Mike Pennington

Author: Mike Pennington

Mike Pennington, normal, 40-ish, father of three, living the suburban dream north of Atlanta.  

That, boys and girls, is called a teaser title. Are we saving the world through beer? No. However, we are making a difference in our world. Allow me to explain.

Through all the years and beers, I have developed a fantastic beer community, as have many of you. These people are my tribe … they know my preferences, my favorites, and often know better than I do what I’m going to want next. Two of these guys in particular are the ones I refer to as my Beer Bros. This bond has developed through mutual business interests, lots of travel, tremendous beer sharing, and the subject of this article … fundraising beer tasting sessions.

Kill shot from 2021

Seven years ago, we developed an idea of offering attendees of an annual conference an optional conference session designed to help people learn how to taste and enjoy a variety of craft beer. We really didn’t know what to expect, but knowing the audience, we figured we could sell out our 25-person session and raise a few dollars for the Foundation. We had no idea what we just created …

A few days later, the conference planner let us know that the session had already sold out and asked if we’d host a second one. Yes, please. Here are the relatively simplistic details of the event:

  • we promise 3-4 samples of at least 6 craft beers in a one-hour session
  • we instruct everyone on how to properly taste beer using all the senses (except hearing): sight, smell, mouthfeel, taste
  • with each beer, we’ll give insights on the style, the beer, and the brewery
  • all beers are donated from breweries or a local community representative
  • we have 3-4 sponsors at each event
  • all other costs are covered by the three Bros so that 100% of all revenue goes to the Foundation
  • at each session, we bring some bombers from our private stashes and auction that bag off.
  • but wait, there’s more! On the last day of the conference, we auction ourselves off to do a beertasting session for the winning bidder

Results? You Want Results?

Year 1 was more successful than we could have imagined. And so, as you might guess, we were invited back for year 2 … and 3 …

We have just finished year 7 of this amazing journey and have served over 80 beers (we have never repeated a beer in seven years) to a total of nearly 400 session attendees. Most importantly, we’ve raised over $40,000 for the Foundation. Reminder … this is all just about sampling and enjoying great craft beer with our friends and peers – and we’ve raised a tremendous amount of money for a fantastic cause. Maybe we are saving the world.

Unintended Consequences

One thing we didn’t plan on was what has become the most powerful part of the entire adventure. I may have failed to mention that these sessions are the opening session of the conference. What we have learned is that this is the world’s greatest icebreaker/welcome wagon for an event. Imagine walking into a new conference, not knowing a soul; it can be a challenging and daunting endeavor, unless you’re a moron like me who will talk to anyone anywhere.

These sessions provide a shared experience in a relatively intimate environment. For the remainder of the conference, Mr. and or Mrs. First-Timer will see people that they met or saw in the tasting and have a very easy intro into a conversation.

The ultimate opening to the conference + unique networking opportunity + fundraising for a great cause + a nearly endless lineup of great craft beer. Are you ready for us to come host a session for you?

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington
Flight at Stout Brothers

Hopefully you’ve had a chance to visit all of the great Roswell breweries we highlighted recently, but it’s time to shift our attention just a little bit.

We’re not leaving Roswell just yet – instead we’re going to look at some of the great taphouses that are continually springing up here. And when I say taphouse, I don’t mean just a place with a great selection of draft beer – all 4 of these also sell packaged beer to go too! I’m getting ahead of myself.

Proper Hop Taphouse

 

Brand New Proper Hop

We’ll start with the newest kid on the block, but one that has developed an exceptionally loyal following almost immediately. Proper Hop first opened in December 2021, because who doesn’t want to open a new retail joint in the middle of a pandemic?!? PHT has about 20 tap handles and is continually rotating in new choices. They have a good selection of local beers, but they also bring in amazing choices from all over the country. But what really sets them apart is the name … or really, the reason behind it. Patrick, if you’re reading this – this is a compliment. You see kids, Patrick is a bit of a nerd. He believes in serving beer at the proper temperature and in proper glassware. So, if you’d like to sample something and want to make sure it’s being done properly – Proper Hop is a great place to be! (Pro tip – it’s also right next door to Moxie Burger for some delicious burgers!)

