lately: brew-do weekend 2015!

Another beer festival for the books! Although we’ve been a bit behind the curve with festivals this year {we’ve been busy!}, we make sure to never miss one of our favorites. The best part?! – it’s local! While we love travelling far and wide, especially in the name of craft beer, it’s nice to be just a few minutes away from such a celebration. We had glorious weather, delicious food, and of course…SO.MUCH.BEER.

The weekend was extra special this year, too – we had a surprise visitor on Sunday! My youngest sister was in the area, so we met up for a solid 8-mile Sunday hike, followed by {you guessed it!} more beer at one of our favorite local breweries. It was a fabulous weekend, and sister time made it extra special. 

Here’s a look! 

Alicia xo

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lately: winery hopping

Because the hubs and I just cannot get enough of exploring local wineries and breweries, we took advantage of a free weekend last month and made our way up to Charlottesville, VA. Being only a mere 2 hours {and that’s a bit of a stretch!} from our home, it is the ideal weekend getaway – a Saturday afternoon spent exploring venues we’ve not yet been to, dinner down at ‘The Corner’, and a little bit of bar exploring before calling it a night! And, you know us, we couldn’t leave enough alone…we made sure to squeeze in a hike on the way home Sunday morning! Here’s a peak into the places we visited, many of them recommended by my dear friend {and wine connoisseur} Suzanne : ) 

Enjoy! -Alicia xoxo 

Saturday Afternoon: Hopping 

{Bold Rock Cidery, Fly Fox Vineyard, Blue Mountain Brewery, Pollack Vineyard, Loving Cup Vineyard, Albermarle CiderWorks}

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Saturday Night: Out and About {Mellow Mushroom, Basil}

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Sunday Hike: Humpback Rocks, Appalachian Trail

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Sunday Afternoon: {Barren Ridge Vineyard, Rockbridge Vineyard}

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thirsty thursday: crafting the perfect beer flight

We’re talking beer today, y’all! And being a typical lady {and lover of all things autumn}, I thought – why not share some ideas for creating the ideal beer flight? After all, the start of September means ALL.THINGS.PUMPKIN.

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I was doing my weekly grocery shop a few days ago and couldn’t help but notice all of the fall seasonal beers beginning to make their appearance on the shelves. From local brews, to popular craft breweries, and all the way up the chain to the national/international names that everyone knows, it seems that everyone is dedicating a vast majority of their brews to seasonal fall beverages. I am certainly not complaining, but the choices can be a little lot overwhelming! So naturally, I’ve brought in the hubs as my “professional” consultant on today’s post, and together we’re sharing how to kick off autumn with the perfect seasonal beer flight!

Question: What makes pumpkin beer so special? 

Answer: There is only a small window during the harvest year where pumpkin is accessible. You should NEVER use canned pumpkin puree – there is a substantial amount of flavor {and appreciation!} that comes with roasting fresh pumpkin for using in brewing. It’s also a great way to carry that pumpkin flavor out, and stretch it over a few months.

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Question: What are the main differences in the kinds of offerings? Shouldn’t they all taste the same if they’re all technically “pumpkin” beers?

Answer: That’s like saying “all chocolate cakes are the same!”. In all seriousness; the foundation of the beer, that is the pumpkin, is the same…but that is where the similarities end. Each brewer, whether on a large or small scale, has crafted their own recipes to suit their flavor profiles and taste preferences. Many on today’s market rely heavily on traditional pumpkin pie spices – this gives them a much sweeter taste than say, one that is brewed with roasted pumpkin and fewer ingredients. For a true experience, you want to ensure that your pick is made with 100% pure roasted pumpkin, and flavored according to your taste buds. Be on the lookout for labels that say only “pumpkin flavor” or “pumpkin pie spiced”, as these typically do not include fresh pumpkin in their batch.

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Question: How many varieties of beers {ales, IPAs, etc.} can we expect to see in our local stores?

Answer: The most common would be a pumpkin ale. Other ones worth looking out for {but may be harder to find} include: shandies, lagers, stouts, porters, and wheat beers. Truth be told, any type of beer can be crafted into a pumpkin beer – the style of the brew is what will make the biggest difference. My best advice is to pick a style that you like, and go from there!

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Question: What are some of your top suggestions?

Answer: In no particular order…Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, Southern Tier Pumpking, Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale, and New Belgium Pumpkick.

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And now….taking all this information and building it into your beer flight!

