Samuel Adams Brewery Tour

I was able to make a quick trip to Boston a couple weeks ago to visit some very dear family and friends.  While I was there, I made a smidgen of time to do some touristy things.  Even though I was born in the Boston area and have been there countless times in my life, there are still many things I have never done that I have always wanted to do.  One of those things was visiting the brewery of one of my all-time favorite beers; Sam Adams.

The brewery is in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, close to the Stony Brook Station T Stop (on the Orange Line).  Tours are free, however a $2 donation is suggested.  These donations go towards local charities, including Youth Enrichment Services, preservation of the historic Granary Burying Grounds in Boston (where the REAL Sam Adams is interred), and Brewing The American Dream, which offers assistance to small business owners and startups, mostly in the beverage industry.

While you are waiting for your tour to start, you can wander around the lobby and adjacent small exhibit space.  You will find fun facts about the brewing process, information on the catalog of beer that Sam Adams has produced, and some fun photo ops.  There is also a place where you can mail a free postcard to a friend or family member.  You fill out your postcard, drop it in a mailbox, and they will post it for you free of charge.  However, I mailed one here to Tadd and it has been 2 weeks and we have yet to receive it…

Most of the tour was your standard brewery tour.  Once you have seen one tour, you quickly realize, large or small, they all pretty much cover the same stuff, and use very similar-looking machinery (just different sizes, depending on the brewery).  But it’s still neat to see.  And, we got to see the bearded guy from the Sam Adams commercials!

From that point is everyone’s favorite part, the tasting room.  We got to try 3 different beers; Boston Lager (of course), Cold Snap (the current seasonal for late winter/early spring), and Noble Pils (our tour guide’s favorite).  Cold Snap was my favorite of the three, which is an unfiltered white ale.  If you enjoy light/bright, but still very flavorful beers, you should check it out before it stops production for the season in late March.   They let us keep our sample glasses, which I thought was a really nice touch for a free tour.

After the tasting session, we stopped by the giftshop (where I went a little souvenir-crazy…good thing the prices were all rather shockingly reasonable), then took a free trolley from the brewery to Doyle’s Cafe, which was the very first bar to serve Sam Adams beer.  If you show them your tour ticket and buy a Boston Lager (or any other Sam Adams beer), they will present it to you in a complimentary souvenir glass.  More free glassware!  This glass is special though.  The shape, size, and style was specifically engineered to enhance the flavor of Boston Lager.

If beer is your thing and you find yourself with some free time in Boston, I highly recommend taking the tour and ending it with the excursion to Doyle’s Cafe.  It was a really enjoyable afternoon, and while I was already a big fan of Samuel Adams and The Boston Beer Company, I now feel even better about my allegiance to this company.  They are good people, creating a really good product, and doing great things for the Boston community as well.

Catching Up – September 2013

Sorry about dropping off of the face of the earth.  I guess I just needed a break from blogging.  Here’s what I have been up to the past few months!:

Here’s what happened in September:

Stood up as Matron of Honor in a very good friend‘s wedding!  Tadd was also a groomsman.  It was a lovely, simple affair, and a beautiful day spent with some of my favorite people.

The very next day, we headed to Miami to go on a Caribbean cruise with some friends.  We sailed on the Carnival Breeze (great ship, by the way!) and stopped in Grand Turk, Ocho Rios, and Nassau.

October through December update coming up next!


Looking back 9 years…

Today I am celebrating 9 years of marriage to my perfect match!  I saw this little “Share Your Wedding Details” meme on my cousin’s blog a few weeks ago.  It was designed for a link party that has since closed.  So although I cannot participate in the link party, I still thought it would be appropriate to share today.