 

Oak Street Bottle Shop

Close your eyes and then walk inside Oak Street Bottle Shop. Seriously, the building isn’t what I would call scenic, but it will be all better once you get inside. The tap list is really solid  … about 15 beers on tap. But their package selection is just awesome. The truly remarkable thing here is the people that work there. They really connect with customers and genuinely want to talk beer (or really anything) with the folks that walk through the door. I sent them a message looking for a particular beer (which they DID have, by the way) and ended up discussing high school basketball recruits with them. Super cool crew there. And oh yeah – they also cater beer and wine for events and rent out their space for private parties. You really need to head over and check them out.

 

Stout Brothers Roswell Beer Market

You may know the Stout Brothers from some other locations (The OG in Smyrna and now in Woodstock too.) This little piece of heaven in Roswell can almost be overwhelming at first. You walk in the front door and are immediately greeted by a wall of about 40 taps. The massive chalkboard tells you what you’re seeing, from style, brewery, beer, price, ABV, etc. And fun fact, the chalk color tells you what style beer it is. I don’t know why I love that so much. This is THE place to stop in for a very wide-ranging flight of super high quality beer. And I haven’t even mentioned the package section yet. The BEST part is that nothing is pre-packaged. You don’t have to buy a 4-pack or 6-pack. It’s 100% mix-and-match … build your own pack-to-go. They have a tremendous selection of latest release cans, rare bottles, and most everything in between. (I’m talking craft beer – you won’t find Bud Light Mango on their shelves.)

The selections (both draft and packaged) are next-level, and the staff really knows their stuff. Tell them what you love and hate (be specific) and they can help you find something on the wall you’ll love.

 

Pinkies Up

Just a little farther up the road, you’ll find a place called Pinkies Up. This one really caught me off guard, to be quite honest. A friend told me about some of the amazing beers he found (specifically from Bhramari), and so I just had to check it out. Thank goodness. On my first visit, I was able to meet with Melissa Harbers … yeah she’s the one that runs the joint. This place is 50% wine-50% beer and 100% rock star level knowledge about both. Ask her about her favorite Super Tuscan and she’ll tell a story about a guy she met while in Italy … I’m totally making this up. I don’t know anything about wine, but that’s okay. Melissa knows just about everything.

I assumed that she was the wine half of the store, and there would be someone else who could swoop in and cover the beer side. No – it turns out the Wonder Woman knew just as much about beer as she did about wine. Unreal. So we talked for probably too long about Trappists and the modern IPA game … and … yeah – she knows her stuff cold.

Not as many tap handles as some other places, but the selection is fantastic, and you’ll feel like a long-time family member not long after you arrive. And check out some of the ridiculous bottles she has for sale on the right as you enter. And then buy me a few of them please?

 

Put a Bow On It

I teased it in part one of this story. Roswell has joined forces with a few other destinations in North Atlanta to create the Topside Tap Trail. This award-winning partnership between Visit Roswell, Awesome Alpharetta, and Visit Sandy Springs is a showcase for the growing and impressive beer scene just north of Atlanta. There are currently 7 breweries and yes – you can get a passport to gain stamps at each. Don’t be shocked if there is more to come down the road on this great collaboration.

 

That’s it! Now head on over to Roswell, and I’ll see you there.
Cheers!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

When looking back on the history of Roswell, GA, there are several distinct periods in its evolution: Native American territory, gold rush town, mill village, quiet suburbs, and now … great place to find a pint of beer! In this two part (for now) series, we’ll dig into the breweries and then the watering holes found in the city, 20 miles north of Georgia, that is repeatedly named one of the top places to live in Georgia.

The Breweries

Gate City Brewing Company

This is Roswell’s OG, or OB I guess. In 2015, Pat Rains and Brian Borngesser brought the first craft brewery to Roswell, and I guess they opened the floodgates. Good for us. Born in garages and moved to a converted mechanic shop, GCBC is now the anchor tenant on a fantastic and vibrant downtown Roswell scene. And it seems like they’re slowly taking over more and more real estate in Roswell. This is simply a great place to sit and sip a beer with friends. The original tap room spilled out behind the building, which brought about a new taproom back there. And then the expansion continued with a new entrance on Canton Street, the amazing new Artillery Room (you have to read about this place), and liquid expansion into craft cocktails.

