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Posts Tagged ‘beer’

-Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, D.C.

Columbus Day weekend delivered quintessential fall weather here in our nation’s capital. Bright sunny days that gave way to stark autumn evenings. And if you walked down Pennsylvania Avenue– just a few short blocks from the White House – you would have smelled the aromas of gourmet food and heard the sounds of live music echoing off the governmental walls that line the street. That’s right; it’s the Taste of D.C. festival.

And after a bowl of Ben’s famous chili or a mouth-watering plate from SÂUÇÁ you might need something cold and refreshing to wash it all down with. Look no further than the Craft Beer & Wine Pavilion. Dozens of craft breweries and wineries were set up to give visitors a taste, literally, of some of the most refined libations around.

I actually worked a shift for Stoudt’s (you might remember them from Day 77 of my Year of Giving) and helped the small craft brewer introduce their brews to the palates of Washington. The beer pavilion is run by a handful of staff from the breweries themselves with the help of a small army of volunteers. Unfortunately that small army was really small and the tent would go through periods where it was severely understaffed. So I decided to go back the next day and help them out. After all a portion of the proceeds went to DC Central Kitchen, Bread for the City, Luke’s Wings, and the American Red Cross – all really good organizations.

So there I was for another shift, pouring beers and answering questions about the subtleties of the different malt beverages. “Either I’ve had too many or I think I taste something like those little banana flavored Runts candies,” a bearded thirty-something guy told me as he smelled and resampled Stoudt’s Heifer-in-Wheat, a Bavarian style Hefeweizen. Well, he very might be more sober than you think. No, the beer doesn’t have Runts candies, but you get some of that fruit flavor from the German yeast that is used. It’s also got a sweetness about it thanks to a generous amount of malt that goes into the brew. Although not my favorite of their 15 or so beers that they make, on a warm autumn day it’s perfection.

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Tomorrow is the big day!  I am sadly not going to be caught up with my blog posts by Tuesday, Day 365.  At one point I thought I could do it, but I have to let that idea go.

I am still looking for people who are out of work and would be willing to do what I have been doing; giving away $10 a day and then sharing the experience.  You don’t need to do it for a year, just 7 days.  If you are interested, send me an email to reed@yearofgiving.org.

Day 347 was the day after Thanksgiving.  I woke up that morning still sufficiently full from all the turkey and stuffing I consumed the day before.  I had agreed to go to Yuengling Brewery that day with my friend Laurie whose parents live about 15 minutes away in Camp Hill.  There was no specific reason to go other than I enjoy beer and used to brew my own and we had nothing to do that day. 

It was no more than an hour and thirty minutes from Mechanicsburg.  The last 10-15 miles of it is a very pretty drive through the winding hills of central Pennsylvania.  Pottsville, where the brewery is located, is a picturesque little town that reminded me of several other towns in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  I parked the car in front of the brewery and started digging for quarters in my pocket to feed the meter.  Thankfully it was only twenty-five cents for each hour.  In DC it costs about twenty-five cents for every seven minutes! 

Filling cans of Yuengling lager beer.

As we walked up to the building bearing the name “D.G. Yuengling & Son” on it I mentioned to Laurie that one of the brewers was the uncle of a good friend of mine.  I had met him once or twice and once even completely confused him with my friend’s father.  In my defense they do look quite a bit alike.  Anyway, it would be nice to see him again if he was there.

Just inside we were greeted by a woman who said we needed to wear a wristband.  While we were waiting for the tour I asked her, “Do you know James Buehler?  He’s a brewer for Yuengling.”  Perplexed she looked at me and said, “Yes…he’s my husband!”  I introduced myself to Cindy and explained how I knew her husband.  She informed me that he had the day off.  I guess there is a decent chance that I had met her before too, but neither of us seemed to remember.  As we were taking the tour, we were asked to go and wait in the gift shop for them to call for us.  Afterwards I thought I would look for Cindy and give her my $10 for the day but I couldn’t find her.

