Soo Brewing Company, Sault St. Marie, MI

Today’s post is about a very important day in Daze of Beer history. This post is about the first brewery I visited post-my last job. I mean, yeah, did I end my last job like an eternity ago and did I visit this brewery also an eternity ago? Most definitely. But does that shock anybody? Of course not. Whatever delusion we all carried that I would become better at posting on the blog once I didn’t have a job were carried by the idea that I wrote these posts on my own time, which I did not do. I wrote 90% of all my content on my work computer at my last job during downtimes (or when I should’ve been doing something but couldn’t overcome the debilitating anxiety that made opening emails one of the hardest tasks to overcome in my day). Once I became a person “between jobs” (I am now, once again, gainfully employed so I feel like I am qualified to call my brief timeout from the workforce me being “between jobs”), I had nothing to avoid other than my bank account and I fell off the writing train.

But one of the first and only big “things” of my unemployed phase was I went to the UP on a whim on day. I woke up, not even a week after I had concluded my time in my previous personal hell, and got into Hector (Oh, did you guys know that I got into a car accident in December that total Hector who was in my life for not even 10 months? Pour one out for him, man, because now I am one of those hipster assholes who doesn’t have a car and my life is infinitely more difficult because of it… but back to the story) and we went on one of our last journeys together to the UP.

In all honesty, my intent was to land in Canada. I had my passport. I had my breweries planned. And I was ready to do it. But the problem that I discovered once I got within a mile of where I was going (and within eyesight of the border), was that the breweries that I wanted to go to were closed on Tuesdays and I would have to wait until Wednesday to visit both of them. As it was Tuesday, I had to come up with a new plan. But luckily, Sault St. Marie is exists both in and out of America, and in both of these lands, there are breweries.

So, I went to a different Sault St. Marie brewery that was a little more… dare I say… free? I went to Soo Brewing Company, in Sault St. Marie, Michigan! Now, here’s something else I had to contend with as a newly unemployed person. The “noon on a Tuesday” brewery crowd. I think I have mentioned in previous posts, specifically the one where I was in Philly?, that as a gainfully employed person, nothing prepares you for what it’s like being one of (or thee) only people(/person) in a brewery. But now that I was finding myself unemployed, I got to become that person.

So, I walked into this cutesy little store front to find a very casual “living room” vibe place. There were a couple of people playing cribbage who were friends with the guy working (who may have also been the owner) and my pick of the taproom. I ordered a flight consisting of the Mystery Table Ale, Soo Brew, Boom Baby IPA, and the 13 IPA.

An overall statement to make about this, based on my (lack of) notes and my Untappd profile is that I found all the beers very middling, which is also what I remember. Everything was very firmly fine. I was not a huge fan of the table ale but that’s also because I just really don’t like table ales all too much to begin with. I did like the 13 IPA a lot, marking it as my favorite beer of the brewery. But in general, the beers were fine. Just fine.

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But the tap room was wild. Like I said, it felt like walking into someone’s living room. There was sport memorabilia hung up on the walls and a groovy vibe of your friend’s step dad’s basement going on. The people playing cribbage were incredibly comfortable and at home there (but then again, they were definitely very close to the worker/maybe owner), and everything felt chill, albeit a little outside of my normal bullshit hipster comfort zone. The man working was also brewing at the same time, and it was one of open-to-the-tap-room brew ops that I typically hate because the smell of brewing is usually a little much for me. I think it impacts my experience. But they were running such a low volume, doing it for the love not the glory kind of operation at this place that it didn’t really impact anything. I will say, though, that while I was there the kind and gentle soul that was working must have been brewing an IPA because there became a strong whiff of something a little less hoppy and a little more… happy? What I’m saying is it smelled like weed but I’m off my game and don’t really know how to make a joke out of this.

Overall, it was a nice place. It was small but it was clearly done out of love for the art. And then it started snowing and I was hella pissed because it was far too early in the year to snow and I was planning on spending the night in Sault St. Marie to venture into CANADA the next day to check out those other breweries, but someone told me they were calling for 8 inches that afternoon and another thirteen inches over night into the next day and I was not emotionally prepared to deal with any winter driving yet, so I bid adieu to Michigan and headed south again.

But I will go back to Sault St. Marie again, probably this summer, and head into Canada to check out their breweries. I’m still very interested in the North of the Border bullshit that might be happening in craft beer. But as for this brief trip, I wrapped it up wildly quick.

Alright, guys, you might think that’s what I’ve got to say about Michigan, but my next post is set in Michigan City Indiana, and then after that, (if I ever get to it lol), will be another Michigan post coming hot from the Lower as well as some bonus content about Ypsilanti. Sit tight, I’ll get back to Milwaukee eventually… maybe?

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Good City Brewing, Lower East Side, Milwaukee

What I was supposed to be doing on this day, the day in which I visited Good City Brewing, was attending an exciting double date day with Jake and my cousin Kaitlyn and her husband Andy where we were supposed to go to Third Space Brewing to celebrate their 2nd anniversary and then we were going to pop over the Great Lakes Distillery to just continue drinking until finally one of us blacked out, tripped, and ended up in some river. What happened, however, is Kaitlyn and Andy got tickets to the first Packer game of the season and canceled on us and so I canceled on Jake (or he canceled on me) (or we mutually decided to just not do anything) and my sister and I decided to just walk around the East Side to enjoy the natural beauty of a very lively, vibrant part of our city.

First, let me just talk about my love of the East Side. Everyone says Bay View is just “the East Side with parking” but personally, I find their vibes quite different. Bay View is where you move when you have your first kid. It’s mostly duplexes and there are yards. Things are spread out. There’s a Target. The East Side is young, trendy children who just graduated from UWM and aren’t quite ready to give up their lifestyle of drinking PBR at 4pm and smoking a joint in a dreamily, romanticized fashion out the window of their 100 year old apartment building while musing on the filmmaking masterpieces that Wes Anderson is cranking out bi-annually. You’re enamored with quirk and craft beer. You dreamed of moving to a city like New York or Boston or Chicago, but you’re stuck here. In Milwaukee. The East Side is as close to Brooklyn living as you’ll find in Wisconsin. They aren’t hipsters, not like the broke hipsters of Riverwest or the old hipsters of Bay View, they are just… aimless.

