In a New York Minute

We were there…now we’re gone…good thing we fit as much in as possible.

Tuesday our train got in at 12:15 which left us just about enough time to meet up with Patrick and get a quick bite to eat before he had to leave to teach his last final. I can’t remember the name of it but we enjoyed the view from the 39th floor and some pretty good Korean food and then we were off.

Our first stop was the Empire State Building to take in the observation deck. We couldn’t have found a better way to see a 360 degree view of all of NYC. Nikki has been to the Top of the Rock at night so seeing the city during the day was a treat. After being bogged down by lines and crowds we finally made our way out of the tower to happily find Heartland Brewery at the main floor. Shocker, we stopped to have a quick beer. Nikki enjoyed a Cornhusker Lager and I had the Indiana Pale.

We moved uptown a little bit to see Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library (on the way we stopped to get a hot dog, because, why not, we’re in New York). Both are very historic and we enjoyed taking time to go into both and experience them.

Patrick met us at the Library and we were all on the same page…time for some pizza and beer. We took the subway over to the NYU area and enjoyed some Ray’s Pizza and Victory Prima Pils. Our next stop was right around the corner at the oldest bar in New York, McSorley’s. This place dripped history out of every corner, booth, wall and table and smelled like stale beer from 1857 mixed with onions and about 40 New Yorkers who just got off work…so pretty much the definition of a great dive bar. The three of us enjoyed some ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’ beers and took it all in.

After making it out to Brooklyn we found a pub and finally closed the night with a little Sake and Arrested Development…pretty standard.

 Wednesday morning we found a nice Greek diner for a really good (and Cheap) breakfast before sending Patrick off to Massachusetts and exploring more of Manhattan. Nikki and I took off from our hotel to explore Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center (I could have spent hours in the Lego store). From there we walked up 5th Avenue to Central Park. The biggest surprise for me was seeing the massive rock outcroppings throughout the southern part of the park. Our journey to the Park had to make a pit stop at the Wollman Ice Skating Rink for Nikki to show me where her favorite scene of one of her favorite movies (Serendipity) takes place. Unfortunately there was a Fair taking place (one of Nikki’s least favorite things) so to make the Universe right we donated $1 to a local YMCA youth basketball team, Karma is in our favor.

After the park we found Three Monkeys Tavern for a break to get off our feet (we’ve been walking A LOT). We both enjoyed some beer (Yonkers Lager, Three Monkeys IPA and Radiant Pig) with some good sliders and chicken sandwich before hitting up Times Square on the way back to our hotel. We both needed a little down time before attempting our first subway ride without help and the Yankees game last night.

The Subway was a success and far less intimidating than the first time through (thank you Google Maps!). Yankee Stadium was a sight to be seen and pretty much had anything that you could have wanted at a stadium. We picked up our $11 Bud Lights (yep…) and got to our seats in the Bleachers just in time to see Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe in the section next to us and to join in with the Bleacher Creatures in their pre-game rituals (all very cool). Even though it is a new stadium you could feel history all over the place and it retained a very intimate feel. A couple more $12 beers and some Nathan’s Hot Dogs helped wrap up our entire Yankee Stadium experience. We had to stop one more time at Times Square at night. times squre

New York came and went but we enjoyed every minute of it…we’re 30 minutes outside of Boston and a new adventure will begin soon.

 

Cheers

Ben and Nikki

Flip, Flip, Flipadelphia

We were sad to be in Philadelphia and miss Claytie and Fletcher. Hope you have safe travels Claytie and Fletch we are thinking of you in your recovery!

Luckily, we got the run down prior to our visit of what to squeeze in our quick stop in Philly.

Jim’s Steaks on South St.
After a 15-minute wait, we were able to enjoy our Pepper Steak with provolone (sorry for all the people who said you have to get the cheese whiz, we just couldn’t do it) paired with two delicious Yuenglings.

Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell
Ben and I aren’t big wait in line people unless that line ends with a beer or food. It was good enough for us to be outside and see. Plus you can see the bell through the window. Cool parts of history.

Betsy Ross house
Our quick break for some A/C…and Nikki wanted to buy all the cool things in the gift store. Love the courtyard in front of her house.

Elfreths Alley
The oldest steet in America. Very tiny and has cute houses along it. Looks like the immediate area is going through a revitalization with some new businesses opening.

Christ Church
Our favorite of things we saw. We love living out west but one thing that you notice and appreciate is who old everything is on the east coast. Just so much more national history. We enjoyed sitting where George Washington, Ben Franklin, William Penn, John Adams, Robert Morris, and others sat for church each Sunday.

City Tavern
After Christ Church the plan was to head back to the hotel. But then our walk took us past the City Tavern. Very likely a touristy place, but hey, it’s where Ben Franklin had a beer once! Ben and I both enjoyed water and beers here. More details about that below.

