Why Are You Here?

Welcome to the Wench's World--the A2 Beer Wench to be exact. If you've stumbled upon me, cool. What follows may or may not be directly related to the craft brewing business but it sure will be fun and many times profane as the circumstances warrant! Enjoy (or not) at your own risk!
Want MORE? check: www.brewingpassion.com

Monday, October 13, 2014

Beerz….In Iowa

Greetings Wenchie Acolytes!

This past weekend I spent in scenic Muscatine, Iowa as part of my attempt to be a better soccer mama than I've been for the past few years for reasons that daily escape me.

As part of our travel to the Great Corn State we made a point to seek out some craft beer options (naturally) and came up with some real winners so I thought I'd share them with you.

A couple of them were some kick-ass lagers from Back Pocket Brewing Co. in Coralville. Their Gold Coin Blonde (Helles style) lager was refreshing and session-able. But their Slingshot Dunkel was a thing of beauty from its rich color to its near perfect balance of rich malt and a kiss of hops. Kudos, kids. Wench approves and we snagged some to bring home too!

Next up was the Iowa Pale Ale from Millstream Brewing in Amana. It was a lovely, balanced American style pale ale that makes me want to drink too many….it's that good.

We tried a few non-Iowa outliers, new to us, like the KCCO, which is a collaboration black lager from Resignation Brewing and Red Hook. This one was all right, but a little on the "burnt" tasting side of "roasty."

And we finished up with the Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout from Millstream which sort of brought me back to my whole "I prefer beers what adhere to the purity law" thing….it was fine, but for me, only for a few sips. And in that mode, I grabbed some cans of something called ACappella, a gluten free ale from James Page Brewing in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Yeah. so…it was decent, but the whole time you are all "Hey, I'm drinking gluten free beer over here, yay me." Kind of like you are when you're eating kale and going "hey, I'm eating kale over here. YAY ME." 

Fine effort. Just made me grateful that I only sometimes have to skip the gluten to remain "in balance."

So our next soccer trip is in November, to lovely Raleigh, North Carolina. Weigh in Carolina Beer Peeps! Tell me what I should try and recommend (or not) to my Wenchie audience.

I'm relaxing tonight with one of my favorite Michigan crafted wines from Fenton Winery & Brewery…Orange Label Red.

you know, whoever

p.s. if someone can tell me why Muscatine, Iowa smells like a cross between a mash and burnt cocoa, you win! My undying love and devotion…
And yeah, they have these here (and I am NOT talking 'bout the $2.97 gas price either)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My SCOBY is Better Than Yours

In the Great Beer State of Michigan, we have a plethora of options when we go to choose a high quality malt beverage. Everything from the basics to some serious, peanut butter flavored outliers can be located in nearly every corner of our beloved Mitten peninsula. 

But there is a fascinating healthy option lurking nearby, in Ypsilanti, that you may have heard of but don't understand.

Unity Vibration makes "kombucha" tea and beer. Kombucha is produced by fermenting tea using a "symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast" (SCOBY)

When I first saw this thing in action, my first thought was of the "Appalachian Home Remedy" that resided in a jar of my family's fridge most of my growing up years. A teaspoon of this stuff was forced down my throat every day (that I couldn't avoid it). Its claim of natural antibiotic properties didn't really make the vinegar taste any easier to swallow. However, without knowing it, I had been privy to a form of "kombucha."

What Tarek and Rachel Kanan, founders of Unity Vibration have done is take the lightly fizzy, super low alcohol tea a step further by adding a second fermentable sugar and a second stage of fermentation. Viola! Beer with a unique bite of flavor. While I won't go out on the "drink this and you'll never get sick" limb, I will say the end product is delicious, refreshing and unique.

What you may not know is that Unity Vibration products are shipped all up and down the west coast, with more east coast markets opening up every day. It's kind of Michigan's best kept secret.

But now that the Kanans have completed a successful crowd-investing (not quite "crowd funding" but something a bit beyond that) program, they have expanded into their existing building, added a huge cooler, doubled (nearly tripled) their production capacity, and plan to open a Tasting Room at their location (93 Ecorse Road, Ypsilanti) in about a month.

It's a real crunchy granola sort of operation, with a staff made up of folks who are musicians and actors and artists. The place smells kinda like a vinegar factory at first until you stick around a while and pick up the more subtle notes of malt and light hops. The place fairly bustles with non stop activity, familiar to a Wench such as myself but in a different, more low-key way that I really love.

"We can still barely keep up," Tarek tells me between phone calls to the cooler installation guys.

Rachel takes the kombucha message on the road, hosting seminars all over the place to explain the pretty complex process that starts with simple clump of bacteria. You can catch her at Bill's Beer Garden on October 8 as part of the Fermenta group's educational series. It's from 6:30-9 and the cost is $30 for non-Fermenta members ($20 for members). For more info click here. To sign up click here.