So Emily and I were wandering around the East Side, from Brady to North. And along our stroll from bustling Brady, filled with mid-thirties suburbanites trying to recapture their glory days of being untethered by kids and mortgages and corporate jobs and old hippies who were wistfully, publicly smoking weed and reminiscing about the glory days of Brady, when it was like Milwaukee’s own Haight, up to the Whole Foods on North where the crowd slowly transitioned into a younger vibe, college kids over zealously enjoying their first weekend of college away from their helicopter parents they left behind in Northern Wisconsin in the “big city,” we walked past Good City Brewing.

Upon our first pass, we were still full from our breakfast enjoyed at Qdoba with our parents (highly recommend Qdoba breakfast if you can find it somewhere near you), so we decided to put it on the “maybe” list for our afternoon activities and kept on walking. When we decided to return back to the car so we could drive up to Riverwest (always a mistake, I hate Riverwest people desperately) we walked past it again and decided, hell. Might as well have a flight.

Before venturing into Good City’s Farwell taproom and brewpub, I was already quite familiar with a couple of their beers that I had enjoyed in cans. Specifically their Motto APA that I have taken many places with me. Like to Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War and Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again. Okay, mostly I’ve just snuck this beer into the movies with me, but it’s good and I really like it. But what I was not expecting was to walk into their taproom and be handed a beer menu and to be confronted with 10 beers, 8 of which were in the IPA-family.

It is well established that I love IPAs. I could drink them all day. I’m even coming around to the idea of session IPAs so I can actually drink them all day without getting piss drunk after three of them. But Emily does not like IPAs and when you decide to split a flight because it’s noon and you’ve both got places to be (even if those places are just Riverwest) and you want to be a Good Blogger™, being faced with only 2 non-IPA options for beer is not too welcoming. Also, I find it lazy to predominantly offer IPAs as your beer options. IPAs are incredibly easy to make. You just keep throwing hops at the wall until you are satisfied that some asshole in a flannel is going to sniff it and say “wow, super floral” and then take a sip and with wide eyes proudly proclaim “DAMN that’s hoppy!”

But anyways, what we ended up getting in our four-pour flight was the Film Fest Lager, only available in September for the Milwaukee Film Fest season (yes, Milwaukee as a film festival, no. It doesn’t matter to literally anybody), the Varietal #9 which was Belgian style pale ale, the Motto APA, and the Reward triple IPA. As a good sister, should I have gotten a triple IPA when I knew that I was supposed to be sharing these beers with my sister who does not like IPAs? No. But did I have much choice in the matter? Not really. The breakdown was pretty simple. Emily really liked the Film Fest Lager, as did I. But I also was pretty cool with the Motto APA and Reward triple. Neither of us liked the Varietal 39, however. I think we’re just not very into Belgian style beers. Quite wheat-y in general.

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Anyways, the place seemed pretty sanitized. Classic brewpub with tables and full servers and garage doors that were open onto the beautiful early fall day. The usual. There was nothing that really stuck out or wow-ed me about the place, other than the fact that the food smelled so good. But the bartenders weren’t anything remarkable. They mostly had some drama about Dave Matthews going on behind the bar, and as it is no longer 1998, having Dave Matthews related drama is exhausting for me to listen to. Especially as a patron of a bar and not someone who actively chose to associated with people who mark all their major life events by who they were dating at which Dave Matthews’ concert.

I apologize that this isn’t a better or more informative post about Good City. I was just underwhelmed by the entire experience. I think my cousin Kaitlyn said it best when she told me “Oh, I always call that place Okay City.” Because that’s what it is. Just okay. They make a shitton of IPAs and they do it just fine. It’s nothing that I would go out of my way for. I can’t imagine there is much variety you can have when all you’re brewing is forty seven different IPAs. But there’s always next time.

And speaking of next time, my next post will be about New Glarius Brewing, found only in Wisconsin. Don’t get too excited, because I didn’t have any beer there!

2nd Story Brewing, Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia treated me well. Ever since my adventures to Utah last summer where I thought I would be just fine and suffered greatly at the hands of a society that is incredibly restrictive of their booze and women, I have this lurking sense of anxiety when I decide to do things alone and independently. It hasn’t stopped me. Clearly you’ve seen how far I’ve come on my solo travels since my post nearly a year ago about my visit to Squatters but that doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t think about that feeling of being stranded in a city where you don’t know anybody and everything just sucks. But that feeling didn’t even begin to cross into my consciousness when I was in Philly because I had a great time.

Monday morning, after spending the night with Nicole in Baltimore, I caught a bus back to Philly to continue my urban exploration of the City of Brotherly Love. The weather was gorgeous, warm but not hot, and the people were the perfect mix of disinterested in my bullshit and caught up in their own. My first stop back in the city was not a brewery, but rather, the Mutter Museum. I’d highly recommend checking it out. After that, I strolled around the city without much plan. I didn’t necessarily feel like I needed to hit up another brewery so I didn’t even make the effort. However, fate had other plans, and as I wandered around, wondering what I should do with my final two hours before I needed to head back to the airport, I stumbled upon 2nd Story Brewing while trying to figure out where I was and why was the road closed, even to foot traffic.

As I am an “adult” with a “real” job that forces me to be in an office from approximately 9am to 5pm every day, much as the Dolly Parton song suggests, I am not very well acquainted with the 2pm on a Monday brewery scene. But not to fear, because most people probably aren’t. I say that because I was one of two people in the entire place. 2nd Story is more of a brewpub, which means they have a full menu and a very restaurant-y vibe. I would have loved to eat there, but I had already eaten at Five Guys about an hour and a half prior and was in no mood for more food. But that is alright, because that left enough room to drink four beers. At 2pm. On. A. Monday.

