Boo’s and Booze

Have you ever substituted the cup holder in your baby stroller, normally reserved for the baby bottle, as a holder for your beer instead?  I have, and here’s the story about it…

halloween beer

It’s a yearly tradition…what can I say?  For the past 13 years, we have trick-or-treated with the same two friends.  When we started this tradition, they had one toddler and so did we. Currently, our two-family trick-or-treat group boasts 11 kiddos.  And for every one of those years, a nice cold beer has kept me more than willing to walk to however many houses it was going to take to wear the kids out.  Oftentimes, the beer runs out quicker than the kids’ energy, but hey…everyone has to make sacrifices for their children at one time or another.

T or T

The cups that hold the precious beverage have varied over the years, but it’s usually a travel coffee mug of some sort that will have a top to keep it from spilling.  Well, for some reason that I’m sure made a lot of sense at the time, I took a Solo cup along as the cup of choice one year, and still haven’t heard the end of it.  Pushing my 15 month old daughter in the stroller was a 2 handed job, something a guy like me clearly wasn’t cut out for.  But alas, there’s a cup holder that wasn’t being used!  Seemed like a perfect place to put the cup, but who would have thought that these things weren’t designed to keep beer from spilling?  One good bump on the sidewalk that I now discovered had cracks in it was all it took for my wife to almost prevent the tradition from continuing past year 2, but I guess love forgives even beer spills.

beerolanternThe kids have all been out of the stroller for a few years now, but my wife has started a yearly tradition of her own by drudging up the story about how she had to take the stroller completely apart for the first time because of me.  Evidently, it’s not kosher to have your child’s stroller smelling like beer, and therefore required a complete disassembly and thorough washing.  But in the case of this Hopostle, it’s also not kosher to do away with traditions, especially when it involves taking your barley and hops for a stroll around the neighborhood from time to time…

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100 bottles of beer on the wall…

Have you ever had a collection of something that grew too large for its own good?  I have, and here’s the story about it…

beer bottles

Some might call it hoarding, but I like to think of it as collecting.  As a single guy living at home with my parents, I realized pretty early on in my drinking career that I had an innate obsession with beer bottles.  I’m not quite sure if it was the labels, the different bottle shapes and colors, or just the vast array of names that accompanied the beers, but I became a collector pretty much from day 1.  And believe it or not, I can remember day 1…

First BottleIt was a Michelob bottle, and it was the first full beer I think I ever consumed.  Nothing special, just the old brownish glass that had a pinched lower half and a top that gradually got smaller.  It was followed by a Coors Light bottle (believe me, I still shudder about it to this day).  The collection literally began in a drawer of my desk in my bedroom, and when that couldn’t hold it any more, I started lining them around the perimeter of the wall along the floor.  My parents tolerated my newfound love of trash that was now serving as a frame to the Dennis Rodman-plastered walls, and when the whole perimeter of the room was covered, row 2 began.  When I got married and moved out, one would think that would have been the perfect time to do away it once and for all, but you see, by now it become an obsession.  Little did I know how far the obsession would take me…

Fast forward 10 years or so, and the collection had reached what was going to be its peak–somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 bottles, all different from one another, were now gracing the bar and built-in shelves of our first home, but they were in the basement and so were out of the way for the most part.  However, when it came time to move into our new house, boxing up that massive collection was proving to be quite a chore.  Why did I go through the agony of packing them up and not just dump them now when I had the chance, knowing that this couldn’t go on forever?  I’m not quite sure, but I think the fact that had it had consumed the better part of 15 years of my life made it seem easier to pack up than purge.

A large storage barn at our new house became the new home for the bottle collection, but they never saw the light of day again.  There was no real good place to display so many bottles, and so I felt like common sense was finally going to prevail and the collection was going to be eliminated once and for all.  However, at the encouragement of my wife in the 11th hour of a post on Craigslist to not get rid of them all, I decided to keep enough of them to grace the top of the kitchen cabinets in our new home. (Coincidentally, the guy who took away the other 500 was the father of a student I had that year in school…talk about awkward!)

