Another Year Another 20 lbs


Yes, you read that right.  As my previous post may have suggested I scaled way back (or, up, in manner of speaking) since last year.  After finding a job – yay! – and moving 3 1/2 hours away from my spouse – boo – I dropped pretty much any regular exercise regimen and began to go out to eat more often.   The result: I am now hovering above 210 lbs, the heaviest I have been since I initially lost weight in college.

I am now a size 16 in pants and size 14 in tops, which means most of my pants no longer fit.  And, of course, I feel disappointed in myself and frustrated that I haven’t done anything to address this sooner.

I have lots of reasons and excuses and I don’t mean to be too hard on myself. They are valid.  A new job.  Lots of upheaval.  Stress.  These things are real and non-trivial. But when you keep putting off positive changes, things become more and more negative, and depressing, and hopeless.

I feel like I’m beginning to turn things around.  I’ve joined a gym.  I’ve signed up for some races.  I’m focusing on eating at home more and eating more veggies.

I ran my first timed 5K in forever this morning. 36:59 in cool (for August) and breezy conditions out on Belle Isle.  It was about as nice a day as they come for a run.


We were at the Jolly Pumpkin, a great sour brewery, Bar in Detroit yesterday and a couple about 15-20 years older than us sat down next to us at the bar.  The (female) bartender asked the wife what she wanted and when the wife started to reply the husband covered his wife’s ears dramatically and said dismissively, “She likes Stella and Heineken.  She’ll have the pilsner.”  The bartender looked the wife in the eye and said, “You can have whatever you want.”  He also kept saying how gross sour beers were.  But you know what?  His wife tried a sampler with a couple of sour beers in the line up.  And my husband and I attempted to defend the style.  The wife – possibly happy that someone at the bar cared what she thought – started showing me pictures of their neighborhood and a building near them that had recently been restored.  Husband remained supercilious, but mellowed a bit when it became clear that we were serious about the beer style and not simply challenging him for the sake of challenging him.

Who the heck goes into JOLLY PUMPKIN to talk smack about sour beers?

The bartender told us we were hired.

For more about sour beers, check out this recent article from the New York Times.  They mention Logsdon, which is an excellent brewery out of Hood River, OR.  They don’t mention Jolly Pumpkin, though.  My guess is it’s not distributed in New York City, but what a sad omission.


More Foodie-ism

Updates for Fermentation Friday.  First, we’re going to try to brew a Porter this weekend in addition to going to a wedding back in Josh’s hometown.  Not sure it’s going to happen, but I’ll let you know how it works out.

Second, we tried a new (to us) bottle shop in the area, Crafted Drafts, which was (my favorite hipster phrase) “well curated.”

The owner seemed a little more knowledgeable than his second-in-command, who described two beers to me as sours that were not, in fact, sour beers.  Overall, not a regular stop since it’s out of the way for us, but a nice addition to the Columbus beer scene.  They were doing a brisk business when we went last Saturday.



Saw this in my blog feed and had to share:

From: Eater (Token vegetarian dish — probably a pasta. Ding ding ding.)


Also, skipped weigh-in Wednesday, so…181.9 lbs this morning.  Assuming I don’t gain 3 lbs of water weight this weekend (and that’s a big assumption) this may be the start of a downward trend.


IPAs, Founders, Among America’s Top Beers in AHA Poll

From the most recent issue of Zymurgy magazine, as voted on by the membership, America’s top beers are:

1. Russian River Pliny the Elder

2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale

3. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA

4. Bell’s Hopslam

5. The Alchemist Heady Topper

6. Lagunitas Sucks

7. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

8. Stone Enjoy By IPA

9. Founders Breakfast Stout

10. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout

Seems to reinforce the perception of Americans as a bunch of hop-heads, no?  Only three of the top 10 are not IPAs.  Numbers 2 and 3 on the list are two of my favorite IPAs with wide distribution and Josh and I were just talking last night over dinner (and a bottle of Enjoy By) about how much we like that particular IPA.  So, good job America.

Other notable Midwestern additions to the top 50:

11. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout

14. Three Floyds Zombie Dust

32. Surly Furious

T34. Founders All Day IPA

45. Surly Abrasive IPA

T47. Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter

T49. Founders Backwoods Bastard

Not as much Ohio representation as I’d like to see, but I don’t think a lot of the local breweries have the capacity for much interstate distribution yet.  On the other hand, Founders occupies nearly 10% of the top 50 spots, which is well-deserved recognition for an excellent brewery.