The first beer I had was the Pier 53, which was an America IPA. Now, let’s talk about this term. “American” IPA. I was always under the impression that there are IPAs and there are APAs, but in my time in Philadelphia, I learned of the term “American IPA.” But here’s the rub. I still don’t know if they are different or not. Some places on the web are just like “APAs are America IPAs” and other places are like “no, they are similar but NOT the same.” I also consulted Nicole on this matter, but since she knows just about as much about beer as I do she was also very confused. But regardless, it was good.

Also, while I was sitting at the bar, the bar manager and restaurant manager had very different ideas on what kind of music they should be listening to and the poor bartender seemed to be stuck in between. The bar manager was very into the Grateful Dead and the restaurant manager was very into Tom Petty and they kept switching back and forth, and bitching at the poor bartender for allowing the other guy to change the music. At first I thought it was a friendly kind of joke, but over the course of my two hours at this brewery, sitting at the bar, with no one else in the place to dilute the experience, I realized that they were not fucking around.

My second beer was a Anniversary Triple IPA. I think I enjoyed it, but I also think I found it a little too hoppy. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited almost three months to write this and then I could’ve had a more insightful thought on the matter, but unfortunately, I have been busy being a social butterfly and not a depressed shut-in as of late, so I haven’t gotten around to writing while the memories were fresh.

The third and forth beers I had were both their Que Hora Es? Mexican Lager. It was like a Landshark, but better! But still, I would rather have a Landshark for the sake of irony alone.

Overall, I would say this was  radically different kind of brewery than Evil Genius. This was very refined, traditional, and focused on your classic “beer flavors” whereas Evil Genius was really big on the kitschy and kooky things you can do with beer. That doesn’t make one better than the other, but just that they are radically different places with completely different styles of beer.

But the one thing I would like to note about 2nd Story is not about their beer, but about their bathrooms. There bathrooms are the most inclusive bathrooms I have used outside of a liberal arts college campus. They didn’t have men’s or women’s restrooms but rather just “restrooms.” You walked into this space with a long line of sinks, turned a corner, and there was a long line of floor to ceiling stalls. You walked into your little cube, used it, walked out, and washed your hands. Everyone was together. In one place. It didn’t matter who you were or how you identified. You just peed and went on your way to the communal hand wash station. That is amazing, especially for a city with such a reputation as Philadelphia. I loved it.

So, in close, Philadelphia is great and I can’t wait to go back. They had so many breweries I didn’t get a chance to visit but the two I went to were amazing. Can’t wait for the next adventure in the City of Beertherly Love.

Evil Genius Beer Company, Philadelphia, PA

Picture it: Thursday, April 19th. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A weary case manager sits at her desk with her officemate and boss brainstorming quick weekend getaways to help her manage the lingering winter blues that have gotten her down. Anything within 8 hours. Those are the only guidelines. No reasonable solution is offered. The hope of a weekend away dims. Fast-forward three hours, she sits at her desk, eating some sort of leftover from the previous night that cannot quell her hunger for adventure. She’s clicking through Google Flights, trying to look forward to her summer trip to Colorado. And then she sees it. Airfare. $6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Good God, that must be a mistake. $6? There must be a missing zero or a decimal error or something. But no. It is not a mistake. Within minutes, she has herself booked on a $6 one way flight to Philly and $6 back. Between terrorism fees and taxes, she has herself a $25 round trick ticket to the city of Brotherly Love leaving Sunday morning and returning Monday night. She did it. She escaped the Good Land another time.

Dramatic? Yes. But guys! I went to Philadelphia! One two days notice! With no plans! And nothing but a backpack! Was it crazy and impulsive? Yes. Did I have a good time? Yes. Did I drink beer? Of. Fucking. Course I drank beer. So welcome to this fine edition of the blog where I talk about one of the most delightfully silly and meta and nostalgic breweries I could have come across. Evil Genius Beer Co. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

So, I have been trying to get out to Philly for a while, but this trip was so sudden and unexpected I had nothing in mind when I got off the plane at Philadelphia International Airport. I didn’t research any breweries and all I had was a note on my phone with a list of things recommended to me by my officemate. And his list was mostly comprised of his sentimental attachment to his hometown and less interested in my base pleasures, which is beer.

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The actual list.

But anyways, I found myself standing in the designated rideshare pick-up area frantically googling “breweries philadelphia” because I had nothing planned and I just chose the first one that popped up on the “near me” list without even looking at their website. And can I tell you how big of a mistake this was? Just kidding. It was actually one of the most perfectly random Google suggestions that could have crossed my way.

My Lyft driver was quite concerned about my course of action, I must say. He told me numerous times he would never be okay with his daughter, no matter how old she was, just blindly wandering the streets of Philadelphia alone and into some brewery without any plan or purpose. And when he pulled up to the curb, he asked if I felt safe getting out and if I didn’t, he would take me somewhere else. Other than the obviously questionable subway that ran overhead, it was very much the neighborhood you find a brewery. People were hugging in the streets. There was a place on the corner serving brunch with a cute chalkboard sidewalk sign out front. This is where my people were. This is where I belonged. Of course, before I truly departed from my Lyft, I told the driver if I was stabbed, I would haunt the shit out of his car. But we had a good rapport so I do not feel guilty about this at all.

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First nice day in Philly, so the windows were open.

