Saturday, May 30, 2015

Birds On A Rainy Day

I noticed these two birds eyeing our birdfeeders but choosing to stay dry on the birdhouse that's positioned nearby under our screen porch overhang.

I feel like putting my head down too for a rainy day nap.

The next time I looked out, there were three birds seeking dry shelter. This female house finch is hiding her head in her feathers. I didn't realize birds feel much like we do after too many days of rain.

Another look out the window and I counted five birds on the birdhouse. Two are on the lower platform. 

I can just hear this bird calling to his partner: Get back over here, right now. You'll catch your death of pneumonia out there eating in the rain and cold.

I bet they're plotting: Let's pretend we don't care and maybe the rain will go away.

Finally, they just close their eyes and wait with the rest of us for Mother Nature to do her thing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Beer Journal #67: Illumination Double IPA, Grand Circus IPA, Firemans Brew, 1020 Pale Ale, Green Chile & More

Butt Head Bock Lager
German Style Bock Beer
Tommyknocker Brewery & Pub
Idaho Springs, CO

I celebrated filling up my beer cap map with this bock on 5/17/15.

Facts off the label:
8.2% ALC/VOL         IBU 33
A big malty traditional German style bock beer
Colorado Mountain Town Craft Beer
Tommyknocker has been creating quality lagers and ales in the Colorado Rocky Mountains since 1994.
Tommyknocker legend:
Tommyknockers slipped into the mining camps of Idaho Springs in the 1800's with the discovery of gold in our mountains and streams. These mischievous elves, though hardly ever seen, were often heard singing and working. They guided many fortunate miners from harm's way and to the gold they sought.
Best by: May 18 15

My input:
Although I drank this past the best by date, it tasted fine to me.

Iron Works Alt
Metropolitan Brewing LLC
Chicago, IL

On 5/17/15, I posed my bottle and full glass in my newly planted perennial garden before getting down to the business of drinking it.

Label info:
An assertively hoppy top-fermented beer, polished by the wisdom and patience of lagering. Think of it as an octogenarian with a punk rock attitude.

Strawberry Best
Malt Beverage with Strawberries and natural flavor added
O'Fallon Brewery
O'Fallon, MO

I sampled this beverage on 5/18/15.

Label findings:
Puerto Rico
Proteja El Ambiente No La Tire

Copper Lager
Metropolitan Brewing LLC
Chicago, IL

I posed my bottle and glass beside my geranium and enjoyed this lager on 5/19/15.

Label info:
If malt and hops are the two poles of brewing, our Vienna lager is the gently spinning sweet spot between them.

Komodo Dragonfly
Black IPA
Upland Brewing Co.
Bloomington, IN

I fetched my garden dragonfly for this photo and enjoyed the brew on 5/19/15.

Label findings:
6.7% ALC BY VOL     67IBU
The Rarest of Species
Best enjoyed by Jun 2015

Pale Ale
The Saint Louis Brewery
Saint Louis, MO and Stevens Point, WI

I had this ale on 5/20/15.

I learned from the label:
4.4% ALC./VOL.         25 IBU
Schlafly Pale Ale is a smooth, balanced, copper-colored session beer with mildly spiced flavor and aroma from the East Kent Goldings hops. This British-style ale is the perfect flagship beer for Schlafly. Available year round.

Dirty Blonde Ale
Ale Brewed with Orange Peel and Coriander
Atwater Brewery
Detroit, MI

Label disclosures:
Alc. 4.5% by Vol.
Enjoy Everyday!
Bottled on F 15

India Pale Ale
Kona Brewing Company
Kona, HI * Portland, OR * Woodinville, WA * Portsmouth, NH

Off the label:
Aloha Series
Fresh, Responsible, Always Aloha
Set Sail For Adventure!
Hawaiians crossing the channel between Oahu and Molokai face a perilous journey. Our Castaway IPA is inspired by these brave island explorers. A smooth yet spirited brew, it's as refreshing as the wind in your face when you set sail for adventure.
FEB 26 15 

Green Chile
A Blend of Hot and Mild Anaheim Chiles Infused in a Refreshing Lager
Tommyknocker Brewery
Idaho Springs, CO

Label info:
5.3% ALC/VOL         27 IBU
Colorado Mountain Town Craft Beer
Tommyknocker has been creating quality lagers and ales in the Colorado Rocky Mountains since 1994
Flavored Beer
Tommyknocker Legend:
Tommyknockers slipped into the mining camps of Idaho Springs in the 1800's with the discovery of gold in our mountains and streams. These mischievous elves, though hardly ever seen, were often heard singing and working. They guided many fortunate miners from harm's way and to the gold they sought.