We then headed down the hill to Roma’s to grab something to eat.  It’s a good place that looks like it once was just a small walk-in pizza joint that had expanded to having a dinning room with sit down service.  I thought about giving the $10 to the waitress, but in the end decided to walk around Pottsville and find somebody.

Stacie protects Kylie from the strange man handing out money.

I saw a young woman and little girl skipping down road.  It reminded me of that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Judy Garland (Dorothy), Ray Bolger (Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Tin Man), and Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion) all go singing and skipping down the Yellow Brick Road.  I stopped them and asked Stacie to accept my $10.  She did.

Stacie, 19, and Kylie, 4, were heading home to Orwigsburg which apparently is not far from Pottsville.  Although Kylie is her boyfriend’s daughter, Stacie seemed so natural with her.  Like most small children that get close to me, Kylie shied away as I approached her.  She clutched the drawing of a bear that she had colored earlier that day and ducked behind Stacie’s leg seeking protection from big scary Reed.  Thankfully she didn’t start bawling, usually they do.

Stacie is taking online classes right now to get her Associate’s Degree in Childhood Development.  “Someday I hope to have my own day care,” she said smiling at little Kylie.  She seems to have a knack with children and will probably be great working in that field. 

She told me that the $10 was going to go toward Christmas.  “It’ll probably end up going for something for her,” nodding her head toward cute little Kylie.

We said goodbye and Stacie carefully loaded her precious cargo into the car-seat in the back of her SUV and they drove off.  I walked up Market Street a little more and took some photographs of the town before heading back to Mechanicsburg.

The other day I got an email from Stacie.

I just wanted to e-mail you and tell you that my $10 is in fact going towards Christmas gifts for Kylie.  I bought her [books] (ended up being 20 books and a pack of flashcards!) for her Tag reader (you know those electronic pens that read the words in books out loud?  I got her one of those for her 4th birthday this summer and ever since then she’s loved reading.)  In my mind your $10 paid for a Super Speller book for her so thank you for helping my ‘stepdaughter’ (I hope one day she legitimately is) learn and to help support her love of reading.  I’m sure after this project you really understand just how important things like reading skills are. “

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Victory Brewery, Downingtown, PA

Some high school friends of mine decided to get together in metropolis of Spring City, Pennsylvania.  I carpooled up with my friend Kimon, who lives close by in DC.  It’s about a three-hour drive but we hit some traffic getting out of DC and made slight detour to visit Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA.  All in all it took us about five hours.

This place was packed.  The parking lot was completely full.  We left my car in a questionably legal parking spot and went in just to say we were there, have one beer, and pick up some beer to take to Maureen and Josh, our hosts for the weekend.  When we got inside, you could barely walk.  I was sure that there was some special event going on, but we were later told that it was just “another Friday night.”

I first approached a woman named Kathy.  She was a little bit interested, much more so than her husband who showed up a shortly thereafter.  The couple was waiting on a table and it conveniently became available giving them a polite excuse to exit the situation.

I scanned the area while sipping on my malty Storm King Stout.

Kathy and Jim (photo: Reed)

Nearby I found another woman named Kathy and her husband Jim.  I noticed that Kathy was drinking wine. What?!  Wine in a great brewery.  “I’m allergic to wheat,” she told me.  Not Jim…nope.  He was happily enjoying some of their cold refreshing brews. 

Kathy tells me that her real name was Myra, but as a young girl she attended Catholic School and all the nuns thought she was Jewish…so she went by Kathy.  Jim I think was really named Jim…or James…at least no confessions were made to the contrary. 

Speaking of Jim, I learned that he has a bit of daredevil inside him.  While in the Poconos he went bungee jumping.  “This sketchy guy tethered me to this rope,” Jim explained adding that he wouldn’t do it again.

It turns out this couple was having a little time out before they picked their daughter up from her high school where she was decorating for Homecoming which was the following evening.  And Jim is going to drive one of the cars in the parade too!  “It’s a red BMW 328 convertible.”  Grinning he added, “Everyone should own a convertible once in their life.”