Walking in, the place had just opened. It was 12pm on a Sunday and there were two guys sitting at the small space at the bar, and another bunch at a table. To order, you walk up to the counter and they have a small queue system in place. I decided to go for a five-pour flight to start my day and stood and stared at the board behind the taps with wonder and awe. While having a brewery theme is, to an extent, niche and obnoxious, it can be done right. As mentioned in the Broken Bat post, some themes can be fun. I will also say that the specific theme that Evil Genius was going for also had the ability to be tacky or abused or too kitschy. But, they handled it with grace and dignity, and I was not annoyed by it. Which is saying something as I am annoyed by almost everything. All their beers were named (maybe inspired?) as pop culture references. It was like the Gilmore Girls of beer, really.

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The beer menus were on VHS clamshell cases.

So, as I stated, I got a five pour flight to start. The beers I got in the flight were the Kill It! Kill It With Fire!, #ICANTEVEN, ET Goes Home, Aziz! Lights!, and Scotty Doesn’t Know. The Kill It! was a style of beer that I am not familiar with at all. Mostly because I don’t know anything about beer and I have been running a beer blog for over a year now (I know this because I just paid for another year at this beautiful domain) and I still don’t know shit. But anyways, it was a Biere de Garde with plum and elderberry.  I thought it was good but I didn’t quite get the plum and elderberry flavors. The thing I did appreciate about this beer was that it was beer. That might sound silly, but with a lot of beers (especially some of the ones I’m about to talk about in this very post) with the experimental IPAs and sours, the taste of beer is lost to the kookiness. But this beer was beer, which is something I want to start getting back to more. Beer flavored beer.

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The #ICANTEVEN was a watermelon blonde ale which I did not like. Not because the beer was bad but because it tastes like watermelon. Guess what family? I hate watermelon. I hate it so much. Now, you might be wondering, “Hey, dumb ass, if you hate watermelon, why did you order a beer that was supposed to taste like watermelon?” And the short answer of it is that I am, in fact, a dumb ass. The long answer is that I like watermelon flavored things. Like Jolly Ranchers and juice. But this beer legitimately tasted like watermelon, not the chemically reproduced in a lab equivalent of a memory of what watermelon used to taste like once upon a time before the Great War. I think that speaks to how the beer was made (with real watermelon I would guess) but it also means that I had a hard time finishing it. (But I did finish it because I’m a Guida and Guidas don’t leave beer on the table. That’s alcohol abuse.)

The ET Goes Home was a Double IPA that tasted like strawberry milkshake. Or at least that is what is was supposed to taste like on paper. In practice, in my notes, I wrote that the gimmick outsold the taste. Philly was nearly a month ago at the time of me writing this (timeliness be damned) so I’m not sure I have more to elaborate on the matter.

The Aziz! Lights! falls into the same category as the #ICANTEVEN which is simply. I am an idiot. This was a cucumber IPA, and I am sure to someone it is refreshing, but I don’t like cucumber. Why did I order this? It tasted like cucumber. Unless a cucumber has spent the majority of it’s life in vinegar and comes out a pickle, I will not eat it. I will not let it diffuse in my beverages. I won’t let Jimmy John’s put it on my veggie sandwich. I. Do. Not. Like. It. And I did not like this beer. Because I’m, again, stupid.

The Scotty Doesn’t Know was a oatmeal pale ale. Apparently I liked it because all I wrote in my notes was “‘Twas good.” Which honestly, is probably a glowing endorsement from me. I don’t even know myself that well anymore.

So, after I wrapped up my flight, I was starving to death because I hadn’t eaten all day. And I had just flown in from Milwaukee. But, as I believe in thoroughness of life and was also having a grand time reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara pre-Golden State Killer capture (read the book, it’s amazing), I decided to have one last beer. So I got a full pour of the Stacy’s Mom citra IPA. My notes on this beer say this is “what I live for” and it’s light and “less pretentious” than many IPAs. Now, let me take a moment to be self reflective on this statement. Assuming a beer can be pretentious and priding another beer in being less so, in and of itself is pretentious. I think I was starving to death and a little too up on my own bullshit at this point. But guys, I was in the city of Brotherly fucking Love. The city of the Super Bowl Champions. The city that for the last two and a half years of my life I have had to listen to my officemate prattle on and on about how about his the greatest city in the world, no matter what the Schuyler Sisters insist on. I was wrapped up in my love of Philadelphia and was totally fine being pretentious. I had wandered into a city I had never been in before with just a backpack on my back, no plans, no where to go, and I was feeling free and independent. This is what happens when I travel alone. I get too into my own bullshit.

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But anyways, by the time I finished the Stacy’s Mom, I needed to get food. I should mention that there is a light menu at the brewery but my aforementioned officemate had given me an extensive list of food recommendations that I needed to tackle in my less than 48-hour stopover in Philadelphia and I could not waste a meal on a salad. So I closed my tab and headed out.

Since visiting Evil Genius, though, I have become an avid fan of their social media accounts. This is a brewery run by nerds for nerds, and it devastates me that I do not live closer to the lab and cannot visit more frequently. I will also say that the only moment of melancholy I experienced on my solo travels was in this brewery as I sat there reading the beer list and taking in the atmosphere thinking about how much Jake and Ashley would’ve loved that place. The beertender said my told my total was twelve doll hairs at some point. Doll. Hairs. That’s shit Ashley would’ve been all over. I won’t get too sappy about my visit to Philly (especially since I have another post in this two-part City of Beertherly Love series coming up), but this brewery was a great first impression on the city. It was unassuming and disinterested in being anything other than what it wanted to be. It’s definitely on my list for when my friends and I inevitably return. I loved Philadelphia and can’t wait to go back.

Stitch and Snitch Brew Day

Full disclosure: I’ve restarted this post no less than six times. You may be wondering why, but you honestly probably aren’t. But I’m going to tell you anyways. The why is because I seem to suddenly be incapable of writing an intro that is in any way related to the contents of this post coupled with the fact that every single intro ended up being incredibly dark. A lot of guilt for the lack of content. A lot of weird comments about being a twentysomething in a mid-sized city looking for the meaning of life on Tinder and at the bottom of beer bottles. Like they were all really dark. But that’s not what this blog is supposed to be. This blog is supposed to celebrate beer and not bastardize it into some kind of unhealthy coping mechanism, like a Lifetime movie or a very-special-episode of a TGIF show. So here’s where we are going to start today. By celebrating beer.