Share Your Wedding Details

Location (church/outdoors/destination):  Since we got married in the middle of summer in Florida, I didn’t want to chance any weather-related issues by having any major part of the day be held outside.  We also had a lot of out of town guests.  So to keep things simple and stress-free, we did the whole shebang, ceremony and reception indoors at the Hilton Orlando North.  Not a super unique or scenic location, but I think we did a good job making it our own.  We were lucky enough to have decent weather during our formal portraits, so we opted to have those taken outdoors at a nearby park (Crane’s Roost Park, if you’re local).
Colors: Plum and silver were the main colors, but I had my florist make the flowers (daisies!) as colorful as possible.  I loved how the pink, yellow, red, and orange gerber daisies popped off of the deep purple of the bridesmaids’ dresses.  I wanted a very colorful wedding, and that’s just what I got.
Bridal Party: I would say we had a medium-sized party.  We each had one honor attendant and three additional attendants.  We also had 1 junior groomsman and 2 junior bridesmaids.   The group consisted of all three of our siblings, three of my cousins, and several close friends.
First Dance Song: Nightingale by Saves The Day. Still sometimes gets me misty-eyed when I hear it…
Ceilings don’t exist and there are no floors beneath me,
If I were king of this night, would you become my queen?
And I hope, your majesty, that you like your position
I’ll do everything I can to keep you by my side
And I’ll stare off through the darkness to find us a kingdom
Just kiss me before I go…
Honeymoon:  We flew to San Diego and cruised the Pacific Coast of Mexico for a week on Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas.  We visited Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerta Vallarta.  This was our first trip to Mexico (and Tadd’s first time on the Pacific Coast, period!) and we were totally smitten!
What would you do different? I would schedule the honeymoon to be a few days later after all the hullabaloo had died down.  We had a VERY late night the night of the wedding, followed by a VERY early morning when the town car arrived to take us to the airport to fly to San Diego.  Of course, we took a nap after the muster drill and ended up sleeping straight through until morning, missing our first dinner/evening on the cruise ship.  There are a few other small things I might change, but that would be the one thing that sticks out most in my mind.

Trip Recap: Asheville

Thursday, May 9

We started on our way to Asheville pretty early on Thursday morning.  The trip took about 3.5 hours, but we experienced very little traffic and the last section of it was through some beautiful mountain scenery, so it was a very pleasant drive.  After getting settled at our hotel, we walked up the hill to the Vance Memorial at Pack Square Park, where our Brews Cruise tour began.

The Brews Cruise is a bus tour of several breweries in the area.  Asheville has a large number of craft breweries (14 I think), and is often known as “beer city”, so it’s definitely worth checking out their beer scene if you are there.  However, I only recommend this tour if 1) you REALLY like beer and 2) if you have eaten something first, because you will be trying a LOT of beer.  By the end, I was so glad we only had to walk down the hill to get back to our hotel.  But we had a really fun time on the tour.  We got to visit Altamont, Highland, and French Broad.  At each stop, we got tours of their brewing facility and learned about their processes.  What was kind of neat about this tour were the variations of the breweries.  Altamont is relatively new and tiny.  Highland is HUGE and ships all over the country.  French Broad is larger than Altamont, but much smaller than Highland, and has been around for a long time.

Altamont Brewery

Highland Brewery

Highland’s brewing facility

Highland Taproom

French Broad taproom

French Broad brewing facility

After the tour, we were dropped back off at Pack Square Park and headed to Pack’s Tavern for dinner.  I was able to use a certificate here ($25 off $35) and we got dinner for next to nothing!  Would highly recommend this place.  Very nice, charming, casual tavern-style atmosphere.  Also, their fried pickles were amazing.

Friday, May 10

This was our Biltmore Estate day, which I already shared with you.  But just because I loved it so much, here are a few more pics, this time from my phone.

Can’t get enough of that place!  Afterwards, we refreshed ourselves at the hotel and then decided to leave the camera behind so we could have a more relaxing evening.  We walked to dinner at Lexington Ave Brewery (yes, ANOTHER brewery!) and then on our way back to the hotel, we stumbled upon this cute, cozy little cocktail bar called Sazerac.  We liked it so much, we ended up back there the next night.  Not even really sure what we loved so much about it, but we just clicked with the place.  They had some pretty interesting and creative cocktails too.

Saturday, May 11

Our last day of vacation…So sad.  And to add insult to injury, the forecast was calling for rain.  We sadly decided to forgo our original plan of driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, since the scenery wouldn’t be quite so magical with gloomy skies and downpours.  Instead, we decided to explore Asheville a bit more.  We had breakfast at this great place in West Asheville called West End Bakery, where I had the best bagel sandwich EVER.  Herbed cream cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, red onion, and sprouts on a delicious fresh-baked bagel.  So good!  Tadd loved his breakfast too.  We were happy campers.  If I lived in West Asheville, I would be here every morning.

We drove around, and shopped around a little bit, eventually ending up at The Grove Arcade, a beautiful historic building full of interesting little shops.  We bought a few souvenirs and just enjoyed the charming ambiance.

We eventually decided to check out one of the local theaters and see The Great Gatsby (which we both loved).  Turns out they sell craft beer in the movie theaters too!  After the movie, we headed back to the hotel, walked back up the hill and had some unremarkable sushi for dinner, followed by a lovely time at Sazerac once again to have a few cocktails while we relaxed and reminisced about our trip.

The next morning, we packed up the car, and drove the 10 hours back home.  The end!