Gate City is doing what I wish all breweries would. They have 16 beers on tap consisting of regular year-rounds, seasonal favorites that come back from time-to-time, and one-offs. The year-round selections include a Baltic Porter (Terminus), an IPL called Citras Maximus, my favorite – the Copperhead Amber (although you know I’m a sucker for an amber.) For the seasonal releases, some people gravitate to Gourd Vibrations in the Fall, but for my money, nothing beats Golden Ember. It’s a white stout that has a deliciously smooth finish and just makes you think that you’re sitting next to a fire. And now there’s barrel-aged version. Just … yes.

Now … I can’t vouch for the cocktails, because this isn’t BabyGotCraftVodka. I’ll leave that to the experts.

Variant Brewing

Seaweed-based beer. Delicious!

 

Just a few blocks away, you’ll find Variant Brewing. This has quickly developed a huge and loyal following as one of the highest-quality breweries in the state. Yes, the state. “Hey Mike, what does Variant specialize in?” Beer. Good beer. It’s not like it’s just a hop house or a place that only does the dark & heavies. They do just about everything, and they do it really well. A few of their year-round beers are absolutely insane in my opinion: Cashmere NEIPA, Norcross Street (a West Coast IPA), and Dark Alchemy, a fantastic oatmeal stout.

But it’s impossible to talk about Variant without discussing two main things. Variant has been producing special batches of barrel-aged stouts for a long time now, and they are the one thing that creates FOMO in more than any other. It all started a few years back with Cinnamon Roast Brunch and Good S’Morning. They have since added a Barrel-Aged Good S’Morning (which is one of the greatest things I’ve ever tasted), Dark Alchemy, and many more. Simply amazing.

The other is a total departure from the others I’ve mentioned so far. Variant has a year-round Raspberry Lemon Gose. It’s very good, and very sessionable at south of 5%. It’s not overly tart and drinks closer to a nice raspberry lemonade. Delicious and refreshing. But then it happened. The Imperial version came out. 4.8% became 10.5%; like became crave; sessionable became dan-ger-ous. Suffice it to say that this is a must-visit if you’re anywhere near.

From the Earth Brewing Company

Remember the old commercial by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?
“You got chocolate in my peanut butter! You got peanut butter in my chocolate!”

I think about that when I go to From the Earth.
“You put a brewery in my restaurant! You put a restaurant in my brewery!”

Our flight has been cleared for enjoying

I will admit to you that I was wrong. My first visit to FTE didn’t really impress me on the beer side of the house. It was okay to me, but not great. But the food – holy crap, the food was amazing. That’s what brought me back. And then I tried the beer again, and I was very pleasantly surprised. But, being an intrepid researcher  and reporter, I was afraid that my lowered expectations made the beer seem better than it was – only because I wasn’t expecting much. Nope – the beer was legit. And it keeps getting more legit-er. (It’s a word – no reason to look it up.)

You want the lighter stuff? Have a smooth drinking Golden Spiral. Wanna head for something in the middle? Brown Eyed Girl is your huckleberry. For the hop heads out there …wait until they come back out with Can’t Find My Way Home – a powerful and amazing triple IPA (aptly named when it comes in at 10.2%).

This place is amazing – and it’s equally as fantastic for the beer and the food. Oh, and the amazing concert series in the parking lot, but that’s a story for another day!

 

We’ll be back soon with part 2 in this series, including information on the award-winning Topside Tap Trail. In the meantime, you can find me at, basically, all the above.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

The story of Horned Owl Brewing is brought to you by the letter ‘P’: Patience. Persistence. Painstaking. Passion.

Joe Uhl was going to open a brewery north of Atlanta. Once he finally settled in on the location for the new spot on the square in Marietta, it was time to finalize the paperwork and get the deal rolling. Working with the city council and landowner, they were able to move the ball all the way down the field but just couldn’t quite get the ball over the goal line. So, he had to start from scratch.