The $10 went toward a glass of wine and tip for the bartender. (photo: Reed)

It was right about then that I got to see my $10 passed along.  Kathy made her way up to the crowded bar and ordered another glass of wine.  Seven for the wine and three for a tip.

Later I received an email from Kathy with an update…here is an excerpt.

“It was fun talking to you and even more fun connecting to your web site and reading all the stories of the people we are ‘one degree of separation’ from. I loved your 10-10-10 story!  We should have told you about our 8-8-08 night at the Triple 8 vodka distillery in Nantucket!  Anyway – I wanted to tell you that even though $7 of the money you gave us went to the alcohol – $3 of it went to the bartender..not sure if that is ‘donation’ or not but either way good luck in your final leg of your interviews and GOD BLESS YOUR MAMA!”

And as for homecoming…

Jim driving his son and fellow homecoming court nominee. (photo: Reed)

“Everyone had a blast. I think Jim enjoyed the parade more than my son Kevin. It was a beautiful fall day. The home team won.  Life is good.  Keep up the good work – you are on the home stretch!

-Kathy”

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Ryan hawks some beers on his first day at work at FedEx Field. (photo: Reed)

What does today’s recipient have in common with yesterday’s recipient?  They both carry things for a living.  Harold from yesterday carries the mail in DC while Ryan carries beer for thirsty sports fans at the Redskins games.

The 21-year-old, who wears a badge identifying him as Vendor #623, said that today was his first day on the job!  I asked him how it was going and he said, “The beer is heavy.  Really heavy.”  Just for that I bought one of his chilled Budweisers…you know, to help his tired arms and aching back out.  The container he is carrying around looks like it holds about a case and a half of 16 oz bottles.  Add some ice and water to that and you got a back-breaker of a load. 

He says that he has already gone back three times to pick up additional beer.  He kept moving and I followed him a little bit and talked to him between his sales. 

"The beer is heavy. Really heavy.” - Ryan (photo: Reed)

He told me that is a sophomore studying business at the University of Maryland.  I’m quite certain that in his first hours at work there at the stadium he has already learned some business skills.  I am guessing that he has learned a thing or two about the price inelasticity of demand when it comes to products like alcohol!  Maybe he can get college credit for his job.  It doesn’t matter that he is selling beers for ten times the cost that they would be sold at a supermarket, people will still buy it.  I bet they could charge $15 a beer and still have tremendous sales.  I hope owner Dan Snyder is not reading my blog and getting any ideas!

Well no surprise here what Ryan chose to do with the $10.  Yep, he’s going to buy some beer when he gets off of work.

Ryan finds some thirsty fans. (photo: Reed)

As for the game, the Redskins held a 17-point lead late in the 3rd quarter and then managed to blow it giving up 20 points to loose 27-30 to the Houston Texans.  The season is not looking good…

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Anthony sits on the frozen ground in front of the Metro

Remember Anthony from Day 6?  Well, would you believe I ran into him a few weeks ago?  I like Anthony a lot.  He unfortunately has a pretty nasty drinking habit which has left him homeless for years.  But if you haven’t read his story or would like to see a video of how he is doing now, check out his updated blog post here.

Day 194 takes us to a local watering hole.  The Brickskeller has been a fixture in Washington, DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood for the last 53 years.  It’s a unique locale and arguably a bit “touristy.”  However say what you will, I enjoy a visit to this institution now and then. 

The Brickskeller (Photo: courtesy http://www.lovethebeer.com)

As you walk up the stairs of the entrance and pass through the outermost door you find two doors to your right and a reception of sorts far in the back.  The reception is for the Brickskeller Inn, which I know little about.  I seem to always get distracted by what’s behind the two doors on the right before I can make it back to the inn.  Both doors remind me of something out of a medieval castle.  The first one leads downstairs where there is a labyrinth of rooms separated by hand-fired brick walls.  I chose the second door which reveals a dimly lit windowless space with a bar surrounded by 12 stools.  Further to your left are dozens of tables, dart boards, a juke box and lots of beer memorabilia. 

