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I’m Still Alive

That title is meant to signify both that a) I am still alive! Despite the fact that I never update this blog anymore because of the trillion side-projects I already have going on with my poetry and with the poetry/film journal and b) that I know how to reference Pearl Jam. Which will explain its relevance soon.

You see, waaaaay back in November, I drank this beer.

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This would be Dogfish Head’s tribute to the 20th anniversary of the classic Pearl Jam album Ten- aptly called Twenty. Now, obviously my love of Dogfish Head has been well-documented on this blog. But I bet you didn’t know that I’m also a Pearl Jam fan (…well, actually, if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably either Dan or my mom, so yeah, OK, you probably did know that I was a Pearl Jam fan). After that Trampled by Turtles post, and now posting this, I should really turn this into a beer-and-music blog instead of a beer-and-cooking-and-poetry blog, but be that as it may, let me tell you: I love Pearl Jam. This is a point of deviation for my husband and I, and after much discussion, we decided the matter boiled down to Eddie Vedder’s voice: you either love it, or you hate it. I love it. I think his voice is among my top favorite voices, musically, of all time (up there with Roy Orbison, Cee-Lo, and Sam Cooke). Dan can’t stand the sound of it. And therefore, will sing along to classic Pearl Jams (see what I did there?) on the radio, because everyone knows them, but wouldn’t listen to them on his own time. However, this isn’t a post about Dan’s ambivalence toward Pearl Jam, this is a post about my love of them. And about beer. But first Pearl Jam.

Pearl Jam is like Ensure for the soul. I know that doesn’t sound cool and badass enough to be an metaphor for the band, but hear me out: Ensure is a drink power-packed full of nutrients and calories, in one can, for those unable to come by them through a myriad of different foods in their regular diets (read: the elderly, hospital-bound, and homeless populations, mostly). Likewise, whatever thoughts, feelings, questions, doubts, anger, contemplation, or pure lack of understanding you have about the experience of living that you can’t express or articulate in the circumstances of day-to-day living, you can sing them all out with Eddie Vedder, and he’ll present them to you in his jagged, honest way that lets you know you’re not alone in them. And it nourishes your soul. All in the small, easy-to-consume size of a little album case. Eddie Vedder got me through a lot in my high school and college years, and frankly, my adult years too. Not only in Pearl Jam, but in his solo work too.

Take, for instance, “Alive.”

Is there something wrong? she said/Of course there is/You’re still alive, she said/Oh, and do I deserve to be?/Is that the question,/And if so, if so, who answers? Who answers? Who hasn’t been struck a blow right to the heart by those questions before?

“No Ceiling”? I’m pretty sure that can basically sum up everything I feel about everything I’ve lived so far.

And I’m still convinced that “Thumbing My Way” is one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

So, now that you fully understand how parts of me are what they are today because of Pearl Jam, how does their beer stack up?

Pretty tastily. Ha, I actually don’t have anything deep to say about the beer, or about how its flavors are a metaphor for the music. It pays tribute to Ten with 10 incremental additions of black currants to the beer during the brewing process and pays tribute to its 20th anniversary by being hopped to 20 IBUs. It’s a Belgian Golden Ale, if we’re getting technical and drawing style-lines, at 7.0% ABV. I have written in my notes about it from two or three months ago, “Medium-bodied, flavorful, fruit-forward, almost champagne-y. Where da currants at?” So there you go. I couldn’t really make out the currants, but then again, I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten a currant either. Aren’t they kind of like raisins? I didn’t taste any raisins. But I did taste deliciousness. And nourishingness. And I may have pulled out my copy of Ten because of it.

Sunday Morning

(no, not the Maroon 5 song)

These were two beers I had on Sunday morning while watching TV and catching up on wedding thank-you notes. Actually, it was Sunday afternoon, but Sunday morning sounds more cozy. And when you get up at 7, but then go back to sleep around 10 and get up again at 11:30, Sunday afternoon still feels kind of like morning to you.

This first one, split with Dan, was Le Merle, a saison from North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg, CA.

“Le Merle” translates to “the blackbird,” and Michael Jackson (no, not that Michael Jackson; Michael Jackson the famous beer writer) apparently described it as “More than a serious beer – it is outstanding….Dizzying, appetizing, refreshing.” For some reason I think of blackbirds being associated with fall, with picking off the grains and buds of corn from the harvest, with cawing at you from a bare tree branch as you bake a pumpkin pie. So I wasn’t sure what the association with a saison, typically a springtime beer, was. But, blackbirds make me think of farms in general, so maybe the association lies in the rustic, farmhouse-style nature of the beer. Or maybe it’s that “dizzying” quality that Michael Jackson described, the lush flavor unlocked by a rush of carbonation, that reminds us of the dizzying swoop of the blackbird.