And then he thought he had another location in Smyrna … no dice. And then it happened again. And again. Because of his background as the COO of a company that owns and operates restaurants and bars, Joe fully knew that it took a lot of patience and persistence. Those qualities ultimately led to this …

Fast forward to today. Horned Owl Brewing is a beautiful anchor in the brand new and booming entertainment district in Kennesaw. High ceilings, huge wooden beams, stonework in every direction – you get the feeling that an owl may swoop down and join you on the next stool while you’re there.

The servers were on point … sociable without being over-the-top and only too happy to talk about the beer there. I was mid-flight when they brought Joe over to make the intros. I was sucked in. Here’s a guy who has a very clear passion for what he does. After surviving all of the challenges to get this thing in the air, the pride bleeds out of him when he talks about the beer. (Pride – there’s another ‘p’ word for the day.) He watched how I held the glass and could tell that I was appreciative of the craft.

The product – all very high-quality and with a dizzying array of styles. This place has only been open since November and yet has twenty tap handles, including two dark beers on nitro. (Joe tells me they’ve had a few cask ales as well.) Of course, they make a lot of the standards these days: IPAs, hazies, stouts, lagers, wheat beers, etc. But what stood out to me was not only the presence of some oft-overlooked styles but the quality of them as well. Horned Owl has a Schwarzbier (Cover of Night), an ESB (Twoo), and a Weizenbock (Tawny.) I love these styles and hate that not many breweries offer them anymore. All three were so very well done. I really can’t overstate how amazing it was to see such a massive diversity of styles and the quality beer delivered with each. Yeah – I’ll be back on South Main Street in Kennesaw again soon.

Fun fact: Yes – every beer name is owl-themed. I assumed that it was because of the nearby Kennesaw State University Owls. That may be part of it, but Joe’s last name is German for owl.

So, soar on over to Kennesaw and saddle up for some of Horned Owl’s finest. It’ll be a hoot. (Sorry.)

 

This is the next installment in, “15 Minutes With …”. These posts are designed to be more than just a brewery review. We will attempt to dig deeper and do more than simply tell you what sort of beer and food you can find at various places. We want to delve into the stories and anecdotes … those eccentricities, quirks, and oddities that make each brewery unique.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

PETA Scores Victory Against Big Beer

St. Louis, MO – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has largely been a non-stop source of fodder for the world’s comedians for years … until recently. PETA, throughout its 4 decades of unintended hilarity, has been the group that has produced a slew of wait-is-this-an-April-Fools-Day joke campaigns. Here are some of the highlights: (these are actually all true)

  • Petitioned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to cancel the tradition of milk in the winner’s circle for two reasons:
    • It is seen as “cruel to cows”
    • And milk is racist because many African-Americans lack the enzyme needed to digest it.
  • Once protested against a Texas man who claimed to have hunted and killed Bigfoot. Yes … Bigfoot.
  • Tried to have the word ‘fish’ changed to ‘sea kittens’ because people would be less inclined to eat them.

Yikes.

But chalk one up for PETA. In a shocking turn of events, AB InBev, parent company of Budweiser and the famed Clydesdale horses has decided to cave to PETA pressure and will cease using the majestic creatures in their promotions. PETA President, Ingrid Newkirk was quoted as saying, “Well crap. That’s cool that we won once, but now I don’t have any reason to be insanely bitter. Not sure what we do next.”

Expect to see more of this …

But back to Budweiser. Their commercials during the holidays are part of the very fabric that makes December feel like a warm sweater. Those massive horses pulling a simple wagon in parades are the attraction – the highlight – that draws crowds by the millions. So, who will pull the wagons now? Who will ‘star’ in the holiday commercials now that the horses have been loosed from their supposed bondage? The bearded hipster … that’s who.

Known for their universally rugged appearance, chiseled good looks, and apparent strength (because ya know … they’re always wearing flannel), these studs will become the new workhorses of the AB InBev holiday season. Carlos Brito, CEO of Budweiser said, “They’re always hanging around the brewery, just standing around and giving us that cold, dead stare. I figure … why not put ’em to work?”