The Coffee Bar
Ben’s mom and Nikki have been dreaming up a future business: coffee shop/beer/wine bar that is also a book exchange. This place was a good example of the combo of coffee house/chill bar. We had beers here detailed below

The Dandelion
Fletch said we had to go here for dinner. And we did and we enjoyed! We had House made ricotta to start. Ben got the Lamb shepherds pie and Nikki got crab risotto for dinner. Dessert was Pana cotta with lemon/basil sorbet, shortbread and strawberries. It was really different but we enjoyed it.

Beer
And now what you’ve been waiting for!
Nikki got Poor Richard’s Tavern Spruce which is a Ben Franklin recipe inspired by his time in France. Reminded of a Christmas Ale named Jubilee.
Ben got Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Ale.
Nikki got OtterCreek Fresh Slice from Vermont. Unfiltered, delicious, clementine white IPA. So, so, so good!
Ben got Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA
Nikki got Blanche du Bruxulles – 16oz can, not a bad way to enjoy this one.
Ben got Sierra Nevada and Victory collaboration (Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, german style ale)

Philadelphia Art Museum (Rocky Steps and Statue)
This was Ben’s last request before leaving Philadelphia…he had to run up the stairs and take a picture with the Rocky Statue. It was warm and out of the way before leaving but it was worth it.

We are on the way to New York now…keep an eye out for our recaps of Washington DC and Baltimore shortly.

Cheers
Nikki and Ben

The State(s) of Beer

Fort Collins acted as a fresh start for me. I had transferred home from an up and down freshman year at Oklahoma State but was still lukewarm to the experience I was going to have at Colorado State. As a young, brash high schooler I was too good for in-state schools and didn’t want to go to (Enter your local high school here) University. Fort Collins and CSU provided more than I could have ever asked for and without that experience I would have never had the appreciation and understanding of craft beer that I do now. Friday Afternoon Club was grabbing a beer after class in the Ramskeller then finding someone to drive a group of us to Odell’s and New Belgium.

Bud Light was the former drink of choice but that eventually evolved into Sunshine and Easy Street Wheat…I look back at many of my first beer tastings with extreme regret (as most probably do)…Odell IPA, Cutthroat Porter and any other beer along these same lines were thrown back in a process reminiscent of taking a shot of bad tequila at your own 21st birthday party…shoot ‘em and move on. Sad… I would punch 21-year-old Ben if I saw him now…

We really cut our teeth back in the day…the dedication and effort to growing our palate was strong and much easier (and cheaper). New Belgium offered 4 FREE tasters, Odell offered a tasting tray for $3 plus a $3 token to use for a 6-pack after and the Ramskeller offered $2.50, 23-oz. mugs of a different local beer every day. Where are these deals now that I am actually making money?  Take note 21-year-old kids: find a buddy that loves beer and wants to open a brewery and toss him a little coin and voilà…free beer again.

Moving to California has provided us the opportunity to visit many new breweries and try some amazing varieties. California is absolutely killing it in the IPA and Imperial IPA category right now. Having lived in both states gives us the opportunity to share some of our favorite breweries, beer and ultimately give our own snotty opinions of where you should go and what you should drink. So off we go!

Our beer journey started in one place and one place only: the aforementioned Fort Collins. Normally, recommendations start with ‘save the best for last’…well, don’t. From Denver, take I-25 north and exit at Mulberry…head up mulberry and take a right on Lemay (maybe pick up some KFC if you haven’t eaten anything yet, you’ll need the carbs and grease later)…you’ll take a left at Lincoln and, no, don’t stop at Fort Collins Brewery first…even if your wife wants a Major Tom’s Pomegranate Wheat…calmly explain to her that FCB is on the way home and we’ll stop on our way out of town (no you won’t actually). And start with the amazing (and nicely upgraded) Odell Brewing Company.

To read our blog on our recent visit to Odell Brewing Company check out, GirlsGottaDrink.com. Val (@valeriekq), a friend of Nikki’s and an expat in Italy, is a fellow lover of Fort Collins and Nikki’s wine mentor. We can’t wait to hear more about Italy’s craft beer (and hopefully someday partake ourselves).

Adios Muchachos,

Ben

Month of May

Nikki and I have been all too terrible at getting out some content but May was a big month, with lots of important stuff, and we need to share it all.

First things first, Nikki will no longer be a contract worker for DuPont, she will now be working for them full time out of Fresno in their Crop Protection Services division. She’ll be traveling a lot and will most likely be visiting a city near you soon. It is an amazing opportunity for her and she’s very excited to take on the challenge. Nikki was also very lucky to be able to spend a weekend with Fletcher and Claytie in Philly, enjoying great company, food and the sights (even Alex came from DC for the day to visit!)

As just about everybody knows by now, I successfully completed my first half marathon on May 19th here in Fresno. It was a huge physical and mental challenge but with the help and support from a ton of people I was able to finish ahead of where I ever thought I could or would.