Trip Recap: Tennessee

I thought I would briefly recap our trip to TN and NC, starting with the Tennessee portion.   But before I do, I wanted to mention that we just passed my 2nd bloggiversary on Sunday!  I can’t believe I have had this blog up and running for two years now.

Saturday, May 4

We got a little bit of a late start, and ended up driving through some crazy rain in Atlanta.  The rain continued as we made it through Chattanooga and into the mountains.  We made it to Tadd’s mom’s place in Cookeville, TN around dinnertime.  The first couple of days were quite dreary.  That night we just stayed in, caught up with Tadd’s family, and played Apples to Apples.

Sunday, May 5

More staying in…The rain was still coming down, and unfortunately Cookeville is one of those places where there just isn’t much to do in the rain.  The rain cleared up at one point, but it was still soggy and grey, so we decided to take a walk around Tadd’s mom’s property and took some pretty pictures of her garden and barn.

That night we had dinner at one of our favorite local spots, Char, then rented a movie and had another quiet evening in.

Monday, May 6

This is when the real sightseeing began.  Despite the still-cloudy skies, we made the almost 2 hour trek over to Lynchburg to visit the Jack Daniels Distillery.  If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend this tour!  It’s free, but if you would like to have a little taste of a few of the products after the tour, you can do that for $10.  It’s obvious that the Jack Daniel’s company takes great pride in their product and it was really neat to see firsthand all of the history behind such an iconic American brand.

After the tour, we had lunch and shopped around a bit in Lynchburg Square.  This town is teeny-tiny and very quaint.  And you will see references to Jack Daniel’s everywhere!

Tuesday, May 7

Finally the rain seemed to be behind us.  We woke up to blue skies and temps in the upper 50s F/low 60s F.  Tadd’s mom wanted to take a short hike to Cummins Falls, which had recently been made open to the public (previously it was on private land).  Cummins Falls is less than 5 minutes from her house, so it was a quick drive.

The ground was still muddy and it seems like some of the hiking trails were still being established.  So after a few minutes of (occasionally trecherous) slogging through the mud, and a few wrong turns, we finally made it to the falls!

Later on that day, Tadd’s mom had arranged for us to have a private tour of Calfkiller Brewery in Sparta, TN by the owners & founders Dave and Don Sergio.  I admit it was a little weird pulling up to what looks like someone’s house…

But we had nothing to worry about because Dave & Don were nothing but welcoming and warm.  They told us all about their history and let us try a TON of delicious beer.  Their operation is tiny, but extremely popular in the central Tennessee region.  I’m so glad we got to meet them!

We then had an amazing dinner at nearby Foglight Foodhouse, which was the first local place to offer Calfkiller beer.  We ended up purchasing a growler of Calfkiller’s Grassroots Ale at Foglight to take home with us.  Great end to the day.

Wednesday, May 8

Last full day in Tennessee.  We decided to drive west across the state and visit Hurricane Mills, which is a town owned by Loretta Lynn that has been set up as a dude ranch and tourist attraction.  We took a tour of a replica of her childhood home (log cabin with no running water), a simulated coal mine (where her father worked), then we got to tour the actual house where she lived during her heyday.  This house, a real plantation-era mansion with its own rich history, reminded Loretta of Gone With The Wind and has been featured on several ghost hunting shows.  After the house, we toured Loretta’s museum.  The grounds of the ranch are gorgeous, and we were able to see horses grazing in a field wildflowers behind the museum.

On the way home, we stopped for dinner in downtown Nashville, and ended up at Flying Saucer, which I would totally recommend.  Great food, interesting atmosphere, and extensive beer selection (made me smile to see some Calfkiller on the list).  I understand that they are a chain, so I would love to see one in Orlando at some point.

The next morning, we got up, said goodbye to Tadd’s family, and headed over to Asheville, NC for the second leg of our trip.  Stay tuned for that!

The Illustrious Biltmore Estate (aka American Downton Abbey)

We are back from our TN/NC adventure!  It was good to see family and we had a fabulous time.  We did and saw a TON during the 9 days we were gone, but I think one of the highlights for me was getting to see the Biltmore Estate, the grand French Chateauesque mansion built by George W. Vanderbilt II in the late 1800s.  The property spans over 8000 acres and includes some of the most beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Pisgah National Forest.  The house itself has 250 rooms (we got to see approximately 40 of them) and encompasses almost 180,000 square feet.  It has been established as the largest privately-owned residence in the US.