But not just any beer. My beer.

Remember way back when we went to MobCraft and I mentioned that they are a “crowdsourced” brewery? Meaning, they accept submissions from the masses on what flavor of beer they should brew next, and then people vote and pre-order their favorite beers and the winner gets made into beer. Remember all of this? It’s explained poorly in the original post but look back on it if you want more (mis)information. Well, as you can imagine where this is going, I decided at the end of January to submit a fun beer idea in the interest of science and the constant need to win. Just because I’m losing the war that is “life” doesn’t mean I can’t win a few battles here and there. And why not throw myself into a battle I have no business winning for my idea of a beer that hopefully tastes amazing but might suck, because I have no formal training in flavor profiles? And that’s what I did, guys. I submitted a beer for consideration.

The beer I submitted was named “Stitch and Bitch” but because of rules and laws and modesty standards, they had to change the name to Stitch and Snitch. The idea of it is a sour with raspberry and peach flavors. How fun. At least, that’s what I wanted it to be. I wanted the whole thing to be just really fun. Because for some reason I have trained myself to believe that fun is for other people, something I would never stoop so low as to enjoy on my own. But now, here I am, trying to embrace fun and whimsy.

So, while I keep calling this my beer, I will wholly admit that it is not my beer at all. It is just my silly idea. It is the beer of the fine brewers at MobCraft who looked at my silly idea and thought “Eh, we could probably science this into a beer, right?” And they DID. They put together a recipe and were like “This strongly resembles BEER.” And then I forced everyone I ever met to pre-order/vote for my idea of a beer that was formulated into a stronger beer concept by the lovely people of MobCraft, and thanks to some bullying and I am assuming the kind support of strangers (as I do not have nearly enough actual friends and family to solely push me towards victory) my silly beer idea won. Which means that my silly idea will be an actual beer. A beer that I pitched to accompany a very specific experience. Sometimes I do stupid things like this, but it’s all of your faults for enabling me to do these stupid these.

So, anyways, the fine people at MobCraft invited me and my entourage to Brew Day to see my beer be conceived. While normally I had no interest in witnessing the conception of anything, this was a little different and a touch more sciencey. Adam, who was in charge of making my awesome idea of a beer, and Henry, co-founder/co-owner/delightful human, were so kind and patient to explain all the things that go into beer, specifically my beer, and the processes involved. We got to see it go step-by-step and then we all drank beer waste, which is like a sweeter, less gross version of bong water, I would imagine. It was a beautiful day. I got to meet so many lovely people who work in different aspects of the business, like Kayla who is the director of operations, and Sam, who does their graphics work. Everyone was so kind and welcoming and willing to listen to me talk and answer my questions and put forth so much effort on their Sunday to make me and my entourage* feel welcome and at home.

Do I wish I could write more objectively about the experience? Of course. But I am just so blinded by the sweet and kind gestures of the whole day. It would be so easy to throw a crowdsource beer winner a t-shirt and say “beat it” but at MobCraft, they welcome these winners into their brewery and let them feel apart of the process, which is so cool. It humanizes the whole effort. Beer is about more than catching a buzz on a Tuesday night alone in your living room watching Australia’s Next Top Model. Beer, especially craft beer and local brewers, is about community. It is something the people of MobCraft are clearly passionate about and want to share their passion with anyone who wants to be apart of the culture.

It’s hard to believe that just eight months ago I started this blog, this Beer Journey, as a joke. Bought a cheap domain (and an expensive vanity domain, heyoh, daze.beer) and paid for the cheapest hosting platform I could find, just to jokingly be like “We had beer here. It was fine.” And now, I am sitting here genuinely excited about where I am going to go next. Where my next beer is going to come from. I look forward to hearing more stories from people who pursued their passions, to talking to people in the industry who don’t do this to be rich or famous or cool (although there is an inherent coolness about being a craft brewer). They do it because they love beer and want to share their love. Beer is the perfectly complex mix of art and science and the people who pour their souls into these pints are also perfectly complex humans.

So, thanks to MobCraft here in Milwaukee and to my friends and family for support both my beer idea and my silly beer hobby and thanks to society for supporting this.

*My parents, Emily, Sam, Jake, Ashley, Karen.

Mittenfest, Bay View

Winter in Wisconsin is a long and bleak process that we must all experience at least once in our short lives. At some point, every year, about mid-January, the world gets dark. Very dark. Claustrophobically dark. Every takes down their Christmas lights and packs away their cheer until next year, and all that is left is a void. The sun never shines. There is constantly snow and salt and grime on the streets, on your shoes, in your house. No one can go outside. It’s too cold. Too wet. Too depressing. Smiling is something that you remember fondly, like a hazy memory, and you’re never too sure if a Good Day will ever happen again. Flipping through Instagram, you only notice the pictures of your “friends” in tropical locales and warm climates drinking margaritas on the beer or beers on the patio and wistfully remember when that was you. But drinking outside in the dead of a Wisconsin winter is as absurd and foreign to you as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

But then, magically, something comes along to change it. Something that does seem absurd on paper but in reality is a heaven-sent savior ready to shake loose whatever frozen depression had settled into your soul. Mittenfest. Wicked Wisconsin winters be damned, for the good people of Milwaukee will not go down with out fight. And that is what I bring forth to you today. The adventures of Mittenfest, right down there in Bay View.

