Vancouver USA Half Marathon – Vancouver, WA – June 15, 2014

Last Sunday was Lisa and I’s second in a series of three half marathons this summer. (I never got around to blogging about the Oregon Spring Half on May 3.  I’ll get that soon).  Vancouver represented a new state for both of us as well as a city we spend a lot of time in.  I work there, Lisa’s parents live there, we are getting married there.  The other fun thing about this race is it included a beer festival at the finish!

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A nice shirt and a beer mug for the festival were the swag for this race! Pretty exciting!

Lisa’s cousin Karadee as well as Karadee’s sister Zandra and Zandra’s husband Mike were running this race as well.  We managed to find them at the start and while Zandra and Mike were planning a much faster pace than us, Karadee was right where we were planning to be and so we promised to stay together as best we could.  It worked out really well.  We stayed together most of the way and also hung around with the 2:45 pacer (a fellow Half Fanatic!) most of the way as well.  Our goal for this race was merely to finish and enjoy the race.  No PRs for this one, at least not for Lisa and I.  Karadee and Zandra both PR’d!

The race started at Esther Short park in downtown Vancouver and wound it’s way through downtown, through Officers Row of Fort Vancouver (which was awesome!) and then up the only major hill of the course but it was a doozy! A mile and a half slog up the hill of death.  Then we careened down the hill through a couple parks and then along the waterfront and back through Fort Vancouver to finish back in Esther Short park.  It was a really nice course, even with the hill of death.  We all stayed together until about mile 8 when Karadee just caught some kind of groove or second wind and she took off! We cheered her on as she pulled away.  At about mile 11 my calves started cramping up (again!) and we had to stop and walk a bit.  Tried to run again but only made it another 1/4 mile or so before they cramped up again.  The only complaint I could have about this race is the late stage water stops had run out of gatorade.  I doubled up the water and even ate a second Gu for the sodium and potassium but it wasn’t enough to help.  We had to walk until mile 13 and then we just had one corner to turn for the finish, so we jogged it out to the finish.  I cramped up again immediately but I was able to keep going just until the finish.

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We finished! HUGE medals! Very nice.

After the race we grabbed some much needed food and gatorade and then walked to the car to change clothes and get our beer mugs.  We headed back to the beer festival for some beer and food!  We didn’t realize until too late that the gear check tag from the bottom of the bib got us a free beer from the beer sponser Heathen Brewing in Vancouver.  Oh well.  But we had our free tokens to get some samples.  We had enough tokens to get two samplers (one token each) and then one full beer pour (4 tokens) with our dinner.  I sampled a NW Red Ale from McMenamins, a Saison from Heathen and then got a full pour of Kiwanas Cream ale from Pelican Brewing.  Lisa tried a Porter from Heathen, another one I don’t remember that she just liked the name, and then got a full pour of Irish Stout from Breakside.

10419484_10152171479252543_4023595224265889456_nBeer fest selfie!

It did suck to cramp up towards the end, for like the 4th race in a row no less, but we finished and we made it.  We had a great time and got to spend most of the race with Karadee which was really fun and made the miles FLY by.

Up next is the Foot Traffic Flat on July 4th, which I spectated last year, but this year I get to run it.  This will be the 3rd race in well under 90 days to qualify Lisa for the half fanatics, but after this race we are going to take a break from halfs for a while.  The training has been grueling and trying to fit it in among work, school, church and wedding planning has been daunting.  For the rest of this year and probably all of next year we are going to concentrate on shorter races, mostly 5Ks but some 10Ks and one 15K (Shamrock).  We’ll set different goals, like go for time and work on speed.  Both of us would love to nail a sub 30 minute 5K.

On to the next!

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I made Beer… and it was easy.

My first batch of home brewed beer is now finished and aging (conditioning) in bottles in the fridge.  It was fairly easy, but it was not fast.  I started on May 5th when I created the wort (young beer) and pitched the yeast.  Two weeks of primary fermentation in the barrel and then on May 20th it was ready to bottle.  Done right? Well, not quite.  At this point I had to add more sugar for a secondary fermentation to create the carbonation we all know and love.  The carbonation serves multiple purposes.  First it gives us the fizzy crisp mouth feel we are used to in beer, but more importantly Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the bottle as well as pressure inside prevents oxygen from getting inside the bottle and ruining the beer.  Oxidation and sunlight are what cause a beer to go “skunky”.  That’s why good beer (not Corona or Miller High Life) comes in brown or green glass bottles, or aluminum cans.