Kitchen Pic

Just over 100 bottles are now a permanent fixture in our kitchen, and it’s a collection that gets rotated as I try new beers and trade them out with older ones, just to keep it interesting.  3 Floyd’s beers own the most real estate, and the rest are the other favorites among the countless new beers I try each year.  But no matter how old I get, or how many times I replace the old with the new, there’s one bottle that will always remain in its place.  The Michelob bottle that started it all will forever hold its position, serving as a reminder of just how long and how large my love for all things beer is…

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Epic Night

Have you ever sampled so many craft beers in one night that you could actually hear your liver begging for mercy? I have, and here’s the story about it…

Beer bottles

It wasn’t intended to be referred to as “Epic Night” when it was being planned for, but once my 6 buddies and I were gathered around the picnic table at my house with a warm, August breeze blowing in our faces, it soon became a night that we still talk about to this day.  Summer was drawing to a close, and we had collectively accumulated several beers that we wanted to sample as a group.  Well, it started out as several, but as my fellow Hopostle and I did a quick once-over of who had brought what, we found that it was gonna be a bit harder than we initially thought it would be to put those 35 beers into any kind of order that would make sense.

Yes–35 different craft brews.  IPA’s, stouts, porters, pilsners…heck, we even tried a beer made with marionberries and infused with honey. Spread out over the course of 4 or 5 hours and shared between 7 guys, it works out to about 5 beers per guy.  Not crazy, at least not in a dedicated craft brewer’s world.  What was crazy was trying to take notes about each one for our Green Elm Society’s minutes, in addition to checking each beer in with a comment on my favorite social drinking app, Untappd.  That, paired with being the person who also took on the responsibility of opening each new brew and pouring some for each person, became such a ridiculous task that I literally left off writing in the middle of a word and allowed myself to just kick back and relax.

bonfire beerSitting around a bonfire as a group while the final beer was being passed around is how the evening concluded, and I’m happy to report that I felt great the next day.  I’m sure my liver would beg to differ, as would the garbage man that would have to heave those trash bags into the truck. It truly was an epic night to remember, but it will not likely ever be repeated again.  And even this craft beer fanatic is ok with that…

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First Class

Have you ever been offered unlimited free beer on a first class flight and weren’t able to take advantage of it?  I have, and here’s the story about it…

first class beer

First class…those 2 words put together when referring to an airline flight seem like an impossible reality for a poor teacher like myself.  The extra legroom, an actual meal to eat, the hot towel after your meal (yeah, that’s actually real), and the free alcohol are all part of what makes a first class flight so enjoyable that people shell out an ungodly amount of money for it.  Let me repeat part of that again for those of you who glossed over that quickly.  FREE ALCOHOL.  If you’re anything like me, those 2 words put together are one of the rare combinations that trumps the “first class” one.  And if you’re really like me, the deciding factor as to whether I’m gonna get true enjoyment out of spending the better part of a Saturday at someone’s wedding often hinges on whether or not the words “open bar” are anywhere in the equation.  Hey…open bar…another 2 word combination that beats “first class.”

Anyway, it was years ago that my wife and I were on our way home from our honeymoon in Jamaica that the impossible reality smacked me in the face for the first and only time in my life. The offer was on the table — be willing to get bumped to take the next available flight out of paradise, and the reward was a first class flight.  Though I can’t remember exactly how long we mulled the offer over, I can’t imagine it was longer than it takes me to scarf a good burger (ever see a human being inhale food like a Hoover vacuum before?).

flying beerSo there we were…first class.  A beverage of my choice was being offered by the stewardess before I even had time to recline the overstuffed, leather chair that would be my best friend for the next 3 hours.  There was just one small problem.  During the course of our honeymoon, I had acquired a case of swimmer’s ear that nearly forced us to miss our flight home completely due to the doctor’s concern about my eardrum rupturing from the pressure.  The pain was incredible, and although I know you think copious amounts of alcohol should have aided in the relief, it didn’t.  That first beer I was offered remained on my tray for the majority of the flight, causing our stewardess to remark, “What’s the matter?  Don’t you like beer?”  If only she knew the sheer insanity of that statement…

In the end, the flight home went fine in terms of my eardrum not rupturing.  However, after drinking lukewarm Red Stripe beer all week because it was the only option at the resort, I would’ve loved nothing more than to give the stewardess a reason to remark, “What’s the matter?  Have you already tried every beer this flight has to offer?”  I can laugh about the whole ordeal now many years later, but believe me, having to pass up the opportunity to make that first class flight even better is something in this Hopostle’s history that I’ll never forget…


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The Countdown

Have you ever started your daily countdown to summer as soon as September 1 rolls around on the calendar? I do every year, and here’s the story about it…

Countdown clock

As a school teacher, I’ve got countdowns for everything–days left before giving the big test, days left before Christmas break, units left to teach in the book–you name it, I know how much further we’ve got to go til something is done.  But no countdown is noticed and talked about more than the one I have on the whiteboard in my classroom from Day 1 of school–the “days to go” countdown.  Everyone knows what that one is referring to, and even though seeing it on the first day of school with a big number in front of it is something that both the teachers and my students get a good laugh about, the laughs slowly give way to repeated looks and warm tingling feelings as the number diminishes a little more each day.

