One man’s trash…

Have you ever consumed a beer at a location that was so unique that it’s hard to think of one without the other every time you see it?  We have, and here’s the story about it…


Let’s consider just how crucial location is for a bit.  In the pantheon of great places to have a beer, most avid craft beer drinkers could probably name a bucket list of locations that says a lot about their personal interests in life from a much broader perspective. Take a person who loves to travel for instance–can you imagine being able to say that you consumed a beer atop the Great Wall of China?  Or at the top of the Empire State Building?  Or consider someone who’s the adventurous type–aside from the unforgettable experience of summiting a great mountain like Everest, can you imagine cracking a cold one at the top of the world to celebrate?  Take the guy who loves to visit breweries–is it possible to find a cooler place to sip a creamy Guinness Draught than at the actual brewery in Ireland itself?  Or what about for golf fanatics like ourselves? We’d love nothing more than feeling cold beer barreling down our throats while we stand on the Hogan Bridge at St. Andrews in Scotland, the home of golf.  The lists could go on and on, and for each new person you talk to, you’d see a new list remaining unconquered, a quest that from time to time gets fulfilled in very small increments when the timing is just right.

A couple of years ago, we were on our way to Pennsylvania with my brother Justin to play in a golf tournament that our mutual friend Tim had invited us to.  Zack and I met up with Justin in Akron on our way, and what turned out to be a quick stop for a few beers turned into a meeting of sorts.  You see, another mutual friend of ours had a brother that we were all friends with on our untappd account.  He had quite the resume of beers under his belt, and always seemed to get ahold of the ones that we couldn’t get living just an hour south of him.

WaldosOne particular beer, Waldo’s Special Ale by Lagunitas Brewing Company, had escaped our grasp for yet another year, but after a message from this fellow we had never met, we learned that he had an extra to share with us.  Delighted to finally get to try it, we met up with him to pick it up.  Little did we know, his job as a manager at the nearby pizza place had its share of perks, one of which was storing your beer that you haven’t taken home yet in the company’s fridge.  And because it was cold at the moment and we had a road trip ahead of us, we waited no further than the very parking lot at which he worked to slam it quick and be on our way.  The dumpster next to where we consumed it has been forever etched in our memories as something we associate with Waldo’s Special Ale, a beer that’s anything but garbage.  We had a good laugh about it then, and still do now when the subject is brought up.

So the next time you share a brew with your buddies or even just by yourself, take a good look around you.  Be it a mountain top, a tropical place, a historical landmark, or even just the nearest dumpster–it’s all about location.  And if your surroundings are as ridiculous as ours were, be prepared to have a memory for years to come…

the Hopostles

Fool’s Gold

Have you ever pursued a beer for years, only to find that when you actually landed it, your joy was somewhat diminished?  I have, and here’s the story about it…


First off, let’s set the record straight.  As beer drinkers, we all have that unofficial list of brews in our mind that we’d love to get our hands on.  That hoppy IPA from a brewery far away, that stout that slips from our grasp more times that we can count, or that limited run of anything in-between, but there never being enough to satisfy everyone.  Sure, we’ve all been there.  But that’s not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about your other list of beers.

If you’re like me with an Untappd account, this list is a tangible one that you see pop up on your home screen every time the app is open.  It’s a list among the lists.  In fact, one could argue that it’s the only list that matters.  Scoring beers on this list are nothing short of a pipe dream, a rare possibility that only seems to occur when the planets align correctly or when enough money is shelled out.  I personally don’t even add beers to this list unless I know they’re going to be difficult to get, ensuring for me that the “Wish List” is like my own personal “Make-a-Wish” foundation that grants requests every couple years or so.  These are the true white whale beers, and every serious craft drinker has them on their own personal bucket lists.

Over the past few years, I’ve gone out of my way to score a few from my list.  Maine Dinner.  3 Floyd’s Dark Lord.  Bell’s Black Note.  Sam Adam’s Utopia.  Burnt Hickory’s Charred Walls of the Damned.  Whether by being the beneficiary of someone else who bought them, going in on a purchase together, or buying them myself, they have all become part of liquid history.  Crossing them off the list has been weirdly gratifying in a way that only other craft beer people would understand.  And sure, something else always gets added to the list, but the pursuit to find these beers has always been what it’s all about.  The hard work always seems to pay off.

