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).

Moon Shadows

Her shoes were the color of sunshine and she radiated beams from her forehead

After a night of boxed wine and vodka

She lost her fading resolve in the moon shadows and fog while seagulls flaunted their freedom and mocked her

And the waves sighed like tired gods at the resignation of human existence

Taking cold pizza out of the refrigerator at 2:00 a.m. she heard him say

Hey Beautiful and she smiled at what she felt to be a hidden bitterness in the kitchen

She sat on a boy’s lap, twirled a strand of pearls in her palm and her friend said

Remember us, the bunny girls? We are notorious for last weekend 

And another voice told her

I can smell your pride from a mile away


Beach House Winery

This was another place I found while bored and scoping out Yelp. This was a hidden gem out in east (very east) Oceanside. It’s a bit far from the beach, but the name refers to the view. They have a small tasting room here, and you can taste for $15 or buy a bottle and take it upstairs and enjoy it on the deck.

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We grabbed a bottle of their Nebbiolo and enjoyed it upstairs. The Nebbiolo was oaky, smoky, deep, rich, and tasted of berries. We paired great wine with gorgeous scenery, and searched for unrealistically extravagant and expensive houses nearby for purchase. It was a Sunday to remember.

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Belle Marie Winery

It’s true that this is mostly a beer blog, but wine drinking adventures are just as fun. I’m pretty sure my palate is too crude to deeply appreciate the complexities of wine, but I do enjoy it almost as much as beer (sometimes). We were driving back on the 15 when I noticed a castle from the freeway. Driving on the 15 is not exactly a rare occurrence, so I must have seen it before, but this time we decided to stop and check it out.

The location is charming, and the grounds are pretty neat. Unfortunately, the photos I took don’t do it justice because I am not a great photographer, and on top of that, the sky was overcast. If you can use your imagination, trust that would be a really cool and romantic place for a picnic and a bottle of wine.


We had a flight and all of them were pretty good. I particularly liked the 2012 Barbera, which was fruity (berries), smooth, peppery, and a little smoky. The 2013 Grenache had a similar profile – berries, and smoky, but was a bit more tart than the Barbera, and lacked the nice peppery touch. I’m less a fan of the whites, but did like their 2014 Chardonnay, which was buttery, smooth, and light.


Nice little detour. Next time, I’m stopping by with a picnic basket.

A Weekend Of Beer And Wine

Had a beautiful weekend in Malibu. Stayed at a charming bed and breakfast called the Topanga Canyon Inn. This place had a lovely view and was reminiscent of the Italian countryside. The inn is run by a family, and their daughters greeted us and checked us in. We hiked up to Eagle Rock and enjoyed the view from up there too. Later in the day, we had a couple of Chainbreaker White IPA’s by Deschutes:

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I don’t recall the Chainbreaker being as tart it was on this occasion, and wondered if it’d gone slightly bad in the heat. It’s been extraordinarily hot, and it was like 98 degrees most of the day (even during our hike – slightly painful, but the view was worth it).

Later on in the day, we stopped by Malibu Family Wines and shared a bottle of Saddlerock Sauvignon Blanc while listening to some live music. At night, we had dinner at Moonshadows and shared a bottle of Saddlerock Cabernet Sauvignon. Moonshadows is a restaurant that can only be described as magical: you can feel the waves crashing underneath the restaurant as you eat, and the seagulls glow a bright fluorescent white in the ocean night.


Barrel Republic Beer By The Ounce

My friend told me about this place a while back, but I just now got to check it out. This place has like 40 beers on tap and charges by ounce. You show your credit card and ID when you get in, they give you a bracelet with a sensor in it, and you scan the bracelet before every pour. They have a wide variety of glasses available for different types and quantities of beer.

They have a wide selection, including Belgians, IPAs, pale ales, lagers, you name it. There’s something for everyone; I suppose that’s the point. You can pour as little or as much as you want, so if you don’t like it, you can quickly move on. The catch is that it’s not a great deal. Most of the beers on tap end up being $7-$8 a pint which is what fancier joints charge for beers.

They even have a few wines. Although, there was some Adam Corolla-promoted wine called “Mangria” and I’d pretty much rather die than drink anything recommended by Adam fucking Corolla. Oh, I get it – MANgria.  YOU ARE SO FUCKING WITTY ADAM COROLLA. No thanks.

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After trying a whole host of delicious beers, none of the names of which I can recall currently, I ran into Thing 1 while waiting for the Coaster. Not sure where Thing 2 was. Speaking of the Coaster, it sucks now because they have banned alcohol. Because freedom and shit. ‘Murrica.


Giving Thanks To Beer, And Alcohol In General

Happy Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for a great many things, including friends, family, a good job, and good health. As this blog is largely devoted to beer, I am of course also thankful for beer and alcohol in general.

I met my husband while drinking. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to be in a fraternity or sorority without having a penchant for alcohol, but that wasn’t us. We met on a rainy night in February that involved lots of drinks, apartment party hopping, and a friend accidentally lighting something on fire at one of those parties (because he was drunk, as we all were). Back in those days, I was a 19-year-old sorority girl with an unrefined palate. I was probably sipping on whatever sugary, crass, cocktails were passed my way. I will regret this poor taste for the rest of my life, but regardless, that night was the beginning of a series of fun moments, many involving more drinking.

In college and some of law school, I was a fan of Jack on the rocks. We went through a period (early twenties) when we really liked wine. We still like wine, but love craft beers above all. Beer can make a dull day glisten with unexpected delight, and can turn a boring meal into an interesting one. There are so many types and styles of beers that the excitement never ends.

When we got married about 8 years after dating, we made sure to have good beers at our wedding. We had a small keg of Piraat, a beautiful and deceptively powerful Belgian trippel by Van Steenberge, a 10.5% abv delight (his choice). My choice was Westcoast IPA by Greenflash (7.3%). We got a keg of Modelo just in case anyone had lighter preferences, but predictably, that keg was not as popular. At our wedding, people had great beers and great fun; some probably had a little too much fun. It was a night to remember, except for the guests that drank too much to remember.

Cheers to beers, cheers to love, and cheers to my husband.

I am very thankful for all of these on this Thanksgiving.


Illegal Drinking

The United States has some of the harshest drinking laws in the world, though it claims to be a bastion of “freedom.” When I was in Barcelona, we regularly would pay 5 Euros for a bottle of wine and drink it at a little snack shack in the sand. In the thick humidity of Taipei, it was always nice to cool off at a well-air-conditioned 7-11, buy a Sapporo, and drink it on the street, or drink a Taiwan beer while hanging out in night markets.

In Thailand and Bali, one of the greatest joys was to sip on a cold lager while ocean-gazing. In Prague, we bought some beers at a sidewalk cafe, asked to take them to go, and inquired as to whether it was legal to drink in the streets. The guy laughed at us and said, “Of course. This isn’t the United States!”

Where I live in the U.S., you can’t legally drink in parks or beaches, because the U.S. is a fucking police state. Of course, not being able to drink beer where you want in public is one of the least problematic aspects of police states, but still.

Fuck it. You should still do it. Hide homemade white sangria in your beach bag and drink it on the sand on Memorial Day Weekend, as the cops patrol up and down every hour eyeing people for law-breaking behavior. Bring a flask with you to parks just in case you get bored. Find an area of low visibility in a nearby park and bring wine in your picnic basket. Pack beers into your Camelpak while hiking and reward yourself at the summit. Sneak Stone Cali-Belgique into a playground at midnight with your friends and drink it on the picnic benches. Be sure to bring glasses too, because it is undignified to drink such good beer straight out of the bottle.

Cheers for beers, because life is more fun this way.