Bucket List vs. Surprise Find

If you’re more than a “I’ll have what he’s or she’s having” beer drinker, you most likely have some sort of beer bucket list. Maybe it’s a brewery visit, a specific beer or even a cool bar. Or all of the above, on a multi-tab, color coded spreadsheet divided by how long it would take to get there..it.

What about breweries?

Having knocked out a fair number of my brewery bucket list over the years, I’m often wondering if my perception of how great it would be, really pans out. If my expectations were way too high from the start. Unrealistic?

For as many bucket list breweries I’ve checked off, I would have to imagine I’ve had double or triple the amount of unexpected awesome brewery surprises.

How about you? Is your brewery bucket list really holding up?

Have you been disappointed by an experience at favorite brewery? I know I have, but is that my fault. Is it a brewery’s responsibility to wow me?

Fargo, Where Else Would You Spend Your 30th Wedding Anniversary?

It’s a good thing we like each other!

While my wife and I are not new to road trips, the planning can get a bit heated stressful, and this trip planning was not an easy one.

  • 2 – Flights
  • 9 – States
  • 2 – Baseball Games
  • 2655 – Miles of Driving
  • 15 – days of Travel
  • 1 – 30th Anniversary
  • ? Breweries, Distilleries, and Generally Cool Spots

A little backstory; With a big move last year, a new house and a new job, we decided to put our big 30th Anniversary trip on hold and keep our vacation on the low-key side.  The vacation destination(s) were pretty easy to pick. My wife has a goal to visit all 50 States, and she only has 5 left. Although, It would be nice if they were all near each other. Buy hey, more breweries for me. When this trip is complete, she will still have Florida and Louisiana to hit.

We are using Chicago as our hub, both beginning and ending. From there we will be visiting Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Michigan. There is also a handful of “drive-thru” States we will be seeing in our travels.

l look forward to reporting back. I’m sure there will be at least a few beers along the way.

Can We Still Learn From Samuel Adams?

More business, less beer!

Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over A Beer Or Two

I get it, Sam Adams (Boston Beer Company) is not the cool beer on the market. But if you’ve been drinking craft beer as long I have, you might have a deeper appreciation for what the Boston Beer Company has brought to the craft beer scene. You may not be drinking their beer, but they still do make some really good beers. I’ve always enjoyed their Octoberfest.

I can still remember being pretty excited when they introduced a new seasonal or even a new style that I wasn’t familiar with. I will admit, there a quite a few beer styles I had never tried, until the Boston Beer Company made the introduction. Do you remember Triple Bock? That maple bomb might have been the beginning of the Pastry Sou…Nope not going there. Cranberry Lambic anyone? Sure it might not be a great example of a sour or funky beer, but I’m pretty certain it’s the first one of that style I ever had. And guess what, good beer or not, it got me looking for and drinking more sour and wild beers.

So what does this have to do with a book that states it’s about business lessons? For me, it meant I was going to cut it a little slack (just being honest) for all the great memories I had trying, drinking, sharing beers from the Boston Beer Company.

The book is presented through the company’s timeline from inspiration to current times. Each chapter is geared towards giving you a business lesson told with some homespun wisdom from Jim Koch.

While I didn’t get a lot of insight from the business side, I did learn a lot about the business. Like the fact that he had a female business partner when the company was launched. Or that he struggled with the sales part of the business, which would seem to contradict his media presence.

The book is really a grouping of short stories about the history of the Boston Beer Company. Koch talks about failures, success, and the challenges of staying relevant. There are even stories about the brewing industry and how breweries like AB (InBev) and Brooklyn Brewing tried to take them down or at least tarnish their reputation.

All in all the book was a fun, quick read. Although it presents it’s as a business book, it really is more of a history lesson through the eyes of Koch. No doubt there is some fluff and maybe a bit of exaggeration, but if you have read anything about Jim Koch you probably won’t be surprised.

1994 Brew Reserve Triple Bock,
1994 Brew Reserve Triple Bock, 8.45 oz Colbalt Blue Bottle, coming in at a massive 17% ABV

Beer Travels – South Lake Tahoe

The last three year’s I’ve set a goal of hitting 100 different breweries. So to continue with that annual ritual, it was time to venture out again. What better than a weekend beer crawl through beautiful South Lake Tahoe! It’s been a bunch of years since I visited and it’s never been known as a beer destination. My wife took it upon herself to find the breweries and book the weekend getaway. She found a local blog that provided some excellent information.

