Thursday, July 31, 2014

Craft Brewing in the Shadow of a Beer Giant in Golden Colorado

What’s the first word that pops into your head when I say Golden, CO? Some will think mountains, others will have images of prospectors panning for gold, but the majority (I assume) will think beer. The images will not be of a random beer but a beer giant. People’s minds will recall commercials with images of clear mountain streams flowing out of a glacier into either cans that read “Banquet” or cans that read “Silver Bullet”.  A beer giant who has everything they need right in their backyard to mass market an image of pure fresh “Rocky Mountain” brew. But the reality is that this international conglomerate kicking out cheap mass produced “Pilsners” and faux craft beers is much different today than it was when that image was reality. It also now has competition. Not just competition in Milwaukee (since they’re partners now) or St. Louis , but from craft brewers right down the street who are serving locals (and Coors employees we were told) beer that is worthy of those images of fresh mountain streams.

Table Mountain overlooking Golden
Golden is neatly tucked between Denver and the Rocky Mountain Front Range in a small valley flanked by the impressive Table Mountain on its east end. The scenery of this small town (which was discovered before Colorado was a state) makes for a very impressive postcard. The mountain stream seen in all those commercials actually does run out of the mountains through Golden. Clear Creek tumbles out of the Rockies through town giving people an opportunity to tube, fish, or just splash around on warm days in crystal clear water. Shops line the streets in Golden for all your western wear, souvenir, or collectible needs. In my opinion, when you put the scenery together with some nice relaxing shopping and good dining choices, Golden is worthy of a stop. Add in a few great local breweries who aren’t afraid to produce beer under the bright neon Coors signs that hang in every establishment and you have a must stop.  I was lucky enough to pop into 2 of these craft breweries recently and was not disappointed.

2nd Largest Brewery in Golden

Golden City Brewery

My first Golden craft brewery adventure was at Golden City Brewery. This brewery billed itself as the “Second Largest Brewery in Golden”. Golden City Brewery dates back to 1993 when 2 geologists decided that the city needed to have something better to drink then what the largest brewery in Golden was cranking out. They turned the machine shop behind their home into the brewery operation, at the time brewing Red and Pale Ales and serving them in their original tasting room (the sunroom of their house). The whole operation has stayed all on their property but the tasting room moved to the carriage house on their property and the back yard transformed into a wonderful beer garden.

Great beer options
Like many places in Colorado the whole operation had a wonderfully laid back attitude. Dogs on leashes were welcome and water dishes were out for 4 legged friends as well. There were 2 ways to order a beer, either in the tap room or through a takeout window situated in the beer garden. I decided I wanted to go inside and soak up some of the conversation going on in the brewery to get a feel for what brought people to this place.
As I got to the front of the line it became decision time.  I stared at the 5 brews available ( IPA, Brown Ale, Kolsch, Stout, Red Ale) and decided on a warm day that a Kolsch would be a great place to start. The Cedar Creek Gold was absolutely the right choice. This Kolsch had a nice hop to it with a floral finish without being overly bitter, and was so refreshing that it needed to be enjoyed outside. After sitting inside and soaking up some conversation I picked up my glass and headed outside. The beer garden was packed with people enjoying this wonderful day. There is plenty of seating for you to bring your lunch and have a beer or grab some pretzels from the tasting room and enjoy the Rocky Mountain air.

Refreshing Kolsch
After I finished my first refreshing pint I wanted to dive into their Legendary Red Ale. Colorado has some famous red ales and this was one of their original brews so a test was in order. This ale made my walk back to the picnic table even more enjoyable. This red ale was not an Irish red, but a red/copper German Altbier. This beer had a clean refreshing flavor, almost like a lager, with a little bit of bitterness and a malty note to it, obviously adding the color. It had a slight caramel tone and a light hoppiness to it that made for another wonderful crisp summer day beer.
Golden City Brewery
Golden City Brew had gone 2 for 2 on a warm summer day. The brewery, with its tasting room and adjacent beer garden, was a great place to relax with very high quality beer. You can get Golden City Brewery beers in multiple locations throughout Colorado (and you should get some), but like I’ve said before, stop in to the heart of the operation and get some straight from the brewery. It’s one thing to drink a good beer, but getting the feeling of how each brewery operates and soaking up the attitude of its staff and fans gives you a personal connection to every beer you travel for and drink.
More Golden beer!
Mountain Toad Brewing