Sure, the biggest part of those feelings is always gonna be tied to the 3 months off of school, but being a craft beer enthusiast that appreciates many styles of beers, another lesser reason is the flooding of the beer market with a style known as the shandy.  A shandy, simply put, is beer mixed with lemonade, ginger ale, or ginger beer.  Turned off by that thought?  Don’t be.  My guess is that you’ve either never tried one at all, or that you haven’t tried a good one.  That being said, let me save you the trouble of wasting time with the poor ones before you land on the holy grail.  Zack and I have done our share of “looking for the good ones”, and have found the best one out there.  I know…it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta drink it.

Turbo ShandyIt’s called Barrel Aged Turbo Shandy by Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Akron, OH, and it’s the epitome of refreshment when the warm summer months roll around in your neck of the woods.  This version happens to be aged in bourbon whiskey barrels, giving that delicious beer and lemonade combo a nice little kick in the pants.  You’ll discover a concoction that at one time seemed so weird, but quickly turned into something you wished for a bigger bottle to contain.  Hoppin’ Frog makes a non-barrel aged turbo Shandy and a tequila barrel-aged Shandy as well, and although they’re tasty in their own right, they can’t help but take a backseat to the much more southern, bourbon-sipping cousin driving the wheel in your wildest dreams.

Think I’m overrated in my obsession over this summer drink?  Think again.  Better yet, prove me wrong and start your own countdown to when you’re gonna take our word for it and try one yourself.  But beware…tough habits, much like the pursuit of a good shandy, are gonna be hard to break once the summer comes to an end…

the Hopostles

Mom’s night out, beer me a stout…

Have you ever offered to watch all the kids with your buddy so your wives could have a “mom’s night out”, only to realize after doing a quick headcount of the children that the number was somehow 9?  I did, and here’s the story about it…

Dad-Beer-MugProbably as a thank you to our wives for letting us hit up the last beer sampling together, Zack and I intended to return the favor by letting them head out for the evening while we attempted to corral them to the dinner table and entertain them for a few hours.  Did we sample a few cold ones that evening between the screams, diaper changes, and fights of our kids?  C’mon…we’re the Hopostles…what do you think?  That being said, rather than talk about one particular beer that we sampled that night, I’d rather talk about one of our favorite breweries in Ohio and feature 9 of our favorite beers from them in honor of our 9 rugrats. Think watching that many kids is hard?  Try narrowing down the list of Fat Head’s beers that you love to only 9…now that’s truly a challenge.

Hop Juju–one of our favorite beers of all time, and the closest thing to eating a hop-flavored pine cone that you’re gonna find.  A true hop lover’s dream, boasting 100 IBU’s and a 9% ABV that will leave you craving the next one.  But stock up when you get the chance, cause this Double IPA is only released in February and seems to sell out quicker than you can say, “Stop fighting with your brother!”

Hop Stalker–another gem of a hop forward American IPA, citrusy in flavor and like a son to Daddy Juju himself

Head Hunter–more IBU’s and a slightly higher ABV make this a little more bitter tasting of an American IPA than Hop Stalker, but being available year round makes it one we pick time and time again when sent out to “grab a couple groceries”

fh_cleve_orange286Trail Head–a pale ale that you’d think was trying to play dress up in an IPA’s clothes, its crisp and hop-forward taste will make you want to hit the trail for a run…to the fridge for another one

Bonehead Red–not just a name your kids call each other anymore, this hoppy red ale will make you appreciate amber-colored beers in a whole new way

Holly Jolly–a yearly winter warmer that’s got just enough spices to help you get through wrapping all those presents…think of it as a gift to your taste buds for all your hard work

Pimp My Sleigh–a Belgian Strong Ale that packs a high enough ABV (10.5%) to keep Santa warm on the sleigh ride to your house

Shakedown Stout–whether it’s the wife shaking her head at you or your kids shaking you down for more money from your wallet, this Imperial Stout will keep you smiling through the whole ordeal

Spooky Tooth–go ahead and show the kids the scary movie they wanna see while you sip this seasonal imperial pumpkin ale, a perfect partner to the colder days of October in Ohio

So, there you have it.  9 beers in honor of all our kids.  Fat Head’s brewery always keeps us coming back wanting more, which I guess is the same philosophy we both had when it came to deciding just how big our families were gonna be…

the Hopostles

A Dark Day

Have you ever drank molasses straight out of the bottle?  I have, and here’s the story about it…