CBSEnter Canadian Breakfast Stout by Founder’s Brewing Company.  For those who know beer, this was virtually unattainable unless you were willing to fork over in excess of $300 for a bottle.  A true whale in the pod, this stout only saw a limited production run of bombers in 2011, and a brief resurgence in 2014 on draft only.  Few had the opportunity to have it, which made it that much more enticing.  I contemplated pulling the trigger on the steep price more than once, just to satisfy my curiosity and finally put to rest the longing for such a gem.  However, as a final piece to the barrel-aged series releases of 2017, Founder’s announced that they would be opening the vaults and releasing the long-sought after CBS, causing nothing short of pandemonium and elation among beer fans everywhere.  And so, in the first week of December, it hit the shelves.  EVERYWHERE.  And therein lies the problem.

What problem you ask?  Well, let me put it this way.  Remember when the Boston Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, putting an end to the seemingly endless streak of not winning one since Babe Ruth got traded?  How about the Cubs winning it all in 2016, finally shutting up the people who claimed the curse of the goat was going to keep them from what they had been wanting for the past 108 years?  Or what about our own Cleveland Cavs finally taking it all last year?  The goal finally achieved, the inevitable question lingers:  WHAT NOW???  You see, in some sick and twisted way, I did want the streak of not finding CBS to eventually end, but I wanted it to be elusive enough to merit a feeling of satisfaction when I did.  With the floodgates being opened and every Tom, Dick, and Harry being able to get their hands on a bottle, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow had been cheapened.  Heck, I was able to get my hands on 4 bottles of it myself, while being in 2 different states during the week it came out.  For some reason that I just can’t seem to make sense of, I didn’t want it to end this way.

what now

So, after finally getting to taste a beer that was on my wish list for years, I can say it truly is one of a kind.  A beast of a stout brewed with real Canadian maple syrup, it will always hold a special place on my wall of bottles.  But I’m always going to wish that it just would have been a bit harder to get there in the first place.  And though I may be the only one that will be looking this gift horse in the mouth, I’m OK with that.  After all, the wish list goes on…

the Hopostles

The Beerologist

Have you ever been asked to spend someone else’s money on beer, simply because you were the “educated” one?  I have, and here’s the story about it…

beerologistWe’re all good at something.  Or at least that’s what we were told from the time that we were kids, encouraged along by our parents to find something that we enjoyed doing.  Hours upon hours are poured into hobbies, sports, and seemingly any other thing that gives us pleasure, and our parents were usually right there beside us at the beginning, spending their time and money on what we deemed “fun.”  As my brothers and I jumped from one thing to another, my parents came along for the ride, like it or not.

Early on, it was skateboarding.  My cousins and I loved nothing more than to spend a day at the local skatepark, on the ramps in our driveways, at vacant church parking lots, or even just  on the street in front of our houses, skating until our scraped knees and elbows were too much to bear.  As early teens, we moved into skiing and snowboarding at the local ski resort.  Spending every possible moment there during the winter became the new norm, and though my parents hadn’t skied before, they were soon beginning to see why we loved it so much as they began to do it themselves.  As we entered our high school years, sports became a whole new obsession.  For my older brother, track was his thing.  For my younger brother and me, golf now consumed my every waking thought (and still does to this day) during the spring, summer, and fall.  It seemed that no matter what form our new interests took, my supportive parents were there in way or another.  But that all changed at some point, and I’m not sure I can pinpoint where or when.  But I do know this:  I don’t ever remember my parents uttering the words, “Good job loving beer, Mike!  Let’s see where this will take you!”


Well, a couple years ago while my wife and I were at Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati for a weekend, it apparently brought me to the point where was I being asked to choose someone else’s beer for them.  An empty six pack carrier in her hand and a bewildered look on her face at the thousands of choices in front of her, a complete stranger asked me to put together a six pack for her.  She didn’t care which ones I picked nor what the prices were, but must have trusted the look in my eyes that I knew what I was doing.  Or maybe it was just my own full basket of beers and my confident selection of them, coupled with the joy on my face of getting to spend another person’s money for a change, that tipped the scales of me appearing to be the smart one for the moment.