Here’s how it went down.  First the easy part.  The Mr Beer kit is self contained and really easy to use.  The beer ingredient can is what’s know as “Hopped Malt Extract”.  This is essentially wort that’s been boiled and then concentrated into a syrup.  It includes all of the malt sugars needed for fermentation and flavor as well as hop extracts for bittering, flavor and preservation.

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You can’t really see anything but Lisa took a picture of me pouring the malt extract from the can into a pot of boiling water to dissolve it into the wort.  Behind me you can see the Mr Beer fermentation take (designed to look like a barrel) and a large pitcher full of water to fill the keg with.  After I poured the hot wort in the keg (half full already with cold water to cool the wort) I filled it the rest of the way with water, placed it in a safe place and pitched the yeast.  The yeast in the kit is a dry yeast you simply sprinkle on top.  I was unable to take an initial gravity reading with my hydrometer, which at first I thought was not a big deal, but later realized it was indeed a big deal.  More on that later.

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It’s hard to see, even with the flashlight but this is what the keg looked like after about three days.  This thick foam is known as “krausen”, which if you ask me sounds like a sea creature, and the first 2-4 days are when the yeast are most active and this period is known as “high krausen”.  After that the yeast die down and the foam goes away, but they aren’t done.  After the easiest to ferment sugars are gone, the yeast keep working for another 2-3 weeks depending on the beer style and alcohol level desired, they just slow down after their initial binge.  The Mr Beer kit recommends fermentation for 2 weeks.

About halfway through the fermentation I began to notice a strong smell of apples in the room where my brewing kit was.  I didn’t have a clue what this could signify so I googled it.  Now, searching the internet for brewing problems is like looking at WebMD when you have a cold.  It’s going to tell you a whole bunch of stuff that is wrong with you, like having 12 different kinds of cancer.  Turns out the apple smell is caused by acetaldahyde.  On the one hand, this is a normal byproduct of yeast fermentation, so that’s not so bad.  On the other hand if it doesn’t go away, it can be a telltale sign of all kinds of things that went wrong including dead yeast, poor temperature control etc.  So what I’m reading is basically “Your yeast is dead, and your beer is ruined”.  *sigh* Not a great start to my homebrewing career.  So I start a post-mortem to find out what went wrong and I turn to the only test I have at my disposal.  I check the specific gravity with my hydrometer now that I had acquired a “hydrometer jar”, essentially a tall glass tube tall enough to accommodate the hydrometer.  I didn’t have this the day I made the wort which is why I wasn’t able to get an initial gravity reading.  The gravity reading I get is 1.012 (water is 1.000).  This is low.. very low.  This is bad.. very bad.  Or is it?  I pull out my Brewmaster’s Bible and flip to the potential alcohol tables.  My specific gravity relates to a ABV of about 1.7%.  This is way too low and something has gone horribly wrong.  I mull this over in my head for a little while and then I read how the alcohol levels are calculated.  You take the ABV of the initial gravity and subtract it from the ABV of the final gravity and this is the approximate alcohol content of your beer.  Having not thought about relative densities of alcohol and water I have to read through this a couple times before it clicks.  Alcohol is less dense than water, therefore the gravity of the wort (sugar solution) will be HIGHER than the gravity of the final beer.  The gravity starts high and then drops.  EUREKA! I used an online tool to estimate the starting gravity of my wort which it tells me is about 1.030.  Subtracting the data from the table gives me an ABV of 3.2%.  This is lower than the 3.7% that Mr Beer lists on the can, but at this point my beer is not done yet.  I’ve still got about 5 days left to go.  Maybe my beer is not dead after all!

I was thinking about making some changes to my beer, letting it ferment longer, adding more yeast, or just throwing it out when Lisa reminded me of a good point.  For good or for ill I had stated I was going to make the first batch exactly by the Mr Beer recipe and let the chips fall where they may.  If it’s good so be it, if it got messed up along the way, so be it.  We can assess it at the end if something goes wrong.

On May 20th my beer was ready to bottle.  My kit came with 11 750ml plastic bottles.  This is roughly equivalent to 22 12 ounce bottles.  So for 14-17$ depending on the style, my kit makes nearly a 24-pack of beer.  So it’s not dirt cheap, in fact you can get some beers for cheaper than that, but it’s going to be low alcohol, flavorless beer like Michelob Light.  Supposedly the homebrew should be much better than that.

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Getting ready to start bottling.  The pitcher contains a sanitizing solution to clean the bottles with.