I still had some time left before I had to head back off to Denver and I really wanted to sample another brewery to get another taste of real local brewing in Golden. I made a 5 minute walk across Clear Creek to a newcomer in this town that has been brewing beer for over 140 years, Mountain Toad Brewing. This small brewery was founded a little over a year ago by 4 locals who gave up the corporate world to do something that they loved and would have more fun with, brewing beer. A quick sidetrack, but so many of the breweries we have visited across America are started the same way which adds to the true quality of the beer. People who do things they absolutely love to do, not “have” to do, produce such a superior product. When I found this out at Mountain Toad Brewery, like I also did at Golden City Brewery, I knew I was in for a treat.
More great options
This brewery was located in an old machine shop right across the street from a menacing Coors Credit Union (these poor guys just can’t avoid that name). The revamped building had a long bar with a view street into the brewery operation itself and a number of table tops for drinking and conversing. Like Golden City, Mountain Toad also had an outdoor garden with a rotation of food trucks to serve your cravings. Unfortunately a few clouds had moved in and a little rain was on the horizon so I pulled up a bar stool and looked over my options. On the menu that day were Cream Ale, Wit, Amber Ale, Saison, Summer Ale, Stout, IPA, and Double IPA. There are seasonal ins and outs but they try to keep 6 or 7 on tap at all times.
Summer stout
I had a real itch for a cream ale since you can’t get one everywhere and that sounded great on this still warm day, but I wanted to dive into a whole new genre of Golden brews. Instead of the cream ale I picked the Ryrish Stout which was an Irish stout made with rye. I am a huge stout fan but usually put them away for the summer warmth so this was a nice treat for my senses. The stout had an amazing creaminess right from the pour. This beer almost looked like a milkshake sitting in front of me. The addition of rye gave the Ryrish Stout a little spice along with the traditional chocolate notes which was a nice mix. This beer was very refreshing for anytime of the year as it had lots of flavor and was very smooth going down not leaving it sit around and get overly heavy.
Tap handle goodness
After my Ryrish Stout I needed to try one more to make sure this brewery wasn’t a 1 hit wonder. Since I had a good experience with the Amber at Golden City I decided to do a quick taste test of the Apex Amber. This amber had a nice roasted malt and caramel flavor that you expect to taste with an amber ale. There was a subtle hop to it that added a nice little bitterness that make American craft beers so great. Unlike the water in a can that the majority of people still drink, this beer and all the others I drank that day had been hand crafted with care. Just like Golden City Brewery, Mountain Toad is a must stop on your real beer tour of Golden.
Casting a smaller shadow
When it comes to beer towns in the west, Golden is one of the originals. It’s nice to see some original, local, real craft beer come out of this town like the rest of the Colorado scene. I was asked as I was coming up with this idea if I really needed to throw barbs at the original brewery in Golden. I wondered that as well, but when it comes down to it the advantages that Coors has lobbied and built up seek to crush the local guys across the country. Their brand (which won’t lose any money because of what I’m writing) has successfully crushed craft brewers from state to state with distribution networks and crushing regulations that even they know are unnecessary in the 21st century. And here’s the secret, the only reason they spend so much money keeping their feet on the little guys head is because they know that the product they are serving is inferior. The big brands own over 90% of this industry yet are so frightened by the quality of new brews coming to market that all they can do is throw around money to hold down this revolution.
I’m glad to report that it isn’t working even in their backyard. Golden is a great side trip when staying in the Denver area because of its scenery, activities, and relaxing atmosphere. It’s also great because of its craft breweries serving great beer to Coors employees.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tasting Kauai’s Sugarcane Heritage at Kōloa Rum Company

Award Winning Koloa Rum Company Rum Kauai Hawaii
Kōloa Rum Company's award winning lineup.
The sugar era of Kauai ended when Gay & Robinson, established 1889, announced the shutdown of their sugar operations in 2008.  Sugar has been an important part of Kauai’s history since 1835 when the first sugar plantation opened in Koloa.  Kōloa Rum Company is continuing Kauai’s sugar heritage, but in a slightly different way.  Kōloa Rum Company was established in 2008 and purchased the last 90 tons of granulated sugar from Gay & Robinson to start their line of Kauai rum.  Today Kauai’s first distillery provides rum tastings in their tasting room located on another property with sugar plantation ties, the Kilohana Plantation.