We entertained the Sisters Walters for an entire week from the 22nd through the 29th. During their visit we were lucky enough to spend a weekend with friends in Malibu for the Miller wedding. A weekend of surfing, sea kayaking, beach lounging and spending time with some of our closest friends was a great change of pace for Nikki and I. Krista and Taryn would still be sitting on the beach if we didn’t drag them off and bring them back to Fresno but they also enjoyed a fun day in Yosemite while we were working.

The Jeep finally had California plates installed…The Jeep then became angry and broke…The Jeep is getting fixed Wednesday…The Jeep isn’t happy.

Nikki and I have continued our never-ending search for new restaurants and craft beer in Fresno and have been lucky enough to find a few great spots and friends to come along for the ride with us.

As we move into June the Lucas family begins their journey to Fresno with mom and dad visiting first and Jenny arriving 2 days after they leave. The day in between I will be hiking Half Dome…Fresno is heating up which means we’ll be venturing out of town just about every week with trips to Cambria, Paso Robles and San Francisco currently on the books.

Talk to everyone soon

Ben and Nikki

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Adventures in home brewing

We both have a love for beer and as a big “hint” for one of Ben’s wedding gifts Nikki gave a home brewing kit to make a summer wheat. Today was the day that we were finally able to taste our beer (good news, it was delicious!) so we wanted to share the process. Brew number one was a success and now we are on to an IPA.

Brewing process summary

Our kit included all of the ingredients we needed. The below picture is the start of the process – making a mash. This takes an hour and requires you to keep the temperature steady throughout the process.

"Your basically making oatmeal"

Once you’ve made your mash, you boil water to 170 degrees and use it to make your wort. The mash is placed in a strainer and you pour the water through the strainer to make the wort. We used a spatula to help it.

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Once all the water goes through the strainer, you take the wort and a new pot and pour it through the mash one more time.

Making wort, step 2!

Now you’ve made your wort (pronounced “wert”) and using a funnel, you pour it into a jug. You place a tube into the jug and have the other end going into a bowl with sanitized water. The spoon we have in the bowl is to keep the tube down in the water – don’t worry we didn’t drink it.

Two weeks later you bottle your beer! And then it sits for two more weeks! The actual bottling process was a two person job and because of that did not yield any pictures. We’ll try to take some with the IPA. We place the bottles in our second bedroom closet which is a cool and dark place.

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It’s easy to say the we are hooked! Ben has already ordered cascade and centennial hops and fine mesh pouches to try dry hopping with our next IPA. We’re having a great time making our own beer and look to keep filling our closets with beer and developing new recipes…(Ben put a very large amount of hops into the IPA)…so we’re excited for our homebrew journey.

Momma Walters’ Visit

Momma Walters came to visit us in Fresno!

Ben and I showed her our home, the university, and even fit in a trip to the Central coast. On Saturday, we got to spend some time at the Harvest Fall Wine Tasting at some local wineries on a beautiful day! We visited Engelmann Cellars and Moravia Wines.

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Mom at Moravia

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Mom and I at Engelmann Cellars

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Husband and wife PDA 🙂

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One of the landmark windmills at Engelmann Cellars

On Sunday we made the 2 hour trek to Paso Robles and Pismo Beach. We fell in love with the Paso Robles area. We stopped at Firestone Walker Brewery and had some delicious beer. Ben’s favorite was Velvet Merkin, which is Velvet Merlin, but aged in bourbon barrels for 18 months. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. My (Nikki) favorite was the XVI Anniversary Blend an oak-aged strong ale. Mom’s was the 805 ale which is only available in that area code! I love the local touch.

The lush green hills in the area surprised us, we felt like we were in the south or on the east coast. Ben and I can’t wait to get back to this area to do a little bit more exploring. This weekend was about showing mom the lay of the land and that HAD to include a trip to ocean. Just down the road from Paso Robles is the town of Pismo Beach. The sand is very fine and it was a bit windy, but mom got some good souvenir shells and a sand dollar.

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Pismo Beach!

By recommendation, we waited in line for 15 minutes of a late lunch crowd to Splash Cafe. Ben and I got the bread bowl Clam Chowder (amazing!) and Mom got a Spicy Ranch Burger with fries. We will definitely be going back there when we have a chance.

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Bread bowl Clam Chowder from Splash at Pismo Beach

It was great to have a weekend with my mom and look forward to more hosting/adventuring.

Cheers, Nikki

Frez Yosemite Intl Airport #FAIL

Well so far FAT (Fresno air terminal) has gotten me off on time, lost my bags and held me hostage for a 4 hr delay…33% success rate is fairly poor so far.

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Dinner and entertainment on the way to Vegas include peanuts, m&m’s and katniss everdeen (no double-take required, I am finishing up the Hunger Games trilogy).

I’m going to arrive pissed and will no doubt take it out on the blackjack tables at the Bellagio and Jake’s liver.

“So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?”
― Hunter S. Thompson