As for the horses, Brito said, “We’re just gonna open the doors and see where they go.” No word yet on what the Clydesdales have decided to do. I’m sure PETA has horse psychologists on standby.

 

This article is parody, in case you didn’t already know that. It’s meant to be funny so lighten up, Francis. If we use real people’s names, all the supporting details are totally made up. Except for the crazy PETA antics at the beginning – that was all legit.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

When you know, you know. Jessie and Kevin knew. You need to know, too.

The paddle is shaped like Amelia Island. I LOVE this!!

Kevin and Jessie O’Brien haven’t known forever that they would one day open a brewery, but looking back it’s clear that this was destined to happen. Jessie has had a passion for craft beer for a long time, stemming from their time at the University of Maine. Kevin is naturally a people person. He is warm and engaging … he has an amazing ability to make you feel welcome with a smile and a genuine interest in conversation. Combine those two with Jessie’s drive to dive into the science of brewing and Kevin’s natural knack for marketing and management, and we have a winner!

I first contacted them about a week before my recent visit to Amelia Island/ Fernandina Beach, Florida. I had hoped to at least get the typical, “Yeah, come on by and we can chat” response. But what I got was a thoughtful welcome and some thoughts on some beers I should be trying. And right then I knew – this visit became the priority for the weekend. Spoiler alert: I was not disappointed at all.

 

First Love Brewing is pretty new to the scene, having opened in June 2020.
Yes – they opened in the middle of a global pandemic …
In an economy largely focused on tourism …

They were actually set to open in March, but we know how that turned out. I was particularly struck with the positivity and optimism Kevin displayed when talking about that situation. “That was great for us, because it gave us more time – it was almost like we had a three-month soft opening.” Lemons –> lemonade.

Enough of the background … how was the product? I was ‘only’ able to try 11 of the beers they had on tap. 😁 One thing really stuck out to me looking at their lineup: no sours and no hazy IPAs. It seems a lot of breweries these days focus almost all of their attention on just those two styles. It makes sense, because that’s the crazy-fad-trend right now. First Love has light, dark, Belgian, light & crisp, heavy and complex. And amazingly enough, for a brewery barely in its infancy, everything I had was quite good. And I’m not just being nice. Everything was legit good. A dubbel, tripel, saison, red IPA, Baltic porter, rye amber …. the variety of styles and quality of the beer was truly astonishing. I guess those brewing science courses at Auburn University and Level III Cicerone training are working pretty well for Jessie!

The pizza was stupid delicious.

Do not sleep on First Love. They have big plans. The beer is taproom only … for now. Back to the aforementioned timing of the opening – this brewery opened against seemingly all odds, and has been successful despite the challenges. According to Kevin, they have received amazing and consistent support from the community … the people they live with and serve every day. Just wait until the world starts traveling again. Community is what they’re all about. I’m going to straight up steal a line from their website:

First Love Brewing is built around the idea of pursuing your passions and dreams. We are driven by the people we meet, the community that we live in, and the places we visit.

Community – that’s obviously what they are supporting. But what they may not even realize yet is … they’re building community too. Their flight paddle (pictured above) is shaped like Amelia Island. They’ll place your beers in the order you should drink them for the best experience. (Drink from north to south for optimal results.)  And they have a solid menu, too. This is not a ‘grab-a-pint-and-go’ sorta place. Sit, eat, sip, enjoy. COMMUNITY. The detail that goes into every aspect of the operation just screams that this is designed to be a piece of the Fernandina fabric for a very long time to come. I mean, they trained under a master pizza-dude in Chicago; they import their flour from Italy. The pizza is unbelievable. The beer is amazing. The people are genuine and authentically friendly. Now I know.

Again, when you know, you know. And now you know, too.