While this is not a brewery event, I felt like it was worthy of content as the bar hosting this preposterously delightful outdoor street festival, Burnhearts, is well-known for their craft beer selection. Plus, they partnered with two breweries, Central Waters of Central Wisconsin and Founder’s of Detroit, which were both serving some awesome and rare beers. As well as beer, there were Old Fashions and a full bar instead Burnheart’s. The best part was, this was about four blocks from where I live so I didn’t have to drive or park or Uber or risk Monica trying to buy drugs from the Lyft driver (again). We could just walk. So, Ashley, Monica, and I were joined by Daze of Beer newbie Molly (who is the person who clued us into this event) and we hit up the mean streets of the most hipster part of the city occupied by the most hipster people of the city to drink beer outside on a brisk 20-degree day. There was live music, flowing drinks, and delightfully friendly drunk hispters all ready to make the most of the day.

And boy did we make the most of the day. I cannot recall exactly what we all drank, but I can give you an overview. I believe every beer I had was from Central Waters. I had their HHG which was an American Pale Ale that I really enjoyed. There was also a IPA I drank that I do not remember the name of. Ashley and Monica also tried their cider that was a vibrant yellow and kinda looked like pee? But they may have liked it. I don’t know. Then there was the coconut rum porter that Molly got that definitely tasted like coconut rum and the memory of past mistakes. None of us like this porter, let me tell you. Also, I have been poking around on both Central Waters and Founders’ websites to find out the name of it and to confirm that it was coconut rum and not spiced rum, but I cannot find any trace that this beer ever existed. But it did. Let me tell you it most certainly did. And I can tell you this with such certainty for several reasons.

One, Molly ordered it. And we all tried it. And no one liked it. And then I went to the bathroom, and while waiting in line, the two girls approached the guys standing in front of me and offered them one for free because they had also bought one and did not like it. And the guys accepted the free beer, didn’t like it, and then shared it with me, and I shared it with the girl behind me. None of us liked it. And then these same girls gave these same guys another one because their other friend also bought this rum porter and also did not like it, so these guys just gave me the beer. And the girl behind me and I shared it. It was a beer that no one liked but brought everyone together. It is a very similar effect the Kardashians or the Patriots have on people.

But anyways, by this time the temperature was dropping and it was snowing. The live music had wrapped up and it was dark and they were just lowkey DJing music. That’s when the dance party busted out. I don’t know if anything in this world can ever recreate the feeling of being drunk on beer and Old Fashions, dancing in an inch of freshly fallen snow, under a black, winter sky and blue stage lights with thousands of other drunk hispters who on any other day would be too “cool” to dance so silly in public. I met strangers and danced with them. I met friends of friends and danced with them. I was invited back to a guy’s after party, which I then tried to attend, but his more sober friend told both him and me and my friends that we were not invited. Which was a good thing because we left Molly behind with other strangers. Everyone loved everyone. The world felt warm and safe and welcoming. It was the kind of thing that you don’t often feel in the dead of winter on Super Bowl weekend in a state where their football team hadn’t even made the playoffs. It was good.

So, shout out to Burnhearts. Shout out to the people of Milwaukee. And shout out to Molly and Ashley and Monica for their undying devotion to drinking, outdoor activities that involve drinking, fun, and new and

Lakefront Brewery Redux, Riverwest

Life is short. I hope you remember that every single day you wake up and start getting dressed for a job you hate in a city you never wanted to live in in a state that has been suffocating you for twenty five years. Life is short. Why are we wasting so much time just going about our routines when there is a whole world out there just waiting to be explored? Well, I will tell you why. Life is short but it’s also the longest thing you will ever do. At the end of life, there is no part two. You’re dead. You don’t get to restart and go for a high score. This is it guys. You will die one day and there is nothing left after that. Your short life will be over and you will wonder What have I even done? Isn’t that the real question, though. What have I even done?

On a personal note, what I will have done is spent hours, days of my short/long life drinking beer and going to breweries and writing about it on a blog that only three people read. Is that what I want to be remembered for? As if anyone would actually remember this about me. But I have said that this blog will be our legacy, and if there is one thing I want to be apart of my legacy it is this. This time I have squandered in my mid-twenties drinking beer with people I don’t hate repeating the same things over and over again until one day one of us gives up and disappears. Did you catch the key phrase in that sentence? The one about how we do the same things over and over again? Just like how every day I do the same thing. I go to work. I look at other jobs. I wonder why I didn’t quit two years ago when I wanted to. Or a year ago when I wanted to. Or six months ago. Or yesterday. I just keep doing it. And that is what life is. Repeating and rehashing past events trying to capture the initial magic until one day you die and realize that nothing will ever live up to the hype. Not adulthood. Not heroin. Not. Even. Beer.

For this post, we fall victim to just this very thing, as you can probably gather from the title. We go to Lakefront Brewery again. I’m not resentful. I had a delightful time mostly, again, but it is just another mark in a life full of rehashed events.

So, this visit brought together a large crew of people who are virgins in terms of the Daze scene. We got some old standards to show (Jake, Ashley, Monica, and me) but along with them came JD, Danny, Claire, and Druecke, none of whom have ever been to a Daze of Beer gathering. In fact, I think this was the first brewery any of them have even visited in Milwaukee? Don’t hold me to that. I don’t know their lives. But in terms of great places to “lose it,” Lakefront is definitely on the top of that list. Not everyone’s “first times” can be special. Sometimes it’s just kinda average and you think to yourself, “Oh, that’s it?” And then you have to try again, and hopefully you figure out what the fuss is about. But Lakefront really brings something. They’re gentle and caring but still know when to throw in a spicy beer with a witty tour guide. They just really know how to take care of a person.

We were also going over Thanksgiving weekend, which is when Lakefront releases their special Black Friday Imperial Stout. Bottles sold out Friday, and we were there Saturday, but they still had it on tap. Limited one beer a person. Does not work with drink chips. And as a good blogger, I really wanted to get one, but as I am not a Good Blogger ™, I kind of forgot about halfway through the visit that I was planning on getting one at the end of the tour.