Being a history nerd, I knew I would love it, but there is something about being there in person…  I told Tadd that while we were on property, I almost felt like we were in a real life fairy tale.  This is about as close to European castle as you are going to get on American soil.  And being Downton Abbey fans, Tadd and I could not help but make comparisons.  Especially when we got to the kitchen and the servants areas.  However, I think my favorite room of all had to be the unbelievable dining hall.  I think I remember the tour audio mentioning that the room itself is about 7 stories tall.  The fireplace alone is mindbogglingly enormous, and is technically three fireplaces in one.  You can see a small photo of it here, although to truly get the scale of it, you really have to see it in person.

We took a ton of pictures while we were there, but only of the exterior, since photography was not allowed indoors.  Please know that the photos do this place zero justice, and if you ever have the opportunity to visit this place, I highly urge you to do so.  Between the interior tour, walking around the grounds, with lunch and shopping in the middle, this can easily take up an entire day or more.  We still wanted to see more (including the on site winery!) but I figure it gives us a reason to go back.  And I promise, I will be back!  I would love to go at Christmas time.  The house debuted on Christmas Eve 1895, so Christmas is kind of a big deal here.  They also have specialized tours (focused on architecture, landscaping, even one specifically about the lives of the “help”) that give you exclusive access not granted on the standard tour, so I would love to take one or two of those as well.  See?  Lots of reasons to go back!

Here are some of my favorite shots from the day, which is a lot of them because pretty much everywhere you look is some astonishingly beautiful sight, large or small (makes it very very easy to pretend to be a “good” photographer…heh):

Exciting news!

Tadd and I made a decision on what we want to do to celebrate our 10 year anniversary next year.  We booked a 10-night British Isles cruise!  I know it’s way far in advance to be super excited yet, or even to really be able to do much real planning, but I just wanted to share!


Day 1 – Harwich, England

Day 2 – Paris (Le Havre), France

Day 3 – St. Peter Port, Channel Isl

Day 4 – Cork (Cobh), Ireland

Day 5 -Waterford (Dunmore E.), Ireland

Day 6 – Dublin, Ireland

Day 7 – Liverpool, England

Day 8 – Glasgow (Greenock), Scotland

Day 9 – Holyhead, Wales

Day 10 – At Sea

Day 11 – Harwich, England

From the History Geek Files: Fort San Lorenzo

This week marks the 2 year anniversary of a really fun vacation that Tadd and I took with some really great people.  Back in April 2011 (about a month before I started this blog!), a group of 12 of us sailed for 8 nights on the Carnival Freedom, stopping at Cozumel, Mexico; Limon, Costa Rica; and Colon, Panama.

I really loved this particular itinerary because it wasn’t your normal Caribbean island hopping cruise.  Not that there is anything wrong with Caribbean island hopping (we will be doing just that later on this year).  It’s just that the ports of call for this cruise were more focused on adventures in the rain forest, interacting with some incredible wildlife, and learning about different cultures.  Something totally different, exotic, and FUN!

One of my favorite moments on the trip was our stop in Panama.  We took a tour that had multiple stops.  We got to see the Panama Canal, took a brief hike through the rainforest, but the best part was after the hike.  We were taken to a small, secluded, driftwood-laden beach on the banks of the Chagres River.

Our guide pointed to a teeny bit of what looked like ruins on the top of a cliff and stated that this would be where we were headed next.  You can see the cliff with the ruins behind us in the picture at the top of this post.  Didn’t look like much from the beach.  But this is what we saw when we got there:

This is Fort San Lorenzo, and it dates back to 1587.  However, as military forts throughout history often are, this one was destroyed and rebuilt a few times, most recently in the 1750s.  It was built by Spain to protect the Pacific/Atlantic trade route across the isthmus of Panama from pirates.  I was totally enamored with the fact that some of the cannons (which were, as you can see, haphazardly strewn about the “gun deck” which has now completely been overgrown with grass) still had the seal of the Spanish crown.  And these cannons were not roped off or encased in glass…They were just lying around in the open.  As a matter of fact, the entire site was completely open to the public.  Unlike Castillo De San Marcos in St. Augustine, which requires you to go through a ticket booth and purchase admission for a tour and even contains a gift shop, this has no gates or even anyone who appeared to be in a “park ranger” type role.  It was just raw history, there to be discovered by anyone who cared to check it out.  Aside from a few handrails and some signage, it didn’t look like it had been touched for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Between getting to be so close to some fascinating history, appreciating the impressive architecture of the fort, and those gorgeous views, I really felt like I was in a special place, and it’s something I have looked back on fondly over the two years since the trip.  If I am ever lucky enough to make it back to Panama, I would love to go back (and with a much better camera!).

For us history geeks, there really is nothing like a beautiful, old Spanish fort…