is the kickoff event to Craft Beer week with a bang! A collection of the best restaurants and breweries will be there celebrating the Chicago foodie and craft lover in all of us. Read more about it here.

Friday May 16 - Cheers to local Beers

Here's your chance to drink everything Chicago! 19 local craft breweries are taking over the taps... Go after work grab some suds and go nuts! Monk's Pub also serves up free tasty peanuts with every pint... shells are discarded on the floor, but please don't spill your beer! Read more about it here... 

Saturday May 17 - CHAOS Brew Club Open Haus

OK, a bit of favoritism here... CHAOS Brew Club, is my home brew club. I love it, we have a communal space where we pay monthly dues and have a space to brew together. There are always fun social and educational events monthly and just a great extension of the craft beer community, they are wonderful peeps. You should come check us out at our Open Haus. Here are the dets...

Sunday May 18 - Goose Island Sunday Funday!

What's more Chicago than Goose Island? Come out and celebrate 26 years of craft in Chicago at their barrel warehouse! There will be rare beers on taps and tasty food trucks. Check it out!

Monday May 19 - Creative Minds on Tap

Design and Beer? Yes, please! Excited for this panel discussion that Kim from Hail to the Ale put together at Jerry's in Wicker Park. Come check it out.

Tuesday May 20 - Pints & The Past: A Craft Beer Trolley Tour

Two things that Chicago is full of.. history and taps! Did you know Illinois has more bars than grocery stores?! It's true! Climb aboard this trolley packed with historical beer stories by Liz from Tales, Taverns, and Towns. This event features 7 bars/stops and 7 breweries, so it's a great event to get a little taste of everything. Get your tickets here! #DrinkandTweet

Wednesday May 21 - Wine & Beer Blending Class

As a person who loves both wine and beer, this event gets me excited! Join Ale Syndicate at City Winery and learn how to combine two of the most tasty fermented beverages out there, wine and beer! Check out the details here. #DrinkandTweet

Thursday May 22 - Women of Craft Beer

This event celebrates the women of craft beer in Chicago. For the past couple of years, Hail to the Ale has organized a group brew day held at a local brewery and this year it was held at Temperance Beer Company in Evanston. I was lucky enough to be one of the attendees this year, and I got to be in the brew house while they made a 40BBL batch of an IPA with Hull Mellon hops... YUM! Come out to Riverview Tavern for the tapping of this special tasty brew.

Friday May 23 - It Comes in Waves

One of my favorite local pubs, Fountainhead, will be serving up beers in 4 waves... Check out their complete listing here.  

Saturday May 24 - Brew La La

This is your chance to taste some true Chicago roots! In addition to local Chicago Breweries, there will be breweries in planning, and even some home brew clubs offering tasty samples of their beers. Get your tickets here!

Sunday May 25 - Little Goat rooftop Revolution

What better way to end a great Chicago week, then on a rooftop? Take in the view of our beautiful skyline, munch on tasty foods, soak in the sun, and sip on cool beverages... Yes, please! Check it out here.


If there is something I missed or did I not catch your fancy? Check out the CCBW entire event listing on Chicago Craft Beer Week's site. And while you're tweeting, Facebooking, and Untapping... don't forget to #DrinkandTweet #CCBW!

Cheers Chicago!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Energizer IPA

Generally, IPAs are not my favorite style, although they have grown on me over the past year and there are some DIPAs that I just love, like the Green Flash Imperial Indian Pale Ale or Bell's Two Hearted IPA.

Initially it wasn't my idea to brew this beer. When I was taking BJCP classes in the Fall, I offered to brew a beer for the tasting exam (that I was not taking at the time) and I was asked to brew this style. I must say that I surprised myself, because I really enjoyed the way it turned out. It was crisp, sharp, peppery, and citrus... very refreshing. I brew a lot of experimental flavor combinations and this was just simple, clean, and very drinkable... and I liked it, it kind of surprised me.

I think many of the IPAs that I've had in the past have turned me off because there were too: hopped, bitter, carbonation-ed, and/or just overall too intense for me. There should be a list of gateway IPAs that are more approachable for the stout lovers. Hmmm... Now I'm thinking that should be on my next Top5 list.