Here’s a quick rundown of the beers we had without going into detail on anything because there were just to many of us.

Listed in order of how we drank them.

Natalie:
Stranded Coconut Ale, Centennial IPa, Rendezvous
Ashley:
Stranded Coconut Ale, Clutch Cargo, Stranded Coconut Ale
Monica:
Stranded Coconut Ale, Clutch Cargo
JD:
Stranded Coconut Ale, Centennial IPA (traded in two drink chips for one full sized beer)
Jake:
Oktoberfest, Centennial IPA
Danny:
Stranded Coconut Ale, Pumpkin Ale, Hulle Melon, Oktoberfest, New Grist Ginger
Claire:
New Grist Ginger, Pumpkin Ale

A couple of things to note. We all found the coconut ale delightful but strange as it had a very summer-y feel but it wasn’t brewed in the summer, it was made in the fall. But that didn’t detract from it. In the bleak and cold Wisconsin landscape, it’s sometimes nice to have those little reminders that warm weather and joy still exist somewhere, even if it’s not, you know, here. Also, I really did not like the Rendezous. It was a style of beer I was unfamiliar with, and failed to write down so I cannot report back on, but I didn’t like it. I believe Danny and Monica helped me finish it. It was a dark and bitter beer that cut deep to my emotions without being kind, or polite, or helpful in the least.

And so the tour commenced. We had a new tour guide who was a little scattered and definitely still working through his spiel, but once he got the jitters out in the first room, he really came into his own. I know that it was by no means his first tour, but as a person who has professionally given 20 minute long guided walking tours through an environmentally sensitive house, I could definitely see that he was probably within his first ten or so tours. But nonetheless, he was a delight. By no means “underemployed theatre major” levels of delightful, but that probably comes with experience. Also, completely unprompted, but at the start of the tour in the middle of a sentence, another man came running in that works at the brewery with a beer for a tour guide, commanded that he chug it, the tour guide obeyed, and then we all proceeded with the tour like nothing ever happened.

I’d like to believe it is because we have become complacent with life and no long question the absurdity that arises in the day-to-day because the government has conditioned us to no longer see the absurdity. It’s all absurd. Every last moment of life. So no one questions the tour guide being forced to close his eyes, open his throat and just swallow the damn beer because that is what life is now. Just the constant barrage of commands being thrown at us that ten years ago we would never have dreamed of, but are just apart of our daily existence. Cell phones track our every move. Life no longer can continue as status quo. Bitter. Cold. Dark. Absurdity.

So anyways, Danny earned a free beer for participating in a nice glove wave. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, too bad. Go on the Lakefront tour and figure it out.

After the tour, we had another beer, and then pocketed our last tokens and headed over to Stubby’s to grab our free beers with dinner. Does that ending feel abrupt? Well, don’t fret about it because it didn’t really end. Nothing really ended. Life is still continuing. I didn’t cease to exist after our Stubby’s dinner. No one did. We all just kept walking through those moments step-by-step, together and apart. So we went to Lakefront again. And we probably will do it another time. And another.

*note: I didn’t take pictures because life is meaningless. Everything is constantly evolving but also unchanging. If you want pictures, just google Lakefront. You will see that it is all the same. Or check out my last Lakefront post. Life is all the same. Fortunately, we all die. Farewell.

Third Space Brewing, Menomonee Valley

Take a deep breath and breathe that in. Smell it? Feel it? That’s the putrid scent of failure my friends, and that smell is probably one of the most comforting things in the world. If we are back under the hazy, heavy cloud of comforting failure, that must only mean one thing. We. Are. Home. That’s right, friends, we are back in Milwaukee! God, it feels good to be back in the 414 where we can finally take off that riot gear, loosen our grip on our pepper spray, and purge any remaining Old Bay from our system. Okay, fine, maybe keep the riot gear and pepper spray handy, but trade in that Old Bay for some cheese curds and let’s rock and roll because on this episode of Daze of Beer, we are talking about Third Space Brewing!

As I have mentioned innumerable times across this blog, my personal Twitter, this blog’s Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, my real life, my fake life, and my Second Life, Third Space’s Happy Place is my official beer of 2017 (and maybe the rest of my life but I’ve only just started drinking it in February) so this was definitely going to be a special trip for me. We headed over there on September 16th to celebrate their one year anniversary with them! Well, I mean, they were celebrating it with us, the consumers. It’s not like an exclusive party. Again, this is a bullshit blog. I would never get invited to a real party. That’s only for Good Bloggers™, which has been well established that I am not. But honestly, how exciting is it for them that they lasted a year and in the course of their first year in existence, they immediately knocked it out of the park by making my official beer of 2017? How is that possible? How do people just start doing something and then are immediately like really good at it? I have yet to succeed at anything in my 24 years on this earth, and these people just show up one day and start making a lot of good beer? That’s horseshit*.

But anyways, let’s get back on track. Ashley, Jake, and I headed over before the surprise Brewer game that we were going to attend later that afternoon. Despite it being mid-September, it was hot that day. Like brutally so. I was wearing a knit crop top that fully exposed my bra without concern. That’s how hot it was. I put aside any notion of modesty because it was approximately a billion degrees outside**. But know what pairs well with a hot day? That’s right, a cold beer. Unless it’s a stout or a porter or most IPA and some APAs and a few other pale ale variations. But Landshark definitely pairs well with a hot day. But alas we were not wasting away again in Margaritaville, we were in Milwaukee.

 

So we roll up, park, and wander in. Immediately we hit up the outdoor taps because we are not amateurs and know that the best way to enjoy yourself is alcohol. It’s the most responsible thing you can do. Drink. I learned that from Boy Meets World. (Or I learned the opposite of that from Boy Meets World. Sometimes lessons get fuzzy.) In the spirit of the anniversary party, we all started with their special anniversary IPA You’ve Said It All. This was actually a delightful IPA, even on the disgustingly hot “fall” day. Even Jake liked it and he doesn’t like IPAs (not in the same way Nicole doesn’t like IPAs, but it’s still a thing).