At this event, you'll learn more about the History of kombucha, Unity Vibration and what they do
and you can taste their brews, which you sort of have to do to understand the difference between their products and all the other ales, lagers and whatnots out there for your consumption.

They've won a bunch of awards, been named a top beer by Draft Magazine (their bourbon barrel peach) and as I mentioned they ship beer all over the place. You really ought to check them out!

Their tasting room will open in late October, if all goes to plan. Hope to see you there!


p.s. True Story: I met these 2 cool folks at a WUOM event in Watertown a couple of years ago. Tarek claims he will never forget me because when we were tasting beers, he claimed to be on a "detox." To which I replied…"So you can re-tox. Here, drink this."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Crowe's Nest Project From Aitch-Ee-Double-Toothpicks

Welcome to the Crowe's Nest Renovation from Hell Diaries.

For the next several weeks (months), we will journey together (I will subject you to the whining) as Family Wench undertakes yet another Major Project.

As if it were not enough to, you know, pick up 2 kids under 5, a pregnant Wench and move to not one, not two, but three foreign countries (OK three since we did live in "Overland Park, Kansas" for a year).  And then to take on the big, yet perhaps misguided Wench Project Of the Last Several Years….only to have that particular rug yanked out from under us.

So, in typical Wench Family fashion, we shifted to the right, and took on something new and fun…

I give you….

The Crowe's Nest Renovation Project 2014!

Here are your official Before Photos…it's a 1950's era, all brick ranch, nowhere near where we SAID we wanted to "downsize" to proving the oh-so-true (now that I've lived through it) adage:

And yeah, maybe I'll stick the Wench toe back in those real estate waters eventually (hold up, 'cause you will want Yours Truly as YOUR Licensed Real Estate Agent….you know I can make that fun, right?).

But not until this little project gets well underway.

Thanks to some of my favorite dudes in town, Bob Leffler, Scott Diels, my future partner in crime (aka Interior Consultant) Elizabeth Jarzembowski and a sh*t ton of subcontractors To Be Named Later….

We are almost underway!

Here is the quote of the day: "You can't have that counter. I don't care if it does have recycled beer and wine bottles in it. It's the whole damn budget for the kitchen!"

Enjoy the "Before," kids…..We are gonna make this house into something very special.

Covered in Sawdust

p.s. oh WHOOPS! sorry….got carried away with my "construction worker" fantasy….here, here are the ACTUAL "before" pix…now, off to concoct the next Liz book. 

p.p.s. Silly me….take a long look. It's getting a big time upgrade!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Across the Beer Bar With Some Greffs

Greetings Beer Wench fans and the rest of you….

It's a lovely fall morning…oh, right "August." Well….it's Saturday morning in Michigan and the skies are blue, English Premier League soccer is back on and I'm squatting in a condo while the The Great Crowe's Nest Project awaits its Initiating Event. 

More on this later with pix, promise 'cause you KNOW me being my own "general contractor" will be a story in and of its own self. 

Especially when I hold "auditions" for all my subs…oh Lord I am JUST KIDDING, relax….and stay tuned for those of you are don't believe that for a hot second.

This past week I was honored to snag some time with a pair of folks who are truly among the pioneers of the Craft Beer Revolution in our great lakes state: Matt & Rene Greff.

Let's get right to it, shall we?

Liz: Welcome to, uh, YOUR beer bar Matt & Rene. Thanks for having me. This is a lovely Hoptown Brown IPA in my glass. It's rich and roasty with the perfect bite of bitterness for my inner hop head. You guys are currently in a fund raising mode. Tell us about it.

Rene: Welcome Liz! The current kitchen situation at Corner Brewery in Ypsi is just awful. While our original thought at this location was NOT to have food, it sort of evolved into the current situation. And our customers really like the food we provide--it's darn good and we're proud of the way the menu has grown. Problem is the physical kitchen needs a big time upgrade so we are bringing the message to the public and asking for their help to make it happen.

Matt: Our crowd funding effort is going really well so far but we still need help. I realize that some people are put off by what they perceive as companies asking customers for cash. But those of us who own and run small businesses understand that the huge expense of a kitchen upgrade is just not something we can absorb on our own.

Rene: Of course, the key point here: this is 100% voluntary. If you don't want to give, don't. But I would ask that you respect our decision to help fund the renovation this way. We consider ourselves HUGE supporters of local businesses and have put our money towards other efforts whenever we can.

Liz: Ok, so here is a link to their campaign. You are not required to click this link or, if you do click it, do give any money. It's your call.  Here is their Facebook page for the effort. If you are inclined to support, go there and help spread the word! Now, let's talk about your other projects….How's it going in India?