Traveling in the South for an academic conference and struck by how noticeable the difference in humidity is down here. While I love seeing rolling hills again, I’m looking forward to returning to (slightly less humid) Columbus.  On Friday, I took a jog along the Tennessee River in downtown Knoxville and it was sticky, but it feels worse down here in Atlanta.  I used my friends’ elliptical this morning because I didn’t think I could brave a run outdoors and I still was sweating buckets in their air conditioned house.  It feels like the ambient air is damper.

On the fermentation front, I tried a Yazoo Spring Ale on my way through Tennessee.  It was light, but had nice body and some hop crispness on the back end. Here’s their description of the beer:

A Helles bock style brewed with lager yeast, using a mixture of traditional german malts – Pilsner, Munich and Cara Helles – hopped using German Perle, Hallertau and Hersbucker hops. Flavor: A nice deep tan color with a slight bready sweet aroma, with a light mouth feel that finishes with a smooth maltiness and clean hop flavor.


Berliner Weiss (+) & Session IPA (meh)

Some beer-related thoughts from the past week or so.

BeerAdvocate’s Sour Note

BeerAdvocate’ s editor’s introduction in the April 2014 issue rubbed me the wrong way.  It felt like a screed against home brewers getting too uppity and acting like they were pros.  Beer Advocate’s focus is on professional, craft brewing companies, but I’m sure the audience includes a healthy number of home brewers too.

I’ve been a practicing lawyer, so I appreciate the importance of being properly licensed and obeying the law before beginning to distribute one’s beer.  These kinds of complicated, state-by-state laws and regulations keep my professional peers in business.  Was the intro supposed to be a tie-in for the featured article “The Illegal Beer Business”?  That article focuses on resale of rare/coveted beers (Heady Topper), the “black market.”  It didn’t have anything to say about home brewers, but the editors in their introduction sure did:

We’re seeing a disturbing, growing trend in the craft beer scene: homebrewers operating like licensed brewers.  By this we mean people who are pouring at festivals, bars, and other events; bottling at distributing samples; and promoting their “brand” as though they’re a licensed brewer.

They go on to argue that these people are breaking the law, creating consumer confusion, and drawing the wrong kind of attention from the government.  They admonish “aspiring pro-brewers out there” to:

Exercise due diligence, get a clue, and get licensed to brew before you serve the public.

I suspect that BeerAdvocate had a few specific brewers in mind that they are choosing not to name out of either courtesy or a desire not to be sued or attacked in the court of public opinion.  The tone of this so snarky though — “get a clue”?  Maybe their introduction is always this snarky and it hasn’t grated on me because the topic hasn’t been at the intersection of things that matter to me, like home brewing and the law.

From a legal perspective, I can see some of the practices they highlight being problematic.  Charging for and distributing alcohol is governed by lots of laws that vary by jurisdiction.  I would need to see the “branding” to know how its deceptive, but from an entrepreneurial point of view I think creating a brand as part of and prior to the licensing process makes a lot of sense.

Again, the brothers Alstrom must have someone in mind here.  I just wish I knew who.

Berliner Weiss – Yay

Berliner Weiss is making inroads in the U.S.  I place this entry first to let everyone know that I am not a hater on light beer styles.  Berliner Weiss is typically sour, low alcohol, and often flavored with red (raspberry) or green (woodruff) syrup.  I first had it on my honeymoon.

From my honeymoon trip in Berlin.

From my honeymoon trip in Berlin.









In Europe, the idea of mixing a light beer with some sort of sweetener is fairly common, so you’ll see shandies and radlers (usually beer with lemonade/sprite) on lots of menus.  Berlin was the only place I remember seeing Berliner Weiss, and now our local brewery (Actual) is making a version called Curiosus.  They told us all about the process of making it – it involved lots of funk and blankets.

From: Drink Up Columbus


Session IPAs – Meh

The pendulum swings back from high-alcohol hop bombs to…low-alcohol hop bombs.  I like me a good IPA — Ballast Point’s Sculpin, Founder’s Centennial — but this new trend is not the style for me.  It must be working for lots of other folks, though, since more breweries are jumping on the bandwagon.