 

This is the first installment in a new segment entitled, “15 Minutes With …”. These posts are designed to be more than just a brewery review. We will attempt to dig deeper and do more than simply tell you what sort of beer and food you can find at various places. We want to delve into the stories and anecdotes … those eccentricities, quirks, and oddities that make each brewery unique.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

A fat dude smoking a pipe breaks into millions of homes every year, stealing milk and cookies, and leaving dirty coal behind for kids he deems ‘naughty.’ But at the same time, he plays favorites by giving supposedly ‘nice’ kids toys and other fun stuff. I could have a field day dissecting all of this nonsense, but I start by addressing this awful concept of leaving milk and cookies out all night. Does anyone really think that Santa wants to slurp down gallons of milk that’s been sitting out so long that it’s room temperature and maybe compromised? Gross. I think it’s time we start leaving a nice Belgian beer out for ole St. Nick. A delicious dubbel would be a great treat waiting for him at the bottom of the chimney. Let’s make it happen, people.

So, in proposing a change to long-held Christmas traditions, I started thinking about some of the songs we sing, too. I’m a sucker for good, quality Christmas music. But I think we could probably jazz up some of the titles, don’t you? Russ and I did some beerstorming (brainstorming while drinking beer) and came up with these soon-to-be holiday favorites:

Original song: I Wonder As I Wander
New title: I Wonder As I Wander … in downtown Asheville

Original song: Mele Kalikimaka
New title: Gimme Kalik and nachos

Original song: (I’m Dreaming of a) White Christmas
New title: (I’m Dreaming of a) Wit Christmas

Original song: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
New title: It’s Beginning to Taste a Lot Like Christmas

Original song: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
New title: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Alcoholic

Original song: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
New title: I Saw Mommy Drinking White Claw

Original song: O Little Town of Bethlehem
New title: O Little Town of Grand Rapids

Original song: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
New title: I Drank Some Bells on Christmas Day

Original song: I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
New title: I Want a Kegerator for Christmas

Original song: I’ll Be Home for Christmas
New title: I’ll Be Drunk for Christmas

Original song: O Holy Night
New title: Nothing else. I refuse to mess with this one.

Original song: Holly Jolly Christmas
New title: Hoppy Jolly Christmas

Original song: Blue Christmas
New title: Huge Guinness

Original song: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
New title: It’s the Most Wonderful Time For a Beer

Original song: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
New title: Have Yourself a Frosty Little Beverage

Original song: Where Are You Christmas?
New title: Where Are You Barkeep?

Original song: Frosty the Snowman
New title: Frosty the Beer Mug

Original song: I Saw Three Ships
New title: I Drank Three Pints

Ok … now it’s your turn. Drop some of your ideas in the chat below!

 

Note: I didn’t touch the 12 Days of Christmas, because the McKenzie Brothers already did that to perfection:

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

This post will be a bit of a departure. Yes, I’ll still talk about beer a little bit, but most of this will be on a larger topic.

If I were to ask you to close your eyes and picture a great customer service experience. You’ve been there … when someone went way beyond the call of duty, way past what you thought would have been enough … and sprinkled the magic pixie dust on a situation to make a tough situation magical. What companies come to mind? A lot of us will name the same ones: Chick Fil A, Ritz Carlton, Disney, and many others. These companies have a very well-earned reputation – and they work tirelessly to maintain that character.

Now – close your eyes again. Wait, you can’t close your eyes and read this. Ok, think again of a great customer service experience … and this time think of a time when you experienced great customer experience with a brewery. Ever have a can of your precious new 4-pack explode on you? Maybe you bought an ole reliable but it tasted … off. I have seen this happen so many times, and the reply from the breweries varies from “we’ll take care of this” to “who cares? If you don’t like it – don’t buy it again.” Or, we can look at it from another angle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a brewery and had an amazing time discussing the beers and styles available with whomever is behind the bar. I love it! And it makes me want to keep coming back.

Two stories – one about a brewery and one that’s completely unrelated. Pontoon Brewing, one of my all-time, everyday, go-to favorites put out a beer several months ago called Grand Theft Otter. I liked it. Some people didn’t. The brewery soon found out that some of the beer was not want they wanted it to be. Did the bury their head in the sand and hope no one would notice? Long story short, the beer oxidized and basically skunked. It happens. But the response is what wins the prize. Pontoon came straight out, owned it, announced it, and took care of the issue. They took the beer off the shelves, offered to trade out, any cans that were out in the wild, and promised to re-release the beer at a future date. (Spoiler alert – batch 2 was awesome.) The main takeaway here is that Pontoon took care of their customers – they addressed what they saw as a product that didn’t meet their standards, and in my opinion, won a lot of loyalty by doing so. Had they opted for the “F you … deal with it” mentality, I don’t think you could have said the same.

