Christmas

As usual, this month has been filled with delightful gatherings, dinners, and parties. I have loved this time of year since I was a child, whether in the form of wintry, white Christmases in rural Virginia, or sunny holidays in southern California, set to Christmas music by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and David Brubeck. Christmas with a baby brings a new twist, because she is seeing everything for the first time, including Christmas lights, sparkly ornaments, candles, glowing decorations, etc. After having celebrated Christmas annually for over 3 decades, it’s fun to see how see a little person experiences the festive details as a newcomer to this planet.

This year has been no less busy than before, and we even had a wedding to attend in Los Angeles, among the other usual festivities. My boss was excited I can drink again, and we took a shot together at the company party (tequila for me, Fireball for him). I was offered the Fireball, but had to refuse. Fireball spells downfall for me; the sugar in that “whiskey” is death in liquid form. I don’t think I’ve ever had a shot of Fireball and not had severe regrets. On the other hand, bottom shelf house tequila never tasted so sweet, after an extended absence.

This is indeed the time of year to enjoy a nice glass of Cabernet, along with a winter-flavored Belgian, and new IPA’s. Still, I’m careful not to get too drunk because taking care of a baby while hungover sounds like total hell. Speaking of hell, Vale will go to church for the first time on Christmas Eve, and we hope she does not catch fire at the threshold.

This is not to say this holiday season has been without its bumps in the road. I was graced with mastitis round 3, more antibiotics, and all the accompanying frustrations. While Vale has slightly backed down from her insistence on eating only while lying down, the combination of this predilection, along with a distaste for the bottle, and dislike of eating with a cover draped over her face, makes feeding her in public or at social functions somewhat of a nightmare. For this reason, I’m sadly inclined to pass on a visit to Irvine, and a night out at Korean BBQ, and instead will opt to indulge at home, where wine is plentiful, and breastfeeding is easy.

Another first for this holiday season: This is the first time in 11 years we have not gone to get a tree together (Vale was a milk monster and we were running out of time, so Kyle had to go get it himself).

Three Months and Some

Vale is 3 and a half months. She enjoys looking at fire, her own reflection in the mirror, and the Audrey Hepburn poster on our bedroom wall. She still looks pretty serious most of the time, but started laughing on occasion recently. The first time she did it took me by surprise; I laughed at her while we were laying in bed, and she laughed back at me.

We put on the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer claymation (a holiday favorite of ours), but she seemed more engaged watching Bruce Campbell’s antics on Evil Dead (the show). She has progressed quickly from carefully inspecting her hands and realizing they belong to her, to using them to grab things, and unfortunately, sometimes pinch and twist. I was working from home one day with her in my lap, when Fiona decided there was just enough space remaining in my lap for her to squeeze her butt in and join the party. She came upon my lap with her flank facing Vale, who proceeded to grab a handful of fur and twist. Fiona didn’t seem to mind, but I admonished Vale to be gentle.

She is becoming a bit drooly, and likes to bite on her hands (among other objects). The lactation consultant thinks she will have teeth soon. She also seemingly grows out of her clothes overnight. All the cute onesies and outfits we’ve received from friends and family seemingly get less than a handful of uses before they become a bit tight.

Holiday Drinks 2016

My birthday is around Christmas, so it can be hard to get friends together during this time, but I was lucky enough to round up some of my favorite people this year and hit up some beer adventures.

Having lived in San Diego for almost a decade, I wanted to make the rounds in a neighborhood that was not one of the usual party spots (e.g. Downtown, PB, etc.) I also wanted to drink somewhere walking distance from a Coaster station, so I decided we would take the Coaster and get off at Old Town Transit Center. It’s really unfortunate San Diego increasingly has a stick up its ass, and banned alcohol on the Coaster, but I guess it’s not like we needed any extra alcohol, considering how the night progressed. We took a short stroll from Old Town to Modern Times Brewing, which was on a nondescript street corner that appeared relatively uneventful and dead until we got inside.

Modern Times was full of the holiday spirit, complete with Christmas tree and arts and craft supplies for those who like to play with glue, glitter, and pipe cleaners while drinking craft brews.