Zauber Brewing & All Time Miles

I may have mentioned I’m signed up for a half marathon in May, which is about 10 more miles than I’ve ever run before.  As of today, it’s only 8 more miles because Josh and I ran 5 miles today at about an 11:00 min/mile pace, on the indoor track at the gym we just signed up for, our local JCC (like a YMCA only Jewish sponsored).

Running 75 laps wasn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, but we were running slow enough that we could chat a bit.  We decided that (i) I would start reading books before bed each night and (ii) I would start going to bed earlier.  In the spirit of setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) goals, here goes.

1. I will read a book (not blogs, the NYTimes, or the Internet) for at least 30 minutes before bed 4 of the next 7 nights.

2. I will turn the lights out by 11:00 p.m. each night this week, so that I can get up by 7:00 a.m.

In celebration of running 5 miles, and because I had a library book to return in Grandview Heights, we had brunch at 3rd and Hollywood (which is pricey, but has good vegetarian options and a sustainable, local focus) and then checked out Zauber Brewing.

Cider from Griffin Cider Works and Red Rye from Actual Brewing

Cider from Griffin Cider Works and Red Rye from Actual Brewing

Unfortunately, they had sold out of their own beers already.  They have a small brewing set-up, and only release their own beer once a week, on Thursdays.  To make up for it, they had a bunch of other brews (including several local options).  We had a few, including a Red Rye beer, Elektron from Actual Brewing.  We also had churros from the Tortilla Street Food truck, which is the closets to actual Mexican food that I have tasted in a long time — very exciting!




Beer Bracket: Great Lakes Wins by a Head

We brought our two top beer bracket finishers to Josh’s family Christmas party, where we managed to convince 10 of his relatives to taste the Great Lakes Christmas Ale and Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs in little dixie cups in a blind face off.  We asked only one question: which cup of beer do you like better, the blue or the green?

Word on the street is that Thirsty Dog’s brewer uses the original Great Lakes Christmas Ale recipe for the 12 Dogs, but I leave it to you to look that up and verify it.  This is just a blog, not a beer Wiki.  They are very similar beers, though, so I’ll give some credit to the claim.

The title may have clued you in on the results: Great Lakes won 7 to 3.

I like the face-off format, though the bracket was cumbersome and seems to have encouraged me to drink more Christmas beer than intended this year.  We may limit the face-off to one round only, at least until we have a big crowd around to help with the drinking and judging!

Christmas Ale Poster (source:

Beer Bracket: Great Lakes, Great Beer

I ended up casting the deciding vote, and Great Lakes moves to the finals!

Great Lakes Brewing Co. – Christmas Ale
Medium copper and very clear, with a thin, off-white head.
Ginger and cinnamon on the smell and taste.  Not as strong of a smell than the other beer.
Lightly warming.  Balanced sweetness with a drying finish.  Very drinkable.
I believe I know what this one is…
J: 9/10 E: 8/10
Anchor Brewing – Our Special Ale 2013
Dark brown with ruby-red highlights.  Clear, as far as I can tell, with a thick, tan head.
Pretty heavily spiced.  Clove and anise, with some cinnamon and maybe nutmeg behind.  There’s something in this we just can’t place, though…
Similar taste, with the cinnamon stepping up a bit.  Nicely malty, with a little fruitiness (Erin suggests raisin?) as it warms.  Moderately sweet throughout, with some bitterness–maybe from the spices?–coming in on the finish
Lightly warming.  Medium body and carbonation.
I don’t know that I’d want to drink more than one of these in a sitting, but this is a really nice beer.
J: 9/10 E: 9/10

Beer Bracket: Thirsty Dog Advances to Finals

Josh and I held the first semifinal match blind, but short of putting the beers themselves in opaque glasses and closing our eyes while we drank them, it was hard to call this a blind tasting while viewing the two contenders – Thirsty Dog’s 12 Dogs of Christmas and Dark Horse’s 4 Elf  – since the 4Elf is so much darker. 12 Dogs took this round 17 to 16.5.  Our tasting notes are below if you’re interested. 