Over the past year, as I've been brewing and expanding my taste-buds with new beers, so my palette has evolved too. Once these styles were intimidating, but now they are creeping their way into my everyday. And now that I have a better understanding of hops and can control the hop profile, it's allowed me to approach an IPA with a softer palette one that hopefully myself and other existing hop lovers can enjoy too. One of my favorite hops which I've discovered is Pacific Jade, it's a citrus and peppery hop and I was excited to make a beer with it, it's perfect for an IPA.

Lessons Learned

This beer liked to bubble! It actually fermented for almost a solid 2 weeks, hence the name, Energizer IPA. Those yeast were very enthusiastic! I had been brewing a lot at the time I made this beer and I only had my 5 gallon glass carboy available for a fermenter, so I used it in the primary, which was a mistake because it completely bubbled over, the air-lock didn't pop, but it made a serious mess. Next time I'll stick to using my carboy in the secondary or for smaller batches.  

Ingredients: 

  • 6.6 lb. Light Light Malt Extract
  • 1 lb. Golden Dry Malt Extract
  • 1 lb. Caramel 40L
  • 8 oz. Victory
  • 2 oz. Columbus
  • 1.5 oz. Cascade
  • 1 oz. Cascade
  • 1 pack 1056 American Wyeast
  • Dry hopped with 1oz Citra & 1oz Pacfic Jade
Final Brew notes: Crisp and refreshing, strong citrus and subtle sharp peppery notes, an easy drinker. Goes great with BBQ or all by it's self, yum!
 
Engergizer IPA 
American IPA  | ABV 6.5%  

 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

top5 Tuesday (March 4) SMOKE SIGNALS

Some friends have recently asked about smoky beers, which I have fallen for this past year. Personally I'm not a smoker, but I love the smell of a good campfire, a BBQ roasting/smoking, something delicious, and the smell of a good pipe. I think these scents are fantastic. So what if you could put the best of these aromas in a beer...? Well, that exactly what smoky beers aim to do, and some do it quite well. Here are some of my favorites.

my top5 smoky beers  
  • Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen - BJCP Classic Style for a Rauchbier (German Smoked Beer). I first tasted this in a BJCP class and fell in love with it's flavor immediately, so darn tasty, it's hard to believe they use only 3 ingredients! If you're not familiar with Reinheitsgebot, it's Germany's purity law for their beer, that they put in place back in the 1400's. If you brewed in Deutschland, you could only use; water, barley, and hops. (They didn't know about yeast back then, but that's another story.) This was largely due to their high volumes of brewing that they ended up creating a wheat and rye shortage throughout the country. Since both wheat and rye were used for baking bread, this meant less grains for making food, and therefore the law was set in place, to help ration their supplies. In the 1990's the law was revised to include wheat and rye again, but many traditional German breweries, still follow Reinheitsgebot.
  • Left Hand Smoke Jumper, Imperial Smoked Porter - A strong beer, that smells and tastes like bacon, and inspired my homebrew PIG+FIG.
  • Class of 88' Imperial Smoked Porter - Solid straight up smoked beer. I find it quite enjoyable, it's easy to drink and I love the richness in both the porter mouth feel and the smoky aromas. 
  • Pipeworks Chipotle Smoked Porter - If you love spicy heat and smoke, then this is the beer for you, go get yourself a bomber, right now. 
  • Evil Twin Ashtray Heart - Awesomely accurate on name... Aroma is of ashes, tastes super smoky, a deeply roasted darkness with a clean smooth finish. Not for the faint of heart... this beer is for the smoky adventurer, the advanced lover of smoke, don't start with a pint of this one. 

smoke origin

Smoky beers have been around for hundreds of years. Brewers used to dry malts either by direct sunlight or over an open flame, and those which were over open flame, would sometimes carry over the smoky characteristics to the beer. In the early 1700's kilns became common for drying grain, making smoky beers, less and less common. But there were some German breweries who kept the traditional methods of smoking the malts, such as Schlenkerla, also listed above. They are considered to be a classic example of a smoked beer.

Today, you can purchase smoked malts, like cherrywood, or smoke the grains yourself using different scented wood chips to bring out a variety of flavors and depths of aromas.


Friday, February 28, 2014

PIG+FIG

PIG+FIG is a beer that was inspired by a series of fortunate events...