Koloa Rum Company Tasting Room & Company Store Kauai Hawaii
Who's ready for some rum tasting?
Kōloa Rum Company’s rum tastings are unique in that guests use their tastes to create a miniature mai tai.  The instructional drinking session starts with a shot glass filled with Kōloa Rum Company’s mai tai mix and another with a taste of Kauai White Rum.  Kauai White has a very clean taste and is very smooth.  It is perfect for mojitos, mai tais, and jungle juice.  After taking a sip of the white rum and a sip of the mai tai mix, we dumped the rest of the white rum into the mix. 

We next tried the three time gold medal winner Kauai Dark Rum.  The dark rum is not aged and gets its color from caramelized sugar and proprietary flavors.  Kauai Dark has a clean vanilla taste with a hint of chocolate and a dry finish.  Kauai Dark can be used in a dark and stormy made with ginger beer and is also good with eggnog.  After taking a taste we tested our bartending skills by slowly pouring the rest of the Kauai Dark in an attempt to float it for a mai tai sunset.  We then downed our cocktail shot to get a taste of a Hawaiian mai tai.

Koloa Rum Company Kauai Dark Rum Kauai Hawaii
Tasting Kauai Dark before testing our bartending skills.
Kōloa Rum Company also makes spiced rum.  Since they use cane sugar instead of molasses, the rum is sweeter than other rums.  Kauai Spiced is also stronger than Kōloa Rum Company’s other rums at 88 proof.  Kauai Spice does not mix with many things, but does mix well with chai tea and vanilla coke.  Rome likened the taste to that of a good cigar.

Kauai Coconut has only been around seven months and is the baby of the company.  Kauai Coconut is all-natural coconut rum.  The slight green hue comes from natural coconut flavors.  The coconut flavor is crisp with a warm burn at the end and a fantastic coconut aroma.  On its first run it won a silver medal.  Kauai Coconut can be used in a mai tai instead of Kauai White for an extra touch of Hawaiian island flavor.

As Kōloa Rum Company can only legally serve one ounce to visitors, Kauai Gold is not included in the tasting rotation.  However, during my food tour with Tasting Kauai, I had a chance to taste Kauai Gold as part of my mai tai at Gaylord’s Mahiko Lounge, also on the Kilohana Plantation property.  Kauai Gold Rum is a sweeter version of Kauai White with a buttery finish.  Kauai Gold gets its color from the mixed in caramelized sugar. 

Koloa Rum Company Casks Kauai Hawaii
Bottle aging casks.
Since Kōloa Rum Company is so young, they do not yet have any aged rums.  They have created small casks visitors can purchase to individually age their bottles of rum.  Kauai Dark and Kauai Spice are best for aging, and one month in the small cask is equal to two years of regular barrel aging.  Kōloa Rum Company plans on releasing aged rum in five years or so.

There is no tourism at Kōloa Rum Company’s distillery, which is located on the grounds of the Kukui Brand facilities in Kalaheo.  However, Kōloa Rum Company will be building new production and retail facilities in Koloa in the next several years.  The new headquarters will be situated on 18 acres.  Ten acres will have sugar cane, interactive gardens and a small museum.  The other eight acres will house the warehouse and buildings where visitors will be able to take tours of the distillery and jam factory and visit a tasting room and café.  Koloa was the location of Kauai’s first sugarcane mill and was the first town to have electricity and a street light, which is still blinking yellow. 

The sugar Kōloa Rum Company purchased from Gay & Robinson will last about two more years.  While Kōloa Rum Company plans to grow and harvest sugarcane and currently has 10 acres growing, they will not have use of a sugar mill.  They will purchase raw crystal sugar from Maui to continue their current line of rum.  They will also be creating a new line of rum which will be sweeter and made with fresh pressed cane juice from their sugarcane crops instead of sugar.  They will also be releasing Kauai Coffee liquor and two additional flavored mixes in the near future.