And, since I haven’t done a “brew haiku” in awhile, here’s a picture, and a poem:

Blackbird
Swooping, dizzying
the husks, his caws a rush of
lemon, bright in cold.

This was an incredibly citrusy saison! So much bright, acidic lemony-ness cutting through the rustic funk of thick yeast. Definitely felt like the sun shining down on the dry late-fall stalks in the cold, in the clear air.

So that was beer #1. Now let me tell you about beer #2. I’m not going to pretend here that I’m better than everyone else and never end up with a hangover some Sunday mornings. There’s just no need to pretend that, while it’s not a frequent occurrence, it never happens. So when it does, what’s your first instinct when trying to think of a hair-of-the-dog drink that will ease the pain a little bit? Probably a bloody mary. All those good vitamins from the tomato juice, the spice clearing out your head, the vodka numbing it a little until you can hydrate properly. But, if you are like me, you have no ice maker, and have a tiny freezer, so you rarely have ice. And the thought of a bloody mary without ice is disgusting.

So enter: the michelada.

To make a michelada:

1. Pour a lager

2. Drizzle worchestire sauce

3. Drop a few tablespoons of lime juice, or squeeze some fresh lime directly in there

4. Dump in a palm full of salt

5. Add other spices as desired

6. Realize you should’ve salted the rim but decided to turn your lager into a michelada after you poured it

7. Consume. Hydrate. Eat some mac & cheese. Watch some guilty pleasure TV. Write some thank-you notes.

Trampled

OK. I realize that I did not get any pictures of my beer last night. And thus, this post will contain no actual photos of beer. But remember back in this post when I said I wanted the blog to be about more than just beer, I wanted it to be about life, with beer as the conversation starter?

OK well I’m completely rebelling against my own new direction here, because now TRAMPLED BY TURTLES is the conversation starter.

!!!

That’s right. We saw/heard/danced to Trampled by Turtles at the 9:30 Club last night. Which has awesome beer. We tried to take a picture of ourselves…

Ooops...a little off-center there...

And then we tried again….

Someone needs to open his eyes...

And then stopped being annoying with our flash.

So meanwhile, while we were listening to these guys:

Singing this:

And this:

And this:

I was paying tribute to local brewing by drinking a Stateside Saison from Stillwater Artisinal Ales in Baltimore, a Jomo Lager from Starr Hill in Charlottesville (the same brewery we had at our wedding! Well, had beers from. We didn’t have the actual brewery there), and a Red Stripe from Jamaica because it was too hard to communicate to the bartender what complicated-sounding beer I wanted with the band cranked up to 11 and Dan just wanted something cheap, so it was easier to say “two Red Stripes” than it was to say anything else. I was also dancing. And smiling ear to ear. And yes, maybe spilling beer from time to time out of enthusiasm + clumsiness.

But who cares when you’re listening to these guys?

No one. That's who. Because this is all that matters. No other sound on earth makes my soul as happy as their fiddles do.

So much energy. So much great music. And we did the impossible afterwards: snagged a cab home at V and 8th right after the concert. If you’ve ever tried to avoid the metro and get home by cab from DC at 1 in the morning, you know what a feat this is, because there are no cabs in DC at 1 in the morning, because everyone is already in them and driving away from you.

Popping In

I know. That massive honeymoon-recap never happened. I’m sorry. Life is busy and crazy. And lifey. And I already recapped it through words and photos a million times for friends. It’ll happen someday. When I haven’t thought or talked about it for a long time and am feeling nostalgic.

I don’t even have a new beer or recipe to share with you. Yet. But I’m popping in to say that what I post next is going to be epic. Thanksgiving always is. After the smashing success of last year’s dubbel pumpernickel chantarelle stuffing, the Prestwiches (that’s us) were charged again with contributing the stuffing to this year’s feast…and well, I think the impulsive email I just sent to Dan as I interrupted both our workdays explains it best:

“I JUST HAD A GREAT IDEA.

beer bread stuffing.

beer.

bread.

stuffing.”

Dan’s response?

“ok”

It’s on.