For more on Christmas Ales, check out this post by Jon Katz over at Food Republic.  He gives Anchor a nod, so we will see if it manages to take down Great Lakes.  I might have put my thumb down on the scales in favor of Anchor Steam, after buying a magnum of it at Barrel and Bottle at the North Market.  (I have bottles for the tasting, but we’re going to need a big group to get through the large format bottle!)

An Anchor Christmas Ad from 2008, to give you a sense of scale.

Semi-Final Notes:

12 Dogs of Christmas
Very clear copper color with an off-white head.
Smells of ginger, cinnamon, and honey.  Ginger stands out, but not apart.  Very much what we expect in a Christmas Ale.
Spices up front and center.  Again mostly ginger and cinnamon.  Sweet and malty early on, but quickly gets bitter.  Long finish, spicy and bitter but not entirely dry.  As it warms, the malt gets more intense.
Medium-full body, medium carbonation.  Slightly warming.
Very much in the Great Lakes Christmas Ale mold, but maltier.  Nicely done.
J: 8.5/10       E: 8.5/10
Dark Horse – 4 Elf
Dark brown and opaque, with a tan head.
Anise and grape (raisin?) in the nose, along with chocolate and some other spicing.  Darker-smelling than typical.  As it warms, the chocolate comes out much more strongly, and Erin gets a little coconut.
Significantly more roastiness and chocolate on the taste.  Still highly spiced, though.
Medium body, medium carbonation.  I get a distinct alcoholic warming as it goes down.
A different take on the style, but nicely done.  This match-up is a lot more difficult than I would have expected.
J: 8/10       E:8.5/10

Beer Bracket: C-Town Showdown

This last bracket was one of the toughest of all.  A venerable contender – Great Lakes Christmas Ale – goes up against a hometown favorite – Columbus Brewing Company’s Winter Warmer.

Great Lakes v CBC

Copper-colored and very clear, with a small, off-white head.
Ginger and cinnamon in the nose, maybe some honey.  All quite restrained, though.  Otherwise, there’s some caramel maltiness and maybe a touch of chocolate that comes out as the beer warms.
Similar taste to the smell, with more spice coming through.  Moderate sweetness early, but ending nice and dry.  Nice maltiness
Medium-bodied, with medium or medium-light carbonation.  No astringency.  Lightly warming.  Very drinkable.
Fantastic beer.
[Erin’s Note: I think we need to do future rounds blind.  This beer has long been a favorite of Josh’s.  When we lived out of state, his mom saved him Christmas Ale for when we came for holiday visits.  I agree this is a fantastic beer for the style, but I’m not sure either of us can be impartial about it.  Impartiality wasn’t a ground rule for the tournament, but it would be good to work toward it for future rounds.]
J: 9/10  E: 8/10
Copper-colored, somewhat cloudy, with a small, off-white head.  Very similar in color to the Great Lakes, though cloudier.
Moderately strong Christmas spice in the nose.  Smells like cinnamon-spice cookies–mmmm.  Cinnamon stands out the most–a touch too much, for Josh’s taste–with maybe some nutmeg and ginger as well?  The ginger comes out more as the beer warms.  The spices are strong enough to crowd out most of the malt.
Stronger spicing in the mouth than the Great Lakes.  Again, more cinnamon-focused.  Fairly restrained for a Christmas ale.  Moderate sweetness, but moderate bitterness too.  The finish dries out somewhat but not entirely, though either hops or spices seem to add some late bitterness that the Great Lakes doesn’t have.
Medium body, with somewhat higher than medium carbonation.  No astringency.  Lightly warming.
All in all, a very nice Christmas ale.  I suspect this would have won at least one of the other brackets.  Unfortunately, it’s got some stiff competition here, and this one isn’t quite as polished as as GLBC.  The flavors don’t meld quite as well, it’s rather cloudy, and I’d like a slightly drier finish.  Ultimately, these are just quibbles.  Nice job, CBC.
J: 8/10  E: 8/10
Great Lakes wins by a nose!  Or maybe it was appearance?

Our goal is to run the semi-finals over the weekend and take a few bottles of the finalists to the family Christmas party and get votes for the winner, so I’m keeping the two remaining Ohio beers in separate contests and stacking up the more established breweries against each other.

The semi-finalists will be:
Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs of Christmas v. Dark Horse 4 Elf

Great Lakes Christmas Ale v. Anchor Brewing Our Special Ale