Pale Ale
The Fort Collins Brewery
Fort Collins, CO

The label says:
Our 1020 Pale Ale has a magnificent citrus aroma with underlying tones of pine and grapefruit zest that inhabit the flavor, while a smooth, light body and crisp, clean bitterness from Magnum, Cascade and Chinook hops leave your palate both refreshed and liberated. 

Firemans Brew
Pilsner Lager/Blonde Beer
Firemans Brew
Ukiah, CA

Label disclosures:
Premium Microbrew
A Classic American Beverage
Award winning Golden Pilsner with a crisp, clean finish, created by Firefighters to support Firefighters.

Hanukkah, Chanukah
Dark Ale
Shmaltz Brewing Company
Clifton Park, NY

From the label, I learned:
8 Malts * 8 Hops
Pass the Beer
Come On Bubbe, Light My Fire!
No matter how you spell it, you now hold the official Chosen Beer of this holiday season. After 18 years at Shmaltz (and over 2000 years of Hanukkah tradition), we thought it was finally time to release a beer specifically to celebrate all the miracles of the 8 crqzy nights. We hope our fermented creation will bring some light to the winter darkness and pair perfectly with latkes and the battle royale of dreidels. Pass some Chanukah Beer over to your favorite friends and family and delight in the warming of the season. Chaim!
Jeremy Chwas, proprietor
Menorah painting by Jennifer Maher  

English Style Special Ale
Sand Creek Brewing Company
Black River Falls, WI

Label info:
ALC. 5.5% BY VOL>
Real Wisconsin Beer
Product of USA

Anniversary Special Hell Lager
Church Street Brewing Company
Itasca, IL

Off the label:
ALC. 5.5% BY VOL.        IBU 28
In honor of our anniversary we give you a new twist on an old favorite. A helles brewed with Weyermann's famous floor-malted Bohemian pilsner malt, decoction mashed for a truly unique deep malt character and texture.
Made in the U.S.A.
Est. 2012
Grand Circus IPA
Atwater Brewery
Detroit, MI

Label revelations:
Alc. 4.5% by Vol.
We drink all we can and sell the rest.
Our "Session" India Pale Ale
Kick back, relax and enjoy a cold craft beer in your city's "Grand Circus Park."
Bottled on A 2015

Belgian-Style White Ale
Malt Beverage Brewed with Spices
Cathedral Square Brewery
S. Genevieve, MO

Label disclosures:
5% Alc. by Vol.
This traditional White Ale is faithful to the Belgian Style with its light body, cloudy color and touch of spice. A complex, refreshing Ale that's perfect for any season.
Divine  Beer
turning sinners into saints.

Illumination Double IPA
Central Waters Brewing Company
Amherst, WI

Label statistics:
A walloping double IPA, Illumination is immensely bitter yet unfathomably well balanced. Copious amount of Centennial, Chinook and Simcoe hops give it a citrusy mouthful of tropical pineapple and mango, nicely rounded with toasty malt for gentle sweetness. Here's to all you hopheads.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Galumphing With 3 Random Words: Crumbs, Landscaper and Roller Coaster

I took three words, crumbs, landscaper and roller coaster and had fun creating this mini-story:
Kevin pushed up his sleeves and tipped his head back. He shuddered at the roller coaster that towered beside him and his stomach sank. His landscaping job kept his feet firmly on the ground where he liked them.

Kevin dug his shovel into the newly-tilled soil. A dozen small shrubs waited behind him, destined to be in a line along the roller coaster entrance. He glanced at the potted shrubs and noticed movement by the tracks. Jeff, the park mechanic, waved and stepped into one of the coaster cars. He's early today, Kevin mused. Jeff was responsible for the system of trial runs required for all rides prior to opening day. Better you than me, Kevin thought.