Inspiration

I was lucky enough to be in KC on the wrong side of town, at the right time... when I had one of my first and most memorable smoked beers, a Left Hand Smoke Jumper, it tasted like bacon and it was amazing. We were at the most random dive/craft beer bottle place I've ever experienced... Thank you 403 club, for your tasty beers, the weapon control at the entrance, the Kraftwerk playing on the jukebox, the dart boards in the doorway to the bathrooms, and the surly looks from your grumpy employees, you know how to make an impression! One of my favorite things about this place was actually just getting in.. you needed to push a buzzer, and they would view you on camera, before deciding to let you enter... Oh the things you have to do, to get craft beer in KC!

Then, a few months later, I was in Napa with my best friend, Erin, the night before our half marathon, where we ate a feast of flat-breads, cheese, and drank wine at Carpe Diem Wine Bar. You know, a few bottles of wine the night before a 13 mile race always sounds like a good idea, right? Well one of the fire-wood oven flat-breads we tried was a prosciutto, fig, arugula and goat cheese, with a balsamic reduction and it was magnificent! The fig totally complimented the prosciutto. It was sweet and creamy, smokey, salty, meaty... yum! I wanted to put these flavors in a beer and so a smoked Pig and Fig beer concept was born.

The Challenge

How was I going to get "smokey bacon" in a beer. At this point I was still new to brewing and understanding malt profiles. I literally thought maybe I should fry up some bacon and add it in the boil... so glad that I did not attempt this. We all know the nut oil nightmare that occurred during the making of PUMPIN NUTS! and I could only imagine what meat oil would do to my beer. Luckily I had the opportunity of meeting some of the guys from Pipeworks, and Mike allowed me to pop over on a brew/bottling day for a planned site visit, while I had a guest in town. I mentioned how much I loved their Smoked Chipotle Porter and I told him my idea of making a PIG+FIG beer. The first thing out of his mouth was... "Don't use real bacon. Use smoked malts." Um, OK. I took it, from his rapid response, that they had attempted using meats at some point, which they did. He then offered to let us taste some spent cherrywood smoked malt, that they just used in a brew earlier that day. It tasted like smokey bacon in oatmeal form. I was sold. You could really achieve meaty and robust flavors from the grain. Since cherrywood smoked malt is a specialty, and usually ordered online, he offered to give me a pound to use in my brew. I was ecstatic, this was going to be good!


Remarkable Tools and Pleasant Diversions

This was one of my last extract beers and it was also happened to be the first time I used this genius device, the brew bag, sold by Chicago Brew Werks who had a booth at Beer Hoptacular this past fall. It was awesome time saver and really streamlined the straining after the boil to almost non-existent. Straining was always a huge time suck, especially when I make really weird beers with a lot of extra ingredients, which is almost always. I had pureed a combination of raisins, dates, figs, and plums, to get the sweetness I was looking for and added them towards the end of the boil, and this bag was a life saver.

Another unexpected extra that I decided to add after the beer was sitting in the secondary, was maple extract. I was at The Spice House talking to my friend, Loni, who works there and is also a student at the French Pastry School and telling her about PIG+FIG and she said, "Oh wow, have you had our Maple extract that just came in?" A thought suddenly ran through my brain... maple syrup and bacon! Yes! I bought some and decided to add it on bottling day.

Lessons Learned

I ended up loving the smokey maple flavor of this beer, but distinguishing the actual notes of: figs, dates, raisins, and plums became a blur. They were more of a complimentary component/ingredient rather than actually being identifiably present in the taste. Also after getting feedback from BJCP judging notes on competition forms, I saw that I had received deducted points, because I listed those, as special ingredients, and they were looking for them. Since those flavors were not easily found, I had points taken away. Had I not mentioned they were added, then the beer I would have scored a higher rating. So if you have the time, taste your beer prior to entering in in competition and decide if those notes are actually present and if they should be listed as a specialty ingredient, if you can't taste them then they solely exist to compliment the other flavors and should not be listed.     


Ingredients: 
  • 8 oz Cherrywood smoked malt
  • 8 oz Smoked malt
  • 8oz Roasted Barley
  • 4oz Chocolate Rye
  • 4oz Honey Malt
  • 6lbs 6oz Dark Liquid Extract
  • 12oz Molasses
  • 2oz Cluster
  • 1oz Tettnang
  • 1oz Select Spalt
  • 1 pack Irish Ale Wyeast
  • 16oz (purred combination of: mission figs, dates, raisins, and plums)
  • 2oz Maple Extract (added on bottling day)

Final Brew notes: Subtle sweet and smokey maple Porter, creamy tan head, smooth mouth-feel, with no present heat and is an easy drinker. Try it with some bacon wrapped dates and creamy warm brie that was baked with apricots.