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Modern Times beers are fantastic, with my favorite probably being the Blazing World. While I rarely favor ambers, this one definitely is more related to an IPA in flavor profile. They served their tasters in cigar boxes.

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We stayed at Modern Times for a few rounds of beers, and made our exit when we had our fix of making Christmas trees, wands, and headbands out of popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners. We took an Uber to Old Town Public House. It’s a pretty small bar, but even so, it was surprising that at 9:00 p.m. on a Saturday, there was literally only one other person in the bar. They had a fantastic selection of Belgian beers, which is unusual. Bars in San Diego tend to emphasize a vast collection of IPA’s, and rarely feature any significant selection of Belgians (dude, Stella does not count).

We had just one pint each here, and walked over to Home & Away, another neat bar in the area. Again, this was another joint that had a decent selection of beers on tap, and also had games a plenty, including ping pong on the patio. We really liked this bar, but again, it was surprisingly empty for a Saturday night. We did make friends with a regular who lived walking distance away. He treated us to a round of Fireball shots, which was wonderful of him, but regrettable when the morning rolled around.

When the bar closed, we Ubered back to our place to hang out and play Catchphrase until almost 4:00 a.m. It was a perfect end to a birthday celebration.

Beer Tasting At Slater’s 50/50

Yes, Slater’s has some pretty good burgers, but what I find even more impressive is their beer selection.

Their burgers are a bit ridiculous. Their normal burger could feed three adults. The Alarm Burger is so spicy they serve it with gloves (hand and eye protection I suppose). It’s not that I don’t enjoy their 50/50 burger or the Alarm burger. Both tasted fantastic. It’s just that I could never eat the entirety of any of their burgers in one sitting without eating myself sick.

In many ways, their beer selection is as excessive as th eir burgers, so it’s sort of the same concept. They have about 100 beers on tap, and we stopped by for a tasting recently (after some grocery shopping next door). Next time, I’ll probably just come for some pints, as I found their taster flights to be somewhat pricey.

I present to you the first flight:

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Shipyard’s Pugley’s Smashed Pumpkin: 9.0% ABV. ‘Tis the season, and I cannot resist a pumpkin ale every once in a while, particularly when it comes to ones I have not tried before. This one tasted like pumpkin pie with a nice bite and a bitter finish. It was a little citrusy, sweet, and I thought there might be some orange zest in there. It had surprisingly light feel, consider it’s 9.0% ABV (be careful with these!)

Delirium Nocturnum: 8.5% ABV. I love Delirium Tremens, and I love Delirium Nocturnum. This is not a new one, but this Belgian is always a treat during the holiday season. It’s warm, malty, roasty, and reminds you of everything you love about the holidays.

Hop Concept IPA: 8.5% ABV. It’s hoppy, fresh, pretty bitter, and everything you expect of an IPA. It’s full-flavored, smells floral and citrusy, and overall decent. I’m not sure I really get a big “tropical” impression, but that’s OK. To be honest, it’s a little heavy for the island life.

North Coast Stellar IPA: 6.0% ABV. This was not fresh, citrusy, or floral enough for an IPA. It almost had an amberish taste, though it wasn’t sweet like some ambers are prone to be – it was plainly bitter.

Flight number two was just as fun:

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The Great Pumpkin: 8.1% ABV, brewed by Elysian. Beer Advocate gives it a 92. This one also tasted like pumpkin pie, although it also tasted strongly of clove, which is again reminiscent of the holiday season. It was overall a warmer and stronger taste than the Shipyard pumpkin ale.

Zumbar Imperial Stout: 9.3% ABV. Beer Advocate gives it an 87. Brewed by New English. Deep coffee and bourbon flavors. Not bad.

The other two were a pumpkin ale by Avery and a stout by Mother Earth that I’d had before. Didn’t keep notes because sometimes you should pay more attention to your husband than the details of your beer.

