HOPTOLOGY

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The Great Hunt part 1: Beer in wine country? Or Rome…if you want to.

Italy is a country known for wine.

That doesn’t mean, however, that beer isn’t around. The problem, really, is the quality of the beer that you are able to find most easily. Let the hunt begin!

The first leg of our honeymoon took us to Rome. Flying in on Alitalia, I can honestly tell you, was one of the worst flights of my life. A back injury that had been manageable prior to the flight became unrelenting torture once we were on the ground. To top that off, if you have never experienced the “WTF” thought pattern as you watch the luggage carousel spin past you over and over again without seeing your luggage…well, I am jealous of you. Somehow our baggage did not make the connecting flight from JFK in New York. I suspect it had something to do with the pilot attempting to leave the terminal early. Jackass. So we had to dash across the airport to even make the flight only to ultimately end up sitting on the runway for 40 minutes.

Off to a bad start.

Once we get to the hotel we decide we need to work on our lack of cloths and bathroom supplies. It pretty much takes all day. As we are walking back to out hotel, walking was a challenge due to the back pain I was experiencing, we popped into a small liquor store where they insisted on giving us free shots of a popular Italian drink called “lemoncella”. I thought it was a little like drinking Pledge. No idea why this beverage is so popular in Italy.

I don’t really like Peroni. Yes, I said it. I just find it to be a poor beer. So we grab a couple of bottles of Moretti and Nastro Azzurro. These beers aren’t great either. In fact, they kind of suck. Just boring, flavorless beers. Its was disappointing but honestly not very surprising.

Now I’d like to state for the record, I came to Rome prepared. I had done my research using Beeradvocate.com and had managed to gather a list of about four pubs known for their excellent beer selection.

Sadly, I never got anywhere near these bars. Our time in Rome was very structured and factoring in the incredible back pain I was suffering through that kept me incredibly limited and not very mobile. It was frustrating for me because I was looking forward to checking out those spots.

Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t manage to find a pub. There are a couple Irish Pub around and we found one owned by a very nice lady who moved to Italy from Scottland. The tap selection wasn’t anything crazy, but it was my first opportunity to try Tennent’s Scotch Ale. I liked it quite a bit. This was our last night in Rome, so it was very nice to find a few beers at least.

I honestly struck out in Rome as far as I’m concerned. Not making it to the bar’s that I had researched was just bad luck.  I will have to take the blame for not finding great beers in Rome. Now Florence on the other hand…

Stay tuned for part 2 where we head to Florence and maybe make a few neat discovery’s.

Salute,

Tom

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Prago…it means more than just cheap tomato sauce.

I’m sitting here at the airport in Venice Italy, trying to gather my thoughts on the whole trip.
It’s been a strange mixture of insane amounts of fun, mind boggling exchanges, good wine, bad food, blinding pain, good food, bad beer, horrendous street directions and some good beer to finish it all off with.
Easily my best honeymoon ever. (fingers crossed its the only honeymoon ever)

While I plan to go a little more in depth on some things on the trip, I did want to take the opportunity here at the airport to post up a few pictures that maybe everyone will find enjoyable.

Salute,
Tom


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Guest Blog: Is There A Beer In My Cupcake or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

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Happy Friday!  Let me introduce myself.  I’m the writer of a food blog, Monkey Bread and Sweet Pea (www.monkeybreadandsweetpea.com).  My buddy, “Mr. Hoptology”, has decided to get married and run off during San Diego Beer Week (gasp!).  He asked me to help him out and write about something beer related while he is gone.  I was going to write about how IPAs are bitter or how Pinot Grigio is the new Hefeweizen so that Tom’s Peroni falls out of his hand at some cafe in a random piazza.  Beer is expensive when traveling abroad, so I won’t do that to him.

Even though San Diego Beer Week lasts 11 days, I’ve only had the opportunity to celebrate it one day so far (double gasp!).  On Wednesday, I ventured to PubCakes (http://pubcakes.com/) in La Mesa and selected some cupcakes for carry out.  The first and last time I had these cakes was in March at Hamiltons Tavern (http://hamiltonstavern.com/) for a viewing party of Cupcake Wars on The Food Network in which the owners of PubCakes never made it past round 1.  In their defense, they had to create cupcakes for The Girl Scouts of America.  They opted to stay true to their roots and made cupcakes with beer.  Needless to say, that didn’t go over well with the Girls Scouts.  The owners had mini cupcakes for everyone at the bar, and everyone waited to watch the contest as it aired for the first time.  Unfortunately, the bar and cupcake owners forgot about the time change, and it had already aired a couple of hours earlier.  Big snafu.  However, the cupcakes we tried were delicious.  Months later, I finally made it to the PubCakes storefront.   PubCakes is located next to Next Door, a wine bar and pub. If you want to try out a cupcake, but can’t make it when PubCakes is open, no worries. You can get these little devils at Next Door.  There are some other spots around town that sell their cupcakes.  Just check out their website.  Side note: PubCakes shares its space with a coffee shop that serves breakfast sandwiches, bagels, quiches, and fruit. So if you stop in early to get cupcakes for later that night, you can grab some breakfast to hold you over!