PIG+FIG 
Maple Smoked Porter  | ABV 6.5% 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

top5 Tuesday (Feb. 25) STOUT IT OUT

Stouts. One of my favorite styles of beer, I just love this low hoppy, frothy, roasty, chocolatey, beer. Even-though they are a popular choice for winter, I've been know to drink my stouts all year round... I mean you don't stop drinking coffee in Summer, do you? And contrary to what many beginner beer drinkers may think, just because it's darker, doesn't mean it's stronger or has more alcohol in it then a lighter in color beer. Think of it this way, a black coffee doesn't have more calories then a Sprite, in fact it has almost no calories, (black coffee is about 2 calories a cup, Sprite is 140 calories for 12oz). Just because a beer is lighter in color, doesn't mean it's lighter in alcohol or calories either. Actually, Guinness, is my go to diet beer, it has only 128 calories for a draft pour. I think most people are more timid about drinking dark beers, because they have strong bold roasted flavors, and so then associate them with a strong in alcohol beer.

Dark beers actually come from roasting the malts, the same malts used in lighter beers, except these have been roasted, like roasting coffee beans. Guinness was actually the first dark beer and it happened quite accidentally. The brewery meant to only toast the malts, but left them going a little too long, and they became black and roasted. Instead of throwing the malts out, they decided to brew with them and not make any waste, thus the first dark beer was born in 1759.

So if you're a fan of coffee, or frothy creamy milk shakes, decadent dark chocolates, or the occasional whiskey/bourbon notes, then you'll love a good stout. Now, with that said, I also love a lot of amazing strong high in alcohol stouts. And my top5 for this week happens to be a lot of heavy hitters.
   

THE top5 CHICAGO BREWED STOUTS RIGHT NOW

  • Ale Syndicate: Omega Midnight
    Oh my, Omega! You had me at first sip. Love this strong dark sweet abyss, and at 9.5% ABV it goes down way to easy.
  • Revolution: Blue Gene
    Blueberry and barrel aged? Yes, please! This is a killer combination, it is so ridiculous awesome! If you haven't had this already, go get some now, right now, stop reading this and go find this beer, it won't be around forever.
  • Pipeworks: Toasty Nut Abduction
    This was my favorite in the Abduction series, it just inched passed the Raspberry Truffle, which I thought was mind blowing. This toasty coconut silky smooth and almond stout will wow you too. It's a hard to find bomber, but when you get your hands on it, savor it, it is so worth it.
  • Half Acre: Big Hugs
    This big hug, is full bodied, and so tasty it will warm you inside and out. If you missed it this year, don't worry, it will be back as it is an annual winter favorite.  
  • Goose Island: Bourbon County Bourbon Stout, lovingly referred to as BCBS.
    Decadent, delicious and devious at 14.5% ABV... you better know what your doing when you get in front of one of these pours! It goes down easy, but this is not a chugging beer, sip it or you'll be sorry tomorrow.
And if your an American Homebrewer Association member, now is the time to cast your vote for your favorites for the best beers in America survey. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cider House Rules & Recipes

Hard cider is not just for the fall anymore, you can enjoy it all year round. By adding different flavor profiles to you batches, you can make them seasonally relevant to what fruits, or spices that are available at the time.  

And making hard cider, from pasteurized cider, is a quick and fun way to experiment with flavors. Here are are the flavors I've made and simple steps for you to make them yourself.

SWEET+HARD CIDER SERIES

Apple Pie: Spicy pie aroma, but it ended up being a bit too dry for my taste, I probably used too many spices. This was the only recipe that I did with a 3 gallon batch, so the ingredients I higher then the others.
Ingredients: 1tsp nutmeg, 3 cinnamon sticks, 1 oz mace, 30 cloves.

Blueberry Basil: A lot of people questioned this combination, but once they tasted it, they were sold. I got the idea from baking fresh berry pies, sometimes I chop up fresh basil and mix it in with the filling, it has a great aroma and really compliments the berries. 
Ingredients: 2oz fresh basil, and 1 cup of blueberries, puree with an immersion blender.

Strawberry Mint: Sweet and tart, with a hint of mint, yes!
Ingredients: 1oz fresh mint and 1 pint of fresh strawberries (remove stems), puree with an immersion blender.

Lavender Mint: Very light on the palette, soft delicate flavors, very refreshing. Surprisingly, it was a crowd favorite.
Ingredients: 1oz fresh mint and 1 oz of dried lavender buds.