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Bottled beer, but it’s not ready yet.  Now it takes another 2 weeks for carbonation, and some websites even suggest another 2-4 weeks of “conditioning” after that for the flavors to mellow.

So we wait.. and we wait.. then comes to moment of truth.

May 30th.  Two of my bottles (the last two filled) got a little extra yeast in the bottles.  So they ended up getting fully carbonated first and I stuck them in the fridge for a couple days.  One day when Lisa was over we cracked one open and we tried it.

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Well, it looks like beer, it smells like beer, what does it taste like?

Turns out, it tastes pretty good.  It has a very light, crisp taste and a dry finish.  The Mr Beer American Light Lager is exactly what it sounds like, it’s their version of the style that includes Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light etc.  Light flavor, light body, low alcohol.  Lisa really liked it.  I think I was trying too hard to describe it or compare it to something to appreciate it fully, but I have 10 more bottles of it.  Some of which will be shared around, especially to Lisa’s family who has been waiting since Christmas!

So, I did it! I successfully made beer! After we start making a dent in this batch and getting some empty bottles back I’ll start the second batch.  Lisa is requesting a stout.  We’ll see. 🙂

My Beer Journey

Runners love beer.  It’s refreshing and cold and a lot of races hand it out for free. What’s not to like?

I had my first beer at a Civil War re-enactment when I was… well let’s just say I was underage.  That first beer was a Coors Light.  It was essentially fizzy water, when it was ice cold it was pretty much flavorless.  We all start here right? Something light (and usually cheap) like Coors, Beast, PBR etc.  Beer for a lot of people is an acquired taste like many things, coffee, wine, etc.  Start light and work your way up.  A couple years later (again at a re-enactment) I was introduced to a lovely Canadian lager LaBatt Blue which put me on my butt, literally, with a much stronger taste and much higher alcohol content.  I liked it though, for a long time in college this was my beer of choice.

Fast forward through several years of whatever was on sale, on special on draft, or whatever was in the keg and I end up in Greensboro NC.  Here I am introduced to a locally made red ale known as Red Oak.  I fell in love with this beer, and to this day it is one of my favorites, although sadly I can’t get it anymore.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was my first taste of local craft brewing.  I went through a period, like many people I’m sure, thinking that some of the “special” brands like Shock Top and Blue Moon were “micro-brews”.. they aren’t.  They are made in the same factory as Budweiser. Microbrews are made in a place where you can walk in and see the fermenting tanks.  Red Oak was made at the Greensboro Ale House and it was only available on draft in a few places around town.  No cans.  No bottles.  They have since opened a new brewery and a cannery and you can get the beer at grocery stores in bottles.  I never got around to trying it before I moved away so I don’t know if it was as good.

A couple years later I end up in Winston Salem and get introduced to several more local beers.  It’s here I discover my first brewpub, Foothills Brewing.  They made their own beer on site! They had several year round brews including three IPAs, a Pilsner, a Porter and an American Pale Ale, plus all kinds of crazy seasonal and one off beers.   It was at this point I was starting to experiment and discover that I liked certain styles of beer, not just certain brands.  I don’t like overly hopped beers.  IPA (India Pale Ale) is usually out, and even some normal Pale Ales are too hoppy.  I like wheat beers a lot (both Belgian Style like Blue Moon, and German style Hefewiezens which are very similar), I like my Red Ales and I like brown ales like Newcastle, Nut Brown Ale etc.  I’m ok with Porters and Stouts but they aren’t my favorite.

Speaking of moving, then I moved to Beervana.  In case you didn’t know Portland, Oregon and most of the whole state of Oregon to be honest is the beer brewing capitol of the planet.  There’s several reasons for this.  First is access to fresh clean water.  A lot of the municipal water around here from from lakes and rivers that are fed by snowmelt.  Very pure and clean and they don’t put any chemicals in it, at all.  The tap water here is awesome.  Also, all of the beer ingredients grow here and grow well.  Hops flourish in this area and in fact a lot of the best hops are from this area.  Cascade, Mt Hood, Williamette etc.  The area south of Portland grows enough hops it’s probably second only to maybe Germany.

EVERYONE here makes beer.  And I mean everyone.  There are brewpubs and microbrews everywhere.  Why anyone would drink “name brand” beer (Bud, Coors, Miller etc) in this town is beyond me.  There’s a couple of fairly big local breweries around here that distribute nationwide, Rogue and Full Sail to name two that I could get back on the East Coast.  McMenamins makes their own beer (and wine and spirits) and not only is that all they carry at their locations, you can only get their beer at their locations.  Laurelwood is a local brewpub with two restaurant locations and their beer is also available at grocery stores.  There’s too many to name but there are so many, I’ve rarely had the same beer twice since I’ve been here.  Every time I go to the store I want to try something new.