Rene: It's pretty insane, frankly. 

Matt: Yep, we're already scouting locations for expansion.

Liz: That is amazing, although I'm not surprised, considering you guys are behind it. Here's a question  that lots of folks may want an answer to: How do you deal with the water safety issue in a country not know for its modern sanitation?

Matt: We have water trucked in from a filtration facility and then we run it through another round via reverse osmosis -- the system is up on the roof of the brewery. It's completely safe.

Rene: We're thrilled with its success. But it was a scary moment or two trying to manage such a huge endeavor so far away. 

Liz: So what's next for you crazy kids?

Rene: Distilling. 

Matt: You know, more booze.

Liz: Seriously.

Rene: Of course. There are some who claim that the distillation "thing" is done and over. I disagree. I think there is an explosion on the horizon and we want to be a part of it.

Matt: Our plans are for an on-premise start. We want to provide high quality, craft distilled alcohol for our customers to enjoy. We'll see where it goes from there.

Liz: Any other news?

Matt: We are doing our very first distribution expansion outside of Michigan. It's been a long time in the development stage but we'll be distributing our products in Northern Ohio and in Connecticut later this year.

Liz: That's exciting. What made you choose Connecticut (Northern Ohio I get)?

Rene: A U of M grad and a fan of ours moved there and got into the craft beer distribution business. They're working on a sort of "boutique" basis, choosing a few brands to get started so they can give each one the sales attention they need.

Matt: We went into it with our eyes wide open, having been in "distribution" for so many years here in Michigan. They came to us, we had a lot of conversation, and we're excited that they'll be representing us there.

Liz: Pretty Cool. I will say, I admire the hell out of you both. You don't flinch in the face of change, or new ideas. Plus you're big Liz fans, so you know, that means a lot to me.

Rene: One thing we've learned is to NEVER say "We'll never do that."  It just closes off too many opportunities and possibilities. We want to keep our ears and options open to the changing market.

Liz: Good philosophy, that.

Matt: Oh, hey speaking of "never say never" what is this about a semi pro soccer team in town? 

……and like THAT The Arbor Brewing Company becomes the OFFICIAL PUB of the future Ann Arbor City Football Club! 

Yep, I'm in on that, as you might imagine.  Check my inaugural post for them here. They are also trying to crowd fund their application fee to the National Premier Soccer League. You know me. Soccer fanatic to the max. Ann Arbor + Soccer = Awesome as we all know from recent experience at the Big House!

Click through and check out my thoughts on this and see how you can give.

More on how Matt & Rene and Arbor Brewing will be working with us on behalf of the club, the fans and the pre and post game parties PLUS an Official Brew to Be Named Later!


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Once More Unto the Breach--OR Beer Fest 2014

Greetings Wenchie fans, followers, creepers, lurkers, stalkers but NO haters.

You..over there…beat it…I no longer have time suffer your nonsense.

So, there is a lot going on in Michigan's not-so-little craft beer universe.

The good folks at ABC Microbrewery are hoping to do some expansion. You can help. Here is how:

The dudes at Dark Horse are on TV! I will just come out and tell you all now that once upon a time I was in Serious Talks with a producer about a show for the Brewery In My Life Before Now. It was vetoed, but I am happy that the Dark Horse guys got a show on the air!
Check it out: http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/jackson/index.ssf/2014/07/history_channel_bringing_dark.html

And the owners at Fenton Winery & Brewery are about to open up a new space, much bigger than the one they had previously, that will include a beautiful beer garden (more like a park), a taproom, winery tasting room and a lovely banquet facility. It's in varying stages of finish but they are hosting a public Open House next Thursday, July 31 from 5-9 p.m. I would encourage you all to check them out.
Details: http://fentonbrewery.com/open-house-announcement/

And today is a momentous one for yours truly. It is not only the 2 month anniversary of the Shocking Moment  (well ok a few days past that anniversary), it also BEER FEST! I am blessed and honored to have met such amazing folks over the course of my journey in the last 6 or 7 years, despite how strangely it ended. I can't wait to catch up with them all! There are a bunch of brews that were developed for the first, annual Fermenta, Women's Craft Collective "Tap Takeover" of the Beer Fest and I am looking forward to trying them plus attending the after party hosted by Rene Greff at ABC Microbrewery. While I may not be as much a "player" as a "woman in the beer business" anymore, for reasons that still boggle-ify my apparently simple mind, I love the people in this biz and am happy to note that the Liz Crowe beer (a rye California Common) is a  part of the Fermenta featured brews.

Cheers y'all
P.S. if you have some fun news for your brewery you wish me to pass along the Wench's networks, submit it to me: beerwench1966@yahoo.com


William Shakespeare

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger.”