Serrano Mango: Cider with subtle heat! The sweet mango really compliments the pepper, I would make this again for sure.
Ingredients: 2 fresh Serranos with seeds and 1 pound of frozen mango cubes (I had a hard time finding it fresh), puree with an immersion blender.

Pear+Fig: Smooth and subtle pear flavors with sweet fig, compliment the cider really nicely.
Ingredients: 2 fresh pears (I used anjou) and 2 oz of figs, puree with an immersion blender.

Cranberry-Orange: A perfect holiday cider! I usually add some orange zest to my fresh cranberries at Thanksgiving, so that's where this winner was dreamed up. 
Ingredients: 1 large orange (zest and juice) and 1 cup of fresh cranberries, puree with an immersion blender. 10 cloves. I also used an organic Honey Crisp cider on this one.
*See step-by-step photos for this cider below.

Ginger-Orange: Inspired by my ginger wit beer that I made earlier in the year, but this one is light on the spice, just enough to make it interesting, but not over powering. 
Ingredients: 1 large orange (zest and juice) and 1 oz of fresh sliced ginger.

Pomegranate-Mandarin: I enjoyed it, but I think I will opt to make Cranberry-Orange again and omit this one. I used store bought pom juice instead of using the fruit fresh, and I think that was the missing link.
Ingredients: 2 mandarins (zest and juice) and 1 cup pomegranate juice.

What you need to make great Hard Cider

- Pasteurized cider (without preservatives DO NOT USE cider with added potassium sorbate or sodium chlorite, it will kill your yeast and not produce hard cider)
- Your choice of spices and/or fruit/pepper
- Champagne yeast creates super tiny bubbles, it's the best.
- Wine Yeast Nutrient Gives your yeast some extra nourishment.
- Pectin Enzyme This will make your cider more clear, less cloudy.

 

Making Flavored Hard Cider

All ciders listed above are 1 gallon batches (except Apple Pie). Purchase your favorite organic or pasteurized cider from an orchard, farmers market or local grocery store. And have fun experimenting with different flavor combinations. I found that Whole Foods has the best options for this. I was able to get these great glass 1 gallon jugs too, that I have reused in other brewing processes.   

Steps

  1. Open your 1 gallon cider and set asside 1 cup of the cider to use for seeping
  2. Add 1/2 tsp of Pectin Enzyme to your gallon of cider. This helps your cider become more clear, it breaks down the haziness of the fruit. 
  3. Add 1tsp of Wine Yeast Nutrient to your cider.
  4. Prep your flavor additives, spices, fruits etc. (examples listed above)
  5. Seep your flavoring with 1 cup of your cider. This will help kill any buggy things that may interrupt the yeast fermenting your cider, it purifies it and also allows the flavors to really mesh together. 
  6. After seeping and liquid is back to room temperature, strain it back into your 1 gallon container of cider.
  7. Pitch your yeast. You only need 1 gram per gallon
  8. Make sure to use an air-lock on your gallon so that bubbles can escape as yeast are working on making it hard for you. 
  9. Wait 1-2 weeks, then rack your cider to a clean/sterilized gallon jug. 
  10. After 1 week in the secondary, its bottling time.
  11. A 1 gallon batch usually produces about 8-9 (12 oz bottles) or about 4-5 (22 oz bombers), have those cleaned are ready to go.
  12. If bottle conditioning, add about 1 oz of sugar to your fermented cider so that the yeast can carbonate the beverage in the bottle after you cap it. I've heard you can also use honey, which would go lovely with a hard cider, but I have yet to try this method.
  13. Wait 2 weeks, and enjoy the "hard" labor. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

top5 Tuesday (Feb. 18) GRAB A PINT IN CHI

I'm a huge fan of top five lists, and so when recently asked by a few friends, who wanted to know more about craft beers, I thought what better way then in one of my top5's? I'm starting with my top5 best places in Chicago to grab a pint and I'm hoping to make this a re-occurring Tuesday usual, and offer another top5 recommendation every week.

I also came across this awesomely designed poster: Be a Beer Expert on twitter today by: Michigan State University’s The Big Green, enjoy it's visual and educational splendor.

top5 Chicago places to grab a pint

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hex Mex Mocha

Hex Mex Mocha was my first attempt at a stout. I love stouts, they're one of my favorite styles of beer. When I was working on this recipe, I had constructed it specifically along the requirements for a beer competition that Nielsen-Massey was sponsoring, in partnership with CHAOS Home Brew Club. The challenge was to use any, one or two, of their extracts in a home-brew, any beer style accepted.

