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…

the Hopostles

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