LakeTH

Not Sure What To Expect

While South Lake Tahoe has a lot to offer, I wasn’t sure beer was one of them. Sking, mountain biking, boating, and gambling. With a captive vacationing audience, why would the beer need to be a standout?

Food?

All but one of the breweries had some sort of food. Two being full on brewpubs and one offer food as a side thing. Maybe there’s a shortage of food trucks in the area.

First stop, breakfast in the town of El Dorado. We stopped at the aptly named Cafe El Dorado. A basic little cabin/house that is a true locals spot. Killer breakfast and a great place to stop before hitting the mountain breweries.

From my research, there are 5 active breweries and 1 in planning.  We picked 4 to hit. All but one was relatively new.  The Brewery at Lake Tahoe has been around since 1992.

South Lake Brewing Company

SouthLake

First Impressions: Big, open tasting room that would a great spot to meet up with some friends.

Staff: Friendly staff, although I thought it was interesting that they didn’t ask me if  I wanted to keep my tab open.

Beer List: I didn’t count the beers on the list, but they had about 10 to choose from.  They covered the key styles from IPA, Pale, Stouts and even a Berliner Weisse.

Brewery Highlights: The two beers that really stood out for me were their 3.3 ABV English Mild “Land Otter”. You are hard-pressed to find an English Mild on a tap list, and this one was very well made.  My favorite from the stop Burnside Stout. This beer had a nice bittersweet chocolate flavor with a good level of roast.  I didn’t get much coffee on it, but that might be a good addition to this 7% Stout.

Overall Impression: Great space (no food).  I think with a little more time, they have the capability of being a local favorite.

Cold Water Brewing

coldwater

First Impressions: A restaurant, a busy restaurant! There was a bar, but the setup was a traditional restaurant.  Not sure how comfortable this place would be if you weren’t eating.  We ate.

Staff: Hectic pace, but very friendly.

Beer List: I tried them all! Seven, and they were all really good.  Lager, Rye Ale, two IPAs, pale, Stout and even an Alt beer (which was my favorite).

Brewery Highlights: This place is good. The chicken wings were excellent and the beer is solid.

Overall Impressions: Not sure this is the place I would really want to hang and have a few beers with friends. However, this place might just be perfect for the vacationing masses.

Sidellis Lake Tahoe

Sidellis

First Impressions: A nice bar area, and wide open.  Even though this is a restaurant, It didn’t seem that formal of a place.  Basically, walk in a grab a seat.

Staff: Really friendly staff and that transferred to the customers who we shared the bar with.  We had a great time talking at the bar.

Beer List: Ten of their own beers on tap, plus a couple of guest taps.  Three IPAs, a Porter, Brown, Amber, two Whites (one with Habaneros), Saison and ever a Kettle Sour.

Brewery Highlights: More than anywhere else we tried, these guys are brewing up some more adventurous beers.  Not everyone was for me, but I really like the directing they are going.

Overall Impression: I think this a great stop to grab some solid beers and a little food. Although not to crowed when we were there, this the place people are talking about.

The Brewery at Lake Tahoe

breweryatLT

First Impressions: Bar…restaurant…bar. Old school brewpub (literally, established in 1992). Beer might an afterthought.

Staff: A friendly bartender that knew how to work a busy bar.

Beer List: They run the full spectrum of beers, Pilsner, Wit, Pale, IPA, Amber, Porter, and a few seasonals. Being the last stop on the day and seeing the bar was packed, I opted for a pint of their Needle Peak Pale Ale. A good beer, and I’m sure it works perfectly with the crowd.

Brewery Highlights: There weren’t any lowlights, but also nothing too memorable. This is actually a brewery  I visited many years ago.  I really good place to grab lunch and a beer.

Overall Impressions: While sitting at the bar, I saw more cocktails, shots, and wine get served than beer. The beer is good.

So, South Lake Tahoe

This place is awesome. One of the most beautiful areas in the State of California. As for beer, not quite a destination…yet. Give these new breweries a little more time and I think you might see beer added to the local tourist guides. Just like Vegas, this place is a vacation resort that needs the tourist dollars. The clientele will be ever-changing, so it’s going to be difficult to appeal to the masses while also branching out.

TahoeWF

And on the way home, we stopped at Jack Russell Brewing in Placerville for a pint of their All American Ale. A solid lightly hopped pale ale. We also found a new brewery, Solid Ground. Very impressed. More about them in a future post.

BA Inde