So the Holidays have come and gone. It is no great surprise that I didn’t manage to write a post while at home, which was really little more than wishful thinking last post. Still, I have just a little bit of time before I leave again (this time for work, not fun) so here is an overview of SB and I’s Holiday Season 2015.
It started on Christmas-Eve-Eve-Eve, which was less than 12 hours after the end of my last 10 hour exam of the semester.
As usual, we kept things pretty low-key here in the household. SB and I don’t technically buy gifts for each other anymore, and haven’t for a few years, but we normally do something to celebrate. The boys of course do get presents.
They really enjoy opening things. The good news about our children is that they don’t want for much and are happy with whatever they receive.
This year they even had some treats (Chia bars) in their stalkings.
All said and done it was a great morning. The boys got three candles (Gun Powder, Topsoil, and Cedar & Saffron – it’s not hard to figure who got which one), some Chia bars, some hot cocoa (to be shared with me), some Chukar Cherries and Biscottis (from Washington!) and everyone got some more coffee (including Valentino’s favorite “Raska” [Yukon] blend).
After our celebration we went out for lunch, which is our Christmas tradition. It was raining, but not cold (it was in the 60s – craziness). We went downtown to the “One Financial Center” which was a fancy building.
There we had lunch at a place called Rebecca’s Cafe.
The mushroom sandwich I had was really good, but overall the place was basically a glorified cafeteria for business people. The real excitement came after lunch when we finally went down and visited Harpoon Brewery which was on our Boston Bucket List.
We were originally planning on going to the Boston Ballet (also on our Boston Bucket List) to see The Nut Cracker but ended up changing our minds due to the price and some inconvenient elements to buying the “Student Rush” tickets. So now we’re just going to go see Swan Lake instead, which is something SB hasn’t seen before (I haven’t seen either).
But back to Harpoon, we took the Silver Line down there. Harpoon is actually in the Sea Port district, which is what it sounds like, a sea port.
From the bus stop it was literally “Follow the Harpoon Road”:
Which lead to the front doors, adorned with a big “H” handle, which I enjoyed more than I probably should have.
Inside they had a big Christmas Tree, made from their Winter Warmer cans.
We were going to do the 2pm tour, but it was full, so we had to wait for the 3pm tour. This wasn’t an issue because the “waiting room” is a beer hall.
We quickly decided to get some beer (or rather had decided before even arriving) and went with their specialty sampler, which contains some small-batch, limited variety beers.
From left to right it was Harpoon: Boston Tea Party Ale, Aberrator, Honey Maibock, and Maple Cider.
I was not a big fan of the Maple Cider, but SB seemed ok with it (she is more of a cider person than me). But I thoroughly enjoyed the other beers, and the Tea Party Ale may have been the most “smoky” beer I have ever tried, I swear there was liquid smoke in there or something.
A lot of the offerings here were not available anywhere else (kind of like at Sam Adams).
And although they don’t have a food menu per se, they do have AMAZING pretzels.
They are both huge and gooey. Also, they come with cheeses and sauces made from various Harpoon beers, and if that wasn’t enough the pretzels are made from leftover brewing yeast. Yup.
Soon enough we started the tour, which cost 5$.
At first I wasn’t so sure about that 5$ as most brewery tours are free. But that changed soon enough. We first passed through a “staging” area for shipment. It was so much beer, this picture below was only about 1/3 of it.
Then we passed into the actual brewing warehouse.
In this room I learned that Harpoon was founded by three Harvard graduates (none of whom knew how to brew, but appreciated finer beer – so they hired a brewer) and that the building it is in was used as a dry dock to build Destroyers during WWII. It had sat empty since then (mid 80s) and when the founders bought it there was still a bunch of nautical stuff in there – thus the name Harpoon.
Next up was the tasting room, which is where that 5$ paid dividends. Plus there were tons of cool old beers in there.
The way it worked was that you had 15 minutes to try as much of the on-tap samples as possible.
And while the glass were small, they were also, as mentioned, unlimited.
SB and I tried Harpoon: Rye IPA, UFO White, UFO Raz, Take 5, Leviathan IPA, UFO Gingerland, IPA, Hoppy Adventure, and one of the small-batch Signature Barrel Series (though sadly I don’t remember which number it was). We also got to try a tank of “Green” (unfiltered) beer straight from the brewing vat.
All of which were good, I was surprised by how strong Leviathan was (10% ABV), but I think Hoppy Adventure might have been my favorite, while Raz was my least favorite.
After our 15 minutes of fame, the tour continued.
We also got to see the packing area in action.
Afterwards the tour wrapped up and we headed over to the gift shop to see if we could find a magnet. Sadly we couldn’t find a magnet, but we did find something else.
