Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hardly A Warm Reception

I went home to Michigan for Christmas. It was my first time back there in the winter in a few years, and man
was it memorable. Did you hear about the massive ice storm that wiped out power for 470,000 people in the upper Midwest last week? Count my mom as one of those people. No power or heat from Saturday, 12/21 around midnight until the morning of Thursday, 12/26, the day after Christmas. How cold was it in her house? The olive oil in the cupboard was frozen. The water in the toilets was frozen solid. Everything was frozen. Luckily she has a sister in the area, and she had plenty of room for us to stay. Believe it or not we were actually lucky. The power was not supposed to come back on for another few days. She was expecting to be out of power and heat for just over a week.

Basically what happened it that is rained, and as it got colder, the rain froze. Then the next day it rained again, and again it froze. Then it snowed. The trees could not handle the weight of the ice, branches cracked and fell, knocking down power lines across huge swaths of multiple states. The tops of trees looked like they had been snapped off by a giant, and large limbs were strewn everywhere. Pretty nasty stuff. Repair crews worked sixteen hour days and came from as far away as North Carolina to help in the effort to get people's homes lit and heated. So basically not your normal Christmas holiday, but one I will not soon forget, and one that certainly makes you thankful for the things that you so often take for granted, like lights that come on and a heater that heats the house.

Prior to that I did enjoy an exciting game at FedEx field on December 22nd. This is my third Cowboys/Redskins game in a row in that stadium, and all three have come down to the wire. There was an overtime game in 2011, a game-ending interception in 2012, and this year a fourth down from the ten touchdown pass to put the game away with one minute left on the clock. Win or lose, I got my money's worth each time I have been there.

Now I am back in Baltimore, getting ready for a New Year's Eve dinner party. I sure did enjoy the holiday in my younger days, but now it doesn't mean a whole lot to me. A relaxing day off tomorrow is something I am looking forward to far more that getting crazy at midnight tonight. But you do what makes you happy. Don't let me slow you down. Just remember, if you're feeling hungover tomorrow, just drink a lot of water. Stay away from the aspirin and ibuprofen. Those are processed by the liver, and seriously, don't you think your liver could use a rest? Drink a lot of water, take a nap, drink more water, and somewhere along the way take a hot shower. You'll survive, and you'll probably do it all again before too long.
Lots of Cowboys fans in there that day.

That's all I have for now. Have a great 2014 everyone. Talk to you then.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Roar? Please, God, Anything But That

So long story short, Heavy Seas got asked to be the sole provider of craft beer for the two-day holiday party at the International Monetary Fund in Washington D.C. Now in case you don't know how important the IMF is, the director is listed here as the 7th most powerful woman in the world. And there I was, at her holiday party for 1800 people in the nation's capital on Friday night. There were 1800 more people coming the following night. Pretty cool. I don't know the last time you threw a party for 3600 people, but the last time I did was never.
Even at the IMF, eye patches are a big hit.

This was no ordinary holiday party. No ugly sweaters, no eggnog, no cookies (as far as I could tell). Just people from all over the world, people who manage the economies of entire countries, in all kinds of dressy clothes of their nations of origin. The food was top-notch, there were three floors of party surrounding a central atrium, two different stages with live bands, and yep, you guessed it...karaoke. You can class up a joint all you want, but I guess you just can't have a proper office Christmas party without a damn karaoke machine. And let me tell you something, if you think Katy Perry sings like shit (and she does), wait until you hear a bunch of half-drunk economists get their hands on her material. Oh god, please make it stop. The tone-deaf caterwauling still haunts me in my sleep.

On the bright side, it was amazing to see how many people in that group were huge fans of Heavy Seas. One girl from some country in Asia, who weighed maybe 80 pounds, seemed to love Loose Cannon more than life itself. And she proved her point by having WAY too many, and eventually needing to be cared for by a slightly more sober friend. Ah, those wild and wacky IMF people. Even more encouraging than the number of fans we had in the room was the number of people who had never had Heavy Seas before, but became fans almost instantly. Based on the other beers they had to choose from--huge European imports and the usual domestic suspects--we were the only interesting beers in the building. People from all walks of life were enjoying fresh, locally made beer, and having a personal discovery right then and there. Good times.