Now, since hops grow so well here, Northwest beers tend to be VERY hoppy.  The NWPA (Northwest Pale Ale) tends to be hoppier than most IPAs elsewhere, and the IPAs here will blow the top of your head off.  This proves to be troublesome for me, since I don’t like overhopped beers, but there is still plenty here I can drink.  Widmer makes a great Hefeweisen.  Rogue makes an amazing Hazelnut Brown Ale that I just tried the other day. Laurelwood makes a good Red Ale.  I have plenty of choices.

But now I have one other choice.. My beer journey has now come full circle.  Very soon, within the next couple weeks, I’ll be making my own beer.  Lisa’s sister got us a homebrew kit for Christmas last year and the only reason I haven’t started yet is it’s been too cold for the fermentation to take place, but it’s finally getting warm enough.  Now if I can’t find something I like I can just make it.  I can take something similar to something I like and tweak it to be even better.  I can experiment with different flavors and combos of ingredients and just make stuff up as I go along.  It’s a small kit, only 2 gallons, so if I make something that’s terrible and undrinkable it’s not a huge waste.

Stay tuned as I’m about to seriously get my food science geek on.  There will be updates!

Portland Food Scene

Portland is a food lover’s haven.  Whether you are looking for something healthy like grilled fish and veggies, or something decadent like poutine (french fries with cheese curds and gravy), Portland has you covered.  Any sort of special dietary needs, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, kosher, halal, nut allergies etc and Portland has you covered.  Any kind of ethnicity you can think of, to the standard Greek, Chinese, Mexican, to some that I have never seen before like Peruvian and Lebanese and ironically enough even “Southern” and Cajun/Creole.  I’ve yet to try the “Soul Food”/”Southern” to see how it stacks up to the real thing.   Here is just a slight taste of some of the good eats I’ve tried in the two weeks I’ve been here.

Food Carts:

There are food carts/food trucks EVERYWHERE in Portland serving everything from Crepes to Cajun.  I’ve been to three so far.  The first two were in the same place off of 12th Avenue.  We couldn’t decide what we wanted so we got some different stuff to try.  First from a cart called Potato Champion we got an order of Poutine which I’ve always wanted to try. It was really good, but the gravy was a little thin, I would have been perfectly happy with just the fries and cheese curds.  The fries were some of the best I’ve ever had.  Then, from a cart called Pyro Pizza we got a wood fired four cheese pizza with a paper thin crust.  It was amazing, and totally worth the 20 minutes we had to wait for it (we were eating our fries anyway).  The third cart we ate at was in Downtown at the Saturday Market and it was called A Taste of Poland, and that’s exactly what I got.  They offered several different sampler platters and the one I got came with pirogis, potato pancakes, a kielbasa link, and chicken meatballs.  My only complaint was they forgot to put the applesauce on my potato pancakes but they were good with the sour cream that came with it.  It was amazing!

Burgerville:

Burgerville is a fast food burger chain here in the Northwest, most of their locations are centered around Portland.  What makes them different from your typical chain is that they source everything locally.  They use local grown beef for their burgers, Tillamook cheese and local veggies.  They offer seasonal specials based on what’s in season, which right now is strawberries.  They also offer some special items such as a turkey burger, a veggie burger, and a gluten free bun is available.  They also compost and recycle most if not all of their waste.  (Commercial curbside composting is available in many places in Portland alongside trash and recycling which is something I had never seen before).

McMenamins:

McMenamins is another chain, if you can call them that, of casual restaurant/bar locations here in Portland.  The reason I hesitate to call them a chain is, while they have many locations, they are all different and have their own flair.  They’ve taken over several old theaters, one that plays movies where you can eat dinner while you watch the movie, and one that hosts live music concerts.  They’ve turned several old buildings (including a former school) into hotels that they run along with their pubs.  In true Portland fashion, they also have several breweries and they brew their own beers.  The different locations will stock different beers as well as rotating seasonals so it certainly behooves you to visit as many of the locations as you can.  So far Lisa and I have been to two different ones.  One in Clackamas off Sunnyside road, which is a standard strip mall restaurant location, and then the one in Oregon City which we’ve been to multiple times.  I don’t know what the Oregon City location used to be, but the porcelain in the men’s room is dated 1919 (which is a copyright date and may not be when it was actually made, but it’s still old!).