Tantalizing

I know I’ve been MIA (and what else is new?). I promise an epic honeymoon recap of how we ate, drank, walked, trained (like the transportation…not like trained for a decathlon), made friends, hiked, caroused, and breath-takingly-sight-saw our way through Germany and Austria. And how the unpasteurized German and Austrian beer is better than anything German you will get in a bottle thousands of miles away. Freshness = 9/10ths of the law. And perhaps even a little wedding recap, since we had local selections from Starr Hill Brewery at our reception, and incorporated beer into the ceremony.

But there are literally hundreds of photos, and the task is a little daunting.

For now I leave you with this tantalizing photo to tide you over:

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Great Divide’s Smoked Baltic Porter. Smokey. Soul-warming. Perfect.

….Oh OK. One more picture.

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So, I recently devoted about three hours to making making a zillion (read: 200) of these:

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And good ‘nuther (<–that should really just be a word now, and I shouldn’t have to look like a hillbilly to write out my natural way of speaking) 4-4.5 hours stuffing them into goody bags like this one:

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along with chocolate candies and matchboxes with our name + date on it (of which we now have a ton leftover, because you can only order them in sets of 50!):

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about a zillion times over:

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This was actually a really cool craft, which I found here. We collected bottle caps for a few months, before filling a gallon-sized ziploc bag and decided we had enough. It was also cool to look through all the candles while stuffing them into the bags and reminiscing about all the different beers we drank over that time, or pondering the mysteries of ambiguous bottle caps and wondering what the heck beer it went to.

That said, I don’t know how people manage to get so crafty with their weddings, let alone enjoy being crafty with their weddings. This was my one wedding craft, and the amount of labor involved in making sure everyone has a couple candles, some Dove chocolates and Hershey kisses, and a matchbox to show from our wedding, made me realize about half a wax block in that I was done-ski with wedding crafts after this.

Advantage to getting married + having your reception outdoors?

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No need to decorate! Mother nature is your decoration!

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Actual pictures of where we’re getting married…not taken by me.

Here’s one of us there in April though, when it was still snowy and barren, and slightly less lush and picturesque:

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Dan looks so weird to me now without the goatee.

We were left with one odd candle (Not sure how that happened! I definitely bought 200 wicks and 200 wick clips, in bags of 50 each, and used them all. So unless a few were dropped on the floor or the count on the bags was inaccurate, or the count on the plastic bags + twisty ties that I packaged them with–also supposed to be exactly 100, for 2 candles per bag–I’m not sure how we ended up with an odd number of candles), and I decided to snag the Hofbrauhaus one for ourselves, since we’ll be seeing the Hofbrauhaus live and in person in a couple weeks!

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So speaking of the family I’m marrying into + stuff that eases the pain of wedding crafting, the in-laws recently went on a trip to Kansas City, MO and came back raving about a beer they had at the Boulevard Brewing Company called Tank 7. And of course, brought us back a couple to sample!

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I don’t know why, but I was less crazy about this on the first bottle than the second. Not that I disliked it; I just think for some reason the circumstances of my second tasting led me to appreciate it more. It’s a farmhouse-style ale, at 8.0% ABV. It’s almost got a Belgian IPA-esque quality, with a very prominent citrusy-hop taste and aroma (lemons + oranges are leading the charge of the flavor-brigade), and that smooth quality of Belgian yeast. Maybe also resembles a rustic French style, like biere de garde? Anyway, I highly recommend if you’re in Kansas City (or feel like seeking out an out-of-state beer online, if you’re not in Kansas City, since I don’t think these are widely distributed beyond their locale of production).

And lastly, and with no smooth transition, I’m sure all of your heard about a little thing called Hurricane Irene that graced us with her presence mere days after Earthquakepocalypse 2011 (aka, get-out-of-work-free day). Luckily we were spared most serious damage here in our part of Virginia, and even kept our power. I was happy about that, but actually a little disappointed we didn’t get to use our awesome GorillaTorches.

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We had one clamped to the guitar stand here, and one clamped to the exercise bike on the other side of the room. I gotta say, with an 80 hour battery life and some sort of awesome lighting technology I don’t understand, these things can light up a fuckin’ room + do it for a long time. A great power outage investment, for any situation in which you lose power.

