Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Introducing The LitWits: A Reading Club for Drinkers {Sacramento, CA}

Hello, my name is Jessica, and I am a LitWit.

I was an English major in college. I'm not that fond of math, I have a crappy memory when it comes to history, I'm totally not into politics or government, and dissecting animals in high school Bio totally icked me out. But I love to read and I love to write, so studying English just made sense. 

Also, I was a little naive when it came to how College Studies could translate into Real Life, so I just chose what sounded like fun. Looking back, I probably should have pursued some kind of earth science... just not physical biology, ew.

I'm obsessed with grammar. I get unbelievably annoyed when I find errors in published newspaper and magazine articles (trust me, it happens more frequently than you'd think). I find myself mentally correcting the Facebook statuses of my friends. One of my favorite Facebook pages is Grammarly. Nerd.

I collect books. I have almost as many books as I have articles of clothing (I thrift, so I have clothing in spades). I stamp the edges of my books to make them prettier and to claim them as mine. Geek.

I also love throwing parties and bringing people together. 

Oh yeah, and good food, beer and wine are staples in my life. There's that too.

It's only natural that these interests led me to start a Reading Club.

Over the past several years, my friends Jeanna, Anne, and I have tossed around the idea of having a book club. We flirted with the idea once or twice, but we never really dove in and made it happen. Recently, the prospect came up again between Anne and I while we were at a brew fest with my friend Carrie and her gals. 

The best ideas are hatched while drinking craft beer.

All of a sudden, it seemed like all of my ladies were talking about wanting to join a club. So it dawned on me that maybe there was a reason that I was hearing this from so many angles. There was a muse at work. So I took the initiative to launch The LitWits Reading Club


I wrote up a quick document outlining my idea, and emailed it to a selection of my fellow bookworms. Some of them invited their fellow bookworms. Everyone was excited. So then, as if meant to be, the idea of the LitWits became a reality.

We had our first meeting last night. Our inaugural group: me, my mom, Anne, Jeanna, Meghan, Claire, Marisa and Bethany. There are several other ladies who are planning to join in as their schedule allows, but I can already tell that this is going to be a very fun and lively group just based on how easily our discussions flowed last night. 

To get the discussion rolling, each of us suggested a few favorite or recently-read books, which I will write up and share in the next couple of days. We discussed what we like to read and why. Some of us read to escape (Fiction), some of us read to learn (Non-fiction), and sometimes we find ourselves reading something in between (Historical Fiction). We are a perfect blend of insightful and thoughtful readers, which will make for an awesome discussion group.

It turns out that we are all crafters as well. So this may just become a Reading and Drinking and Eating and Crafting Club. Be still, my beating heart!

We drank wine and cider and ate amazing snacks. Just to tempt your tastebuds, here's what we ate: guacamole & pita chips, goat cheese & basil & tomato dip with crackers, chocolate covered pretzels, eggplant dip, fresh watermelon, cranberry oatmeal tuxedo chip cookies and Ghirardelli chocolates. Drooling yet?

I would like to thank my Muse for giving me the nudge to bring this together. I owe you a beer, Muse. This is going to be epic.

Call me a nerd, call me a geek, 
call me a Lover of the 
English language and written word. 
Or just call me a LitWit. 
That would be just fine.

>^..^<

Weeds are Flowers, too... in our home, Nature is Magical

Finding wildflowers is one of my great joys in life. But many wildflowers are considered weeds by most people, which is really a bummer to me.

Today I came across this beautiful, and so-pertinent-to-my-life, quote by A.A. Milne.

"Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them."

I love it so much that I decided to put it on a photo I took of a dandelion fluff that Lily handed to me one day in the front yard.
Weeds are Flowers, too, once you get to know them. A.A. Milne - on Wildflower Sunshine
I made this photo look more dreamy using the Photo Funia app.

The dandelion is considered a pesky weed by many, but in our home, they are Fairy Trees and we embrace them. What a magical way to look at nature.

>^..^<

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sacramento Beer Week 2013 :: Beer Train

Beer Train Collage2

On a warmer-than-usual Sunday afternoon, my posse took off on our bikes to ride the 6.5 miles from McKinley park to the Sacramento River Train's Beer Train! Live music and beer from 4 local breweries (Track 7, Hoppy, River City and Sudwerk) on a moving train - we were so stoked!

