Category Archives: Beer

What is UP?!

Geez, anti-chatty, much?

Well, you can tell when I came back to California. In rural Australia, there’s pretty much nothing to do other than knit, watch very bad TV, and write blog posts about the few things you do that are actually interesting. It was nice to have some time to chill with the knitting needles, but near the end I got kind of antsy, like I was just spinning my wheels on the whole business thing. So when I got back to California, I hit the ground running. Here’s the quick synopsis of my life since early May:

1. Arrive in SLO. Awesome surprise greeting party of all my favorite peeps. Tail-gater in the airport parking lot, complete with sammich, beer, and fondling sub-15-micron merino fleece.
2. One hour later, take off for Phoenix, spend time with family, and help spread my grandmother’s ashes. Go through tons of pictures with Dad, and realize that the act of going through physical pictures is probably going to be obsolete by the time I die.
3. Two days later, back in SLO. Say hi to kitties that I’ve missed very much.
4. Felicia’s sweet wedding – she wore red cowboy boots under her dress and had the wedding & reception at a wine bar. Dinner was biscuits and gravy. Totally perfect. Oh, and the groom is pretty cool too. :)
5. Spinning at the Winery in Livermore. Nice event, met nice people, lots of spinners, chatted with the cool vending folks (Shari and Morgaine mostly, but met the nice people behind Shaggy Bear Farms and got to talk to another natural dyer!) Also tasted the wine – Retzlaff Winery has some pretty nice wines.
6. Shearing at the Pronsolino Ranch! Year two, I learned quite a lot from Year 1 and had a better setup. An actual shearing table this time (instead of a sheet of plastic on the dirt), I talking my friend Marya into helping, and I picked much better fleece. It’s still a ton of work – you go through about 100 fleeces in rapid succession in an afternoon.
7. Dan gets back from Australia, yay!
8. Dan’s sister’s wedding – back up to Northern Cal for a bigger event this time. Yes, I wore the same dress that I wore to Felicia’s wedding a few weeks before. It has also made an appearance the wedding of another 2 friends, and I think those are all the separate friend circles that I have, so I think the dress will now be semi-retired.
8. I actually begin honest work on my website.
9. Then we find an awesome house for rent about a mile away – it has a 1-car garage plus storage space plus workshop plus backyard. It’s in a nice little neighborhood instead of a fishbowl bordered by obnoxious students and obnoxious adults with screaming kids. So we decide to move.
9.5. We add 2 big planter boxes to the 2 big planter boxes that are already at the new house. We plant stuff. This is cool, I’ve never had a garden before. Dan’s convinced I’m going to kill everything, so he sets up a fully automatic irrigation system. We buy organic seeds, plus some grown-in-an-organic-manner plants from a local nursery called Growing Grounds, which works with people suffering from mental health issues. I could not possibly feel more awesome about the garden!
10. We pack stuff.
11. I get rid of stuff.
12. We move stuff.
13. We unpack stuff.
14. We fix stuff.
15. Move, move, move, moving, moving.
15.5. My cat Bandit goes missing. :( Tears, inability to sleep, worry, and feeling like a failure.
16. More unpacking.
17. Buying storage stuff.
18. Assembling storage stuff.
18.5 More fixing stuff.
19. Figure out where the hell to store stuff.
20. Getting rid of more stuff.
21. Isn’t moving fun?
22. Deep fried food, chocolate-covered bacon, ice cream, and overpriced beer at the county fair.
23. and AEROSMITH!!! Totally rocked, this time we saw them from stage right (two years ago we were stage left).
24. Deep fried food, chocolate-covered bacon, ice cream, and overpriced beer at the county fair…..again!
25. and WEEZER! Holy crap, like 8th row! Awesome concert, and as all concerts do, makes me want to be a rock star when I grow up. This experience was brought to you by the letters J-A-S-O-N, otherwise known as Felicia’s husband who bought her an awesome birthday present to share with friends. :)
26. Frantic packing from 11pm after the Weezer concert until 2am. Packed for being gone for 2 weeks, 3 separate trips.
27. #1 trip – backpacking in Goddard Canyon! 44 miles in 72 hours. A personal record, but the last day kind of sucked ass. Wore the 5-fingers KSO Treks and totally loved them. Best trail shoes ever, even though they blew out a hole in between the big toe and index toe.
28. #2 trip – camping and climbing in Tuolumne! Totally awesome, the entire freaking LA crew was there due to two of my friends doing a once-in-a-lifetime climb. Jan and Andrew did the Bachar-Yerian. For those of you that don’t climb….well, I really don’t know how to equate it to anything. It’s pretty much the boldest and most impressive thing you can do, requires physical ability and mental focus that is super-human. And Andrew led it with a veritable circus of 20 of us below watching. Insane and brilliant. Dan and I stuck to easy-peasy stuff, I felt killer on knobs and Dan felt good to be out climbing after 2 years and 2 more shoulder surgeries. Yay!
29. I get news that my cat was found, but was dying. I have to make the call to put her down while I’m away. Tears, inability to sleep, and feeling like a complete and utter failure.
30. #3 trip – Golden Gate Fiber Institute! My brain has to degauss from going straight from climbers to fiber freaks, but the potty-mouthedness, insanity, and intensity carries straight on through. So does the sleeping bag, as it’s at the YMCA camp on the Marin Headlands. Also a strange mix of past and present – fiber arts at a place that was once used for missile defense. It was the most killer week I’ve ever spent with fellow fiber freaks, learned new and cool spinning tricks & skillz, and made some awesome, awesome new friends that I’m totally stoked to keep in touch with and see again at other fibery events.
30. Home again! To an overflowing washing machine and screwed-up dryer. Yep, home sweet home. :)
31. Immense spoiling of remaining kitty. Immense gratitude to my friend Eileen who was with my other kitty in her last moments. I enjoyed making her an over-the-top yarn care package – you just can’t put a price on what she did and it was the least I could do to show my appreciation.
32. Immense freaking out when I saw “a thing” on remaining kitty’s neck a few days later. Turns out it was just an abscess and the vet drained it and she’s just fine. Well, occasionally trailing blood and pus around the house, but just fine.
33. Work on my website finally continues in earnest. I made a commitment that I’d be up on September 1st, and that’s what’s going to happen. So I don’t update my blog again for a little bit…..well, I’ll be at the computer working on the real site. :)

See you soon!

Grainy Goodness and bread. Two of my favorite things. I went to Mildura for both today – well, that and to replace our lawn chair that got broken during the BBQ the other night, and to get a french press that doesn’t suck, and to get some real coffee. But the beer and the bread were definitely the highlights.

Starting with…the bread!
Chia Bread 002_crop (Large)

Chia is part of the barefoot cult, discussed in some detail in the book Born to Run. Chia seeds – and yes, we’re talking the same chia as chia pets – are an amazing source of omega 3s, antioxidants, protein, you name it. They’re awesome little bundles of energy that the Tarahumara mix with lime juice (which causes them to get gelatinous) and drink. Pete and I tried it at Mammoth with lemon juice – not bad! The seeds actually taste really good – kind of a light sesame flavor with overtones of strawberry seeds. So, thinking that this was some obscure new-ageish type thing, I was speechless when I walked into Baker’s Delight in Mildura last week and saw “Chia Bread.”

Me: “Wow, you’re making bread out of chee-a?”
Girl behind the counter: (looks at me a little funny) “Yes, we make bread with chai-a seeds”.

Right. Aside from pronunciation differences, there are a few other things different about the seeds in the bread. First, there appear to be no dark ones, which is odd because almost all the chia seeds that Pete bought were black. But there were tan ones too, and I remember reading that they come in a range of color from light to dark. Also, the ones in the bread don’t get gelatinous when you eat them, maybe because they’ve been baked and are a little dehydrated? They do still stick to your teeth a bit. Anyway, I only bought one small chia roll last week and immediately regretted it because it was delicious. I even saved a little for Dan, who agreed. So this time I bought 6 chia rolls and a loaf of multigrain chia bread, half of which is in the freezer. Tasty, tasty!

And the beer!
On my way out of town last week, I spied a sign for the Mildura Brewery. Eeeeenteresting. So I looked it up before I went and they serve lunch! Perfect! After my K-Mart and Chia bread runs, I headed to the brewery. I got a sampler platter of beer and a smoked salmon salad. I guess I’ll talk about the beer first, since it came out first. :)

Mildura Brewing Pub 003 (Large)

All in all, some very good beer. A bit on the hoppy side like a lot of American microbrews, here’s the rundown:
Sun Light – Light beers here don’t mean low carb – they mean low alcohol. So this is a 3% alcohol beer – not too flavorful, but decent for what it is. The weather here can get pretty hot in the summer – 120 degree days, so this beer would be perfect for that.
Honey Wheat – good, has the aroma and some overtones of honey, but isn’t sweet. Which is exactly what I look for in honified alcohol (unless it’s sweet mead!).
Pilsener – floral and hoppy and my favorite. I was very sad that it was a seasonal beer, only available in the brewery and not in 6-packs. :(
Desert Premium – a nice beer, reminds me a bit of Eye of the Hawk. Only 4.5% though. :) It’s lighter on flavor, but tasty. You could drink these all night without getting tired of them.
Storm – “US-Style” Pale Ale. Nice, really good citrus flavor that complements the hoppiness.
Mildura Bitter – too hoppy for me. Not much else going on.
Mallee Bull – A very flavorful, rich beer. Definite tones of coffee, nuts, chocolate, and malt. This is the kind of beer that I really enjoy drinking one of – sometimes even only half of. It’s too rich for me to get through a 6-pack, but I appreciated sipping the sample, and would appreciate drinking one every now and then.

I came back with a case – yes, because most times cases are significanly cheaper than 4 6-packs. I don’t know what this place has against the good old 6-pack, maybe they just like to encourage quantity….so I got a mixed case for $60 (hey, that’s only $15 per six-pack, a relative steal!), 2 6’s of the Desert, 1 of the Storm, and 1 of the Honey Wheat.

The salad deserves a bit of press too – it was super tasty. In land of schnitzel and gut-busting burgers, I really appreciate a tasty and not deep-fried fare. The menu had several tasty-looking things on it, and I went for the smoked salmon salad. It came with asparagus, a poached egg, tomatoes, roasted red peppers (they call them capsicums here), and a nice lemon sauce. Mmmm!

Mildura Brewing Pub 002 (Large)

The locusts weren’t too bad today – a nice break after several days of nonstop swarms, making it kind of nasty to go outside. The weather was overcast but nice all day long, and when I got back to Robinvale, it had obviously rained a bunch. It’s drizzling now, and I’m hoping that it rained enough for night shift to be cancelled tonight, but I’m not holding my breath. But it sure would be nice to enjoy some tasty beer and a tasty dinner with Dan.

Australian for Beer

I like beer. Beer is good. And I mean real beer, not crap beer. My favorite beer is Eye of the Hawk by Mendocino Brewing Company – it has a hearty but not overpowering flavor, isn’t overly hoppy, and it has a nice relaxing 8% alcohol content. As far as cheap beer goes – there are a couple times it’s OK to drink Budweiser, Coors, and the like, and those time usually have to do with A. Desperation or B. Physical exertion. So, stealing a swig of Coors from your buddy on a ski lift, or pounding a cup of Natty Lite at first and third bases are totally permissible. But actually buying it, putting it in your refrigerator, and drinking it for fun? No. Not so much.

Enter Australia. You might think from all the clever Aussie-accented marketing that everyone over here drinks Fosters. Well prepare yourself for this bombshell – Fosters isn’t even sold over here. It’s an amazingly effective and completely bogus advertising campaign strictly for Americans who want to pretend they’re Australian-tough and don’t know any better. Too funny. What they do have is a whole host of regionally-named beers – Melbourne Bitter, Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught. Dan says that the guys at work are very territorial about their beer – they drink the one made closest to where they live because it’s “better.” Interesting, this would be the equivalent of being pro-Coors and anti-Budweiser because you live near Colorado.

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Dan somehow got tricked into thinking that all the above-mentioned everyday beer here is good. Since beer is freakin’ expensive here, I was happy at first to hear that the “cheap” beers were decent. Then I tried one. My first was Melbourne Bitter, and it really was bitter. I know, I am overly sensitive to bitterness (I can’t eat a lot of lettuces), but this was really nasty. It wasn’t even hoppy, it was just gross. I drank a second swig, thinking that maybe it was just the first sip that you had to get over. Nope. Still nasty. Third sip and I gave up and poured it. I know, alcohol abuse, but it just wasn’t worth the suffering.

Next beer – Victoria Bitter. This one comes in “stubbies”, slang for bottles here. Evidently all bottles are stubbies, even if they’re long-necks and not particularly stubby in appearance. Anyway, Victoria Bitter was at least non-offensive in its dismalness, it was just like drinking a Coors or Budweiser. No flavor, vaguely stale aftertaste. Ok, well at least I could pour a few of these down my throat, but not with any real joy.

So I ventured out and bought my first 6-pack for a whopping $15. It’s hard to get used to paying that much and not feel like you’ve been stabbed in the gut. But I was starting to get seriously cranky about the whole beer issue, so I handed over my colorful money. It was Cooper’s Pale Ale – I had heard good things about Cooper’s brewery in general and this was one of their staple beers.

Beer_0008_crop (Medium)

It tasted like a hoppy Budweiser and was only 4.5%. Now I was super-cranky about the beer issue, not only had I still yet to find a good beer, but I just paid twice as much for the Australian version of Sierra Nevada, and it was less than half as good as Sierra Nevada. Great. Ok, one more try.

I went shopping in the bustling metropolis of Mildura yesterday, mostly because it was getting pretty cold at night and we needed more blankets. I’m not even sure anyplace sells bedding in Robinvale, and it would definitely be way overpriced. I had a few other things on my list, like a bright floor light for the living room so I could see my knitting, so I went to K-Mart. It reminded me of living on St. John, and how you’d have to travel an hour to St. Thomas to get household stuff at K-Mart or Cost-You-Less. Except I never had to drive through a half hour of solid locusts to do that. The front grill on the Ute is solid yellow with bug guts. :)

Anyway, after a successful trip to K-Mart, I stopped into Woolworth’s (seriously, does this not remind you of old-time St. Thomas, or what?! Remember Woolworth’s?!) for some groceries and beer. The liquor has to be in a completely separate section of the store here, with its own checkout stand. So after buying groceries, I headed in to the vice room. I stared at the beer coolers for a while. Usually I’d just buy 2 or 3 6-packs of whatever struck my fancy, just to try out some new beer. At home I’m rarely disappointed in the quality of a beer – I may not like a random 6-pack but it usually just comes down to personal preference. Here, it’s all so expensive that I really didn’t want to shell out major bucks again and be really disappointed again. I was staring at the labels, trying to figure out which might be mass-produced and which might be microbrews, when the liquor store clerk asked if I needed any help.

“Yeah, I need some good beer.”
“Hell, no! That stuff sucks.”

After we clarify that I am indeed American and not Canadian, we talk about beer. I try explaining in general terms the type of beer that I like – beer from small breweries, that has a lot of flavor and is higher in alcohol content.

“Oh, you like boutique beer.”

Ah, now at least I know what to call it! He pointed out several, we talked about sweet beer, strong beer, “creamy” beer – I’m still not really sure what that is, establish that Guinness is more like a meal and I can get that at home anyway. He leaves me to ponder with several Australian recommendations. I see that the beer is priced individually as well as for 6-packs, perfect! So I got a selection:

Beer_0003_crop (Medium)

Little Creatures Pale Ale, Beez Neez Honey Wheat Beer, James Squire Golden Ale, James Squire Pilsener (not pictured), and a 6-pack of James Squire Amber Ale which I paid $20 for. Punch in the gut plus a stab in the ribs, I tell you. I drove back to Robinvale, hoping that $36 for 10 beers was going to be worth it. Which first? How about the Pilsener (yes, 2 e’s, they randomly add letters to things here), it’s a hot day. Bottle opener…..bottle opener…..dammit! The house doesn’t have one because all the dudes drink the canned crap or the crap with twist-offs. Good thing I brought my trusty flip-flops with beer opener bottoms.

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Crack-pchhh! Smells good……OH MY GOD, IT’S REAL BEER!!!!!! YAY!!!!!!!! It has flavor!!! Very nicely floral hops, refreshing taste, oh it’s so good!!! It’s still only 5.0% but I’m not complaining. It’s beer, sweet, sweet, tasty beer. At this point Dan’s alarm goes off, and I shove a beer in his face first thing in his morning, and say, “Try this! It’s real beer!” He takes a small sip and I see a light go off in his eyes – like “oh yeah, THIS is what beer is supposed to taste like!” I see him making sneaky eyes at my beer and I quickly steal it back. And have another! This time the Little Creatures Pale Ale. It’s definitley hoppy like a pale ale, so it’s not my favorite type of beer, but it’s still good. It has a little hint of fruitiness to it too. The alcohol content is still only 5.2%, but it’s the strongest of the beers above. I guess 6% is considered a really strong beer here. I call it good for the night, I want to savor my expensive beer and appreciate every moment.

This post was brought to you by the Beez Neez. This is a really great beer. Malty, which I really like, and don’t expect out of a wheat beer! Even though it’s made with honey, it doesn’t have the slightest bit of sweetness. It’s inspiring me to try making a braggot when I get home – a type of mead you make with malt. Again, Beez Neez is only 4.7% alcohol, but I’m trying to get over that. I think there must be some law or tax that discourages making stronger beers. Guess I’ll just have to drink more….and try to not go broke!

What I really think this all means is that it’s time to find some good wine.

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