Archive | February 2015

MI Road Trip: More Beer and a Dead Guy (Maybe…)

While we were visiting Grandma, Jon, my cousin and I also checked out another Kalamazoo brewery; a relatively new one called Arcadia Brewery.  My cousin hadn’t been there either, so she was excited to check it out too.  The place is huge, with lots of space, an industrial feel, long pub style tables that appear to be reclaimed wood, and big garage doors that could roll up in warm weather.

My cousin and I at Arcadia Brewery

My cousin and I at Arcadia Brewery

I had the Rapunzel; a wheat IPA advertised with a crisp, sweet malt and flavors of pineapple, citrus and lemongrass. It wasn’t my favorite – too bitter.  Jon started out with a beer called the Cereal Killer, which he was really pleased with. He bought some in the bottle to bring home.  His second choice wasn’t so successful.  He tried the Jaw Jacker, an autumn spiced amber wheat ale brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice.  Neither of us liked it at all.  I guess you can’t win ‘em all. We both liked the atmosphere, and will certainly visit again, but I hope their beers are trending a little less bitter next time.

Arcadia Brewery Beers – That was not a red ale, but it was that red…

Arcadia Brewery Beers – That was not a red ale, but it was that red…

After several days hanging out with Grandma, walking the quiet streets of small town Michigan, Jon and I said our goodbyes and set out to explore more of the state.  It was a crisp, sunny day and the trees were just starting to change color.

We stopped in Grand Rapids because Jon wanted to visit a record store.  It was late morning, and the store hadn’t opened yet.  The block was crawling with panhandlers, and there was a homeless guy lying on the sidewalk a short ways away.  I couldn’t tell if he was unconscious or just sleeping.  Another man was pulling on him, trying to rouse him – literally lifting the man off the ground – so at that point I started wondering if he was dead.  There was a police officer coming down the street toward him, so we didn’t need to call 911, but we decided not to hang around and wait for the record store to open.

So instead, we headed over to Founder’s Brewery (in a much nicer neighborhood) for lunch and a brew. I had the Michigander Salad, with dried cherries, blue cheese crumbles, candied walnuts, avocado, mixed greens, and a balsamic vinaigrette.  It had onions on it, and I don’t like them, so I asked if they could leave them off – and they offered to substitute something I love – avocado!  I didn’t even have to ask!  I had my salad with a Honey Wheat beer – delicious and 6.1% ABV.  It was a wonderful lunch; my only gripe was that the balsamic dressing was a bit too acidic – it made my mouth really sensitive – has that ever happened to you?

Founder’s Brewery Beer Selection

Founder’s Brewery Beer Selection

Jon had the Charise’s Rueben, with roasted sliced turkey, dill Havarti cheese, baby spinach, tomatoes, red onions, avocado, tangy coleslaw & 1,000 Island dressing.  He loved it, and we got to turn the tables for once with him ordering the sandwich and me ordering the salad!  He had the Double Trouble IPA, described by Founder’s as, “An imperial IPA that was brewed to turn your world upside down.  Hops will get you coming and going. Pungent aromatics up front pair with a malt-balanced backbone and a smooth, bitter finish. – 9.4% ABV.”  Jon declared it a winner.

It would have been nice to wile away the afternoon at Founder’s but we had more touristing to do!

MI Road Trip: Cemeteries and Beer

Our first couple of days on our Michigan trip were really relaxing, as they were all about family. My grandmother is 97, so she isn’t really out partying, unless you count her semi-regular appearances at church. She lives in a very small town (population about 1500), so there’s limited opportunity to do much of anything. Her town consists of a bank, grocery store, hardware store, gas station, library, post office, coffee shop, second hand clothing shop, all in one pizza, hotdog, sandwich, ice cream restaurant and three antique stores. And that’s pretty much it – it is truly a one stop light town.

I wandered over to both cemeteries during those couple of days; the old cemetery with lots of Civil War Veterans (they stopped burying people here in the 50s or 60s, I believe), and the new cemetery with several Civil War Veterans and many other historical graves, but current burials as well.  Sadly, the old cemetery has deteriorated since I was there last, with somebody doing rubbings on the older gravestones that have left ugly marks.  Many of the stones have fallen over, and graves have sunken.  There are several stones stacked against a tree; their bases lost to time.

Jon reading the gravestones in the old cemetery

Jon reading the gravestones in the old cemetery

A gravestone damaged by rubbing in the old cemetery

A gravestone damaged by rubbing in the old cemetery

My grandfather is buried at the new cemetery, so I always like to go over and say hello. Plus, I find cemeteries to be very peaceful, so I’m always happy to go and wander among the graves.  I always explore the older graves; and this cemetery has several from the 1800s.  Many are in very good condition, and I enjoy reading the names and dates.  Some are in bad shape, having fallen over and sunk into the ground.

A Civil War Veteran’s grave in the new cemetery – with the Grand Army of the Republic star

A Civil War Veteran’s grave in the new cemetery – with the Grand Army of the Republic star

I also got very familiar with the Panera Bread in nearby Kalamazoo, because it has Wi-Fi and Grandma’s internet service was on the fritz. I spent over 3 hours there working on a job application; I must have done well on it, because it was the application for the job I now have! Jon and I also visited Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo with my cousin – I considered it a treat after having wrapped up my application. I had been before with my cousin, but it was Jon’s first time. He was very impressed with the beer and the atmosphere. I love the quirky look of the bar, the collection of African masks, and of course, the beer.