Saturday, July 19, 2014

St. Louis: Whaddaya Know?

Greetings Wench fans and yes, even you nay-sayers (Oh, rest assured, I see you out there)!

I am on a somewhat impromptu road trip and by "impromptu" I mean I got here and decided to stay the weekend (kinda, but you get me).
Washington University in St. Louis. Whether they "like" her or not, this has been a great trip!

Soccer Wenchling is at WashU for a soccer recruiting camp, an activity she does not care for but that is a necessary evil as we approach the dreaded "Junior Year" in the recruiting cycle. But since it's a long weekend of camp and Yours Truly was approaching "postal" in terms of stress back in the Deuce, Mr. Wench gently suggested that I hie myself hither, i.e. "get the hell out of town for a few days."  Bless his almost-knee-replaced-heart.

So, here I sit, in one of THE MOST ADORABLE HOTELS I have ever inhabited (and I've inhabited a fair few of them in my day), with long stretches of time on my hands NOT for packing OR for carting people around OR dog walking OR for contemplating my somewhat imaginary loser-hood OR unpacking OR house hunting, 'cause we found the new Crowe's Nest and after a Serious Renovation it will be awesome and we shall host a party. If you are lucky, you'll get invited. You know who you are.

Hold onto your hats St. Louis. Wench is in town!

Well, it's not like I'm hitting the club scene. I'm way too chronologically advanced for that. I am going to dedicate myself to some writing that I am woefully behind on, but also I'm eager to learn more about the craft beer scene in this city. I'm about half in love with it already (the city). The area around WashU, along with my precious temporary abode, is as they say "the Beverly Hills of St. Louis." There are some seriously gi-normous houses tucked along roads called Big Bend, Clayton and Skinker. But the are not the McMansion sorts. They are legit mansions. The ex-Realtor in me wants to check prices just to know what the things go for.

But I digress. It happens when I have all this time on my hands. St. Louis is a sort of compact, big city/small town thing that feels very much like my Favorite City on Earth. (points to you if you guessed it without cheating the link). The people are friendly, the skies are clear, the skyline is distinctive and the polar vortex is making it very pleasant outdoors. 

So last night a friend/Liz book fan who is a born-n-raised St. Louisian (Louis-gander? I should look it up) snagged me and we hit the Sam Adams of St. L for some delicious food and jaw-dropping real estate at the Schlafly Tap Room downtown. Amazing, impressive and delicious. You cannot go wrong with their brews. It was their annual Belgian beer and mussels celebration so I had their Kolsh (one of the best out there) then the Number 15, which was originally brewed for their 15th anniversary but is so damn good they keep it around now. It's fermented with a Bavarian style Hefeweizen yeast which gives it a very strong banana/clove essence. It was rich, delicious and filling and this from a gal who typically eschews this style.

I also had a minor "fan girl" moment when I realized I was grabbing coffee at "Kaldi's on Demun."

 I am a giant fan of Curtis Sittenfeld's books and adored her latest: Sisterland which is set in and around the WashU neighborhood where I am temporarily residing. I even shopped for the post-workout chocolate milk at "Shnucks!" Oh, the resonance. It's a great book. Anyone who can write a book and make me feel like I'm in a place with their descriptive prose yet deceive me into feeling sympathy for characters that are as complex as hers AND make me gasp when I realize "OhEmGee I'm IN the coffee shop where Kate and what's-his-name the hot Mr. Mom next year hang out with their kids!"  I'll agree that the book does border on the tedious with some detail for some readers but for me it sings with the beauty of the everyday, just like most of her books. Anyway. I had a tiny, internal "Squee" moment there. I'm all better now.

Oh, and by the way, The Cheshire where I am hanging out not only has "author themed rooms"

 it was the setting for a few crucial scenes in one of my fav George Clooney movies: Up In The Air. Yep. Oh, and you really ought to click that link if for no other reason that to read the title of the blog post about it. #classic

OH! AND I learned that the healthy fast food place I really should own stock in was founded here and, as a result, is NOT "Panera" but "St. Louis Bread Co." or just "Bread Co." as my friend/fan/tour guide informed me last night!

So, today my friend is taking me a small tour of a few St. Louis micros. We are going to hit Urban Chestnut, The Civil Life, 4 Hands and Perennial. I'll post pix and reviews soon!

But for what it's worth to ya St. Louis, you are a lovely city so far!

And now I must crank some words before dialing into a photo shoot for my upcoming series The Love Brothers--a BeerWench Enterprises publishing project (coming January 2015. Love Garage, book one already has a Goodreads page, thanks to some fans who got an early read of it. Book 2 is Coach Love, Book 3 is Love Brewing).