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

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Here's A Tip--OR How NOT to Vacation in Orlando

December 28, 2014

Dear Karma Fairy,

I thought this might be a pretty good time to share some thoughts with you about the Year 2014.

No, no, don’t worry. I’m not gonna drag up a bunch of crap that I’ve already pounded like the proverbial dead horse. God knows everyone is sick of hearing me whinge about getting fired from a company I put on the map.

No, no, I’m moving on from that thanks and will get to just how I'm doing that in a moment.

What I’d like to bone-pick with you is just how this year has closed out vis-à-vis a particular rental company in Orlando, Florida.

You see, back in late September my family decided to go in with another one to share a house during our daughters’ important National League soccer tournament at the end of 2014/beginning of 2015. So, like a good, trusting, consumer of rental homes in a town lousy with said products I got online long about early October and located a company that had decent reviews online and, after a LOT of what I guess you could call harassment “eager and earnest sales phone calls” once I made the first email inquiry I decided to use this company to book our 2-family vacation dream home.

I spoke with a salesperson for the better part of an hour and a half, poring over the somewhat thin inventory. You see, KF, this IS “the busiest week of the busiest season in Disney-Town,” or so I was told, repeatedly. But finally, we settled on their “deal” whereby I reserve a “house that will sleep 12 from Dec. 27-Jan. 4” on October 4, 2014. I paid a deposit, then the balance at the end of November. I did not hear a peep from this company all the way up until Monday, December 22. That was the day I decided to call and see if I could get the address. Here is how that conversation went:

“Oh, we will send you the exact address and lock box code on Dec. 24, no worries.”

“Ok, great,” I says, relieved. “So we are all set still, right?”

“Hang on and just let me confirm it for you.” (clicking noises) “Um, I need to put you on hold a moment. Thanks.”

No less than 30 (closer to 35 minutes later) I was told that the house I had rented for 2 families to use was “no longer available, due to circumstances beyond their control. Sorry.”

Yeah. So, let’s just review that a second. See, the soccer girls’ team HAD a very nice hotel (The Hyatt Grand Cypress) for a VERY excellent rate ($135  a night plus parking). I HAD a reservation that I CANCELLED once I paid the balance on the house because, you see, I believed that the company I paid would uphold their end of the contract.

I went a tad ballistic. I have not had a superior set of weeks leading up to this moment and had actually thought "well, at least there is the Florida vacation" about that time they put me on hold AGAIN and I had to hang up and call back using a different number so I wouldn't go straight to HOLD again....I kid you not.

Not only did they not honor anything resembling our contract, or notify me (I made the call, remember?) they honestly assumed that simply “refunding my money” would suffice. So I spent the better part of 2 and a half days before Christmas (after a fairly traumatic birthday week but that’ll be in the Liz Memoir never fear) frantically attempting to procure lodging because you see, we HAD to be in Orlando for soccer—never mind the other family’s dilemma and the fact that I had planned this for MONTHS (see above: doing my due diligence in OCTOBER as a consumer).

Now, I get it that shit happens. Really. I do. But we were treated to such unbelievably horrific service by this “company” I felt that lodging a formal complaint with you, Karma Fairy Who Has Not Looked Upon Me With Much Favor For the Past 12 Months. Because the person who was trying to “fix it “ for us, managed to find us 2 homes, (separate homes) she honestly expected us to thank her for “negotiating down” to DOUBLE what I was supposed to be paying for 1 house to house both families … oh and she could only manage it for 12/31-1/3. I (see previously arranged dates above which do imply tickets to theme parks for the other wenchlings as Christmas gifts). Which of course translates to booking hotel rooms in this town that is at its busiest week of the busiest season (so help me if I hear that again I will put my fist through a wall).

Needless to say, once our credit card company confirmed that NO REFUND HAD BEEN ISSUED For the original charge, we have taken steps (thanks to companies like Chase who do offer real customer service) to make sure that money gets back to us. And here I sit, at a perfectly nice hotel, staring down the barrel of double and a half the cost of getting rooms at the last minute, plus all the restaurant costs I had planned (in October, remember?) to defray by eating via shopping at a grocery for a few meals for all 5 of the Crowe family members. Oh and that team hotel with the great rate? Yeah. Full.