A half hour passed. Six shrubs in, six to go. The roar of the roller coaster made Kevin uneasy and he worked faster. The noise heightened when Jeff rounded a curve in the tracks close to Kevin. He was sitting back, eating a sandwich, totally relaxed. Bread crumbs pelted Kevin's face. "Thanks, Jeff. I needed that," Kevin hollered. Words were useless. The empty cars clanged and rattled, metal on metal. He finished with the shrubs in autopilot mode with payback plans foremost in his mind. Perhaps, Jeff unknowingly showered him with lunch residue. It didn't matter. Kevin had all the motivation he needed to have some fun at Jeff's expense. 

What were friends for, anyway?


(In Beginning Writer's Workshop, an online class by Ed2go, I was introduced to this mini-story technique. I have fun with it. Just pick three random words and build a story around them. It's a good exercise for the imagination).     


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Beer Journal #66: Genesis, Rocky Mountain IPA, Red Banshee, Jazz, Grateful Red & More

Grateful Red
Capital Brewery
Middleton, WI

Label info:
5.3% ALC./VOL.
"While the fiery red hue may deceive you of its inherent hoppiness, the play of toasty malt flavors with sharp, resiny hops will bring you to the strangest of places, if you're drinkin' it right."

Nude Beach
Summer Wheat
Stevens Point Brewery
Stevens Point, WI

Label disclosures:
Ale with natural flavor added
Brewing excellence since 1857
Point * Well Made  

Goose IPA
Goose Island Beer Co.
Chicago, IL * Baldwinsville, NY * Fort Collins, CO

Label stats:
5.9% ALC/VOL
55 IBU Rating
"Bright citrus aromas * BOLD HOP FINISH
Winner of six Great American Beer Festival Medals. Category: English Style IPA-2012: Gold, 2009: Silver, 2007: Silver, 2004: Silver, 2002: Bronze, 2000: Gold
Hops grown for Goose Island at Elk Mountain Farms
Contains: Wheat
This beer will remain brewery fresh for 180 days after the bottled on date: 13FEB15
Est. 1988" 

Raspberry Ale
Ale with raspberries added
Dark Horse Brewing Company
Marshall, MI

Label offerings:
Alc. 5.0% by Vol.

Amber Light Beer
Dixie Brewing Company, Inc.
New Orleans, LA
Joseph Huber Brewing Company, Monroe, WI

Label stats:
4.13% ALC./VOL.
"Average analysis: Calories 92, Carbohydrates 2.8G, Protein 0.9G, Fat 0.0G per 12 fl. oz serving
At only 92 calories, this award-winning beer retains the taste and character of full-bodied lager but with a New Orleans touch, making it a truly unique light amber beer.
The century-old Dixie Brewery was almost destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, but restoration is underway. With the help of our friends, we're working hard to re-beer New Orleans and the rest of the country."

Schlafly ESB
Extra Special Bitter
The Saint Louis Brewery, LLC
St. Louis, MO

Label facts:
5.8% ALC./VOL.
30 IBU
"For best flavor, keep refrigerated.
Bottled with love on 11/03/2014.
The combination of malts and hops creates a toasty, fruity flavor. Available seasonally.
Schlafly ESB may have the word 'bitter' in its name, but the key to this style is balance."

Traverse City Cherry Wheat
Malt Beverage Brewed with Cherry Concentrate
Atwater Brewery
Detroit, MI

Label info:
Alc. 4.5% by Vol.
"Brewed in Detroit.
Beer is good. Enjoy responsibly.
Bottled on March 15."
White IPA
Lost Coast Brewery
Eureka, CA

Label talk:
"India Pale Ale, Beer brewed with Natural flavors.
Our Great White taken to the next level by dry hopping it with Cascade, Crystal, Chinook and Citra hops.
Drink it all, we'll make more."

Blonde Bomber
American Blonde Ale
The Veteran Beer Company
Cold Spring, MN

Label exam results:
ALC. 5.0% BY VOL.
Made in the USA
"Drink responsibly. We do."