According to the hubs, here are some good things to keep in mind…

“Pour all four {or however many beers you’ve selected!} into separate glasses. At this point, order doesn’t matter – we are looking mainly for color and heaviness. Because we’re talking pumpkin beers today, the heaviness will all be pretty similar; so we’ll next look at the ABV {alcohol by volume}. **sidenote: if we were doing a more traditional flight, you would start with a lighter beer {like a lager}, then move on to ales and darker beers**  From this point, you’ll line up your beers from lightest color and lowest ABV, and gradually move up to darker colors and higher ABVs. Just like in any beer flight, you want to progress towards your strongest-flavored beer, so that the flavors build on each other as you go. Make sure to take an initial sip between glasses, before your second {longer} sip, so that you can clear your palette for each flavor. 

…and if all else fails, just drink them in the order where you finish with your favorite!”

Happy beer drinking, friends!

thirsty thursday: beer adventures in NC/SC

To stray slightly off from my traditional “thirsty thursday” posts, I wanted to share with y’all a recap of some of the awesome craft breweries we were able to check out while on our vacation earlier this summer! We toured throughout North and South Carolina over the course of several days; don’t ask me to pick a favorite, because I definitely couldn’t : ) Take a peak in, I hope you enjoy!

Alicia xoxo

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Stop #1: Palmetto Brewery, South Carolina 

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Stop #2: Holy City Brewery, South Carolina

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Stop #3: Revelry Brewery, South Carolina

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Stop #4: The Unknown Brewery, North Carolina

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Stop #5: Birdsong Brewery, North Carolina

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Stop #6: NoDa Brewery, North Carolina  

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lately: easter weekend

This past Easter was spent at home with some special visitors – my youngest sister & her boyfriend! We enjoyed a delicious Mexican dinner on Friday night, followed some winery & brewery hopping on Saturday. Though not pictured, our slightly modified Easter dinner was enjoyed on Saturday evening – grilled lamb burgers, roasted asparagus…and of course, some chocolates! We took them to one of our favorite local brunch spots before their Sunday departure; take a peek into how the weekend looked : ) 

-Alicia xoxo

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How was your Easter?!

lately: beer and bacon

…the title of this post says it all – the 2nd annual beer and bacon festival! We were lucky enough to snag VIP tickets again this year, and spent a glorious weekend down in North Carolina with dear friends {who, by the way, are recently engaged; talk about a great way to celebrate!} Plentiful sunshine and a crisp breeze made the morning/afternoon event totally fabulous, and evenings were spent playing cards and catching up on the happenings in each others’ lives. Here’s a peak into the weekend! 

-Alicia xoxo

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thirsty thursday: the summer shandy

Standing beside the hubs one evening, the grill a-blazing, I couldn’t help but feel the need for something sweet and refreshing to quench our thirst and cool us down. With it being a weeknight {sometimes you need a fun drink, am I right?!}, neither of us had the desire to spend 15 minutes whipping up a festive cocktail. There was no chilled wine in the refrigerator, and I didn’t want to feel weighed down with a heavy beer. Sometimes, you know what you want, but just can’t put your finger on it, no?

And then I remembered watching Giada on my beloved Food Network a long time ago. She was hosting a BBQ for friends, and was preparing a “shandy”. Nothing more than chilled, crisp beer and sweet lemonade, I knew that this would be the perfect item to take the heat down a notch.

A quick survey of our refrigerator provided us with everything needed.

Lemonade – check.

Beer – check.

Bubbly – check.

I quickly stowed some pint glasses in the freezer and the hubs set to work. No sooner than he had popped open two cold ones and measured out the lemonade, the drinks were ready!

…it’s not always about how fancy you can get with your beverages! For me, it’s about the experience of whipping up something fun and tasty with my husband to perfectly suit our meal and mood. And that night, when a summer shandy was needed, it was absolute perfection. Trust me when I say this is a MUST for anytime you’re grilling out!

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Summer Shandy {adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon}

{serves 1}

Ingredients:

1/2 cup good lemonade, nice and cold {preferably homemade, but if you’re in a pinch, I love to use Simply Lemonade}

sparkling water, for serving

lemon wedges, optional

1 {12 ounce} bottle of chilled Hefeweizen, or other unfiltered wheat beer {I think an IPA would be a great twist on this!}

To Prepare:

Place lemon juice and sugar into a pitcher and stir. Add in waters and continue to stir until sugar dissolves.

Pour lemonade into the bottom of a chilled pint glass. If needed, add in a few ice cubes.

Pour beer atop lemonade. Top  with a generous splash of sparkling water, and garnish with a wedge of lemon. Serve.

Craft cocktail-style shandy

photo c/o the couch sessions

Let’s Discuss: How do you feel about mixing beer with other flavors? Are you team “pure beer” or team “boozed up beer”?