Inspiration 

When I read the list of possible extracts to use, I stopped in my tracks at Mexican Pure Vanilla Extract, I knew exactly what I wanted to brew... A spicy Mexican mocha latte coffee stout! My sister turned me on to these tasty espresso beverages years ago. They are a popular Batista drink out in the Pacific Northwest, since they have a plethora of coffee shops. In Chicago, there is only one coffee shop, that I know of, who does them right, Corona Cafe, on Irving Park. I love the combination of the spicy chocolatey notes, with the bold roasted flavors of the coffee... yum! It's a special treat and something really wonderful to drink and hold in your hands, when you're in a snowy-wonderland like Chiberia.

The Challenge

Now my challenge was to translate this flavor profile into a beer. I used BeerSmith to formulate the malts, hops, and yeast, and then pulled my resources together for expertise advice on the special additives. I had a friend in the coffee industry, Ellie, who works at Specialty Coffee Association, who I had asked for her recommendation on the best coffee that would pair with a beer profile like this. I was expecting her to just recommend some coffee grounds I could purchase at a local store, but instead she connected me with Sean, who also happened to be a home brewer, and worked at Metropolis Coffee Company, in Chicago. We meet and I discussed with him the beer profile I was trying to go for and the flavors I was trying to convey. He offered to do some test samples of different roasts of a couple of different Mexican beans that Metropolis was roasting at the time, so I could decide what coffee would work best in the palette. After a coffee brewing taste off between the two varieties, I decided on Mexico El Retiro, it was the milder bean of the two, so I figured it would compliment all the other spices and flavors going on, rather than trying to overpower or clash if it was too robust.

Next was collecting the right spices for the brew. First up was getting authentic Mexican Chocolate, which I special ordered online through Mexican Grocer. Then, I headed to The Spice House in Old town, where I purchased: roasted cacao nibs, Ceylon ground, mace, and ground cayenne pepper.

Lessons Learned

Two things:
1) Fresh brew is the best brew. When making a coffee beer, brew the coffee on bottling day and add it fresh to your brew, just before bottling to lock in the flavors and keep it crisp... no one likes day old coffee. 
2) Sometimes your yeast gets lazy. Not all sugars are eaten by yeast, some sugars they just ignore, and on this beer I found out exactly what that meant. I had a perfect FG reading when I racked it to the secondary, right before I added my Mexican chocolate and spices to the bucket. I knew that the chocolate had some small trace of sugar in the cocoa, so I had thought it would ferment and the yeast would enjoy another round of sugar, but instead they just ignored it and it never came back to that perfect FG. I had worried that it maybe was just taking extra time and that eventually it would come down, but after it remained the same after two weeks and discussing with fellow brewers, it was decided that it must be an un-fermentable. The yeast just weren't having any of it. This allowed the beer to have a bit of extra sweetness, which complimented the sweet stout and heat from the cayenne. 

Ingredients

  

Accolades 

Hex Mex Mocha, won second place, in the vanilla category, at the Nielsen-Massey home-brew challenge, which was a BJCP sanctioned competition, held on Dec. 7, 2013, at Derby, in Chicago. Woot, woot!

Hex Mex Mocha  |  Spicy Chocolate Coffee sweet milk stout  | ABV 6%

Friday, January 3, 2014

HOPPY BREW YEAR!

Inspiration for 2014.... "Decide what to be and go be it!"
(Billboard in Denver, CO.)


















Well, time flies when you're brewing! And what a year it has been! Who knew at the beginning of 2013 that this would be the year I became a serious home brewer?! I had been searching for something... I didn't even know what it was at the time. I've always had a knack for home cooking, playfully experimenting in the kitchen, making my meals from scratch was important to me... and so it seemed only natural to expand on that with tasty things I loved to drink too.