Its the Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen, which neither of us had had before. Kudos to SB, she was actually the one that pressed to get a growler. I’m glad we decided to get one, as now we have one from both Samuel Adams and Harpoon! More on this bad-boy at the end of the post.
The next day, Christmas Eve-Eve, we began our trek home.
The boys are good travelers, though this was Pig’s first time on a plane! He was pretty excited.
As we took off the ride was a bit rough, and we did that “drop” thing in the air a few times, but nothing too extreme.
If the bumpy ride bothered Pig, he certainly didn’t show it.
After the bouncy start we were up and away, with mostly smooth sailing.
It was storming back home, but the landing was surprisingly mellow, aside from the horizontal rain. MIL picked us up and Tristen immediately went for his favorite pillow, or perhaps crown is a better name for it.
Our first Christmas was at MIL and FIL’s, where we were of course greatly spoiled. Of course the Boys also got spoiled, including their new tent (or “Rastle”).
Aside from presents at the three houses (Christmas Eve: MIL/FIL, Dad | Christmas: Meem) there was also plenty of alcohol to be found. And by alcohol I mean beer (to be fair there was all kinds, but really I just like beer).
The first I tried was the Chateau Jiahu.
Jiahu is based on a recipe/residue from around 9,000 years ago, from Northern China. Preserved pottery jars found in the Neolithic villiage of Jiahu, in Henan province, have revealed that a mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey and fruit was being produced that long ago, right around the same time that barley beer and grape wine were beginning to be made in the Middle East! Fast forward to 2005. Molecular archaeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology calls on Dogfish Head to re-create another ancient beverage, and Chateau Jiahu is born. In keeping with historic evidence, Dogfish brewers use brown rice syrup, orange blossom honey, muscat grape, barley malt and hawthorn berry. The wort is fermented for about a month with sake yeast until the beer is ready for packaging. Like most of the Ancient Ales I’ve had thus far, this rides the line between beer and wine. However, at ~9,000 years old, this is by far the oldest beer I’ve ever had and coming in at 10% ABV it definitely wasn’t weak in the knees (it was only 10 IBUs though).
Next up was the Black & Blue, which while not an ancient ale, still packed a punch (10% ABV).
Black & Blue is a Belgian-style golden ale fermented with blackberries and blueberries. Because we dose Black & Blue with real berries rather than artificial flavoring the fruit comes through in the flavor, not just the aroma. The pureed berries are added as the beer leaves the brewhouse. In fermentation, the yeast feeds on sugars from the barley and the berries, giving Black & Blue a unique complexity and a high ABV. It was actually pretty dang good for a fruit beer. It had just the right about of sweetness and bite (25 IBUs).
Last up was Birra Estrusca, which to be totally honest I couldn’t even figure out the name of for awhile because they split it along 3 lines of text.
Birra Etrusca was my New Year’s Eve beer (well, the first one anyways). This beer is based on a beverage that may have been enjoyed by the Etruscans (Tuscany) of Ancient Italy around 800 BC. A strong ale containing an Italian heirloom grain called Cappelli Senatore, along with pomegranate juice, raisins, and hazelnut flour, together with 3 types of honey: chestnut, wildflower, and clover. Spiced with several hop flowers, Gentian root and tree resin (think Myrrh) in the kettle. It leaned a bit too much on the wine side of the scale, which isn’t surprising considering that it came from Italy (or rather what would eventually become Italy). At 8.5% ABV it was the “weakest” of the three Dogfish Head beers I received, tough 8.5% isn’t really a weak beer in Murka.
Moving on, on Christmas Eve night we had a cool full moon, the first time such a Christmas Eve full moon had occurred since 2007 (and wont happen again until 2016).
Sadly it didn’t come out too well since I used my phone, I would have used the shiny new camera FIL bought us, but we hadn’t received the screen protector for it yet.
After Christmas had came and gone, Meem and Daryl 1 and the boys (including Flopsy, his first ever out-of-MIL/FIL’s adventure!) went out to run some errands and eat.
Valentino was quick to don his brand new Bears jersey he received from Grandma Meem, while Flopsy brought along his trusty football to match.
Pig was rocking his winter hat (from MIL).
As was Tristen.
After hooking Daryl 1 up with his sweet authoritah’ leather jacket, we decided to go eat. We were going to try Little Zagreb (an amazing steak place) but found out it was closed on Sundays. So we went to outback instead.
Tristen was kind enough to let me eat my potato.