Koloa Rum Company Bottles Kauai Hawaii
Kōloa Rum even comes in carry on size.
I highly suggest including a stop at Kōloa Rum Company’s tasting room during a visit to the Kilohana Plantation for a taste of the newest version of Kauai’s sugar heritage.  The tasting room is open every day starting at 10:00 a.m., and tastings occur every half hour.  Kōloa Rum Company’s rum can be purchased in the adjoining company store.  Since I can never leave a tasting without making a purchase, we brought home bottles of Kauai Gold and Kauai Dark so we can make our own mai tais, and a bottle of Kauai Coconut for a friend.  While Kōloa Rum is available elsewhere in the United States and other countries, bottles of rum cannot be shipped outside of Hawaii from the company store, so be sure to save some room in your luggage.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Which Destination is My Pinnacle of Beer Travel?

Destinations worldwide set out to be the pinnacle of their own unique offerings. Paris sets out to be the pinnacle of fine cuisine. Tokyo can be seen as the pinnacle of technological advance. Florida is the pinnacle of early bird specials (just a joke Florida, your beaches are wonderful and who doesn’t love the sunshine). The debate can rage on until the end of time though on where the pinnacle of beer “banner” should be raised. The contenders include Belgian ale masters, Czech master brewers, and even the rising American craft brewing stars changing the landscape of beer worldwide. Beer has been part of (and altered) the food landscape worldwide for centuries which makes this distinction as important as “how many Michelin starred restaurants does your city have?” Where should beer travelers go to worship their beer gods?

Belgium makes great beer, but they don't top my list.
For me that answer has been tested on my journeys. I’ve traveled to many beer capitals to make my offerings directly to brewers. I’ve imbibed in Belgium, the Czech Republic, across America, Great Britain, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, etc… trying to name a destination as the ultimate beer go to. Every one of these destinations offered flavors that I enjoyed, but when I landed back on my couch one place always popped into my head as the gold standard every time. What is that beer heaven on earth you ask? Munich.

Let's Play 2!!
Are you let down? Did you expect some out of the way place you’ve never heard of and were ready to pack your bags for the ultimate “beercation”? Well, pack those bags, because Munich
is the real deal and no matter how many times I’ve gone it remains as special as the first time. From the simple complexity of the beer itself to the unlimited spots to enjoy your purity in a glass, Munich is the pilgrimage that beer lovers must make at least once.

I’ve been lucky enough to make the trip to the city on the edge of the Bavarian Alps multiple times. What I love about Munich is that you never run out of new options to grab a quick beer. Every corner has a chair and a coaster with your name on it. Every neighborhood has a beer hall or a beer garden for you to pull up a bench spot and Oompa until your heart’s content. Here are a few of my top reasons why I think you must go find beer paradise in Munich.

Augustiner makes you happy!

Augusteiner Bier

Augustiner is what I consider my favorite beer on Earth. I compare all beers I drink with the satisfaction I get from drinking an Augustiner Helles, Dunkel, or occasional Weisbier in Munich. There is nothing flashy about the oldest brewer in Munich. There is also no marketing department because the beer is so smooth (and so pure in taste) that they are still the most popular beer in the city without advertising. Almost any local you talk to about beer in Munich will tell you that (because of their never compromised brewing process and dedication to tradition) Augustiner is the local beer of Munich. You may find a few Augustiner labels floating around other places, but enjoying them in the Augustiner Keller (or any outlet in Munich from hotel to restaurant) is the real way to enjoy it.

A shrine to great beer

The Hofbrauhaus

Big pretzels, liters of beer, Oompa bands playing, and friendly happy faces from around the globe. Is there a better combo than that? The Hofbrauhaus is a staple of my Munich diet when I visit. Is it “touristy”? Hell yes and who cares. It’s not an overpriced museum that has 1 piece you’ve been dying to see with 8 million of your not so close friends. It’s a beer hall with great prices, sausage, and another great beer of Munich. It is the one place throughout Europe that I walk into (no matter my mood) and can’t contain my stupid grin. I sing there, I dance there, and anyone who goes there will echo those sentiments. I question anyone who discourages you from the Hofbrauhaus experience. It’s just plain fun and the beer is fantastic. Shouldn’t that be what we aim for in life? Nobody will think you’re any less of a “traveler” if you stop in for rounds of liters here. Sometimes bigger is just better.

Beer Gardens Galore

From the beer garden in the English Gardens to the Biergarten Viktualienmarkt just off of Marienplatz, Munich has your outdoor drinking needs covered. The weather in Munich often allows plenty of outdoor beer tasting opportunities. Beer gardens can range from small gardens attached to the beer halls of any of the breweries in town, to public beer gardens with a rotating selection of Munich’s finest…plus varieties of local cuisine. If you love being a cultural fly on the fall, an outdoor drinking garden in Munich is the place for you. Grabbing a beer and sausage and bellying up to a picnic table may seem cliché, but here it is just normal everyday life. They are also a great way to meet new people unless the party you are with can take up an entire picnic table.