Beer Train photo by @ufallome on Instagram
Photo credit :: @ufallome on Instagram (thanks, Scotty!)

First, let me tell you, that train is straight out of the 70s. The smell, the upholstery, the narrow hallways, the rope lights (wait, those are modern... but they look so disco!) - it was fantastically dank and weird. We loved it!

beer train

The Hoppy station was in the first train car, which was the most disco one in the bunch. It was clearly a First Class train car back in the day. I don't know why it cracked me up so much, but it did. I now wish I had taken more photos of the actual train. Guess I'll just have to go again!

beer train

We were closest to the Track 7 table, so we spent most of our time drinking there, though we did venture to the other stations. I can't get enough of their Collaboration Ale with Knee Deep. That is just such a great beer.

beer train

I really feel like Beer Week 2013 has converted me into a bit of a Hop Head. I have always seemed to shy away from huge hop bombs, and have tended to lean toward sweeter, maltier pastures. But with the current IPA craze, which has seemed to dominate my Beer Week experience (mostly because my husband is a dedicated Hop Head), I've been exposed to a huge variety of hop flavors in a short window of time, which has really opened up my palate. While I'm not huge on the spicy-bitter, really piney, resiny hop flavor, I am really starting to enjoy the sweet, citrusy, lightly piney hop flavors. Thanks, Beer Week!

Cheers!

>^..^<

{image courtesy of sacramentobeerweek.com}
Hashtags :: #sacbeerweek #SBW2013 #craftbeer #locallove

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sacramento Beer Week 2013 :: Capital Beer Fest Tasting Notes

2013 Capital Beer Fest

Capital Beer Fest Collage2

Capital Beer Fest was a ton of fun. There were SO many awesome beers and ciders to sample - it was a craft beer drinker's playground!

The food tasting during the VIP part of the event was a little frustrating because of the huge lines for the food tasting and the slowness of the food samples being delivered to the tables. This is something the organizers should consider revamping for next year (I'm talking to you Heather, Dan and Rick - Kisses!).

We were considering standing in line to get some samples, but when we saw people carrying around teeny tiny miniature shot glasses with literally a single bite of food, we decided we'd rather spend our time drinking beer. This was a smart choice on our part because once the VIP session was over, it was as if they were opening the flood gates to beer heaven - thousands of people streamed through the doors as we stood against a low wall eating our DELICIOUS Drewski burgers.. It was unreal (the crowd... well, and the burger).

On that note, it was super rad to have the food trucks on site. Sacramento is lucky to have some amazing food trucks. Delish!

Here are the standout beers that I tried during the VIP portion when it was chill enough to jot down light notes. I was having WAY too much fun to recall every beer I sampled once the gates to beer heaven opened and the masses poured through them. Plus, that's when all of my friends showed up, so I took off my "craft beer writer hat" and put on my "party on, Wayne!" hat.

Boulder Kinda Blue Blueberry Wheat: Very easy drinking and straightforward wheat beer; crisp and balanced, clean finish. Blueberry flavor is mild and gives it a little tang - more berry in the aroma than in the flavor. Very sessionable summer beer. Can't wait to drink this by the pool.

Hangar 24 Orange Wheat: Fresh orange aroma, earthy wheat malt flavor with a lightly tangy and dry finish. Pretty balanced, but more on the dry side. Crisp, lively carbonation. Very refreshing.

Coronado Orange Avenue Wit: Crisp, citrusy, earthily spiced, honeyed goodness. Read more of my tasting notes at the very bottom of THIS post.

{Can you tell I'm into fruity wheat beers now that summer is approaching?}

Knee Deep/Track 7 Collaboration Ale: This beer is awesome! Read my full tasting notes here.

Ruhstaller Founders Blend: Ok, so by the time I got to this beer, it was the end of the event. Needless to say, I can't remember EXACTLY how it tasted, but I do remember liking it... I mean, it's the only beer that really stood out in my hazy-ish memory of the end of the fest, so let's be honest, it must have been good. So I wanted to make note of it here so that maybe you'll try it. I'll have to get my hands on a bottle so I can give it a proper write up.

:: :: :: 

After the fest, we took the free shuttle bus downtown and did some more drinking. Mad props to the organizers for providing the shuttle!