Anyway, I went for a walk all around Rosslyn + into DC the next morning, to survey the damage. Turned out there wasn’t much, but the atmosphere (literally and figuratively) early in the morning after the storm was surreal. The streets were nearly empty, except for a few people walking around like me, and though it wasn’t raining anymore, we still had pretty extreme wind gusts (upward of 30 mph, which is unusual for this area…not so unusual for where I used to live in Harrisonburg!). The air was cool and light, maybe hovering in the upper 60s or low 70s, almost as if the air had breathed a sigh of relief, exhaling the nearly constant soupiness of a swampy DC summer, and a huge weight was lifted off the land’s shoulders. The wind gusted through without making it cold or unpleasant, just matching the temperature around it, and it was actually quite calm, in a weird way, and pleasant to walk through.

Anyway, like I said, there wasn’t too much major damage. But I did have my camera with me, and I did get some photos of the construction site on 17th St. (or 16th St? I can’t remember which it was now), which was pretty badly flooded. And this guy that was looking onto the scene a few yards down from me, who wandered down into the flooded pit. I’m not exactly sure why, or who he was.

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And that’s all she wrote! For now at least. I’ll probably be MIA (but that’s no new thing to I+A readers) for the next few weeks, since there’s the getting married thing next weekend, then from the 16th-24th we’ll be bopping our way by train + foot through Germany and Austria. Rest assured though, there will be an epic beer-centric honeymoon recap once we return!

Cheers!

A Change in Blog Direction

I like hiking. And I like hiking analogies. Let’s pretend this blog is a trail up a mountain. That mountain is called….Mt. Content.

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Pretty.

Now, let’s say, as this blog traverses up Mt. Content, this blog’s current focus–it’s current “direction,” if you will–takes it straight up the mountain, vertically. As such, this trail is called the “Beer Trail.”

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Now that’s all well and good. That trail gets you to the summit of Mt. Content efficiently (if you’re a master climber, I guess). But let’s stop for a minute, pull out our map and compass, and make some freeze-dried beef stroganoff on our camp stoves. And let’s review some of my favorite blogs to read.

Blogs like this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And this one and this one and this one.

(Hi people I’ve been stalking for years! I have no idea how I found most of your blogs, and you probably had no idea I read them. Is it weird that I kind of feel like Seth Rogan talking about Vince Vaughn in Knocked Up when I read your blogs? You know- “I feel like he’d like me. You know, I’m sure a lot of guys are like, ‘Oh, I’d like to hang out with that celeb’, but I really think he would want to hang out with me, is like the cool thing.” I’m pretty convinced that we’d all be best friends if we ever met in real life. There, I said it, and came out in all my blog-stalky weirdness)

So now that I’ve creeped out….8 different people into taking out virtual-restraining orders on my virtual self, let’s talk about why I keep coming back to their blogs. If you’ll notice, none of those blogs are beer blogs, even though I write a beer blog. The reason? I find most beer blogs pretty boring to read. I mean, beer is awesome. Beer, to me, is like truffles or smoked salt to a foodie. The possibilities of beer are endless, the way they taste, the way they make other things taste, the way they feel, the way they make us feel because of our individual experiences with them, and what their tastes and textures stir in us. But after awhile, I read the posts in most beer blogs–and my own posts–and go, yeah, OK. Beer is great. What else?

All those blogs I love tend to be food- or healthy-living focused. But that’s not why I love them (though I do love food. And treating my body, mind, and soul right. And living). Their content keeps me coming back because food is just the ice-breaker. Food is the pretense. A means to a conversation, a great story. It’s the thing everyone gathers around at the table, yes, to enjoy, but more significantly, to bring everyone together to enjoy + celebrate each other and enjoy + celebrate the unique people we all are.

These blogs use food to tell stories of other things I love: Cooking. Friends. The outdoors. Adventures. Archaeology. Love. Music. Meditations. Constantly becoming oneself. Facing life’s life-y twists and turns head on, with humor, strength, and grace. Ridiculous animal companions. Snark.

I realized my favorite posts that I’ve written have been similar: the ones with stories surrounding the beer. Like the time I hiked Wildcat Mountain and drank my first Christmas Ale of the season. Or the time I reflected on my love of (and former life in) archaeology through Dogfish Head’s Chateau Jiahu. Or when I compared Marzens to Sam Cooke.

So, I want my blog from here on out to do something similar, with every post. I want my blog to ascend up Mt. Content like this:

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I want beer to be the conversation-starter on my blog. I want to traverse all the other great stories (…ahem…”great.” We’ll see. They’ll be “stories,” nevertheless) I have to tell. I want it to reflect my interests and passions, like:

Food

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The Great Outdoors

(that guy apparently has paddles for arms)

Love

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Photography

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…yeah. That one was too hard. That’s an illustration of a flash going off on a camera.