The wall of beers at Bell’s Brewery

The wall of beers at Bell’s Brewery

We tried a couple before we settled on our choices; I had the Thump Yer Pumpkin Ale, which was a light beer with a hint of sweetness and flavors of cinnamon and nutmeg. It is a seasonal ale, so it isn’t available all the time. Jon had a glass of the Oracle – a Double IPA; also a seasonal beer, available in the late summer, early fall. It is made with Pacific Northwest hops varieties, and has citrus flavors mixed with extreme bitterness.

We were there in the later afternoon, before the after work crowd showed up, and it was pretty quiet. It was certainly someplace we will head back to next time we are in Michigan!

 Have you been to Bell’s Brewery or had their beer?

 

Fish, Wine and Several Freight Trains

I arrived home today after a two day work meeting, complete with a hotel stay near the tracks with multiple middle-of-the-night trains and little sleep.  While the overnight part of the trip was less than stellar, I had a fabulous dinner at a seafood restaurant with a reasonably priced, good Chardonnay.

I had the Blackened Red Snapper with a pico de gallo salsa topping, served with creamy fettucine.  But instead of white sauce, it was made with a creamy red sauce with just a bit of spice.  It was so yummy.

I ordered my wine before I decided what I wanted for dinner, so I paid no attention to pairing, but I ended up with a Sycamore Lane Chardonnay.  I couldn’t find much online about this wine, but it hails from the Napa region of California, and is either unoaked or aged in neutral oak.  It has a light crisp taste with tropical and citrus flavors.  It cut through the mild spice of my red snapper dish nicely.

If only my night of sleep had been as good as my meal… But yay for the weekend!

Rain, rain… Enough already…

They say that the Eskimos have a huge number of words for snow.  Of course, that is a topic of debate, and Eskimo is an antiquated term now largely discarded in favor of Inuit.  But, my point?  Well, that may or may not be true, but what I do know is that Pacific Northwesterners have a ton of words for rain.

Precipitation, rain, drizzle, rainfall, driving rain, mizzle, mist, pour, pouring buckets, dumping buckets, spitting, raining cats and dogs, pelting rain, sprinkle, shower, deluge, pissing rain, torrential rain, drenching rain, light rain, heavy rain, bring the Ark over and let’s climb aboard rain.  Ok, I made that last one up – but I think we should start a movement and see if it catches on.  Whatever word you use, it has been raining here, is expected to continue raining, and I would like it to stop.

Last night I walked with a friend in a rain that alternated between a light rain and a drizzle, and eventually settled into a mist before it grudgingly stopped.  Today I went for a walk at lunch in a fine mist.  The rain is supposed to increase for the next couple of days too.  My walking clothes are all covered in a layer of fine mud around the ankles, and the house is filled with the lovely aroma of tennis shoes drying over the heater vent.

Please don’t tell me that we are having a mild winter here in the PNW, or that we recently had one of the driest January’s on record.  I know all that.  My perspective is my own, based on nothing other than the fact that several pairs of my gloves are wet and I have been constantly wiping my glasses.  Even when it isn’t raining, the sky is gray.  We are halfway through winter, and I am tired of the rain…

MI Road Trip: Marshall, Michigan

After we left Dark Horse Brewery, we spent a little while wandering along the main street of Marshall, with its quaint historic downtown, poking into antique stores and shops along the way.  On our way into town, we had driven by some of the large, historic homes that line the older streets.  It is evident that Marshall had some big money at the turn of the last century.  Marshall has over 850 historic buildings that are included in its National Historic Landmark District; it is one of the nation’s largest districts.  So here’s a bit of history…

In a twist of irony, the residents of Marshall were so convinced that it would win its bid for Michigan state capitol that they built a Governor’s Mansion! In the end, it lost by one vote to the current capitol of Lansing. Marshall was known for its patent medicines industry, and was also a hotbed for civil protest and participation in the Underground Railroad.

Do you think there might have been a dentist’s office here at some point?

Do you think there might have been a dentist’s office here at some point?

Escaped slave Adam Crosswhite settled in Marshall in 1843 with his wife and children; he was discovered to be living there in 1847 by his former master. When a posse of slave catchers arrived at the Crosswhite home to take the family back to Kentucky, residents of Marshall surrounded the house and prevented the posse from taking the Crosswhites.

After a tense standoff, deputies arrested the slave catchers; by the time they posted bail, the Crosswhites had fled to Canada. The former master sued the residents of Marshall, and eventually won a judgment that included payment for the value of the family and court costs. In a sad twist of events, the events in Marshall were a major catalyst for the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, which made it extremely risky to help fugitive slaves.

Storefronts in Marshall, Michigan

Storefronts in Marshall, Michigan

The first railroad labor union was formed in Marshall; it eventually became known as the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers – it was founded in 1863. All that in the history of one small town!

The Stuart Building – The Stuarts have operated businesses in this building for over 160 years!

The Stuart Building – The Stuarts have operated businesses in this building for over 160 years!

Marshall is also active in community events, with an organized historic home tour of several homes (love those!), Bluesfest, classic car show, Christmas Parade, and an Annual Crawfish Boil (at the Dark Horse Brewery!). It would be nice to spend a bit more time there someday. However, our time there on this trip drew to a close.  It was freezing cold that day, even in early October, so we didn’t linger on the streets too long.  Not to mention, Jon and I had a date to get to at my Grandmother’s house!

Have you been to Marshall, Michigan?