Monumental Montana

Each year I publish a list of all the states we visit and note when any are a first time. Next January there will be another one nocked off of list of 50. I have now been to Montana, stopping in Missoula. This leave just Alaska, Hawaii and Idaho for me: Josh has just Alaska left. It’s hard to believe that I have not been to Big Sky Country before; Josh has a handful of relatives here. We crossed to border in Northern Wyoming and the “Welcome” sign was too small to snap a picture but I did see it.

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Two days is not nearly long enough to actually explore Missoula but we tried. After meeting up with Josh’s cousin, Caleb, a visit to his neighborhood bar was in order. However, lucky for us it not just a bar but actually a microbrewery. The town is full of them; we have certainly not been to another town where you can hope on your bike and head a few blocks down for a local pint. The first one we visited was Drought Works packed with families. After a few tastings it was time to experience downtown and it’s unique nightlife. Just like us Caleb enjoys a good vino as much as a good brew. At The Red Bird Wine Bar we had the pick of delicious tapas and some featured wines.

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Even after staying up until the wee hours of the morning, to solve the world’s problems, day two had more in store for us. A favorite local activity for a lazy day was to tube on the Missoula River. Most of our compatriots back in Illinois have probably gone tubing before but this was my first time. Oh my was it fun, just bobbing around like a cork telling stories. A quiet dinner and more fellowship our time in Montana drew to an end.

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The best way to end our monumental trip to Montana was to exit into Idaho! I guess this leaves just two!

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My Momma Loves Me

My mom made Blue Moon Cupcakes!!!!!!!  She is a big fan of Pinterest, saw the recipe and thought I would like them.  And boy do I like them, absolutely delicious.  They have a slight hint of orange and the beer gives it a hardy flavor without being heavy.  She made them the day we arrived and the flavors just keep getting more rich.  I have made a request for a Guinness cake this year on my birthday.

What I Did on Summer Vacation

Well it wasn’t exactly a summer vacation, it wasn’t actually a vacation. We have been off tour and off of work for a few weeks. Just returning Monday to do a final show the Library of Congress folks, a thank you to the sponcers. I’m making my way from Minneapolis to Detroit right now in our car. Meeting back up with Josh, who drove the truck back there from Virginia.

We certainly made the rounds during the almost three weeks of downtime. Started the trip down in Illinois with my family. There to see my folks and celebrate the 75th birthday of my Grandmother. Then just a short hop up to Josh’s folks for some R&R and shopping. I love the boutiques in Galena and always find just what I’m looking for. Picked up some great pieces to make my fall wardrobe fabulous.

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The we trotted off to Dekalb, IL and spent some time with more family. We were even around for all the high school homecoming fun.

The final stop was in the Twin Cities, we had originally scheduled this to sign the closing papers for the sale of our townhouse. That unfortunately has been delayed until the end of the month. Don’t worry we made the most of our time there. Staying with Josh’s sister and getting quality time in with her boys.

Josh’s younger bother, Nathan, also came up from Illinois and thats when the fun really got started. Annika had gotten tickets to a live taping of A Prairie Home Companion. Oh yeah! It was incredible. We had missed seeing Garison Keller at the National Book Festival, that would have been a cheap second anyway.

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After the show we popped over to a fantastic German restaurant called Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit in St. Paul. This place is a blast, one of the stops you make with guests from out of town. It just happened to be the last day of their Oktoberfest Celebrations.

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This place is authentic and what a show. Our waitress, Heidi, cracked jokes and was on her toes. The roaming polka band stopped by and all sorts of other “chactors”.

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We even played the “Boot Game”; if you’re not familiar with this let me fill you in. A glass boot is filled with 2 liters of your choice of beer and served up. The rules are: the boot cannot touch the table, the toe must point up, you must flick the glass before passing it and if the you spill beer you buy the next one. That all sounds fine until your holding this heavy monster and trying to keep the beer from splashing on you once air gets to the toes. Hilarious good times. I had more fun just watching the siblings together than all the other fun.

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Oh and I cut my hair!

Magic in Those Pipes

On a stormy Vermont Sunday we braved the wind and rain to see where that delicious elixir called Magic Hat #9 is made. Where else would you choose to wait out a hurricane? We did miss out on seeing much of Lake Champlain when visiting Burlington, VT last week we didn’t miss the breweries. Our meals included stops at American Flatbread (they brew some yummy stuff in back), Vermont Brewing Company and Magic Hat. Guess we know why they say Vermont is for Lovers.

Magic Hat’s #9 is one the few brews that Josh and I enjoy equally, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t enjoy it. With a light, fruity yet complex flavor it has great broad appeal.

The brewery offers free tours and tastings, we planned to come for one of the docent tours. The tasting room, halls and brewery are full of fun art and displays. It looks like a fun house and we did learn that they host tons of events at the facility. From an observation deck you can see most of the brewing rooms and bottling likes. While it was neat to see such a state of the art facility looking at a highly automated brewery didn’t do much for me.

Magic Hat was sold in 2010 to a conglomerate called North American Breweries. Everyone has their own opinions about these sorts of deals. For me it’s all fine and good while the contract agreements still exist but one day the quality will start to slip and the brand will be put onto beer that is not really Magic Hat.

Because of the storm they closing a bit early and we were rushed in experiencing the place. Of course we grabbed a few things from the gift shop but the beers to tap were ones all available in sample packs. It is possible I had way too high of expectations for this visit.

OMG! It’s the Ommegang Brewery

 

With the guiding hand of Josh’s Aunt Lori we made the Ommegang Brewery stop number two on the Northeast brewery tour. Compared to Dogfish Head this one is very traditional, actually it’s traditional compared to anything. They specialize in Belgium style beers, using mostly imported Hops to capture the correct flavor. I’m a big fan of Belgium hops and wheat beers. Just a few months back we tried one of Ommegang’s well-known brews called Three Philosophers, even Josh liked the fruit finish.

After setting up the exhibit last Monday we meet up with the wonderful Storey family in Cooperstown and good times rolled out. Although part of the actual facility was not open for us our Docent was wonderful. You could tell he had a real love for the company and their mission. It was fun but this is no family operation, they are what’s referred to as a Regional Brewery now. They put out a lot of product to a lot of places. There is nothing wrong with that, but I’m not sure you’d still put them in with some of the other craft brewers. It didn’t feel like they still had the ability to brew and test small batches. I did really enjoy seeing how a smaller brewery works and all the staff members were very friendly. If you’re going to open everything up for tours that’s going to be part of the job. The only other facility I want to tour like this is the New Glarus.

The best part of the tour was ending in the tasting room. It was nice to try a few new ones and refresh memory with older ones.