Tangerine Wheat Beer
Lost Coast Brewery & Cafe
Eureka, CA

Label info:
Alcohol by volume 5.5%
617 4th Street, Eureka, CA
"Beer with natural flavor added
A crisp citrus beer with a hint of tangerine.

Van de Velde
Belgo-Pale Ale
Ale Syndicate Brewers
Breese, IL

Label talk:
ALC. 6.4% BY VOL.
IBU 26 * OG 1.061* 15 degrees Plato
Best served at 46 F
"We love two things: our city, and good beer. Chicago isn't gentle. It's got audacity, grit, and grace. At Ale Syndicate Brewers, we make craft beer that's distinctly Chicago. We are dedicated to strong flavors, pure ingredients, and the power of coming together around something that we all love.
Van de Velde Belgo-Pale Ale blends the subtly spicy and fruity flavors of Belgian yeast with a smooth, slightly sweet malt character. Add in the bold, bitter profile of American hops and you've got a complex, ambitious but still approachable brew - not unlike the early Belgian-Chicagoans of Logan Square who inspired its name.
Hey Chicagoans, please recycle.
Bottles are good; glasses are better. Enjoy this beer in a 16 oz. US tumbler."

Down 'N Dirty
Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
Tyranena Brewing Company
Lake Mills, WI

The label boasts:
Stout brewed with cocoa nibs
"When the railroad was completed between Madison and Milwaukee in 1882, mucky soils in the glacial swamp near Lake Mills made the tracks most unsteady. A bridge-tender stood guard, 24 hours-a-day, to warn oncoming trains of the danger ahead and caution them to slow their pace. One engineer chose not to heed this warning and the locomotive lost control and tumbled off the bridge into the mud below. The train is said to be forever entombed deep in the muck along the present day Glacial Drumlin trail. We brew Down'n Dirty Chocolate Oatmeal stout thick and black like the glacial muck."

Red Banshee
Red Banshee Ale
The Fort Collins Brewery
Fort Collins, CO

Label stats:
"A striking ruby hue and spicy floral nose punctuate the pleasant sweetness of this brew. Crystal malt coalesces with the earthy flavor of Willamette hops. A hauntingly beautiful combination."

Rocky Mountain IPA
The Fort Collins Brewery
Fort Collins, Co

Label info:
"Massive floral aroma lures you in while hop bitterness and malty sweetness mingle in symmetry. After all, great balance is Key when you are standing on three legs."

Dry Hopped Session Ale
Shmaltz Brewing Company
Saratoga Springs, NY

Label stuff:
5.5% Alc. by Vol.
"L'Chaim! To Life!
The Chosen Beer
Malts: Specialty 2-Row, Munich, CaraMunich 40, Wheat, Dark Crystal
Hops: Warrior, Centennial, Cascade
Dry Hop: Centennial, Cascade, Simcoe
KSA Kosher Certified,
 Rabbi Approved

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Creating a Story Based On Three Random Words

I pulled three words out of the blue: dandelions, dump truck and mailman. I rolled them around in my mind and came up with this short creative writing piece.


My mail comes at 2:30 every day, Monday through Saturday. Getting it from the mailbox is one of the highlights of my day. Often, I meet the mailman at the box and we exchange meaningless banter. Somedays, I only wave from my porch.

Do you get the drift? I'm a loner. I'm most comfortable passing my time in solitary confinement at 718 Elm Street. I have plenty to keep me occupied, especially at this time of the year with Spring springing up in expected and unexpected locations. Why, I discovered a tulip plant on the south side of my house that I didn't realize was there. I suspect it's been there for quite some time and I simply forgot about it.

Simply forgot. Dang, there's nothing simplistic about forgetting. I dislike the act. For one thing, it threatens my sense of control and peace of mind. When I catch myself at it, I fear I'm slipping off the "top of things" where I've always prided myself on being. 

Let's sweep the subject of forgetting under the rug to address another matter. I'm being held hostage by a grand assembly of dandelions gathered en masse on all sides of my house. I'm not defenseless. I ransacked my garage and eventually found my handy-dandy dandelion spade. When I mount my counter offense, I'll need a dump truck to haul the mangled corpses away. In a week's time, I'll be crippled by the work and my yard won't look much better, sporting brown divots where the yellow weeds previously grew. 