My journey into the city prior to the event was difficult to say the least. D.C. is an unforgiving city to people who are driving around lost on a Friday afternoon. I'm sorry, but the one street I absolutely needed to find was closed for construction at the exact point I needed to be. A few wrong turns and some one-way streets later, well, it was a mess. But that's why you leave early when you don't know where you're going. Parking? Don't get me started. Once I finally found the deck I was supposed to be in I had already spent $10.00 on the street and had to move my car twice. And when the evening was all over at 1:30 am, do you think the door to the parking deck on the street was unlocked? Of course not. Do you think that the driving entrance to the deck was on the absolute opposite end of the building, and that it required walking all the way around that building which occupies an entire city block? Precisely. But that is just where the fun begins. Once I found the entrance and walked down to the elevator, do you think it worked? No, of course it didn't work. Now here is where you need to pay attention. When I opened the door to the stairwell, I immediately found another door just inches from the first one. That was the first clue that trouble was ahead. The first door opened towards me, but the second one opened away from me. OK, I thought, that's messed up, but just one floor down is my car, and let's just get this over with and go. Down one flight of stairs, and the door...was locked. Yes, dear readers, the door into the parking deck where my car sat was locked. So back upstairs to where I started, and I'll just walk down the ramp to my car. If you guessed that the door on that level was also locked, and that I was now trapped in the stairwell, you guessed right. Oh yes, creeping up on 2:00 am, trapped in a stairwell, and I had to urinate. Now you may recall that I originally walked down to the elevator that did not work, in order to find the doors that open oddly and lock behind you. So there was a street level above the top of where I appeared to be trapped. By walking up another flight of stairs to that level, a door opened into a guard station area, where a security guard was sitting, laughing, having watched this all transpire on his camera monitor. Glad that someone was enjoying this. When I got to my hotel it was 2:30 am, and I had to be up early to get back to Baltimore. I was too tired to be angry any longer, and a long, weird day was finally over.

I guess that's my story for now. On a high note, it looks like the colony of crows outside my windows that was trying to drive me insane has finally moved on to torture someone else. That was smart, because I was about to get serious about some avian extermination. I had a plan, and they would not have won. Turns out I had a very determined neighbor with an impressively loud air horn. This guy was up at 5:00 am blasting these birds with the air horn as soon as they started raising hell each morning. Apparently they love to make an incredible racket on their own, but when people return the favor, they can't deal with it. I was going to point a strobe light at their tree and hit 'em with a water hose at the same time. They don't like to wet I guess, or have light directed at them. For what are essentially flying rats, they sure are picky.

One last thing before I go. I am going to my third consecutive Cowboys/Redskins game in D.C. this Sunday. Typically this game has a little more meaning for at least one of the teams, but not this time. Either way, I will get to spend some time with a friend from Atlanta, which is the first time for that since I moved a month ago. I have a big beer trip planned for February as well. This year it is Munch, Vienna, Prague and Pilsen, so stay tuned for details and photos from that. Have a great holiday season folks. I will be in Michigan most of next week, so you may not hear from me for a while. Stay warm everyone. Bye.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Got Wood, Mon?

My new ride.
Sounds like a lot of people are wondering how the Night Of 100 Elvises went last Friday. I will tell you right now, that is one unique event. Wow. I saw just about everything you could imagine singing Elvis songs. Just to name a few: Lady E (that's right, a female Elvis), punk Elvis, belly dancers (some with more belly than dance) with Elvis, Santa Claus with Elvis, and no less than a half-dozen Elvises in their late 50's with jumpsuits unzipped down to their beer guts. In a word: awesome. A hunk, a hunk of burnin' awesome. Free beer. That's right. The Lithuanian Hall buys a ton of Heavy Seas beer and gives it away. You want wine, liquor or bad beer? Costs money. Want great local craft beer? Free! How about a shot of some home made Lithuanian honey/spice/grain alcohol called "viryta"? Only three bucks, so pace yourself. You can do what you want, but don't barf on my blue suede shoes.