Years of loving and sampling beers had led me to that encounter, and I’d like to believe that I passed with flying colors.  And since I never talked to her after that to see if the beer choices were to her liking, I’ll never know for sure.  But that’s not what’s important here; what’s important is that you appear knowledgeable and trustworthy in crisis situations such as these, because you never know when you’ll be called upon as the expert in the room…

the Hopostles

Will Work for Beer

Have you ever bought so much beer at one place that they offer you a job to work there? We have, and here’s the story about it…

work for beer

It’s a small, country-market sort of store that sells everything from deli meat and fresh produce to ice cream for the kids (at unbelievably cheap prices) and mulch for your flowerbeds. And while the great variety and even better values make it a weekly ritual for our family to visit on the way home from church, I couldn’t care less about what food they have to offer. Zack and I have been frequenting the joint for a few years now on account of the amazing craft beer selection, despite being a somewhat small store.  In fact, our wives could probably make a pretty strong argument that we’ve done more than just “frequent” the place.  I was even approached about working there part-time this summer, a gig that as a teacher on summer break I gave some serious thought to.  I politely passed, opting to remain just a regular customer.  For now.  After all, when you start working there once a month for the beer and wine sampling nights, pouring and talking about beer like it’s your job, you’ve already become somewhat of an employee without ever really intending to be…

Wayne's Country MarketWith well-established connections to the right distributors and a finger on the pulse of what craft brew customers are after, Wayne’s Country Market has helped to feed our passion for beer like no other place in town.  And while there are other places in town that sell craft beer, none other seems to rotate it as often, from the bottle and can selection to the growler station.  We often give our input into what we’re seeking out, and they often satisfy our picky appetites, usually holding back the most special ones so we can have first crack at something that there’s a limited supply of.  Perks like that are what have caused us to pretty much abandon most of the other places in town, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence anymore when I’m passing the  driveway to feel my car slowly start veering towards the entrance.  I used to think it was just a weird magnetic field around the place, but now I know that it’s actually just a barley and hops-laden oasis that both my car and my body have become accustomed to seeing on a regular basis.

MikeZackBack to being an employee…after spending enough time in the store to probably raise the suspicions of the actual employees and the constant hint-dropping about being more involved, we were asked if we would be interested in helping out at sampling nights once a month.  We both wholeheartedly agreed, and have done it for a couple of years now.  I always love when I get asked by people at those tastings if I work for the distributor or for Wayne’s.  My response is always the same:  “Neither.  Zack and I just buy beer here so often that they asked us to start helping out.”  The laughs that ensue, and the opportunities to share my nerdy love of all things beer, will keep me coming back for as long as they’re in business.  And judging by how much money we drop in there week after week, I think it’s safe to say that there’s no end in sight…

the Hopostles

Game of the Century

Have you ever skipped out of a wedding reception almost entirely due to a college football game?  I have, and here’s the story about it…

game of the century

As I reflect back on this experience, my fellow Hopostle Zack will remember it better than me, but from the other side of the fence.  You see, it was his wedding reception that I skipped out on.  We’re first cousins, so it probably stands to reason that I should have been there for the whole thing, supporting him by spending the better part of my Saturday in my nicest suit and listening to the clinking of glasses while the happy couple gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes. But if you’ve been a reader of this blog from earlier this year, you’ll know that just about the only thing that can entice me into spending any Saturday of the year at a wedding involve two magic words:  open bar.  Zack’s wedding was not one that boasted of such festivities, but that’s not the real reason I was looking to get out of there in record time.  Sound selfish on my behalf?  Well, I left out one tiny detail…

mvosuThe date was November 18, 2006.  To those of you that are familiar with college football, that’s just about the time of year when things are really heating up, and all teams are vying for a coveted spot in the national championship game (the 4-team playoff wasn’t devised yet).  And to those of you that are familiar with the Ohio State/Michigan rivalry, you know that it’s been dubbed “The Game” for many years now due to the nature of how serious the bragging rights have become.  In 2006, it was labeled as the “Game of the Century.” Ohio State was ranked #1, and Michigan was #2.  In their long storied past, no game up until this point or since had carried a weight of this magnitude.  The winner would go on to the championship, and the loser would be forever remembered as just that:  a loser in the game of the century.

Hop ZackSound like a perfect day to schedule a wedding?  I didn’t think so, and Zack clearly wasn’t thinking either when he agreed to the date for his wedding to begin with.  His mind was probably clouded by love, and stopping to consider when the Buckeyes might be playing or what his closest friends would want to be doing on November 18 was nowhere in the equation.  I know what you’re thinking now…shame on you, Zack.  How could YOU be so selfish?

The Buckeyes went on to win the game 42-39 in historic fashion, taking it down to the wire and truly living up to the game’s new found title of “Game of the Century.”  And I’m pretty sure that to this day, Zack doesn’t hold it against me for passing up his wedding reception for a game that would forever be etched into the history books.  Would I do it over again, knowing that we’re now writing a beer blog together and have become closer friends in the past few years than I would have expected?  You bet.  After all, I was nice enough to forgive him for being so selfish, so I guess he owes me one…

the Hopostles

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…

the Hopostles

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…

the Hopostles

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…

the Hopostles

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…


the Hopostles

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