Coffee:

If you love coffee, Portland is the place to be.  Sure they have chains like Starbucks and Seattle’s Best, but who needs those?  There are HUNDREDS of independent coffee shops around town.  There is quite literally one on every corner.  Portlanders, like those in her sister city of Seattle, love their coffee and are damn serious about it.  I’m honestly surprised the mega chains like Starbucks stay in business but I guess enough people go there to keep them afloat.  Lisa loves coffee and so we’ve already stopped at 3 or 4 different spots while we were out and about.  I’m not a huge coffee drinker, usually just a cup in the morning, but I’ve always dressed my coffee up with cream and sugar since (like beer and other things) the bitterness of coffee takes some getting used to.  Since I’ve been here there’s been several occasions where I’ve drunk my coffee black since getting actual fresh coffee that was roasted 3 days ago and ground that morning is such a HUGE difference to coffee that has sat in a grocery store shelf for 6 months.  The coffee is mild and even slightly sweet, with almost no bitterness at all.  Also, if you are in a hurry (as most people are) dotting the roads everywhere (even out in tiny Canby) are drive through espresso stands.  There’s one in the parking lot of pretty much every grocery store and strip mall and some just on a pull off on the side of the road.  I used to make fun of the people who would pay 4 to 5 bucks for a coffee drink, but I have to admit, every once in a while I have to get a mocha because they are just SO good.  Now I get what the fuss is about.  And the mocha’s here, even with the chocolate you can still taste the coffee, unlike the “warm chocolate milk” mocha I got at EPCOT, or as Lisa would say “Around here we call that hot chocolate.”  A lot of the local shops carry either Stumptown Roasters coffee or Portland Roasters coffee, both of which are very good, and sometimes you stumble into a shop (like we did at the Water Avenue Coffee Co.) that roasts their own in house!

Grocery Store Produce:

I haven’t done a whole lot of grocery shopping yet but I’ve noticed a few things in the produce aisle that has caught my attention.  Lisa and I were discussing some of the things and it makes sense, but it’s still shocking to see the major differences.  Bananas here are about twice as expensive as in NC (still only 64 cents a pound, but I’m used to 35-40 cents a pound), but offsetting that, the apples are WAY cheaper.  The “plain” varieties like red delicious, granny smith, etc are 99 cents a pound, and fancy varieties like Fuji and Gala are $1.49-$1.99 a pound.  Lisa got some organic Fuji apples for something like $2.49 a pound which is cheaper than I’ve paid for non-organic apples back in NC.  I’ve never seen apples for under 2 dollars a pound much less under a dollar a pound! Considering most of the apples come from Washington state, this makes perfect sense.  I’ll probably never have to worry about running into apples from Chile around here! Strawberries here are also way cheaper.  The 8oz packs are about two dollars, which would have run 4-5 dollars at home unless they were on special.  The strawberries come mostly from California, so this also makes sense as being close.  The Williamette valley is home to berry central, so they have a huge variety of berries grown locally including raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and local cultivars of Boysenberries and Marion berries which only grow around here.

Beer:

Of course, it wouldn’t be Beervana without beer right? There are so many micro/small brewers around here it will make your head spin.  There’s quite a few brewpubs where you can only get the beer on tap at the place it’s made, there’s also a few that are big enough to ship nationwide (Rogue Ales and Full Sail to name two) but are still independently owned.  So far I’ve tried beer from Full Sail (which I got back in NC), Portland Brewing Company (Brown ale and McTarnahan’s amber), McMenamins who make their own I’ve tried several off, had a taster tray at Rogue Ales which included a hefewiezen, brown ale, amber ale and nitro stout.  Lisa, Lexie and I went to a place called Roscoe’s which had a very cool set up.  They had 16 beers on tap, but they only had one keg of each so once it was gone it was gone, and they tapped a new one, so the beer selection is constantly rotating. The happy hour food is great and dirt cheap.  The beer I got there was a belgian Dubbel and I recognized the brewers name, but now I can’t remember it.  Next up on the list of places I want to try are the Hopworks Urban Brewery which makes organic beer (and from what I hear amazing food), Sasquatch Brewing company just because it’s cool and several others.

So there you have it.. come visit Portland and Eat, Drink and Be Merry!!