I’m going to be reporting this company to the Better Business Bureau and to the local television ombudsman/pain the the ass because Discount Vacation Rentals Online RUINED my vacation at the end of a year that honestly, I deserved a break. But that bit is between us, isn’t it, KF (wink,wink,nudge,nudge).

Here is their twitter feed: https://twitter.com/discountvc

Feel free to weigh in. In the meantime, NEVER USE THEM AND MAKE SURE YOU TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW TO NEVER USE THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE THE OPPOSITE OF RELIABLE OR CUSTOMER ORIENTED. And I’m pretty fucking easy to please, customer-service wise. Give me what I paid for and don’t say to me 4 days before I’m to receive my product “Nope, don’t got it no more. Good luck to ya!”

Ever Yours,
P.s.  That whole “sorry but we’re fresh out of mini vans and SUVs, here’s car for your family of 5” thing I’ll over look IF and only IF you help Soccer Wenchling kick ASS at this tourney.

P.p.s. Oh, and killer sales for my new self published series The Love Brothers starting Jan. 5 would help too.

P.p.p.s. I'll be checking in with you come March when I'm back to using my Marketing Powers for the good of homeowners and home buyers in the Ann Arbor Area. Yep... she's (gonna be) baaaaaaaaack and better than ever!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

A BeerWench Gives Thanks: 2014 Version

In lieu of the many (and I do mean many) posts I've written on "days of giving thanks" this year I am limiting myself to a Top 5 List.

So I bring you, the Top Five Things Liz, Your Favorite Ann Arbor Beer Wench is THANKFUL FOR right now...The Friday After Turkey Day, the Year That Was 2014.

I'm thankful to have such supportive and very real friends amongst my former Realtor colleagues (including all you title types). Because honestly, when I think back on the madness that gripped me long about 2008, both of the beer AND the book sort, these are the folks who encouraged me either with their time reading my dreadful early renditions of the Jack & Sara saga OR (even more amazing, really) when they would indeed purchase the beer I foisted on them and even would book (repeatedly) events at the bar I begged them to visit.  Hats off to you crazy, busy, successful, driven Total Inspirations especially THIS YEAR when not only did the whole thing go ka-blooey on me I also sold my house and bought a new one plus had to find a temporary Crowe's nest which they also helped me procure!

I'm grateful for all the new readers who've discovered their love for the style of novel I write--one part sexy romance, many parts angsty reality, with a few bits of humor tossed in to really make things balanced! One reader at a time is a "real thing," and this year I've been blessed to make that happen.    

I give thanks for a new team of professional who are helping me bring my first self published series The Love Brothers, to life. Thanks to my photographer, model, narrator for audio books and cover artist/trailer producer the trailer for the series was featured on USA Today a few weeks ago. I'm really enjoying applying all the mistakes I've made in my publishing journey so far to the new project, continuing to make them of course, but building up not only my super thick author skin but also my cache of knowledge of The Business of Writing and Publishing Books.

I  am beyond grateful for some folks who did a lot of propping up for me this year, including the new Women in Craft Beverages group: Fermenta Michigan. And especially a few in particular who took the extra step of talking me down off various ledges of despair and irrational yet perhaps justified urges toward immature online activity.  In particular I wish to thank Angie Williams, Matt & Ginny Sherrow, Tarek and Rachel Kanan, Matt & Rene Greff, David Bardallis, Annette May & Mike Bardallis, Stacey Roth, Mattie O'Brien, Patti Smith, Fred Bueltmann for proving to me that while it may be tempting to take all those 1000 plus images I have in my online photo albums from the last few year and flushing them into the virtual toilet, there is no erasing the fact that I did those things and made some great friends along the way.


I am thankful for not having to drag my entire family out on Friday morning the day after Thanksgiving to decorate a bar!  