Sometimes it's timing and the people you meet in your life that redirect you, to your path. I told my sister last month, I've finally found my people... My craft beer community. They are individuals ungoverned by pop culture, advertising/marketing persuasions, the more underground and undiscovered or obscure, the better. They are do-ers, critics, adventurers, seekers, cyclists, skiiers, explorers, experimenters, students of life and just as happy to share their knowledge to those willing to learn. I'm so grateful to have met all these wonderful people this past year, some were near, some were far, some in the brewing industry, and others were just peeps who loved and appreciated the craft. All of them seemed so effortlessly able to integrate into my life, as if they had always been there. I'm also, so thankful to all my family and friends who have been big supporters of my brewing, even the ones who don't drink, (yes, there are a few). They've put up with my new obsession, crazy brewing schedules, and backed me, as I've literally immersed myself into the suds. I've always believed that everything happens for a reason and there must be a good reason that my new passion fell into my life. Although, I must admit, sometimes it feels now like a second job... but in a good way. I actually like to wake up to; wash bottles, work on recipe formulations, shop for grain, rack a beer... I get excited about discovering new spices, and even packing up my supplies for brew day. I'll even share this secret with you... sometimes when no one is around, I'll turn up my itunes/spotify, which is probably playing Depeche Mode, Geographer, or Arcade Fire... and break out into a singing/dancing party of one, while my beer is boiling. This is how I know, that I love what I'm doing. Dance breaks... yes, dance breaks, people.

This past year I learned a lot about myself, part of me thinks I always knew, but it's for sure, confirmed now. I have always loved to create, that I knew, but I equally love to be active. I love working with my hands, to be physically engaged and moving. To feel exhausted at the end of the day, not just mentally from sitting at a desk stressed out, and drained from a project, but physically exhausted from moving my muscles. I love challenging my body, pushing it and making it stronger. To equally put my mind and body into something. To see, hold, and taste my efforts. These things give me much pleasure. I didn't know how physical brewing was before I started, but it is, it's an active and engaging process, it's literally a living thing, and I enjoy it as much as the creative development that surrounds it. The process of brewing and creating, seem to go hand in hand... to make something new from nothing... wow, now that, gets me excited! There are so many endless possibilities... I'm always thinking what's next?!

With so much new stirring about, I thought I'd take a minute to slow down and reflect on last year's new beginnings and accomplishments before moving into the new year full speed ahead. So, here is my year in re-brew!

My Year in Re-Brew... 2013
  • Dated a super craft beer nerd, who further beer geeked me out, which then spun my craft beer interest into a serious passion. He might not have worked out, but the beer did.
  • Tried over 1200 different beers this year... um yeah, that's about 100 a month (FYI: most were tasters). Thanks Untappd for being so addictive and thanks beer events/festivals for being so plentiful.
  • Ran over 400 miles (including 4 half marathons in D.C., Napa/Sonoma, and Denver)
  • Took a few home brewing classes through Ale Syndicate and BrewCamp
  • Joined AHA and IMBIBE
  • Visited over 30 new breweries in the USA
  • Tried Crossfit and the Paleo diet, kept Paleo but then rekindled my love for yoga and got cozy with crow, wheel, and handstands
  • Started my beer blog, encouraged by my friend Miraida in NYC who wanted to read about all my beer ventures in Chicago
  • Biked over 1,200 miles all over Chi-town (I have to work off the beer somehow)
  • Joined Chaos brewing club and met a bunch of awesome new friends and experienced brewers always willing to share tips and advice.
  • Discovered over 40 new bands that I absolutely love... Thanks Spotify and an impossibly quite office with headphones. You should give a listen to... Tanlines, Noosa, Geographer, Future Islands, Cut Copy, The Cults, Bear Hands, Yellow Ostrich, Papa, Washed Out, White Arrows, Motopony, STRFKR, and Wild Child... just to name a few!
  • Won 2nd place, twice, in two different beer competitions... accolades, accolades!
  • Bought BeerSmith and started developing my own recipes after the first brew
  • Met fellow Chicagoan beer bloggers MetaCookbook and SubBeerbia with shared passions for beer and writing
  • Walked over 200 miles (see note above, about working off beer calories) Thanks for tracking Runkeeper and GymPact
  • Started taking BJCP classes, I'm hoping to become a beer judge in 2014, woot!
  • Passed... my 1997 Saturn passed emissions, seriously proud of her! (She's the little engine that could!)
  • Started brewing and never looked back... 16 beers brewed (4 All-Grain, and 12 extract) along with 8 organic hard ciders, for a total of 24 Nancy brews, with more fermenting on the horizon!

All I can say, is that I hope 2014 stirs up, just as many, if not more, new surprises... Hopefully some of which, that I don't even know, how much I love them already. 

Cheers!
Nancy