Partial beer list (Photo: Reed)

I take a seat at the bar and study the ten pages of beers that boast close to a 1,000 beers.  They are always out of a lot of beers, so you have to get two or three choices ready.

I sat there writing up some of my blog entries – sometimes I write them out by hand first.  I eventually got a little hungry.  Much of the food is mediocre at best in my opinion; you don’t come here for the food.  Having said that, the Garden Burger is outstanding.  It’s a vegan burger made with mushrooms, black beans, brown rice, onions, chipotle seasonings, etc.  I almost exclusively get that when I order there.  I order one and a Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA to wash it down.  The Snake Dog IPA I found to be quite delicious and went very well with my burger!  Hats off to the Frederick, MD brewer!

Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA on the left, Megan in the background (Photo: Reed)

Right before my burger comes, I notice two guys to my left who appear to be brothers.  I thought I would invite them to be my 194th recipient.  Brian and Shawn in fact are brothers.  Brian is a civics teacher from Charlotte, NC and his younger brother Shawn lives just over the state line in Hardy County, West Virginia.  They refuse to accept the $10 saying that someone else in the bar would surely do something much more amazing with the money than they would since they were “already like 15 beers in” as Brian put it.  They were looking to continue their evening and I sent them to Adams Morgan where they were sure to find a lively crowd.

Megan serving a beer (Photo: Reed)

I then thought I would give it to my server/bartender.  As she delivered my delicious Garden Burger, I asked her if she would accept my $10 and she readily agreed.  Megan, a 23-year-old self-proclaimed army brat, lives in the Colombia Heights neighborhood of DC and has been working at the Brickskeller for nearly four years. 

A group of three people take Brian and Shawn’s spot at the bar and I overhear the one member of their group comment that “Megan has been here for ever.  She’s good.”  This guy seems to be a regular as he asks Megan, “Do you have a couple of my usuals on ice back there?”  The Brickskeller is also known for having slightly warmer beers than what many are accustomed to drinking.

Megan stops by as she brings the gentleman his beers and I ask her what her favorite beer is.  “That’s hard.  Right now I would have to say it is the Lagunitas Maximus Double IPA.” 

Bartending for four years means two things.  First you probably know a lot about beer.  Second, you probably have seen some crazy stuff.  Megan knows her beers pretty well and has seen her share of crazy stuff too.  “I once saw a five-foot waitress knock a guy out.”  Wow…note to self: tip five-foot waitresses at the Brickskeller well!

Speaking of tipping, I also asked Megan for some thoughts on the age-old tradition.  “Tipping says something about the service but it also sends a message about the person who is leaving the tip,” she says.  “Sure there are times I haven’t been a good server, but I still tip pretty good when the service is bad.”  I don’t know if I agree with that.  As a former waiter and bartender, I am a firm believer in tipping commensurate with the level of service.  If I get lousy service I don’t have a problem with leaving a lousy tip.

Photo: Reed

Megan excuses herself again to wait on some thirsty patrons who sat down on the other end of the bar.  Social Distortion’s Story of My Life fades off the juke box and gives way to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.

When Megan comes back she says she will probably buy a beer or two with the money at the end of her shift.  “We are allowed one beer under $5.00 for free after our shift.”  Well, my ten spot will come in handy if she wants to order up her favorite from California brewer Lagunitas which sells for $6.95 for a 12 ounce bottle.  Cheers!

The Brickskeller is located at 1523 22nd St NW, Washington, DC 20037.

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Day 96 – Robin C.

My dad leaving Cally's (Photo: Reed)

On Saturday my father and I drove from Richlands, VA to Washington, DC.  It’s about a 7 hour drive.  Along the way we stopped in Harrisonburg, VA.  It has a small picturesque downtown.  On the west side of the main square there is a restaurant called Cally’s.  We stopped in to eat.

I decided to give my $10 to Robin, she was our waitress there.

Robin is 21 and studies Cultural Communications at nearby James Madison University.  As she prepares to leave the security of the university setting in May she ponders where she will go.  I was interested in her perspective on the economy and the job landscape from the eyes of a graduating college senior.

