Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Beer In Review: 2014

Well, for the past few years I've been doing a piece I call The Beer In Review.  In this treatise I discuss events and excitement from the previous year as I gear up for another year of the unknown.  Life is a journey and this is the trip so far!  Whether people are reading my blog entries or not, writing this has been a great way for me to chronicle the day to day of my very beer-centric life.

2014 has been a busy one for me and for my wife SJ.  Fairly early in the year we took a trip with four of our friends to Belgium and The Netherlands to discover many amazing sights and even more amazing beers!  This was our second trip with and did not disappoint.  We met with brewmasters, drank ourselves to oblivion in a Belgian pub's beer cellar, crashed two chaotic Belgian beer festivals and tried over 200 different beers.  Yup it was a good trip!

Sj quit her day job as a librarian to pursue her dream of making jewelry professionally instead of just as a hobby.  She was invited to be a Member Artist at the new Unearthed Arts cooperative/gallery in Waconia and has been having a blast working with them.  I have to say that she couldn't have landed in a more supportive place or with better people!

Just as I was starting to make a small dent in my massive beer cellar, I bought a large quantity of rare beers from a local acquaintance.  This counted as an early 41st Birthday present--but I won't complain since these will last me at least another year!  This did necessitate a total reorganization of my current cellar, and has uncovered some buried treasure in the process.

The craft alcoholic beverage scene is quickly moving into my Far Western Suburbs (that area on the map where the sea monsters and dragons frolic.)  Enki Brewing continues to put out good local brews in close-by Victoria.  Waconia Brewing opened to much fanfare and seem to be doing a great job so far.  Schram Vineyard (also in Waconia) became Minnesota's first Winery/Brewery.  And J. Carver Distillery has started to market their spirits--I hope they manage to eventually serve samples or cocktails at the distillery!  Now I don't have to drive so far for a good craft brew experience.

More breweries pop up all over the Twin Cities area and I find myself having a hard time visiting them all!  To some extent, I leave most of them alone for 3-6 months to "mature" before doing official visits.  This year I checked out the newly branded Bent Brewstillery, Urban Growler, Fair State, Day Block, Freehouse, and finally got to Lucid.  Oh, and the Four Firkins added a second store of beery goodness.

I had many great meals around the Twin Cities including: Butcher & The Boar, many amazing beer dinners at The Happy Gnome, a couple of cool beer dinners at McCoy's (Thanks Nick!) as well as both beer and wine dinners at local eatery Terra Waconia.

We spent another week of crazed theater going interspersed with trips to Town Hall Brewery and Republic during Fringe Festival this summer.  We also went to several great shows for the Twin Cities Horror Festival at the Southern Theater--sure to be even more impressive next year.  We continued our theater going at the Orpheum with possibly too many 80's movie musicals like Sister Act, Flash Dance, and Dirty Dancing.  We also saw the timely White Christmas and the ludicrous and uproarious Book of Mormon.  And of course we hung out with friends at MacKenzie after the shows to take advantage of the great beer selection.

I continue to brew, but not quite as much as I would have liked to this year.  I did get one of my beers into the second round of the National Homebrew competition but didn't make the final cut.  After helping out Steve Piatz with a lecture/class on mead making at the Arboretum I jumped back into mead making whole-hog this past fall.  I'm just starting to test out the fruits of my labors and am pretty happy with them so far!  Oh and I won my first Best Of Show (for Mead/Cider) award at the Hoppy Halloween competition in Fargo!

We traveled to Grand Rapids Michigan for the National Homebrewer's Conference this summer, and visited a ton of great breweries there including Founders, Bell's, Jolly Pumpkin, Perrin, and Dark Horse!  Much beer was had on that trip I tell you!  And I'm ready to go next year to California...

Sj and I took a quick trip up to Duluth for the All Pints North beer festival and had a wonderful time along the North Shore. This has become my favorite beer festival over the past two years.

Sj and I took an anniversary trip to Disneyland in California, spending time with our friends Pete and Genevieve.  I struggled to find beer there, but we were able to visit the nearby craft beer Mecca of The Bruery located in the poorly named town of Placentia.  It was an experience like none other!  We followed up this busy and crowded California visit with a trip to Pittsburgh and rural Pennsylvania to visit friends Andrew and William. Yup, we got to several breweries and even a cidery there.  You know how I am with travel by now!

I got to take a trip to St. Louis with Rob Wengler and Ron Johnson to help film the Limited Release episode on Barrel Aged Abraxas.  Now that was an experience!  An amazing event, brewery, beer, and crew.

As people may have noticed over the year, I finally bought myself a real camera and have been working on learning more about photography and editing.  I hope that people appreciate the better quality of photo I'm bringing to the blog and not annoyed with the divergence from all-beer-all-the-time!  I thought about making a separate blog for photography stuff, but realized that I would have a hard time running both.

So, lots of long and short trips, punctuated by a fair amount of breweries, good friends, and good beers.  Yup, this is pretty much what my ideal life is!  Ok, all those in-between days I'm actually working my rewarding and busy day job...I'm not some man-of-leisure dilettante!  This year I give thanks that I'm still healthy, that I have a wonderful wife who mostly tolerates my crazy notions, and that I'm surrounded by so many great friends and family.  I wish I had more time to visit everyone!

And what would the New Year be without some resolutions?  In addition to the obligatory exercise- more-and-eat-better-so-I-can-fit-my-pants resolution I have a few more fun ones.

1) First off I plan on doing a weekly blog entry called A Whale A Week.  This will be my excuse to crack a rare beer (and hopefully share it with others,) every week to make some headway on my obscene beer cellar.
2) Travel: I plan to go to NHC in California this summer.  Sj and I are still discussing, but we would like to take at least one extended trip in the country--possibly North Carolina due to the incredible brew scene down there.  I'm thinking another overseas Beer Trip in 2016.
3) Continue my weekly photo challenges to force me to learn new techniques and get better.
4) Brew more!  I really didn't do an impressive job this year, and would like to get more batches under my belt.  I want to experiment more with water additions and focus on a few common styles (hoppy) that I haven't had as much luck with.
5) Actually organize some some more Jack Of All Brews club field trips this coming year!
6) Catch up on some cool video games now that I have a PS4.  Dragon Age should take me most of 2015...

Cheers to 2014 and to the upcoming 2015!

No comments: