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Archive for the ‘Booze’ Category

I don’t want to share with you the day-to-day, minute-by-minute, picture-by-picture account of our family vacation this year. That would be pretty boring for you the viewer/reader except for the part where we all agree that my kids are the coolest. No I won’t do that to you. However being that this was my family’s first real family vacation in 3 years, its worthy of writing a summary of the learning experience I’ve had over the past weekend. So here’s my list of crap to think about next time you are planning a family vacation. I am going to base this assessment with the disclaimer that my kids are younger and have the attention span of most 3 & 5 year olds. In other words they get bored with stuff fast. Also I am assuming you don’t have money you can burn on purpose.

  1. Go somewhere you can drive – Flying is expensive and while it can open endless possibilities to where you can go, I really don’t find the reward of any destination worth the cost and the stress of packing all the stuff in your house for a short period of time. Also in a car, its only you that have to deal with your kids. Its probably not worth angering strangers because your kid all of a sudden doesn’t like her headband.
  2. Go somewhere with water – A body of water to a kid is like a babysitter you don’t have to pay (assuming your kids can swim or have a flotation device – Safety First). This vacation we went down to Southern Missouri around a national hub of washed up Country & Western stars, Branson, MO. Around Branson however, there are several large lakes perfect for all ages. We opted for what is arguably the nicest of them all, Table Rock Lake. By nice I mean a couple things: Clear Water & not a lot of boaters. Is perfect for families who don’t want to be around a bunch hoosiers. We also visited White Water in Branson. This was probably the worst body(s) of water we visited. It was expensive and there were way to many people in bikini’s that should have been wearing camping tarps instead. The rides were fun but my kids just weren’t into them that much so we didn’t go on too many of them. Finally, the hidden gem of the water this weekend was the community pool we had access to in our rental house. If we got bored we just packed up the kids and went swimming.

    This is as good as it gets.

  3. Go with some other families in the same situation – Kids like to play with other kids and adults like to booze with other adults. As long as you can remotely stand the family and their kids, you are golden. The water will fill in the gaps. Luckily we went with 2 other families both with 2 children a piece. It worked out great. The adults we went with are normal people who don’t let their kids go bat crap everywhere and the kids are kids that are as socially normal as our kids. It was great. (if you are one of said families reading this, this is how I compliment people. Not the most flattering way I know, but hey be happy you were even mentioned).
  4. Stay in one house/condo/structure – This is mostly for the adults. With everyone under one roof, sure you have to live in everyone life, but the boozing when all the kids are asleep is worth it.

    Adult beverages rule!

That’s the down and dirty of how to have a fun family vacation. Now go get one in before Summer if over!!!! So like this weekend…
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As you may have noticed, we here at the SFA are pretty big fans of beer. Oh sure, we’ll swig some wine on Wednesdays and punish the gin and tonics at a wedding (open bar of course), but when it comes right down to it we can’t get enough of the sweet brown nectar — even after a long weekend of fraternizing.

Because we love the beer, and we love variety, we like to try various types of beers. Many breweries try to make this easy on us by offering “sampler packs” which contain multiple types of beer in one box. Sometimes these are awesome, but more than not they miss the mark a little.  Here are the best and worst we’ve come across here in the St. Louis Market.

Best Sampler: Schlafly

I actually buy this particular twelve pack all of the time because it does give me a little flavor of everything, and I happen to like all three beers they pack in here. It brings the Pale Ale (a reliable beer that can go with anything), the Dry-hopped APA (for when you’re feeling hoppy) and a fantastic Kolsch (this is a great barbecue beer and WAY better than their Summer Lager which I don’t care for). Not only do I like the beer in here, I also believe strongly that 3 is the perfect number of beers to put into a sampler so you have the option to spread the 4-of-one-kind over a couple of meals or opt to sit down and have several in a row.

Schlafly also gets bonus points for swapping out their Hefeweizen (which was trendy but never really tickled my… fancy?) for the APA (which I adore). They get even more bonus points for having a very responsive social media team: I sent a friend to the Bottleworks for lunch and right after he checked in on Yelp, someone working there said “hey, thanks for checking in.”

Runner Up (in a good way): Great Divide

This is a pricier sampler than I usually pick up, but I had tried something of theirs before and was impressed. I think this sampler — containing four of their year-round brews — was the first one my wife could split evenly: she liked 2 and I liked 2. None of them are on our favorites board, but our tastes are so different we usually don’t even like the same breweries. Having someone in our house enjoy every beer out of a sample box is a pretty big win for our house.

Our common ground? Coors Light of all things.

Worst 12 Pack: Boulevard

The Boulevard 12-pack contains 6 different beers. That’s just too damned many in my book. Very few craft brewers can put together one sampler with 6 competently and not-completely-out-there beers. Boulevard is not one of those few. Their Pale Ale is fantastic, and their Unfiltered Wheat is the only wheat beer I actually enjoy.  From those two, his sampler goes downhill quickly.  The Lunar Ale stands out as being particularly awful, but rest assured that one dud is not what sinks this offering.

Runner-Up (not in a good way): Samuel Adams

I hate to pick on Sammy because they’ve obviously put in a lot of work to make sure all of these beers are available in grocery stores all the way out in my suburbs. However, their sampler pack suffers, much like Boulevard, from having too much of a good thing by offering 6 different beers in one 12 pack. The Boston Lager and Sam Adams Light are safe picks, but everything after that is sort of a crap shoot. This is, in fairness, a sampler in the truest sense in that they seem to rotate through the remaining flavors pretty frequently, but generally speaking, I don’t like many of them. If you are really into noticing the coriander in a given beer, this might be for you. I’m just personally not there yet.

Conclusion

Sampler packs are a great way to minimize risk when exploring new breweries: why risk it all on 6 bottles on one beer when you can have 12 beers that give several flavors. When picking out a sampler pack, I recommend going with one that has no more than four different brews in it (three is probably better), and I’d hold out until they go on sale.

I'd rather be fearless than beerless.

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“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The immortal words of Ferris Bueller ring true even more so now than they did when I first heard them in 1986. Its funny how daily activities can just pile up on you when you least expect it, and when these activities pile up, they can drop you like a ton of bricks. Last week was one of these times when life kicked me in the pants and told me to slow down.

Thursday marked the celebration of Cinco de Mayo in which my family takes pretty seriously. Ok not really seriously but we do make an effort to at least have some margaritas, go to a restaurant or friend’s house, and celebrate. Also our kids have been learning about it at school and its kind of like another Halloween for them where they can be socially acceptable in a sombrero. We celebrated with my wife’s sister and family at their house. Really quick I don’t want to paint their house as a rodeo or anything, but we have 2 kids & they have 4. So,  any situation with more than 2 kids is, in my eyes, chaotic (rude awakening coming for me in October). So to cope with the inflated craziness of having more children around we celebrated our non-existent Mexican heritage and I ate too much food & probably had a few too many Margaritas….. and white wine. Nothing where I couldn’t get up in the morning but enough to make 6am feel like 4am.

Fast forward to Saturday morning and we are celebrating my youngest daughter’s 3rd birthday with 17 of her closest friends . Please defer to my ruling on groups of children totaling more than 2. It made my sister in law’s house look like the library. It was madness. Lots of donuts, juice, and coffee everywhere. I was contemplating doubling up on my prescription mood enhancing drugs for the event, but opted not to. I will say that morning parties are waaay better than evening parties when it comes to kid parties. We were cleaned up and all over by 11:30am and had the rest of the day to rest. Not really we had to get ready for Saturday night. Saturday night we went out with a group of friends as we had some folks in from Belgium that we wouldn’t get to see for awhile. So yet again a day of party food and a night of lots of dinner food, and booze.

Protecting my daughter's annonymity

Protecting my daughter's annonymity

Then we arrive on Sunday. Mother’s Day and my daughter’s actual birthday. Déjà vu all over again. It’s another big day for my wife’s family as we celebrate Mother’s day & 3 birthday parties at the same time. So we have yet again the perfect storm for crazy: more than 2 kids, lots of wonderful food, and a little bit of wine to finish it off.

At the end of Sunday I could tell that I was spent and even more so on Monday at work I was at 75% at best. So, why is it that we cram our events all together or is this just one of those “bad timing” things? I haven’t figured it out yet on either front. I am as social as they come and I do well in situations like these, but I just don’t have the reserves in the tank to keep it going for more than 1 day per week. Don’t tell me that I am just getting old and all that because I am probably in better shape now than I have ever been. Also, am I the only one who doesn’t have a “Hey Dude Your Are Full” mechanism when I am at parties? I really think I consume 3 times as many calories via food when I have had 2 or more drinks. I know booze is supposed to inhibit your sensations etc but in all fairness to myself, my stomach just doesn’t feel full and there’s no warning light that comes on when I’ve hit my max. I need some help in this regard. So any advice that doesn’t involve drinking more or taking more medication so I’m not hungry would be appreciated. That’s it. I am just trying to find some insight into why we (the royal we not just my family) put so much stuff upon ourselves.

Thanks for reading we’ve got more good stuff coming out on Friday. 

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That’s right, just one day after telling you how much I love O’Fallon Brewery (and I do) I need to revisit something near and dear to my heart — customer service — with a different brewery.

A few weeks back I emailed Harpoon Brewery to tell them that I just bought a six-pack of their IPA that had been out-of-date for 2 months. I actually send notes like this to brewer’s all the time, as I know if you are milking people $8 for 6 beers you want to make sure it actually tastes good, plus I like the idea of some smelly brew-master hopping on a red-eye flight to dress down some distributor for mistreating his product. Of the 10 or so emails like this I’ve ever sent, I’ve been responded to exactly three times (once by O’Fallon, once on Bud Select — it was my wife’s — and finally by Harpoon).

I do actually only send these notes in for the love of the game as it were, but I do appreciate when they decide to share a little something back. Harpoon hooked me up with a t-shirt, sticker, bottle koozie and a wall-mounting bottle opener (which I’ve actually been in the market for as I’m planning on putting in a bar — sometime).

So, hats off to Harpoon for restoring my faith in capitalism. Their beer gets an incomplete (it was TOTALLY out-of-date) but their customer service gets a big thumbs up. Now I’ve just got to track down another one of their beers.

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It’s been a while since we’ve reviewed a beer ’round hurre. But I picked up a sixer of this beer on a lark and I was blown away.

In the interest of full-disclosure I should tell you that a buddy of mine from college is the brewmaster from O’Fallon Brewery, I’ve enjoyed a lot of their beer for next to nothing, and it is most likely a total conflict of interest for me to review their beer. Then again, I’m assuming most of my regular readers aren’t here for unbiased reporting.

Besides, if it hadn’t come from O’Fallon, I probably wouldn’t have tried this Black Hemp beer. Aside from owning a hacky sack in high school and thoroughly enjoying the NSFW cameo of Bob Saget in Half-Baked, I’m not exactly knee-deep in the weed sub-culture. But I trust Brian so I picked it up. And it was awesome.

Um, Beer.

I like O’Fallon’s flagship beer, O’Fallon Gold, because it goes down easily but you can tell it is hand-crafted. The Black Hemp continues that tradition of drinkability but adds some complexity. It’s sort of a lot of things. Sorta dark. Sorta chocolatey. Sorta smokey. Sorta malty. Sorta light. Sorta perfect. But not very hempy (or at least I’m guessing not, since it doesn’t smell at all like that one guy who spent 12 years getting an associate’s degree in forestry).

As a side note, O’Fallon does make plenty of beers that are “craftier” in the weightier sense of the word. I do like those  as well (the 5 Day IPA isn’t slap-your-momma hoppy but gives you plenty of what you came for, and I truly believe — but have yet to verify — that the Smoked Porter would be perfect with a big old Cracker Barrel-type breakfast). I just happen to love the high-quality but extremely drinkable beers they put out. I call this category “Braverman beers” because they always remind me of the TV show Parenthood where the Braverman extended family seems to have 3 enormous cookouts a week where all of their problems magically melt away under a tastefully-lit table where everyone is getting shnockered.

I’m giving this beer an Amighetti’s Special for two reasons: one, I have to leave a little room in case someone brews a beer that has a TV in it or something, and two, I don’t want to believe I’ve found the perfect beer because that would mean I should stop looking.

I’ve really been trying to expand my beer portfolio lately, and it is very, very common for me to like one. It is very, very rare for me to like one this much. I actually drank it over the weekend, and ran right out and buy some more (on sale for $6.99 at Schnuck’s this week) so I could review it properly (meaning I had an excuse to drink a couple on a week night and not have to pay attention to American Idol while someone next to me watches it).

And, since it is sort of seasonal, I even bought a back up sixer for when they run out of stock and I want to have my own little Braverman day.

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If you are like me, you haven’t bought anything for your wife/girlfriend/partner/whatever for Valentine’s Day yet. If you have, your “other” has already hand picked it out and told you to buy it. Sound about right? Well for the majority of us that don’t have anything already, didn’t pay attention to the clues our wives has subtly dropped since Christmas, and work best under pressure: this post is for you. I am going to attempt to give you some good, last minute gift ideas that you can take care of this weekend.

First off, if you don’t pay attention to anything else I say, GET A CARD. Yes its common sense but its overlooked constantly. I think it took me at least 2 years after getting married to understand that no matter what the holiday was that a card goes a long way. Yes, most of them are poorly written and have lots of swirly flowers on them but its the effort that counts. Also, take 5 minutes to actually write something in the card besides your name. Chances are you won’t be able to compete with the carefully crafted, sappy poem on the inside, but more than likely your better half isn’t going to expect a dissertation on your undying love. Just class it up a little better than this guy. This is easy and is worth more points than you can imagine.

As for gifts, Its probably too late to buy anything online and have it shipped unless you are willing to pay for overnight delivery. Plus, that’s too easy. Its about the effort.  So after reading this, get off the computer and hit the pavement.

The gift of Text – I don’t care who you are shopping for, but everyone could use a book. Whether your wife likes to cook, decorate, or play Dungeons & Dragons there’s a book out there for her. Being that my mother-in-law works for Barnes & Noble, I prefer that store over the others. Also, one of the hottest gifts out there is an eReader. Barnes & Noble has the Nook. It looks awesome and you can have around 10,000 books or magazines at your disposal. Ahem, if any B&N folks are reading this, we would love to review the product for you, ahem.

The gift of Booze – I would like to think I have a good grasp on our demographic here, and I would wager a guess that 95% of you enjoy the devil’s brew. So, why not give booze as a gift? I’m not talking about a 6’er of Natty, but a nice bottle of wine or liquor. If you haven’t figured out your eternal drinking buddy’s favorite bottle, I can’t help you. Howeverr there is a win-win scenario for you with this gift. You get to make someone happy (win) and get buzzed (win) at the same time.

The gift of Clean – This one is so simple. Unless you already have a live-in maid, your house is dirty… somewhere. My wife is very particular about how things get cleaned in our house. I have recently been granted my Bathroom badge, but I still can’t do the job that she does. That being said, I shed a lot and she gets tired of cleaning. So, if your wife is burnt out on cleaning, call up a maid service and have them get to work. If your house is already clean, her car isn’t, guaranteed. Take 20 minutes and run it up to a car wash and be sure to vacuum the inside.

That’s 3 easy ideas that will put you in a better position when March Madness (i don’t know how to put the copyright symbol here) comes around. Now this being a blog on the internet I couldn’t finish this article without giving out at least 1 internet based idea. So, consider this last idea your ace in the hole if you need it.

The gift of Produce – I am legitimately upset I didn’t think of this. Fruit My Cube is a weekly service you can sign up for. For $9.99/week you get fresh fruit delivered to your home or office. Its a great way to give someone a year-round reminder of how awesome they are. Disclaimer: this site only services close to St. Louis, MO but I bet there are others like it. If not, you can pay me royalties for giving you the idea for your new business.

Have any other ideas for the Wayward Man? We’d love to hear them in the comments section. This is an alliance after all and we are here to help each other out.

-S

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First off, since this is my first beer review, I need to share a little secret with you. I’m sort of in a bad spot with beer. I used to drink all light beers (except Bud Light, which gives me a headache as I’m drinking it). Then, I decided I should probably cut back in an effort to lose weight and improve my overall health, but I still loved beer, so I switched to good beer, thinking that I would obviously drink less. It hasn’t really worked out that way, but at least now I buy more expensive beer than I used to, which is nice.

Anywho, one night last week I found myself at a local grocery story in dire need of refreshment. I found myself walking the cooler aisle, as I often do, looking for some sort of beer that “looks” good (which, admittedly, is stupid) and that is on sale. I finally settled on Moosehead, as I didn’t remember ever having tried it, it was on sale, and it was Canadian, which is supposed to mean something in terms of beer production.

I brought it home, poured a bottle into a glass (yes, I am that particular variety of d-bag) and was immediately greeted with skunky beer. And not “I’ve been sitting around too long and got skunky” skunky, which is unfortunate and a sin but very seldom the actual brewer’s fault. No, this was the much more insidious “some a-hole thinks Heineken tastes good, so we are going to emulate their intentional skunkiness” type of skunky, which is still a sin, still unfortunate, but entirely the brewer’s fault. I’m not a fan of that type of skunk. Or any skunk, really. If you like skunky beer, Moosehead does seem to be OK  and in fact better than Heineken, but that’s kind of like saying I prefer Moulin Rouge to Mamma Mia.

The SFA Snap Judgment: Don’t believe the hype when it comes to Canadian beer just because its Canadian. And don’t drink Moosehead. Because it kind of sucks.

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