A note on the location: it's a bit difficult to really smell and taste your beer when you are surrounded by the faint aroma of animals and their dung. While I really appreciated the openness of the pavilion, it is where all of the animals chill during the State Fair (and other events, I'm sure). The Cal Expo location was awesome (tons of parking), but that pavilion... perhaps they should consider taking over the Cove and building A next year? Logistically, maybe a bit awkward though... so maybe animal smell is worth the ease of using the pavilion.

Eh, I had a fantastic time, regardless, so who am I to complain?

Cheers!

>^..^<

{image courtesy of sacramentobeerweek.com}
Hashtags :: #sacbeerweek #SBW2013 #craftbeer #locallove

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sacramento Beer Week 2013 :: Beer Tasting Notes

Hers and His tasting glasses.
Sacramento Beer Week has come and gone, but the memories will last forever. At least the ones I can remember in the first place... just kidding! No but really, I am very proud of myself for managing my Beer Week so that I didn't once get sloshed or have a hangover. I am all about enjoying craft beer and having a great time, but to truly enjoy a craft beer, you need to be coherent. Plus, hangovers suck and I have a kid, so I made a conscious effort to stay in the "comfortably buzzed" zone instead of the "what the f*ck did we do last night" zone (like when we went to Oktoberfest... my head still hurts just thinking about that next morning).

So here's my beer week, and the resulting tasting notes. In a nutshell, it was AMAZING.

You already know what we did on Friday... and I'm sure you've read my tasting notes on the Knee Deep in Beer Week 2013 Belgo American Imperial IPA collaboration between Track 7 & Knee Deep Brewing... and I'm sure you've watched the awesome "I am a Craft Beer Drinker" video that I found on YouTube.... so I'll just move on to the rest of the week....

It all started with a MONKEY KNIFE FIGHT! 
*insert epic fighting music here*

Sorry, but Monkey Knife Fight just sounds so bitchin'. The beer is awesome as well - Monkey Knife Fight is a very solid Pale Ale from Sacramento's own Rubicon Brewing, and is really a prime example of a go-to pale ale that is accessible to any beer drinker (it would be a great first craft beer for a newbie). It's very easy drinking at 4.5% ABV. Rubicon makes consistently good beers, and they just celebrated their 25th anniversary in Sacramento. Congrats to them!

Jim and I worked the Rubicon and Auburn Ale House tables at the Make A Wish Foundation Winter Wine and Food Fest (which was SUPER swanky) on Saturday, February 23, and poured Rubicon's MKF and Irish Red Ale, along with 3 selections from Auburn Ale House. We ate lots of Humboldt Fog cheese too *drool* which is some seriously decadent aged goat cheese.


On Sunday we went to The Shack (again) to eat more Humboldt Fog cheese on top of a beautiful Benedict, paired with North Coast's 7.9% ABV Le Merle saison. The Benedict was unbelievably delicious and the Le Merle paired beautifully - the pale earthy malts and very light citrusy hops hiding at the edges alongside the buttery hollandaise and rich cheese... so mouthwateringly amazing. We also got hooked up with a sip of Westvleteren XII Quadrupel (the American import bottle), which was very sweet and dense, full of chocolatey malt, figgy dark fruits, brown sugar, and warm alcohol. Wish I could have had a couple more sips to really get a feel for the underlying flavors. It made us start jonesin' for the Westvleterens that Jim brought home from Belgium and have been sitting comfortably in our beer cellar... soon, very soon...

On Monday, I had the good fortune of happening upon the coveted Pliny the Younger, aka PTY, which I thought was VERY good, but I still don't know if I'd have stood in line for it... But it really is borderline perfection: a perfectly clear golden color and lingering white fluffy cloud of foam, a nose and flavor full of floral, citrusy sweet hops and a pleasant crispness, and extremely well balanced, making it very easy drinking. It's a pretty hefty 10.8% this year, but you really can't tell based on the flavor. It's the kind of IPA I'd be thrilled to drink on a regular basis because the hop flavor is so smooth (note: this is a bold statement coming from me given the fact that I'm essentially the opposite of a Hop Head), and it's really a shame that it's so limited.

At home that night, inspired to see what other beers may be similar to PTY, we sampled Drake's Hopocalypse Double IPA. My hubby thought that Hopocalypse was damn similar to PTY. The hop flavor is very clean, and it has a sweetness that balances out the piney/tangerine hop bite, however the bite still shines through. This is a stellar DIPA at 9.25% ABV.
We also tried Simtra Triple IPA from Knee Deep, which has a tangy citrus hop bite that is much more bitter than PTY, and less resinous. It does have some sweetness to balance it out, but the bitterness still wins. Be careful, this is a dangerous 11.25% ABV. I am impressed by Knee Deep's offerings thus far.