And because I’m lazy now: Good friends. Karaoke. Poetry. Yoga. Laughing. Snarking. Crappy Paintbrush drawings.

And I want it all to start with the suds.

So, here were some hurricane suds I drank this past weekend:

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This is from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Series, a beer called “Kick.” I think I must’ve been thinking of this guy when I wrote my notes on this beer, because I had written in my notebook “New Belgium Fat Lips of Faith Series ‘Kick’ “!

Anyway, this is 75% ale brewed with pumpkin and cranberry juices, and 25% ale aged in wooden barrels (what type of wood, we’ll never know. Not if we only go by what’s on the bottle and are too lazy to research it more, at least). This is sort of what I imagine all the Hogwarts kids are drinking in the Harry Potter books when they mention PUMPKIN JUICE! (Without the 8.6% ABV, I mean) Funnily enough, it doesn’t taste a lot like pumpkin…but it does taste like fall, and like bounty, and like harvest. It’s tart and funky, rich and deep. It’s got the kick of cranberries, predominantly, with the light burnt orange color of our favorite fall gourd, and a veeeeerrrry slight woody, smokey taste at the very end of the swig.

And yeah. OK. I’ve already kind of failed at my new resolution to blog more about all aspects of my life, told through stories of beer, because I thought of this blog-changing revelation and wanted to get it down before I had a chance to…you know…live any good beer stories. Or photographs illustrating any stories. So let’s just catch up on my life lately.

As you all know (or, as you all know now!), I’m a defense analyst by day, and a poet by night! (and, well, let’s be honest…sometimes by day too). I graduated from Johns Hopkins with my M.A. in poetry this past winter, and while I beat along against the currents of the poetry publishing world (believe me….it’s a very up-river swim), my awesomely brilliant fiance and I have also founded and begun to edit an online journal of poetry and film called Magic Lantern Review. It has been an amazing experience so far, and our first issue is due out this fall. We’ve gotten an influx of poetry so far, so submissions for poetry are currently closed. But we’re still taking submissions of short digital films as well as film analysis, so if you know anyone who does either of those things, or is interested in trying their hand at either of them, tell them about us!!

I’ll love you forever.

Oh yeah, and speaking of the awesomely brilliant fiance, he will be the awesome brilliant HUSBAND in two weeks! We’re getting married on September 10. And yes, beer will be part of the ceremony. At a winery. You heard me.

Here is a picture of him:

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(crabbing in Galesville, MD)

And another:

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(with me on our fifth anniversary)

And another:

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(A crappy phone photo of him picking a karaoke song at karaoke at the Rhodeside)

That’s another thing you should know about me/us. We spend a lot of time singing karaoke at the Rhodeside in Rosslyn. A LOT of time. To the point that the DJ knows us, hangs out with us at the bar, and says hi to us around town. And knows when our wedding is. We make friends wherever we go.

Speaking of friends:

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This is me with my friend Laura. She and her husband are Dan + my downstairs neighbors, and we sing a lot of karaoke together. You may recall her as the co-host of the legendary Crappy Light Beer Blind Taste-Testing Party back in January!

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And this is me with my friend Sarah. We’re 15 (maybe 16?) in this picture, and we’re feeding ducks because we’re on an island in the middle of Lake Umbagog, New Hampshire, on one of our annual kayak-camping trips where we’d kayak out several miles to a campsite living off only what we could stuff into the holds of the kayaks. For a week. They were amazing and beautiful times.

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And here is a picture of me and several more of my friends (L to R: Annie, me, Christine, Sarah, Sabah) at 10th grade homecoming. How is it possible I looked older at 15 than I do now at 24? Something probably to do with immaculate beauty habits that I abandoned in adulthood when I realized I had better things to do with my time.

And while we’re flashing back in time, have some baby pictures. Of me. That I stole from my parents’ house recently.

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“Yeaaaahhhhh, I’m gonna play with a toy!”
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“Wait. I’m already confused.”
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I think we’re on a ferry here. I think I’m threatening mutiny. I look evil. That’s my mom next to me.
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Bound for sudsy, bloggy glory.

I hope you enjoyed this really long post! And I hope you’ll stick around for more. More content. More new content. More brief content. I promise.

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