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You’ve Said It All Special Release IPA

Jake’s official review on it, which is the only real note I made about the beer is, “It’s easy to drink with a hoppy finish,” which sounds so goddamn smart. Like, this kid knows what he is talking about. As we all know, as I am not a Good Blogger™ I usually just say “good” or “fine” or “bad” but Jake is quite articulate on his emotions. I am so proud of him. In fact, I am proud of everyone that joins me on these endeavors because I am watching my friends grow into these beautiful hipster craft beer snobs and it brings a tear to my eyes. It’s like watching the student become the master because, to be honest, I’m not sure I’m learning shit.

Along with the beer, Third Space had live bands and food trucks to keep these party animals rocking. The band that was playing while we were there was Life In a Tree who was startling good. They played mostly covers of pop-punk and classic rock music. And then we found out they’re sophomores in college and probably not even old enough to legally drink and it made me feel very old. Like ancient. Like, these kids are in a band and playing at breweries and also have to get back to their dorm at UWM so they can study for their econ exam on Wednesday, meanwhile I’m drinking to forget that I have learned the truth about life and it is that college is a scam and there is nothing in the world that even remotely resembles “happiness” or “joy” as it has been sold to us by the Don Drapers and real-life ad men in the world. And as I saw the darkness creeping into my vision from the ever-present looming reality that we will all die someday, I decided that was my cue for a second round. And Ashley and Jake followed suit.

 

My second beer was a That’s Gold, which was a traditional German style ale. This was the kind of thing that I needed to be drinking on this “global climate change exists” kind of day. It was refreshing and kind to me. Ashley got a Happy Place because, if we’re being honest, Happy Place is one of the few genuinely “happy” things left in this world. Jake went for their Fest Bier, which was their Oktoberfest beer. He found it resembled more of a brown ale than a true Oktoberfest, though, but he didn’t hate it.

At some point around here, I should mention that Tim showed up. He was going to the Brewers “away” game with us, but he had to work so he came late. I believe we bullied*** him into a You’ve Said It All because if you’re not going to try the special release beer, you can’t hang with us. Like, we are now all living in a different world than we once did. We are living in a post-Baltimore world and post-Baltimore Natalie is a changed woman because she had to drink a beer with Old Bay in it. If I can endure that bullshit, we can all suck it up and drink a delightfully delicious special release IPA that did not betray anyone by thinking it needed to put Old Bay or any other table seasonings in it. Third Space would never betray their consumer like every goddamn Maryland based anybody tries to on a daily basis by adding Old Bay to everything, like even the air. Thank you Third Space, and literally everyone else outside of Maryland who knows that Old Bay has it’s place and it’s not in beer.

We at some point wandered over to the taproom just to get a feel for it, but it was crowded because they were playing the Badger game on protectors on the wall. The upside was that the Badgers were playing BYU which allowed me to go into one of my well-worn rants about the state of Utah and the State Of Utah and Mormon culture and the time I got slut-shamed while walking down the street in Salt Lake City while I was dressed far more conservatively than I was on this particular day at Third Space. I’m not a hundred percent sure anybody was listening to me at this point because I think everyone is quite tired of my issues with SLC but Salt Lake broke my heart. I thought I was going to find the Promise Land and instead I found social isolation and snow in July (that technically was when I went into the mountains, don’t @ me).

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For our last beers, Ashley went with the That’s Gold based on my stellar endorsement (look at me advising people in what beers to get!) and I got a Unite the Clan which is a Scottish Rye Ale. I don’t know what those words mean, I just read it off their website. I do know that I liked it but I think at this point I was just really hot and I don’t like to drink when I’m really hot. Or really cold. You need to keep me at a constant 74 degrees Fahrenheit or else all systems slowly start to melt away. That’s why I only once successfully drank ALL the way around the world at Epcot, and that was miserable. It was July 4th, I had gotten drunk, sobered up, drunk again, and sober again in like a ten-hour park marathon pushing through nearly 50,000 tourists. I don’t drink when I’m hot.

But an important note on the Unite the Clans Scottish Rye Ale: Since our trip to Third Space in September, the beer has since won an award! The beer won a gold medal at this year’s Great American Beer Festival and the only Milwaukee beer to win one and only one of two Wisconsin beers to win this year. That’s pretty damn impressive and now I’m feeling a little hipster and snobbish to say proudly, Oh that beer? Yeah, I drank it before everyone knew it was good. But that would be terribly rude, now wouldn’t it?

Now, here is the part that I need to release a formal apology to Tim. I for some God forsaken reason have no notes about you buddy. I know that you drank a You’ve Said It All, and I know that you had a second beer, but I didn’t write any of that down. Again, this bitch ain’t no Good Blogger™, and I would like to formally apologize.

But anyways, this is where we ended our day with Third Space because we had to get over to the Brewers-Marlins “away at home” game, to watch the Brewers further blow their chance at post-season despite being God handing them an additional 3 home-games by trying to level the city of Miami in Hurricane Irma. The most important thing to note here is that at Miller Park they have a local craft beer pavilion and I was feeling a little sad about myself at this point because I went to Happy Place’s home, it’s happy place if you will, and I did not even get one. What kind of monster am I? So I rectified it as best I could and had two Happy Places at the game. Happy Place has the gold medal of my heart.

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Us at Brewer Game, less hot

And so that’s where we leave it. Next time we brunch and then accidentally create content on the fly, guerrilla blogger style (not really). 

*said with love and reverence (also I recognize that they definitely had previous brewing experience long before they just decided to sink a shitton of money and energy into their own micro-brewery. Like, they obviously knew they were good before I knew they were good.)

**citation needed

***or he picked it himself because he knows the nature of these gatherings, who’s to say