Excuse me. I hear the mail truck.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Beer Journal #65 : Gnarly Oak Winter Bock, Hayseed, Cane and Ebel, Hop Sun, Sawtooth Ale & More

Gnarly Oak Winter Bock
Monroe Brewing Company
Monroe, WI

Label offerings:
5.5% ALC./VOL.
Premium Beer
"A classic lager made in the traditional German style. It has a malty sweetness, a dark rich color and is lightly hopped. Made with select caramel and black roasted barley and a combination of Columbus, Zeus and Cascade hops.
15 OB, 62.5 RDF, 34 Color and 25 IBU.
Pairs well with rich roasty food like duck or roasted pork shank; also great with cured meats. Serve as a dessert beer with German chocolate cake or a dried fruit tart."
Smuttynose Brewing Company
Hampton, NH

Label stats:
"Come visit our brewery and restaurant at Towle Farm in Hampton, New Hampshire. And check us out online at for events, releases and great Smerchandise in our e-store. As always, thanks for saying:
Make mine a Smutty!" 

Cane and Ebel
Red Rye Ale
Two Brothers Artisan Brewing
Warrenville, IL

Label info:
ABV 7.0%       IBU 68

"Dry, but with a creamy touch of Thai palm sugar and the spicy tang of rye, all balanced by loads of the wackiest new hops we could lay our hands on. Yep, it's an original. And that's no sin."

Continental Lager
Church Street Brewing Company
Itasca, IL

Label accolades:
ALC. 5.3% BY VOL.      IBU 39
"Righteously Good Beer!
Smooth and drinkable, yet malty and complex, with a noble hop punch, our Continental Lager marries four German malts with three German hop varieties to create our ultimate pilsner. A great beer to kick back with anytime. Enjoy!"

Product of Belgium

Label stuff:
7.0% ALC./VOL.
Viven 1999
The art of Belgian brewing

Seasonal Summer Wheat Beer
Southern Tier Brewing Company
Lakewood, NY

Label wisdom:
ALC. 5.1% BY VOL.
"Brewed with 1 variety of hops and 3 types of malts" 

White Beer
Two Brothers Artisan Brewing
Warrenville, IL

The label reveals:
ABV 4.5%     IBU 14
"Monarch White Beer celebrates the anniversary of Jim and Jason's first brew. This classic Belgian-style white beer is brewed with unmalted wheat, a touch of oats, and then traditionally spiced with coriander and orange peel for a crisp, refreshing taste and spicy aroma."
Best by: 07/10/15

Amber Ale
Left Hand Brewing Company
Longmont, CO

Label goods:
ALC. 5.3% BY VOL.
"Brewed on the banks of the mighty St. Vrain. This amber ale is the perfect balance between malt and hops. A great session beer.
Enjoy at: 50 degrees F in a pub glass.
Ingredients: Rocky Mountain water, malted barley, malted wheat, hops and yeast."

Magners Irish Cider
Wm Magner Ltd
Clonmel, Ireland

Label findings:
4.5% alc/vol
Since 1935
"Created by William Magner in 1935, Magners Original Irish Cider is an authentic premium cider made in Ireland.
A blend of seventeen varieties of apples creates the unique, distinctive and refreshing taste."
Nutrition Facts: Calories 150, Sodium 35mg, Total Carb 14g, Sugars 12g

Blonde Bock
Summit Brewing Company
St. Paul, MN

Goodies on the label:
ALC. 6.7% BY VOL.
Ingredients: Water, barley malt, hops & yeast

The number 50340736 is in small print at the top edge of the label. (Probably not intended for my eyes) 

Cranberry Special Ale
Made with Real Wisconsin Cranberry Juice
Sand Creek Brewing Company
Black River Falls, WI

The label doesn't tell me the alcohol content or anything else about this cranberry ale.

Mai Bock
High Gravity Lager
Atwater Brewery
Detroit, MI

Label information:
Alc. 7.5% by Vol.
Bottled in February 2015
"Brewed to welcome the spring season!"