Foothills Brewing Brewpub Review

I’ve always enjoyed several different kinds of beer, but lately I have really been expanding my beer library with new brands, new styles, microbrews, local brews etc.  So I definitely wanted to write about yesterday’s trip to Foothills Brewing Company here in Winston Salem.

This was my second trip to Foothills, so I knew somewhat what to expect, but this time I was going in with a purpose.  I was going to order the sampler and try as many of the different beers as they would let me, and then also I was taking notes to decide what I liked and what I didn’t.

From left to right: Salem Gold, Pilot Mountain Pale Ale, Torch Pilsner, Hoppyum IPA, Seeing Double IPA, Peoples Porter and Foothills Hefeweizen (seasonal).

I arranged the beers to drink them in order of increasing bitterness, which was not quite the order on the table.  With the exception of saving the porter for last, I drank them in the order of SG, Hefe, TPils, PMPA, HopIPA, DoubleIPA and then the Porter.  I also finished one completely before moving on to the next, instead of a sip of this, sip of that etc.  I didn’t take too many notes, but I wanted to touch on each one.

Salem Gold – A light ale (3.75% alc), this beer is intended to be light and refreshing and crisp and it hits this one out of the park.  Very refreshing, low bitterness, all around good brew.  Jen really liked this one, and ordered another pint of it after we finished our samplers.

Foothills Hefeweizen – (5.2% alc) This was the current seasonal for FH, and I added it on to my sampler since it wasn’t part of the rotation.  I almost don’t have words to describe this beer it was very unusual, not in a bad way, but just different.  Probably being wheat beer, where most North American beers are more rice oriented.  Also, unfiltered so give it a different mouthfeel and flavor profile.

Torch Pilsner – (5.3% alc) I don’t have a lot to say about this one.  My note for it is “OK”.  I guess it just didn’t wet my whistle, but Jen sure liked it a lot.

Pilot Mountain Pale Ale – (4.75% alc) This beer was more bitter than I expected it to be, which since I can appreciate the bitterness of a beer, but I’m not a fan of overly hopped beers, I knew I was in trouble with this one since I hadn’t even gotten to the IPA’s yet.  Was good, but more bitter than I expected.

Hoppyum IPA – (6.2% alc) With an International Bittering Units score of 70 (compared to Pilot Mt’s 43) you would have expected this beer to be much more bitter, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be.  This was a very drinkable IPA, which is a style I am not a fan of, but this one wasn’t that bad to be honest.

Seeing Double IPA – (9.5% alc) I was dreading this beer, but I was willing to try it.  It was as expected, pucker your face bitter.  Besides the high alcohol content, not a lot going on there for me.

People’s Porter – (5.8% alc) I decided to save the porter for last as a “dessert” after we were done eating, and let me tell you, after the double IPA, this beer was so smooth and didn’t taste bitter at all.  It might be a little different if you drank it first, or drank it by itself.  I did rather enjoy this one. Jen on the other hand did not, and so I drank her sampler of the Porter as well.

Ok.. So in all honesty, I didn’t enjoy the majority of what I tasted (and neither did Jen honestly) which is not to say they are not well made beers because they are, but just not of a style and flavor profile that apparently either of us enjoy.  The IPAs and the PA were just too bitter for my taste.  However, the Porter and the Salem Gold were good.  And the Carolina Blonde (Cream Ale) that I had the first trip I went (and Jen had a couple of at the ballpark) is very very good.  I’m certainly not gonna trash the place because I didn’t like some of their styles of beer.  They seem to be very well crafted beers that are probably dead on representations of the styles they are patterned after.

Also, this place is not just about beer.  The food is AMAZING.  The first trip there I got the Cuban sandwich, which was beer braised pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles and hot mustard.  Oh my goodness it was good.  This time around I got the Pub Melt burger, which was a burger with cheddar, provolone, bacon, sauteed onions and mushrooms served on thick toast.  Very very good, with hand cut homemade french fries as well.  I didn’t care for the salsa (in the sampler pic) but the chips were very good.

Unfortunately I was ready to eat by the time the foot got there and neglected to take a picture of the burger.  Oh well, maybe next time.

Overall, this is a great place.  The atmosphere is amazing, the food is excellent and when you find which style of beer you like the beer is top notch as well.  As I said, I’m not going to bash them because I didn’t like certain styles of the beer that’s not their fault.

Overall – 4 stars (out of 5) – The 4 stars is not to say there is anything negative that deducted the one star, but rather just to leave room to grow in case some place just really blows me away and earns the 5 stars.  Since this is my first review I don’t want to set the bar so that every place I review gets 5 stars.

  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.