On Tuesday afternoon, Jim went to Rubicon to try Friend of the Devil, a collaboration between Rubicon and Two Rivers Cider. Belgian blond + apple cider = right up my alley! He texted me a photo (above, made pretty with my lovely photo app Pixlr Express), and said, "Tastes like you would think...mixing beer and apple cider with hints of white wine." Needless to say, as I sat at my desk working, I was more than jealous that he got to taste it before me. 6.9% ABV.

That night, we tried Dust Bowl's Hops of Wrath IPA and Mojo Risin' from Boulder. Hops of Wrath was very well balanced; a casual malty sweetness and a bitter grapefruity hop bite really complemented each other. This is a very fine IPA, weighing in at 6.6% ABV. Super drinkable.
Boulder's Mojo Risin' Double IPA is a golden orange beauty that weighs in at a super hefty at 10% ABV. Pretty well balanced orange-citrus and lightly sweet hop bomb, but be careful of that ABV!

Now that I'm writing all of this down, I am realizing that my darling husband bogarted beer week with IPAs... but that's ok, I'll just remember that for next beer week, and I'll bombard him with Belgians. *grin*

On Wednesday night we hit up one of our very favorite burger joints, Flaming Grill, to try Band of Gypsies Belgian Tramp, a 10.5% ABV organic Belgian quad brewed with house-made candy sugar, California Mission figs, raisins and dates. I swear, the very first flavor that hit me was sweet soy sauce. Weird, eh? But I swear, it's true. Once I got past that weird impression, I tasted burnt roasty malts, sweet molasses, figs and dark fruit, and sour Belgian yeast. Super heavy and complex - definitely a sipping beer. Members of the Band of Gypsies Collaboration Beer Project include Bison Organic Beer, Calicraft Brewing, Highwater Brewing, Lucky Hand, Oakland Brewing, Pacific Brew Labs, Triple Voodoo & Uncommon Brewers. I'm loving all of these awesome collaborations!
We also had Boulder's Honey of a Saison, which had flavors of dark wildflower honey, sour Belgian yeast and earthy straw. I especially loved the honey + Belgian sour flavor. Really tasty combo! This beer is no joke at 11.5% ABV - you can't even taste the alcohol, so be careful, it's a creeper. Very cool beer.

When we got home, Jim decided to crack open one of the beers that I had gotten him for Valentine's Day: Uinta Brewing's 9.5% ABV Detour DIPA. Piney and grapefruity hops, with a dryness that sticks to the tongue. Not a stunner, but pretty good.

Do you see a cowboy in my beer? I do.
When I got home from work on Thursday, I spied 4 bottles of Gael-e-bration Ale, a special ale brewed by Moylan's in honor of my beloved alma mater, Saint Mary's College of California. GO GAELS! This is a very straightforward, easy drinking, clean and crisp, lightly hopped 5.4% ABV ultra pale ale - that's what I'd call it, anyway, since it's so light.

Did I mention that my hubby drove about 140 miles round trip to buy this unbelievably thoughtful surprise for me? He's the best. And yes, gifts in this house are usually beery. *swoon*

Friday came, and I wanted something sweet and NOT hoppy. One of my new favorites is Orange Avenue Wit by Coronado Brewing. What a beautiful California wit! At 5.2% ABV, this is a very sessionable summer beer, and I expect to be drinking it a lot in the coming months. This beer is clearly made with REAL orange peel, not extract. The light wheat malts are buoyed by a fresh citrus cloud and hints of coriander. Very mellow, very friendly. Plus I really love the design on the bottle.

Saturday and Sunday require a wholly separate post... this one has gotten long enough as it is! So stay tuned: Capital Beer Fest and Sacramento Beer Train details, coming soon!

Apologies that it took so long for me to report all of my Beer Week fun, but it's been a definite work in progress trying to piece together images from my phone, camera(s), notes on my calendar, handwritten notes on napkins/scraps of paper in my purse, notes on Instagram and Untappd... whew, so glad to finally have this all recorded in one place!

Cheers!

>^..^<

{image courtesy of sacramentobeerweek.com}
Hashtags :: #sacbeerweek #SBW2013 #craftbeer #locallove