Robin at Cally's (Photo: Reed)

“I am not really worried about landing the perfect job right now.  I hope to move to the beach…maybe Florida…and take a bit of a break for a while and get a job…not necessarily something in my field of study, but just something to pay the bills for a while.”  I asked her if she thought her feelings were representative of the perspective that her classmates had.  “Probably not, some of my friends are really worried.” 

Robin deserves a break after four years of studies while often working two part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Cally's beer sampler (Photo: Reed)

Cally’s as it turns out is a brew pub…so my father and I decided to get a sampler of their beers.  They give you six small tastes which my dad and I split.  Robin said she liked the Downtown Amber.  I really liked the pungent Smokin’ Scottish Ale while my dad preferred the smooth velvety Kolsch.  

The Fredericksburg, VA native said she would use my $10 to put toward her final months of rent.  

After four years at JMU, I asked Robin to reflect a little on her time there.  I asked her what the best part of being a JMU student was.  She shot us a smile and said, “Leaving!”

Good luck on your graduation Robin!

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If you drive east from Mechanicsburg, PA on the turnpike for about an hour you will arrive in Adamstown, PA and be greeted by Stoudt’s Brewery, a high quality regional craft brewery.  How could I not stop in and sample some of their beers? 

Carol Stoudt (Photo: Reed)

 

While there I gave my $10 to Carol Stoudt, the founder and President of Stoudt’s Brewing Company.  Carol started the brewery in 1987.  They are not the biggest brewery or the most known, in fact their beer is available in less than a third of the states in the US.  Carol and her husband Ed run the brewery in a very simple way: make quality tasty beer. 

But I noticed, they do more than that.  You will see in the video that they have a restaurant and make several other products.   “We are fortunate to have a business centered around several things that we love: family, friends, beer, food, wine, bread, cheese…”  

In addition, they are very focused on sustainable practices; from reusing their water to converting brewing byproducts such as residue hops into fertilizer for farms to recycling clothes into company gear.  They don’t waste much. 

Check out some of my interview with Carol. 

 I asked Carol what she was going to do with the $10 and she said that she was going to tuck it away in her purse and use it when she got in a pinch and didn’t have cash on her.     

Thanks to Carol for her time and I hope she and her family keep up the good work!

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Day 52 – Dom P.

I got up around 6:00 am and walked to the grocery store this morning.  We are supposed to get a foot or two of snow today/tomorrow, however, you would have never known it this morning.  It was gorgeous this morning.  The temperature felt warmer than the reported 35 degrees.  I truly felt “the quiet before the storm.”

I met my friend Kimon yesterday evening at the 18th Amendment, a bar near the Eastern Market Metro.  He was meeting some others and invited me to join.  The 18th Amendment gets a thumbs up, although I had my doubts when I first arrived.  They had a beer from Great Lakes Brewing Co., a 20 year veteran of the brewing business from Cleveland, OH, who is starting to enter in the DC market.  I actually was introduced to them (literally I met Bernie the DC sales rep) earlier this week, so ironic that I found it on the menu some place.  Give them a try, I especially like their Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, although the 18th Amendment only had the Eliot Ness Amber…also good.

18th Amendment near Eastern Market

While I was at the bar, I found myself talking to Dom, a clinical psychologist and professor at Georgia State University.  He is in DC on business, reviewing some grant proposals.  Dom is a lot of fun to talk to.  I am not surprised that he is a professor.  He seems to be able to talk intelligently on a variety of different topics.  Even when he has a strong opinion, he tends to encourage discussion rather than squash your ideas with his own.

I find out that aside from being a professor, he is also an official spokesperson for Woodford Reserve Distillery, a bourbon producer.  No wonder he is in a bar!  How do you get to be an official spokesperson you ask?  Well, I am not sure I recall 100% of his explanation, but I believe the gist was that he was hanging around the distillery so much that they just gave him the honor.  Pretty cool.  His favorite bourbon though is Ridgement Reserve 1792.  I haven’t tried either of them.  My brother had some Blanton’s bourbon…that was probably the best bourbon I have had.