P.S. I had some yummy IPA in North Carolina last week....Hoppyum from Foothills Brewing. Totally and completely addictive with its bright, American hops bite combined with a strong malty backbone.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

On Literary Beer Snobs--or You Had Me At Light Lager

Greetings Wenchie Acolytes and welcome to the very first A2 Beer Wench post that will allow me to be OUT OF THE CLOSET! Woo hoo! I feel so free and breezy and ... oh...sorry...forgot my pants.

There, now. That's better. 

So, you ask, dear and gentle craft beer fan "what closet, Liz? And can we watch?"

And to that I say: "The author closet, ya perv. And yeah, I want you to watch."

The deal is, while I was doing a bunch of work to help out some folks get their brand new brewery up and running I was still writing books. The irony was, about the same time as all my long hours, leaving my family to fend for themselves in favor of brewery work began to pay off and allow said folks to hire professional bartenders and managers to do the jobs they are best at---the book thing took off too.

This was not intentional on my part, all rumors to the contrary.

No, it was a lovely, serendipitous event to my mind which allowed me to extend my reach in two unique directions. I brought my book fans into their bar and made beer fans out of some. And, in a few cases, did the reverse--made book fans out of people I convinced to come in and try the beer.

Kinda cool or so I thought. But some people thought otherwise and since May I have been free as the proverbial bird (not the middle finger kind, at least not anymore) to really focus on writing and promoting my books. I've got 20+ of them out there and more coming that include a series I'm self-publishing which is a pretty scary and somewhat surprisingly expensive endeavor.

As I have worked my way through resuming my life as wife, mother, friend and (now) author in these past few months I've had some time to ponder the twin tracks of snobbery relative to "books" and "beer."  They dovetailed for me some in my former, confused life. Like when I was asked to host a "book event" at a "major Ann Arbor employer" and was quickly cut off by a comment from a guy I thought I trusted along the lines of "but, you know what KIND of books she writes, right?" 

Yeah, the kind of books people buy, but never mind that now or the fact that said "book event" will likely now never materialize I suppose.

No, today's observation rant is more along the lines of "don't judge lest ye be." 

Here's the thing: when I was drawn into the Craft Beer World and encouraged/asked to leave my real estate job to work just as hard for someone else's dream, I was NOT a beer person. Not at all. In fact, I, your A2 Beer Wench Her Own Self, did NOT really know the difference between a lager and an ale.

There. I said it. So....are you judging me yet? Hold off a second. It only gets better.

There I sat, being told "gosh, E.T. you're super-duper swell at selling stuff and we need that. Don't worry, we will teach you about beer," and thinking "um, why? I don't even (wait for it) like beer."

The rest of that story is, sadly, history as we all now know. And I've been tempted to post rants about how having to scroll back through literally thousands of photos I took at events for years makes me want to run my fist through the drywall. But I just felt it was time to set the record straight on a few things. I did not like beer. Mainly because I had not been properly introduced to really good beer. I was, subsequently, and now I adore ... certain styles of beer. Not all beers. Not even close. And some of them...well....let's just say maybe I WANT my super light lager served in a urine sample cup.

Now you can start judging me, I guess because what I like are some of the more overdone, overwrought and over exposed styles around: I like yellow, fizzy lagers and I like a basic, American style IPA.

Whew....I tell ya, the Beer World may have just imploded with the triple impact of those paragraphs up there. But the interesting parallel is that I also like to read mainstream fiction--the kind that everybody reads more or less and, even though my beloved ex-nun of a hardcore English Literature advisor at the University of Louisville is likely flipping around in her grave over it, I enjoy a well-crafted novel about human relationships that include ALL aspects of said relationship.

Let me rephrase that: I like novels about love. That many times leave in the sex bits. I don't like neat and tidy endings or cardboard characters though so I'm many times at a loss to find decent options (and that utterly precludes the whole "50 shades" phenomenon--sorry, I found the first 5 chapters of that book utterly frustrating so I stopped reading it. My choice. Not yours. I don't care how many early tickets to the movie you bought--that's your disposable income, not mine and I respect your right to spend it how you like). Oh, I also like Jack Reacher and pretty much everything Stephen King has ever written. 

Oh My God.....ok I gotta sit down a second. I am so relieved to have all that off my chest.