Oktoberfest preparation!
It’s Munich!!!

This place holds the largest beer festival on Earth! If you can’t find the home of Oktoberfest an enjoyable place to drink beer then you may be taking this whole beer connoisseur thing a little too far. Just because it’s a larger than life beer town doesn’t automatically make it Vegas in the Alps. Beer is one of the qualities of Munich that make it an attractive spot for travelers, but it’s not a place where advertisements jump out at you around every corner to take this tour or drink this beer. Even the Hofbrauhaus is tucked down winding back streets without glitzy signs pointing the way to this famed beer hall. It’s a big city with a small town feel that knows what it does well and leaves the taste test up to you. The beer is better here. For a lack of better words, beer in Munich tastes like what beer is supposed to taste like.

I read an article recently that listed town after town in Bavaria crafting new beers in the same vein as the American craft breweries. It was an article pointing everyone away from Munich to drink these wonderful smaller town creations and avoid the big 6 in Munich. The article pointed out that you won’t find much beer diversity in Munich. As an advocate of almost everything the craft brewers of America are doing, I tastefully must disagree with the premise of avoiding Munich’s breweries. I have nothing against the craft breweries of outer Bavaria, I probably will tour as many as I can some day. But I will do them hand in hand on my next pilgrimage to Munich.

Nothing erases Munich grins
What we lack in the states are real, drinkable go to beers. That is why we have such rapidly expanding local beer scenes. The watered down version of beer passed off to Americans as lagers made with GMO’s and who knows what else have made our beer revolution necessary. But in Munich that problem does not exist. Bier is actually beer. It’s hearty, made with ingredients that actually come from the earth. Bier is enjoyed in bier halls, parks, bier gardens, hotel lobbies, etc… There is nothing stale about the scene in the Bavarian capital. So when I read an article talking about distancing yourself from Munich beer when in Bavaria I cringe a little. If I am in Italy to tour cathedrals I not only want to find out of the way small town shrines of Christianity, but I want to go to St Peters as well. Avoiding the ultimate temple (beer, church, etc..) only because of its size and symbol as a “tourist site” means you miss the reason for the pilgrimage. Make time for both, because both originator and innovator have significance in your historical beer journey. And if you want the best beer experience in the world, go to Munich.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kansas City's Iconic Boulevard Brewery and Boulevardia Festival

Guest Post by
Erik Wullschleger

The first annual “Boulevardia” festival had been a smash hit among the locals and I was currently swimming among a rumored 2,000 people on the 12th street bridge’s 2nd level (though it felt as though there were double that number).  After jockeying for position in lines that no beer festival goer can appreciate, there was a clear opening near the Duvel table and I was going to take it.  As I looked up I did a double take...sure…I had ‘tasted’ my fair share of beers that day but I couldn’t believe who was standing right in front of me offering to top me off with a Duvel Tripel Hop.  John McDonald, the founder of Boulevard and an entrepreneur I’ve long idolized here in Kansas City poured my beer and was patient enough for me to snap a picture of him doing so.  This man’s vision changed Kansas City, impacted craft beer culture and the brand he created is now not only a local icon but a global symbol of the vitality in KC.


I first encountered Boulevard Wheat during college.  It wasn’t the first craft beer I had tasted but the cloudy ‘Unfiltered Wheat’ with a wedge of lemon quickly became a go-to (for the first was a Fat Tire that I’m pretty sure my friends and I only pretended to enjoy...I still don’t like brown ales to this day).  At the time I didn’t put much weight into how a beer was crafted or where it came from but I would soon be closer than ever to the hometown of this beer and it’s delicious friends.

In 2004 I followed a girl to Kansas City (it worked out, we’ve been married for almost 9 years now) and the brick smokestack tap handles were at EVERY bar we went to.  Boulevard Wheat and Pale became a regular rotation in my nights out and I eventually started picking up anything of theirs I could find in the liquor stores.  By 2005, the brewery announced a significant $20M expansion plan that would increase their brewing capacity by over 600K barrels per year and allow them to really start experimenting with the old equipment.