Before we indulged in our cupcakes, we walked over to Tiger!Tiger! (http://tigertigertavern.blogspot.com/) since it was Rare Beer Night as part of SDBW. We ordered some roasted cauliflower with capers, currants, breadcrumbs and parsley to go with our beer selections.  There’s nothing better than pairing cauliflower and beer.  It’s like I’m back in Germany – or at least back in Cleveland with my in-laws. I had an Automatic Equal Rye(& Justice) on cask (Pale Ale, 6.5%). Wow.  Amazing.  I usually do not prefer cask ales.  They tend to be a little flat and a little too room temperature for my taste. Cask beers, for me, don’t always have the complexity and “herbaceousness” I prefer.  This one was spot on.  Can I go right now and get another one, please?  I had a taste of Firestone’s 16th Anniversary which is a blend of 8 beers.  I asked for a taste because it was 13%, and when beers are that high in alcohol, they are usually too “boozy” for me.  I’m not a fan of dark liquors, so beer that tastes like cognac or whiskey just isn’t for me.  But it’s fun to try!

After we sampled delicious and interesting beers, we headed back home to enjoy our cupcakes!

There was a time when infusing beer into a dessert was a novelty.  Nowadays, it’s a little more common.  And, I think, usually it’s more gimmick than anything.  However, I think the women of PubCakes get it right.  The first cupcake Franz and I tried was “ManzaNeed It“.  Manzanita Gillespie Brown Ale and a hint of black pepper are worked into the cake, and a Nutella Buttercream tops it off. The maple drizzle on its own was a tad bitter, but when all the flavors were consumed together, it tasted great.  Franz couldn’t taste the beer at all.  I disagreed.  There was a flavor that didn’t scream “BEER!”, but there was a kind of yeast flavor to the cake.  It was unlike any cupcake I’ve had, and that, I believe, was due to the beer.  And like every cupcake we sampled that night, the cake was soft and the frosting was smooth.  Exactly what I’m looking for in a cupcake!

The second cupcake was “Beer for Breakfast” that incorporated Alesmith Wee Heavy, a decent amount of bacon, and a maple cream cheese frosting.  Once again, Franz couldn’t taste the beer.  And, again, I disagreed.  You know when you walk into a brewery and you get that smell of beer brewing?  That’s how these cakes taste – but not in an over powering way.  If you want to be overwhelmed with a beer flavor, simply pour yourself a pint to accompany the cupcakes.  That should do it!

Next on our tasting spree was “Stoned Portzilla“.  This is the cake I had months ago at Hamiltons.  I loved it then, and I loved it Wednesday night.  This cake features Stone Smoked Porter with a chocolate coffee ganache filling.  What I love about this cake is the topping.  I’m a frosting addict.  This cupcake is not frosted.  There is a delicious layer of caramelized coconut, and it’s drizzled with chocolate.  It’s a little crunchy when you bit into it, and then it’s followed by the sneaky surprise of a ganache filling, and then the soft cake brings up the rear.  A ton of flavors and textures in one little cupcake.  Can I get a Hallelujah??  Sorry, I get carried away sometimes.  Franz and I agreed that this one is our favorite.

Our final cupcake was the “Irish Carbomb“.  If you like whiskey or Baileys, this is for you.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a fan of whiskey, but I liked this cupcake.  Guinness is whipped into the chocolate cake, and the surprise in the middle is a bit of Irish Cream frosting.  Chocolate ganache infused with whiskey is poured over the cake.  I couldn’t taste the beer in this one.  That could be because I had a bunch of cupcakes, some beer and cauliflower, and it was getting late.  I think it had more to do with the strong flavors of the Irish Cream and whiskey.  Franz wasn’t a fan, but he really doesn’t like whiskey.  I thought it was really tasty, and I would have loved a second one!

All in all, what a great way to celebrate the amazing brewers and business owners out there! You have a few more days to imbibe!  SDBW ends November 11th.  Go out and support you local businesses!  Check out the website for a ton of creative ways to celebrate: http://sdbw.org/  Maybe you prefer a gelato and beer float at Jake’s on 6th or maybe a bicycle pub crawl tickles your fancy?  Or a Breast Cancer Awareness Brunch?  The list goes on.

Whether you are in San Diego or not, go out and enjoy the weekend – hopefully with a delicious pint in hand!

Take Care and Happy Eating (and Drinking!),

Monkey Bread and Sweet Pea

PubCakes on Urbanspoon

Next Door on Urbanspoon

Hamilton's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Jakes on 6th a wine bar on Urbanspoon


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Taking the show on the road!

If you didn’t know already, Friday was the kickoff for San Diego Beer Week 12

It’s a pretty joyous occasion around town filled with all sorts of fun events and unique opportunities to sample limited edition beer or fancy beer pairings!

Well, I decided to do something really crazy to celebrate this year, I went and got married.

So now here I am, getting ready to fly around the world and take my shenanigans international.

But I can’t just leave my blog out in the cold, tied to a tree and in a puddle of mud. Nope, that’s when you call in some back-up!

My very good friend, fellow blogger and a supreme Hop-head in her own right, Megan, of the outstanding blog Monkeybreadandsweetpea , will be covering for me.

Megan’s taste in beers is pretty similar to mine, but with her culinary background, I believe she will bring some new insights to this beer blog. Hopefully when I get back she won’t mind give me the keys back.

I have intentions of updating the blog while on the road, but we all know what they say about good intentions…

With luck, I’ll get some updates from the road for everyone and show what strange new beers I come across in my travels but in the meantime I leave you all in very good hands with Megan!

Salute,

Tom

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