Fast forward to today and the totally unrelated story. I have fallen in love with a clothing company, Travis Mathew, and was set to place a new order this week. As it turned out, the description on the website had me a little perplexed and led me away from ordering the pants. I contacted customer service to confirm that I was understanding correctly. What I received back was mountains and heaps and buckets of fantastic. 1) They offered to find a pair of pants that would fit what I was looking for and send them to me for free. 2) They agreed that there was language in the description that could be misleading and made the change THAT SAME DAY. Seriously? I sent one customer service message and that resulted in an unreal response and an immediate change to their website? Well played, Travis Mathew. Well played.

 

Customer service – apparently it still exists.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

Turkey Day 2020 will be here soon. So, before you head out for your stock-the-fridge weekend shopping trip, we wanted to add to your list. Instead of waking up on Thanksgiving morning to fry your turkey and grabbing ‘whatever is in the fridge,’ we thought we’d offer a list of beers that pair well with some traditional Thanksgiving foods. Disclaimer: if you’re drinking craft beer with friends and family, watching football, giving thanks, and eating way too much food – you’re already winning. There’s really not a wrong beer choice. But if you’d like to get all snobby and beer nerd-y with your selections, here are some options for you.

Turkey

This is obviously the star of the show, and you want it to remain that way. You need to find a beer that won’t overpower the turkey (and gravy). You need something that can cut through the fat of the turkey skin and gravy. We recommend a good, dry, bubbly saison. If you can find one that’s been aged in oak … bonus points. We recommend Monday Night Barrel Farm Blend #2. Saison + grisette + Brett gives a great and fruit-forward combination of flavor that will dance nicely with the turkey.

Honey-Glazed Ham

Yes, we all know the name of the store where you’re going to get it, but I’ll stay general and say honey-glazed ham.
Playing Robin to the turkey’s Batman, honey-glazed ham finds its way onto many tables this time of year. The glaze on the ham brings a level of sweetness that shouldn’t be overlooked. A honey-glazed ham also brings some some salt to the party, so a good quality hefeweizen is the perfect way to balance it all out. Arches Queens Weiss is a very nicely-balanced beer that continues to turn heads in the beer snob world. Pro tip: if you want to stick to just one beer throughout the meal, this one (or any good hefe) will likely be your best bet.

Dressing

First things first – it’s dressing, not stuffing. If you want stuffing, hop in the car and drive about 8 hours north. We do dressing in the south.
Ok – back to beer stuff. Dressing is one of my favorites, and it has the backbone to stand up to heartier flavors. The spices in it are a great compliment to one of the world’s finest beer styles – the winter warmer. A traditional winter warmer does not have spice added to it, but I love those that add a slight kick of winter spice … clove, nutmeg, cinnamon. Every year I look forward to the release of Anchor Christmas Ale. The recipe is always slightly different (45 years and counting) and I can’t wait to get my hands on some this year!

Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole – that delicious scoop of gooey-yummy covered in the crunchy fried onions. YES! There is a great pile of flavor in that sinful concoction, so once again we need to find something that pairs nicely with it without detracting from the casserole. Also – cream of mushroom soup adds a heft to the dish, so a lighter-bodied beer works well here. I like Creature Comforts Table Beer does the trick. It’s flavorful but super light (at only 4.2%.) It’s going to compliment the casserole without attacking the taste buds.

Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows

Sweet, sweet, sweet. This dish might as well be dessert. The sweet potatoes already carry plenty of sweetness, and then you added slightly melted marshmallows on top … stop it. You need a beer here to completely counteract all that sweet. We go with a hop-forward IPA as the yin to the sweet potatoes’ yang. Think of this as the Thanksgiving version of salty vs. sweet – just like when you go to Wendy’s and get a Frosty and french fries and they taste so good as compliments to each other. There are so many great ones to choose from, but today we’ll go with Wild Leap Coast West Double IPA. It has a strong hop flavor, but it’s not over-the-top with bitterness (only 49 IBUs). The best part is – it runs at 10% which makes listening to the same story from your drUncle all that more palatable.