Today I met an interesting guy who is an expert on wood. He managed to take his degree in whatever they call a degree in wood, and put it to use with breweries. His claim to fame is that he introduced Dogfish Head to the palo santo wood, which is used to create one incredible beer. This guy was at Heavy Seas today to discuss the upcoming Plank Three release that will coming in 2014. The style of the beer is still being determined, but it sounds like it will be of Belgian origin. The wood will be...Jamaican allspice. Didn't see that one coming, did ya? Stay tuned for more details, and be sure to grab it fast when it comes out. I doubt it will be around for long.

Hopefully everyone is getting close to being done with their Christmas shopping. I managed to get just about there this weekend, with just a few loose ends to tie up this week. I won't have Saturday to shop though, not that I looked forward to that mess. I am doing an event at the International Monetary Fund in Washington D.C. on Friday night. That's right, even the people who control the economy of the entire planet need to let their hair down for a holiday party. And they requested local beer. That was mighty thoughtful of them, and we certainly appreciate it. I guess I am going to need to tuck my shirt in for this one. Taking one for the team.

You will probably hear from me next week. Should be a pretty quiet week, at least until Friday the 21st. That is the day of our employee holiday party here at the brewery, and the day that a friend from Atlanta is coming to visit. Sunday the 22nd is my annual Cowboys at Redskins game (year 3), which, in case the NFL is listening, can be moved to October please. As much as I love sitting outside in the winter for three hours, which is not very much at all, I would be just fine doing it in the fall. Pretty please.

Have a great week everyone. Happy holidays. Be jolly like these guys.
Thirty minuted later there was about 50 of them.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

You Had Me At Elvis

This was a real conversation I had last week:
"Hey Fred, what are you doing next Friday?"
"I got a table at this fundraiser if you want to go. It's called 'Night Of 100 Elvises'. You interested?"
"You had me at 'Elvis'. I didn't even really need the other 99. I would have said yes to just one Elvis."

So tomorrow night I am going to the Lithuanian Hall for what looks like a rip-roaring good time. I don't have time to explain the whole thing to you, but here is the web site: http://www.nightof100elvises.com/. Let's just say that it is a whole lot of Elvis, a whole lot of free Heavy Seas beer, and fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches for dessert. Now I have never seen an Elvis impersonator live. On TV? Sure. Posing for pictures with tourists in Vegas? Yeah. But multiple Elvis impersonators on multiple stages on different floors all at one--and no songs are duplicated--well, this I have to see. I don't know what we're raising money for, and I don't really care*. This is going to be a trip. Apparently this thing has been a home-run here in Baltimore for twenty years, and I can't wait to check it out.

In other, non-Elvis-related news, today is the 80th anniversary of the actual repeal of Prohibition. And we have Utah to thank for it. That's right, by being the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, Utah provided the final state needed to provide the two-thirds majority to pass the amendment. Pretty cool info. Didn't think you'd learn anything today did you? Did you know that Mississippi chose to maintain Prohibition until 1966. We already had people going into outer space and coming back alive, but you could not get a legal drink in Mississippi. Crazy.

So be sure to raise a toast to Utah today at 5:32 pm EST, wherever you are. And then raise one to every brave soul who lived in Mississippi from 1933 to 1966. What were they thinking? Pack up and move people! Maybe that's why there is so much poverty in that state. Anyone with the means to do it packed up and split so they could get a cold beer without breaking the law.

And while you're doing all of this toasting, raise one to the 1.78 million people that are employed in the brewing industry in this country alone. I'll drink to that. Have a great weekend everyone.

PS-- Fun Fact: Maryland was the only state to not pass a law enacting Prohibition. Once the federal law was enacted, there was nothing they could do about it though.

*The money goes to Johns Hopkins Children's Center, and I do care about that.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

And We're Back!