This was the genesis of the Smokestack Series, a line of beers that were brewed with BIG flavor and high alcohol content.  It wasn’t until I had my first sip of a Boulevard “Sixth Glass” that I realized how complexly awesome alcohol could be.  My wife and I bought up every bottle we could find, sometimes buying multiples (one to drink and one to store for next year).  I can still remember my first taste of an Imperial Stout that had been aged for a year side by side with the freshly brewed, I always heard fine wines getting better with age, but the rich chocolate/tobacco flavors coming from this bottle blew me away.  Beer had turned into an obsession between the two of us and with the help of Untapped, discovering new beers had turn into a game.

There are two people responsible for the move from casual beer drinker to enthusiast, one was my employee at the time (and local beer reviewer) Mark Starr, the other his friend (and volunteer Boulevard tour guide) Tim Pratt (seen here reviewing Bourbon Barrel Quad together).  Tim turned into an amazing friend taking me on close to two dozen tours over the course of his tenure there.  If he was working (which he did twice a month), I was on his tour.  He was great at his ‘job’ and very willing to share his ‘pay check’ with me if I came in to keep him company.  

The experimental brews coming out of the tasting room blew my mind.  Multiple iterations of what is now known as 80 Acre, Love Child, Double Wide and many others that never made it to production could be had only inside of Boulevard’s brewery.  My favorite ‘memory’ was tasting (again and again) the 14% abv Mint Julep Ale while it was on tap over my 30th birthday weekend.  That would prove to be a huge mistake as Tim had been given one single instruction on that day...keep Erik sober so he can be awake for his surprise birthday party tonight.  He completely failed on keeping me sober but he was extremely effective on distracting me from my wife’s planning.

Eventually Tim was let go because the brewery was moving from volunteer to paid labor...he had a day job and couldn’t afford to work the hours Boulevard was looking for.  This wasn’t connected to the big changes coming but it was definitely the end of an era for me.

On October 13th, John McDonald wrote a letter to the people of Kansas City.  In the note he recounted his first sip of a belgian style ale, how it transformed his perspectives on beer and the culture surrounding it.  The letter and subsequent announcement of the sale to Belgian brewer Duvel Moortgat sent shockwaves through the community.  This was Kansas City’s beer and the thought of a foreign controlling interest immediately sparked talks of boycott and breaking bottles in the streets.  As Kansas City collectively settled down and really read the words of Boulevard’s founder they saw the benefits of global distribution, increased production/expansion in our city and most importantly, access to new beers that weren’t previously available in the midwest!!  Duvel Moortgat is a parent company that operates nearly a dozen other independent breweries and Boulevard would retain a similar amount of autonomy.

This summer, Boulevard hosted their first ever beer festival.  While they’ve always supported the local beer scene, this was their first attempt at a home grown celebration of “Beer, Music, Food and Beer” (that’s not a misprint...they put beer twice in the slogan...hat tip to them).  Boulevardia was an instant hit, filling up the industrial “West Bottoms” of Kansas City with a large stage that hosted acts like the Hearts of Darkness, the March Fourth Marching Band, Robert Delong and many more.  Tents were littered throughout the event filled with “made in KC” merchandise and food trucks were parked along the perimeter soaking up the alcohol from the consumption of beer.

As if day one wasn’t enough, day two brought together 35 different breweries, most of them not currently distributed in the KC market.  At $75, the ticket price seemed steep but upon arrival it was clear Boulevard had oversold the event...I would eventually find a way to manage the crowd with my wife and best friend in tow and thankfully navigate my way to a cab that evening (I didn’t make it to day three…).

Over the last year, there are more than a ½ dozen breweries who have opened their doors to the general public and another group of 6-10 who are working toward commercialization here in Kansas City.  Many of them were on display and it’s exciting to see such a friendly competition in town.  Boulevardia was much more than a beer festival though, it was a show of support and a bear hug for everything Kansas Citians love about KC.  Beyond beer, the overwhelming number of makers, innovators, musicians, foodies and entrepreneurs in our town has exploded...many of them on display during the three day festival.

And that brings me full circle.  Over the last 25 years, a humble carpenter turned craft brewer had a remarkable impact on KC.  After what I believed to be a chance encounter with John McDonald during a drunken walk-about at his beer festival, I never thought I would get a chance to sit down and thank him for the contribution he’s made to our city.  When Silicon Prairie News interviewed my as part of their ‘Prairie Portraits’ feature I listed John as the one entrepreneur I wanted to have a beer with (never expected that to happen).  