The following day I went out on a duo trip with Meem (via some “Meem Coupons” I won long ago in an Easter Egg hunt where SB and Daryl 1 tried to cheat against me and tied my shoes together and blocked me and what not). Meem and I went and saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This was actually my second time seeing it, I had went out for dinner and a movie with two friends the same night SB and I arrived home (I see my friends all of 1-2 times per year anymore). Star Wars was just as good the second time. We almost didn’t see it, it was sold out in the first theater, so we drove across town and watched a later showing. After the movie we tried to go to Little Zagreb, but it was still closed for the holidays, despite their website saying they were open (we later found out, via Daryl 1, that their Facebook said they were closed). So we went to a place called Crazy Horse (which I had went to with SB, Dad, and Stepmom back around my 21st birthday and gotten very drunk at).
There we found “Colts Ketchup” which I took a photo of for SB, but really it was about my beer, a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.
It was half gone at that point, but you get the picture. It was funny, our waitress didn’t know which Dogfish Head they had, so she went and asked. The bartender told her it was their Pilsner, which is what she then told me. However, it was the 60 Minute IPA. That probably would have worked on most Coors Light-swilling undergrads, but not me. Of course I didn’t complain because I like the 60 Minute.
For dinner I actually got to eat my steak this time.
I actually had more steak while home than I had had in the 1-2 years prior, easily. In fact we finally did get to go to Little Zagreb after being denied twice. This third time (‘s a charm) it was Meem, SB, Daryl 1, the Boys (including Flopsy) and I.
SB and I shared the sirloin for two, it was just as amazing as I remembered. Tristen ate himself into a coma.
Then, on New Years day, when Dad, Stepmon, and Daryl 2 were taking SB and I back to airport, we stopped at The Coachman for lunch, where I had corned beef and cabbage for good luck and because I hadn’t already eaten like 12 pounds of red meat while we were home.
We got to the airport early and decided to just head in since it was so dang cold (winter had finally arrived – next year). The flight back was pretty non-eventful, though we did get to see some cool weather, such as when we broke through the cloud cover.
And found puffy cotton candy skies (Pig was amazed).
At one point we noticed all the Boys looking out the window at something.
Turns out it was a really cool “hatch-mark” pattern in the clouds.
Had I not quit my meteorology program I could have told you what caused that.
Before too long the sun started to set, which makes sense since it gets dark at 1pm in Boston.
Right around this time SB and I noticed something interesting. Tucked away in one of the little seat-back inserts, and way down at the bottom of said insert, was a small-font sentence that said there were free cocktails on New Years Day. SB asked about it, and sure enough, certain days of the year Southwest gives free booze. Of course they DO NOT go out of their way to mention this. In fact the Flight Attendant pretty much confirmed outright that they don’t tell you about it, or even hint at it, or really even want you to find it. But we did. Since we were in the air and still had to navigate public transportation home we opted to share a Leinenkugel’s Cranberry Ginger Shandy.
It was really good, definitely something I’d recommend and would buy in a six pack. It was basically a shandy for winter time.
After our beer it was getting dark, so we used the last little portion of the flight to close our eyes and chill (I can’t sleep on planes).
And before too long we were back in Boston.
Our flight actually arrived about 25 minutes early, but we lost all that time waiting on our luggage. We normally don’t check luggage on the Holidays, but we took it home this year to carry presents to, and from, home.
So, all in all it was a very busy, yet fun holiday trip for us. We got lots of spoils (material and otherwise) and enjoyed getting to see everyone. It was definitely a nice break after the law school exam craziness, and while I have hardly any time at home before New Mexico, I still wish the holidays could have lasted just a little bit longer. 🙂
Speaking of things lasting a bit longer, that Harpoon growler (UFO Hefeweizen) was actually supposed to be drank within 72 hours… whoops. SB and I didn’t get to it until ~288 hours later, a full 216 hours past the recommended drinking time. The bad news, it had gone a little flat. The good news, it was still good and it wasn’t completely flat.
Bearing in mind that this beer was 216 hours past its “Best By” date, I have to stay that it turned out pretty good. The aroma has a faint but clear citrus-like character. This is produced by the special yeast and accounts for the Bavarian tradition of serving hefeweizens with a lemon. The lemon accentuates the yeast’s fruity, tart fragrance. It has a soft mouthfeel and a refreshing, light body. The wheat malts and subtle hopping give the beer a mild, delicate flavor. I’d really like to try this beer at full crispness, but still, I don’t think SB and I will have any problems polishing off this growler tonight. 🙂 Of course its only 4.8% ABV, so we won’t be getting too crazy.
Anyways, I’d actually like to spend some time relaxing before bed since I have to pack tomorrow, so, although I said it last post, I’ll repeat it again here since this is Dinosaur Bear’s inaugural 2016 post.
Happy New Year!
I’ll likely have a short post before I leave for New Mexico.
Until next time,