Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Beer Gut

All Photos by me - Seaport Brewing Co., Portland ME
Don't let the above photo fool you.

This never used to be me - I was never much of a beer person - at least until I met my boyfriend. I would have one here and there when out with friends at a pub but would never buy it for myself to drink at home, didn't really understand the differences between different kinds and always kind of thought of it as a drink better suited to males of considerable size and not so considerable manners.

However, my boyfriend is a beer connoisseur - he understands how it is made, is knowledgeable about different brands and loves to try different brews from different places. I have to say he has opened my mind considerably about beer and I find myself enjoying sampling different kinds as well, and appreciating them more also.

Do you know how much work goes into making one batch of beer? There are like a million steps! So, it takes a lot of care and patience. And there are endless flavours that can be concocted from different brewing methods, which I really never realized before. I am kind of in awe of the amount of love and devotion that brewers put into their craft.

We recently went on a road trip to New England and I discovered that there is a huge contingent of microbreweries in this area. We visited the Shipyard Brewing Company in Portland, Maine and sampled all of their bestselling brews (and perhaps picked up a few drink-related items in the gift shop). Their Pumpkinhead Ale is delicious and is now one of my favourites!

We ate out at one of Portland's most acclaimed restaurants and drank a couple other great local beers (Allagash White and Narragansett Summer Ale). We even came home with a variety case of various beer, many of them from New England (thank you, lax USA liquor laws) so we can keep up the tasting long after the trip. They really brew with love down there. You can practically feel the warmth of pride radiating through your body when you pick up the bottle and tip the liquid down your throat.

Some of our haul
Just a couple weekends ago, the Seaport Beerfest was held here in Halifax and we got to sample even more! I tried 9 or 10 to be exact, which is actually less than last year (I think I topped out at 15). This time we got to try beer from all over the world and across Canada. I tried concoctions brewed with everything from coffee and cocoa to spruce leaves and pears (another new discovery: I am also a big fan of cider now - and hey, there are some great ones made in Nova Scotia!). 

Always a lover of silly, random facts I was greatly amused by a marketing project employed by Northampton Brewing out of Fredericton - their Melonhead brew (a watermelon flavoured beer) features a photo of a crazy-looking cat wearing a watermelon helmet, which is funny enough by itself, but they actually hold a contest wherein people submit photos of their cat and each year the company chooses a new one to grace the label! We bought a bottle of this last year in Quebec with a grey striped Tabby on it, and the posters at Beerfest had a black cat with its tongue sticking out. I think I'm going to enter this photo for consideration next year, what do you think?:

I am so short I could barely get my head in that hole. For reals.

I smell best-seller.

Don't like beer? I understand, I used to be with you, but I would encourage you to give it a chance. There is so much more out there than Bud Light (lets be honest, you might as well have water as that).

Are you a beer-drinker? What is your favourite summer patio refresher? Have you ever written off a specific type of drink only to discover a newfound appreciation for it?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Department of Gossip

Yay for new discoveries! That is what this blog is all about, after all.

It just so happens that I made two great discoveries this week (and it's only Wednesday - HOLLA!), as follows:

1) Vitamin water and vodka go really well together
2) I am a big fan of LaineyGossip

Ok, ok so #2 may not necessarily count as a 'new' discovery, simply because I already liked Lainey and her blog but first of all, I only read on a semi-regular basis (nothing to do with content, trust me - I read a lot of blogs and it's tough to keep up with all of them, y'all), and second of all you can only get SO much about a person from their posts - you often have to meet them in person to get the full dose of their character. For me, this is the way it was with Lainey - she is hilarious and dynamic in print, but even moreso in person.
Me and my date, Kim P
I was excited to be invited to her kick-off event for the Faculty of Celebrity Studies series, but also intimidated (I have to be honest) - I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable about pop culture and celebrity news, but I knew that some of the people in attendance would have vastly more knowledge than I and I was concerned about being quizzed on the spot next to them - would I make an ass out of myself? I don't like to admit it, but I was never one with enough cajones to participate in class so being 'called on' is like one of my worst fears (pathetic, I know).

Quiz time! Not sure what my mark was :(
Isn't FRED a cool space?!
Well, I needn't have worried because I was not put on the spot, nor was the environment intimidating in any way - it felt like sitting around my living room, gossiping with girlfriends over a glass of wine - not even close to the mind-numbing boredom of most traditional lectures.

I don't even like using the word "lecture" for Lainey's presentation because it smacks of pretension and scolding, and her talk (there, that's a better term) was not even close to that - in reality it was super informative, insightful, sassy, honest and witty. I found myself bouncing between laughing my head off and murmuring "hmm" and "so true" to myself at regular intervals in the manner of someone absorbing incredibly good points.

For this was not just a gab session about Kristin Stewart, this was a discussion of the greater societal issues that feed into (and are fed by) the celebrity machine. Her "thesis statements" regarding how women are regressing, celebrity as an ecosystem and celebrity as economic reflection really spoke to me and I completely agreed with her logic.

Ok, I know what you're thinking - probably something related to how silly I am for trying to make something as "shallow" as celebrity gossip deep and meaningful - but I really do feel that there are deeper issues that lay underneath most popular culture norms that shouldn't be dismissed as mere flake.
Aren't her shoes wicked?
Plus, come on - it's fun! Really, what is more fun than gossiping about people we don't know and will (likely) never meet?! And who lead such crazy, weirdly orchestrated lives! And that's the thing about Lainey - although she talks really smart, she also talks really fun - brutally honest, profanity-laced fun - and I love her for that. Let's just say that 3 hours whizzed by really quickly listening to her talk.

Oh, and did I mention I STUFFED my face with like a bajillion mini turkey burgers, goat cheese/pork tenderloin crostini thingys, and cupcakes? Those FRED folks really took care of us - so much so that I almost had to roll my super-full body (with flushed cheeks from the yum vodka cocktail of the evening - natch) out the door and home. Plus, we got to draw on the walls with markers, which is something I am pretty sure my landlord would frown upon (although I have yet to try it).

So, do me a favour...ok, actually 2 favours: Go eat lunch at FRED (if you haven't already) and read Lainey's blog (again, if you haven't already). Meanwhile I am going to talk to our Associate Dean (disclosure: I work in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at Dalhousie University) about adding a new program to our roster - the Department of Gossip! I can see it now! If you haven't thought of graduate school before now, ladies, you may wanna reconsider. Pretty sure Dean Lainey's office hours would include cocktails.

*psssst! btw here's a great article in my local paper about the event: "Celebrity gossip, when it’s done right, is an observation of human behaviour." - LG*