This week, I received a phonecall from a friend who hosts a weekly entrepreneurial radio show in Kansas City and he was looking for help.  He had just booked Mr. McDonald for his show and was concerned about filling the entire hour long slot.  I gladly accepted his invite to co-host and not only did I get to thank him but I learned a lot more about a man who’s now turning his focus beyond his passion for beer into projects like glass recycling, urban redevelopment and much more (check out the full interview here).

Kansas City is lucky to have Boulevard, a brand that’s meant so much to KC.  John McDonald has led his company to do remarkable things in the last 25 years but I’m excited to see what he does with his 6th decade in our city.

Erik Wullschleger is the General Manager of the Sprint Accelerator in Kansas City, a blogger and an advocate for tasty beers everywhere.  You can follow him on twitter or keep up with him on his blog or just watch what he’s drinking on Untappd:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

6 Drinks that Shocked Me on the Road

Guest Post by Agness Walewinder

While visiting various countries across Asia and Europe, I stumbled upon some drinks that have absolutely surprised or shocked me. Their look and taste were something new to me. Although some of them I really loved, most of them were just way too disgusting and I would never try them again.

Macau Strawberry Milkshake

China: Baijiu

It's commonly known as white wine, but it's absolutely disgusting. Baijiu is a very strong distilled spirit that is more than 50% alcohol. Baijiu is closer to vodka in strength and mouth-feel. You should be extremely careful when tasting it - one baijiu shot can knock you down! Chinese often drink baijiu when celebrating big events and having a business lunch or dinner.

Chinese Baijiu Chinese Baijiu

Vietnam and Cambodia: Snake Wine

I've not tried it, but Cez did a few times. In touristy areas of Cambodia the content of the bottle looks like a fighting ground between snakes and scorpions. However, more traditional versions are more common and usually consumed by the locals in belief that it makes men more potent (sexually). One small glass of snake wine tastes okay, but if you try and drink too much you may start to feel that the content of the bottle contains more than just liquid.

Snake Wine

Belgium: Grimbergen Beer

Although I don't drink alcohol very often, there was one beer I really enjoyed when in Brussels - the Grimbergen beer. It has a dark ruby red color, a lovely metallic caramel smell and tastes a lot like toffee, some roasted bitter malt and some black cherry and dark fruits. The mouthfeel was amazing - somewhere between fizzy and airy. I highly recommend it to everyone visiting Belgium.

Belgium Beer

Macau: Red Beans and Agar-Agar Jelly Drink

When in Macau, we ordered a very refreshing and sweet iced coconut juice with red beans and agar-agar jelly in one of the local restaurants. It was simply heaven in our mouths, although the ingredients do not sound very yummy.

Macau's Drink

Crete: Greek Frappe

Greek frappe tasted a lot like Vietnamese coffee to me, but there was much less sugar and strength in it. It was pretty strong, extremely thick and creamy and so refreshing. Perfect for a sunny day in Rethymno. Apart from frappe and cold drinks, Greece has also a great coffee. If you are a coffee lover like me, who is seeking unique coffee experiences from around the world, make sure to try one in Crete.

Greek Frappe

Tibet: Butter Tea

Tibet welcomed us with one of the strangest teas we have ever drunk. It contains salt and butter, which takes a while to get used to, but it's very creamy and gives you a boost of energy in the morning. The traditional butter tea in Tibet is light reddish white and has a thick buttery surface.

Tibetans drink their tea throughout the day. They pour boiled tea into a long cylindrical churn along with salt and yak butter and mix it for a few seconds so it's ready to be served in a small glass. It was a great experience for us to see how locals make it.

What was the most delicious and disgusting drink you had on the road?

Agness and Cez of eTramping - Da Lang, Dongguan, China
Meet eTramping crew - Agness and Cez – best friends and travel companions from Poland. These two are sharing their budget travel tips on how to travel the world with $25 in your pocket. Since 2011, they have been travelling the world while teaching English in different Asian countries such as China, Thailand or Cambodia. They are both photography passionate obsessed with Chinese cuisine and culture.
Travel Blogging: Build Audience, Improve Rankings and Earn Money