Pumpkin Pie

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without pumpkin pie. Winter spices plus sweetness give this one a pretty powerful taste, and one that needs a strong beer to stand up next to it. You need to find something that packs some punch, but won’t be too overpowering. We think a good porter has the perfect combination of roastiness and intensity to not only compliment, but actually enhance the flavor of the pie. Printers Everyday Black, roasty and not too heavy, will be a great buddy with your dessert. (Side note: Printers has a very cool story – totally worth a visit!)

 

And to cap it off, because getting through all of the dishes (or being forced to watching Detroit Lions football) can be not-so-fun, you might need one more to finish the day in style. What better way to cap it than with a super heavy barleywine or quadrupel? If you’re looking for a barleywine, head over to Dry County for Damn It All! At 11.5%, combined with all of the tryptophan in the turkey, you’ll be sure to be asleep on the couch before the Steelers kick off. If it’s quadrupel you’re after – grab some Wild Heaven Eschaton. This one gets bonus point for bringing in the holiday spices you’ve already been having all day. This one is always one of the highlights of my year!

 

Happy Turkey, everyone!!Let us know what YOU’LL be having on Thursday.

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington

It’s ba-a-a-a-a-a-a-ck! The holidays are approaching (finally) and it is time to start planning for the perfect gift(s) for the beer lovers in your life. We’re here to save you the Google-time … we’ve already done the shopping for you. Here are the top 12 gift ideas for beer enthusiasts for 2020.

Soberdough

Simple bread-making mix that uses BEER in the process. Their mix + your beer … mix, cook, and eat!! There are about 20 flavors to choose from, with savory, sweet, and spicy options available. Fun for the whole family!

Outdoor Beer Table

We’ve all said it before, “It’s so simple. Why didn’t I think of that?” It’s a stake with a tiny table on top … room for two beers and a snack. Tell me you won’t need this during the friendly backyard cornhole tournament.

Beer-BQ Sauce

Featuring beer from Jackie O’s in Ohio, there are three flavors of BBQ sauce infused with beer: Thai Sriracha, Honey Mustard, and Sweet & Smoky.

Poker Glasses and Coasters

What goes better with poker than beer? Fact – nothing does. These glasses and coasters will help you up the ante on your next poker night.

Pelican Sling Cooler

Ohmagoodness, yes. This cooler was designed specifically to hold a 4-pack of 16-ounce cans. Almost all I buy these days are 16 oz 4-packs, so this is brilliant!

Happy Hour in the Shower

Say it with me … shower beer. Those are happy words! The problem comes when it’s time to actually do the showering part. What to do with the beer? Worry nor more.

Complete Beer Course

Extremely highly-rated guide to tasting beer. This is a great gift for novice and expert alike. This description says it all, “Boot camp for beer geeks: from novice to expert in 12 tasting classes.”

Keter Cooler Table

Continuing with the backyard drink-holding trend. This table has a cooler-like bottom that can hold up to 40 cans with ice. Again, this is fantastic design.

Yoy Drink Holder

Apparently I am in desperate need of something to “Hold My Beer.” This simple gadget clips onto a table and serves as a drink holder/coaster combo when you’re on the go!

Brew Your Own IPA

Been thinking about homebrewing but not ready for the capital investment? Try out this kit that comes with everything you need to brew a gallon of West Coast IPA.

Belgian Beer of the Month Club

I’m going to put this in here every year until someone gets it for me. This is heaven delivered to your door every month for a year. Cousin Eddie said it best, “That’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.”

Viking Drinking Horn

I love everything about this. It’s rustic; it has a 97-year warranty (not sure what happens in year 98); has a cool factor that is so off the charts. I. Need. This. In. My. Life!!!

 

BONUS POINTS – when all else fails, support your local brewery. Buy gift cards, merchandise, and beer-to-go. Take a group of friends out for a flight-or-pint. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BUSINESSES!!

Mike Pennington by Mike Pennington