Because you should know now that I write books that include stories about human relationships. Sometimes they include large casts of supporting characters and years-long plot arcs. Sometimes they include the sex--explicit or implied. Many times, they don't. 

I have argued before that there is "romance" in almost every single novel or movie/tv plot out there. Seen "The Walking Dead" lately? We are hardwired to be attracted to one another, period. And I am entertained by reading about the ways people act on their attractions be it explicit, illicit or sappy. Sue me. I could put "Love, Actually" on a repeat loop and never get tired of it.

The snobbery on both sides of my life sometimes leaves me cold. "Indie" bookstores in my own city who say "we don't sell your kind of books," or authors who won't acknowledge that what I write is just as challenging, interesting and readable and what they do abound. It's beyond frustrating, telling someone I have "20 books published" only to be informed that they aren't "real" because they can't be purchased at whatever snooty bookstore is telling me they won't sell me at. (apologies to my editor for that one, I can't write it any other way, honest). To which I say, "they're in the Ann Arbor Library, bitch." Not really. But they are there. Just fyi.

So...if there are any of you left out there know this:

I love craft beer and almost all the people I have met who make it. I will continue to write about it, both using it as backdrop for future novels and in non-fiction form. I have a book in the early stages of development about The Ale Wife: The Witchy History of Women in Beer I hope to sell to a bigger publisher eventually--or what the hell, I might just publish it myself. 

I will continue to review beers I try in different parts of the country. North Carolina, I'm headed YOUR way next week.  I will continue to interact with all the awesome women in the Detroit Draft Divas and the new Michigan Fermenta group and to offer assistance/advice to any brewery seeking a little Wenchiness in their marketing plans. And to hang around with some of my beer favs like David Bardallis (who is doubling as a proofreader for me, so there).

But if any of you out there are seeking books with a sexy edge, fully realized characters AND plots, some set in (gasp!) The Craft Beer World and many/most in Michigan towns like Ann Arbor and Traverse City, I would encourage you to try on a "Liz Crowe" book for size.  See how you feel about it. Drop me a line about your experience. Tell me any ideas you might have for books set in breweries....seriously! I want to know. I will admit to being stuck in "professional rookie mode" and always eager to learn more about this craft AND the craft of beer--sans snobs in both of those clubs, thanks.

I'm feeling so positive about outing myself and going full frontal with you kids I'm gonna give away a few ebook copies.....Of course I don't write horror, fantasy, or thrillers (yet...give me time on that one) so if those are more your reading bag, no need to grab one of my books. I get ya and know you love me anyways.

If you leave me a comment below about anything, the price of gold, the weather, your favorite beer, your favorite Wench memory or how you feel about 50 Shades (not really, I'll delete those) AND include your email (that bit's important) I will send you YOUR CHOICE OF A LIZ CROWE EBOOK just to get you going on your local-author-beer-wench-supporting journey. If you have questions about any of my books, email me: lizcroweauthor@gmail.com

Hey, did ya know? I even have a book cover designed by Brian Walline, who has done plenty of beer related graphics for me in the past! This books is...um...pretty steamy though so....it might be one you work up to, k?

Now get on out there and make this first-feeling day of Winter in the Deuce a good one, won't you? And never, discount Indie, be it an indie band, indie brewery or indie author. But be sure and ask your local "indie bookstore" to support us, won't ya?

Tell 'em Taylor! My current mis-understand, poor-little-talented-girl heroine at the moment (at least for THIS song... pardon me, I gotta shake it off)

Liz/ET/Your Favorite Love Actually Loving WENCH

p.s. Be sure and get out on Monday 11/17 and support Patti Smith, the talented blogger and Ann Arborite at her first book signing in aut/space in Braun Court! I'll be there! 

p.p.s. Harry Dolan, another Ann Arbor author is reading and signing at Nicola's Books the same evening. I'm figuring out a way to hit both! Thanks to Hart Johnson for that heads up!

p.p.s. Anyone insulted or put off by dudes like these (I love me the Cock Rockin' Kings of Tampa), best steer clear. 
But rest assured, one thing I DON'T do is judge YOU and your obsessions. And Mr. Wench tolerates it so honestly, that should be enough for you.

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."