OK…you got me.  It wasn’t straight molasses.  But when it’s placed side by side next to most liquids that carry the moniker of “beer”, it might as well be.  Being the month of April, I thought it might be fitting to discuss a festival that occurs each year around this time in the small town of Munster, Indiana.  Never heard of Munster?  Well, talk to any craft beer enthusiast for a few minutes about some of their favorite beers, and I’d hedge my bet that in the course of that short discussion that at least one beer by Three Floyd’s brewery is going to come up.  Think of Munster as a Mecca for beer enthusiasts, and Three Floyd’s as a brewery that truly lives up to their self-imposed reputation of brewers of “not normal beer.”

Stubbornly limited quantities, combined with names so dark that you’re not quite sure if you really want to pursue them in the first place, will be sure to rouse your curiosity enough to try one.  Followed by another.  Followed by another.  But beware…you’re going to travel down a road that will leave your taste buds longing for more, and in the case of Dark Lord, your wallet running dry…

Dark LordDark Lord Day is usually the last Saturday in the month of April, and it is on that one special day of the year that the Dark Lord is dragged out of his lair to bestow upon the many that have converged upon the small town of Munster a few limited bottles of a beer that is as dark as the soul of the Dark Lord himself.  The festival offers the opportunity for you to sample other Three Floyd’s beers as well, but let’s face it–Dark Lord takes center stage.  I’ve never been able to make the trip for Dark Lord Day, but instead, went in on a 3 bottle vertical (2012, 2013, and 2014) tasting courtesy of the website

Best way to describe it?  Imagine that Aunt Jemima and a bottle of Pennzoil had a love child.  Heavy malt, a backbone of sweetness highlighted by its heavy use of vanilla and coffee, and a viscosity likened best to that of motor oil, it’s a huge expectation-destroyer of what you thought could be possible in a beer.  I’d suggest sharing it only with those beer drinkers that are closest to you, as the cost and exclusivity of it are going to drive most others away, not to mention the heavy aftertaste that only a few will truly appreciate.  Want to take it the next level after that?  Do a search for some of the other varieties of Dark Lord (i.e. bourbon barrel aged with vanilla beans) and you’ll soon be on the road to financial ruin and beer ecstasy all bundled into one.  But don’t worry…something tells me that’s just what the Dark Lord intended from the beginning…

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March Madness

Have you ever taken the day off of work simply to drink green beer, visit as many dive bars as you can in your town in one day, and watch the March Madness basketball tournament? I did, and here’s the story about it…

green beer

I’ve been a craft beer drinker for many years now, but it wasn’t always that way. Like most people who learn to develop a taste for beer over time, I started off drinking the typical gas station beers. They all tasted more or less the same, but being new to the scene, I didn’t care. As the years went by, though, I found myself craving quality over convenience, despite the fact that the money to buy them was going to disappear faster. Do I still enjoy those beers? Yes, but I certainly wouldn’t say I prefer them any more than I’d prefer a piece of spam next to a medium rare steak slathered in blue cheese. Craft beer is my love now, and it seems there will be no turning back.

However, every once in a while, even us craft beer snobs have to take a respite from the endless pursuit of the next best beer and return to our beer drinking roots, gulping down macro-beer swill like a college fraternity on spring break. My buddy and I had a long-running desire to explore some of the shadier watering holes in our town, often wondering while we drove by what these crummy establishments looked like on the inside. The names of them alone ranged from mundane to perplexing to hilarious. Our curiosity was finally going to be satisfied, and what better time to hit up several bars in a day than a year when St. Patrick’s Day coincided with the beginning of the NCAA March Madness tournament…

divebarAll in all, most of the places we hit up that day were indeed dive bars through and through, reinforcing what our low expectations were set at from the get go. Poor lighting, customers that were both loyal and scary looking at the same time, and bar decor that looked like it had been last updated sometime around the Reagan presidency made for a day of memories that we still joke about years later. Starting off in the morning at a place that featured “Kegs and Eggs”, prices on individual bottles of liquor in another, and taps that actually distributed Natty Light replaced our love for craft beers for a short window of time. It was a fun way to spend St. Patty’s Day, and one in which you wanted nothing more than to have your favorite cheap beer tainted even more with some green food coloring and given to you by a guy with enough plastic beads to fit right in at Mardi Gras. But the greenest thing of all that day wasn’t the beer, the endless shamrocks, or the tacky decorations in the places we visited…it was the envy in the heart of our other beer drinking buddies that didn’t bother taking the day off…

the Hopostles