 

New England and Some Beers

We went to visit a dear friend in New Hampshire for New Years. I definitely had some serious beers while there, because I have long been spoiled by southern California weather, and if I hadn’t resorted to beer jackets, I would have been like,

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We arrived early evening on December 31, and headed over to the Thirsty Moose Taphouse in Portsmouth. They had a gigantic beer list, so things were off to a good start. I opened with the Dogfish Head 61, after being warned that “IPA’s are not the same here.” I have always loved Dogfish Head beers though, so this was an easy decision. The beer was smooth, a little sweet, and hoppy, but not arrogantly so (even though I do love a good arrogant-tasting West Coast IPA). There was a smell of maple, which became more apparent when the beer got warmer. This beer did not disappoint.

Next was an IPA by Smuttynose (Portsmouth, New Hampshire). It tasted more like pale ale, with typical IPA coloring. It had some citrus and tart tones, and was notably un-floral. It’s on the mild side for me, being used to West Coast IPA’s. It smells pinier/bushier than it tastes. Though my review for this IPA is somewhat lukewarm, Smuttynose does make a bunch of other really good beers.

Beer number three was the Green Flash Soul Style IPA, because I had two New England beers in a row and wanted to switch it up. Plus, I hadn’t yet tasted this particular gem from Green Flash. This was hoppy and typical of Green Flash, with a floral and fresh feel. It had a thick head for an IPA, and almost had a buttery scent. Smooth and lovely.

After beer number 3, I lost interest in taking notes, and after beer 4, I took a shot of whiskey.

I thought I’d taken pictures of all these lovely beers, but I guess not. I may have been distracted by the crazy bitch that came to our table trying to hit on me and steel beers from our table that night. New Years Eve is the best because of good times with friends… and watching the crazies in all their glory.

A Few Notable Beers over the Holidays

From the Stone Stochasticity Project – Master of Disguise. I caught sight of someone drinking it at a Christmas party and had to try some myself. This is a blond stout, and it’s the first I’d ever heard of one or tried one. It was smooth and nutty. The color was deceiving, as it was sort of a golden color, yet lacked the hoppiness or assertiveness that is typical from Stone. The name sort of speaks for itself: it tastes like a stout, but is blond in color (that’s a glass of it to the left, barely visible in the picture below). It’s a full and rich flavored beer.

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Voodoo Doughnut Pretzel, Raspberry, and Chocolate ale by Rogue is an American brown ale. My dear friend brought a bottle of this over for my birthday, and I did not drink it until about a week later (had to clear my palate from all the beers I did consume on my birthday). Beer Advocate gives this a 79, which is just “ok.” I rather liked it, though it’s a little bit on the sweet side for me. Then again, that’s to be expected from the raspberry and chocolate. I didn’t taste the pretzel at all. It’s a little bit thin, but overall, its flavors make it a nice cozy beer to share during the holiday season.

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Affligem Tripel. Nothing new about this one. I’ve had it many times, but it’d been a while. It’s a Belgia tripel with notes of orange and spices. It has a floral quality and an ABV of 9%, though the flavors hide it. It’s full-bodied, with a nutty edge.

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Lost Abbey’s Red Barn Ale. Also not new, but it was another lovely bottle brought to us (by my brother-in-law) for my birthday. This is a floral, light, Saison/Farmhouse style beer. According to the Lost Abbey website, this beer is lightly spiced with ginger, orange peels, black pepper, and grains of paradise. It’s a golden/orangish color. I tasted slight notes of apple.

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Pumpkin Season

Well, this post is a little late now, but I was under the impression that pumpkins were a seasonal thing, at least until Thanksgiving. However, I attempted to buy a pumpkin to make a pumpkin beer keg the day before Thanksgiving, and they were nowhere to be found – not at Albertson’s, Stater Brother’s, or Wal-Mart. I felt somewhat deceived. I honestly wasn’t aware that pumpkins could not be readily procured after Halloween.

We made some pumpkin home brew a few weeks back in anticipation for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, at this time, I no longer recall what hops, grains, or other flavors, if any, were used (besides the pumpkin, obviously). It was probably ready to drink a over a week ago, but we have a tendency to open them up a little too soon, so we waited just a bit longer. It is pictured above (being eyed suspiciously by one of our cats).

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The pumpkin beer ended up having a smoky and smooth flavor. It was somewhat on the darker side and had a full body and a tangy finish. I could have done without the tangy finish (note for next year).