That's right kids, I did not forget about you. Last we spoke I was in a hotel room north of Richmond, VA,
waiting to get an early start the next day to meet the movers at my new place in Baltimore. That was just over two weeks ago. Everything went well with the move: I lost a ceramic something-or-other, plus two glasses. Not beer glasses though. Hell no. I took better care packing of those. They take such good care of me, it was only fair to return the favor. All of my framed artwork was intact, nothing was lost...I mean seriously, I gotta give those mover guys credit. I wholeheartedly recommend using Allied if you ever have a long move to make. Pay the extra money for the peace of mind. Trust me on this one.    

So...sorry that I have been out of communication lately. I have only been starting a new job after relocating 700 miles to a town I have only seen twice before. Then just setting up utilities, unpacking, finding my way around, getting lost, having my car towed, doing battle with a colony of crows that use my car for a toilet, having a plumbing disaster...so, you know, nothing much. Did I mention that I started a new job? Well that's going great, as if there were any doubts. When your new boss invites you over to his house to grill steaks after your first day because, "You probably haven't had a home cooked meal in a while," you know you're in good hands. Quality people for sure. Go buy some Heavy Seas beer and feel good about it. Don't do it for me, do it for yourself, and walk around all damn day proud of yourself for supporting a great operation. And if you insist on doing it for me, well OK, whatever makes you happy.

But actually, these beers might be hard to find from time to time. A new bottling line is being installed now, and a new brew system arrives in the spring. The supply vs. demand deficit should be under control soon...ish. In the meantime, I am trying not to drink too much beer, putting a bigger dent in the supply. I said I am trying. I didn't say I was succeeding.

Winter is fast approaching, and since I know that most of you reading this are the southeast and think that you are going to die if the temperature gets below 40 degrees, I just want to assure you that I am fine. The Mid-Atlantic is not like Siberia. It will hit 50 today. I did go out and buy an ice scraper/snow brush for my car yesterday though. Gotta be prepared. Damn thing was $16.99, so it better snow at least a few times this year.

One thing is for sure, December weather does not slow down beer events up here. There are things going on all over the area, so many that I have to skip some really killer ones that overlap. Next week I will be doing an event at the IMF in Washington D.C. Yep, yours truly will be rubbing elbows with the power brokers of the International Monetary Fund. Sounds like a wild and crazy bunch of reckless drunks, doesn't it? Not sure if I can run with that crowd of party animals. Yule Tide is out (and might even be gone by now), and this is an Imperial Red Ale brewed with ginger and aged in Jamaican rum barrels. Yes, it is as good as it sounds. Winter Storm was always a favorite of mine, but I must say, having it from a beer engine, fresh from the brewery, does not suck. Not even a tiny bit. Plan a trip to Baltimore next fall and find out for yourself.

Next up is the Mid-Atlantic Holiday Beer Tasting in Baltimore, followed by the annual Holiday Beer Tasting at RFD in D.C. Astute readers may remember RFD from wintertime posts in 2012 and 2011, where late-night D.C. Chinatown food was also discussed. Not sure if I can make both of these events or not, but damn it, I am going to try. My annual Cowboys at Redskins game is coming up December 22nd, so that will take me right into Christmas on my usual frenetic tempo.

Time for me to go now though. Duty calls. I will tell you more about the battle with the crows around here (I will not glorify them by calling them ravens). It does not appear to be ending very soon. Let's just say that I now understand why Edgar Allan Poe (a Baltimorean from back in the day) went berserk on drugs and alcohol. No doubt because of these flying pests with an endless supply of poop. No kidding. Endless. These animals need medial attention or something. I can deal with the squawking and cawing, just leave my damn car alone. Thanks to the internet, I learned that an effective way to get rid of crows is with a scarecrow. Thanks, Google. I didn't need a computer to tell me how farmers have been deterring crows for the last 300 years. I was looking for something a little edgier than a fake person in my yard. Pretty sure the city birds are a little more crafty than their country cousins. Either way, I will find the key to victory. Until then, have a great week.