Although all of this is interesting and very topical given our presence at a bar, especially one named for the constitutional change that enabled national prohibition of alcohol, I wanted to talk to Dom about the $10.  I asked him what he was going to do with it and he said that he would probably spend it on alcohol this weekend.   His reasoning in his answer was based on the fact that he had received an additional $10 that he didn’t have before and the most honest answer for where that $10 would end up is probably in the cash register of a DC bar.  He likened it to the possible scenario of finding $10 on the street.  That is how he viewed my $10.  He added, “You can’t really make a judgment on how charitable a person might be by what they do with the $10…for that, you should check my charitable contributions.”

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Yesterday evening I went to the Brickskeller which is just a short walk away from my home.  The snow was falling and the scene was almost postcard worthy.  I took a picture with my blackberry phone, but it didn’t do it justice and its not even worth posting here.

The downstairs bar at The Brickskeller

The Brickskeller is somewhat of an institution in DC.  For more than 50 years it has been providing one of the most comprehensive selections of beers ever assembled under one roof.  If you are a beer connoisseur, it is a must visit.

They have this awkward bar seating in the cellar.  The bar stools are connected and set quite close together and there is no standing allowed in the bar area, so you usually end up sitting next to someone there and due to the close proximity that I mentioned, you are pretty much guaranteed to meet those sitting next to you.

I hadn’t a bit more sat down when the man sitting to my right asked, “Is it still coming down out there?”  I acknowledged that it was still snowing and settled my bag at my feet and took my coat off.  After browsing through their catalogue of beers, I settled on a Murphy’s Irish Stout. 

Since John had already made a little small talk with me, I decided to talk to him and see if he would accept my $10.  At first, the former military serviceman told me that “it sounds too good to be true.”  I assured him that there was no gimmick.  He smiled and replied back, “Just when you thought that you had seen everything, something like this comes along.”  He took the $10 and sat it on the bar in front of him and placed my business card on top of it. 

I explained that I wanted to ask him a few questions for the blog and he shrugged as if to say, ok.  I found out that he was originally from New Jersey, but now lives in Kansas City, MO.  He is in town presumably for some government or military related meetings.  I find out two interesting things through the course of the conversation.  First, he is a fellow Pittsburgh Steeler fan!  We chatted a little bit about our disappointing season and the future opportunities of the former coach, Bill Cowher.  John ventures a guess that Cowher is waiting to see if a job opens up at Carolina – close to where he lives.  I bet he is right.

The second interesting tidbit about John is that he said he once ejected from an F18 aircraft.  I didn’t get a lot of details or circumstances related to the incident except that he was off the west coast of the US and the plane was going to crash so he ejected and landed in the Pacific and withstood a few frigid hours until he was picked up.  I can only imagine what it feels like to have crashed a $42 million plane.  I used to work at a bar in Central Pennsylvania called Pagliaro’s Trattoria.  If you broke some of the bar glasses, they would reduce your paycheck by the amount of the glasses.  I asked him if they took the $42 million out of his paycheck, and he just sorta laughed and said that those are considered part of doing business.  Heck, one plane isn’t too bad, didn’t John McCain crash four or five planes?

My glass is now half full and our conversation comes and goes like a dog falling in and out of a slumber on a lazy summer afternoon.  I ask him what he is going to do with the $10 and he says, “Probably buy you a beer!”  Well that would certainly be ok, but I told him he could do anything he wanted with it.  He did end up buying me a beer, a nice beer from the Pennsylvania brewery called Stoudts.  The left over money he said would go toward some coffee.

John takes off and I finish my beer that he bought me.  I ended up talking to a nice guy named Doug from South Carolina who works for NOAA.  I got a quick education in some meteorological and geological related issues.  He was in town for some meetings that were part of a fellowship he was doing.  Today he was to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum…if you haven’t visited this museum, I recommend it.  It is terribly depressing but well done in my opinion. 

Tomorrow I will make my third trip to the DC Unemployment Offices again to try to straighten out my unemployment benefits.  Let’s hope this time I can finally get everything resolved.

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