Author Archives: QcaleGirl

My 2016 Summer Favorite – Berliner Weisse

A few years ago, early on in my beer studies, when I first came across the definition of a Berliner Weisse, I became somewhat fascinated with the idea. It was something I’d never had before. It’s a German sour brewed with up to 50% wheat, mostly pale malt, and Lactobacillus in the secondary fermentation stage. (Side note – Lactobacillus is a form of lactic acid bacteria. You may be familiar with it from the world of yogurt.)

Anyways, for a Berliner Weisse, the combo of the ingredients results in a very sour ale with a low ABV, around 3%, light in color and body, with a nice spritzy quality to it. A refreshing beverage for this time of year. Traditionally in the German pubs, a Berliner Weisse was served, “mit schuss” or with one shot of fruit syrup (Raspberry or Woodruff are the traditional offerings) to cut through the sourness.

Last October was the one and only time I found a Berliner Weisse on tap, brewed locally, and served with the option of both traditional syrup flavors. This was at Geneseo Brewing Company. Delicious. Last summer Destihl popped up with Lynnbrook, a Berliner Weisse brewed with Raspberries. My first canned Berliner Weisse, and while I did enjoy it, it was a bit too sour for me to consider it sessionable.IMG_3648

Now, in this 2016 summer season, the style with fruit added into the brew has blown up in popularity and I couldn’t be happier. American brewers are kicking it up a notch (shockingly enough) and they are a bit higher in ABV than tradition dictates but delicious none-the-less.

Listed below are my top 3 favorite Berliner Weisses, with fruit added, so far this year:

  1. Tallgrass – Raspberry Jam – 4.3% ABV

Now this is a fantastic beer. It has everything I want from a Berliner Weisse, the color is beautiful, the carbonation is spot on with an effervescent quality and a nice, thick white foamy head that lasts for days. The Raspberry isn’t too overpowering, its nicely balanced with the hint of sour you get on the back end from the Lactobacillus. I would definitely call this sessionable. It is a great way to introduce people to sour beers as its accessible and palatable. IMG_3649 2. Smuttynose – Blueberry Shortweisse – 5.1% ABV

I am always blown away at what some brewers come up with as far as blending different flavors together to make something amazing. The tart of the blueberry combined with the sourness of the lactic acid combine to make a nice little beverage here. This is definitely the most sour of the 3 listed but I think it’s very well balanced. 
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3. Dogfish Head – Festina Peche – 4.5%

Dogfish’s Festina Peche, brewed with peach juice, is the breadiest of the three. The fruit flavor is so very delicate that the grain bill is more of a highlight here. The sour is present at the end, but no one thing dominates over anything else in this brew. It’s pretty impressive, really, and another great way to introduce hesitant beer drinkers to a sour.

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Oftentimes I meet people that are just absolutely turned off by the idea of a sour beer, depending on any number of things from bad experience to bad information. Many times it just takes a little bit of knowledge and curiosity to expel these past, often false, impressions. The sour beer spectrum is just that, a spectrum. There is no one style, not all sour beers are super puckery, these 3 beers prove that. I always encourage to try something new, push the boundaries of your tastebuds, and keep growing that palate. You never know what you may discover.

Cedar Rapids is All Right By Me!

In the past few years, I’ve discovered that there are a lot of Cedar Rapids haters out there. People think there’s nothing cool to do there or that is smells funny. Recently I spent a few days there, to check out some things I’ve heard about, and I found it to be a fantastically awesome area. So, I’m here to prove the haters wrong and encourage us Midwesterners to take some time to enjoy this city.

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IMG_3021 The first place I visited with the NewBo City Market. This area was ravaged by the 2008 flood, Cedar Rapids as a whole was greatly impacted by the disaster. But the NewBo neighborhood has joined together to evolve into a really special place.

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The NewBo City Market is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays only, and is filled with interesting food vendors of all different  ethnicities and nationalities.  They have other locally craft goods for sale as well as a great Visitor’s Center, where I got most of my ideas from. Outside the market they grow their own herbs and have a lovely place to eat your treats.

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While talking to the very nice lady at the Visitor’s Center, I learned all about the statue parade, “Overalls All Over”. In celebration of (what would be) Grant Wood’s 125th birthday, 25 statues were created of the father and daughter from the painting, “American Gothic”. Each were then sponsored by a business and painted by a local artist. 
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I had spent the first couple of hours of the day enjoying the market until my partner in crime showed up for lunch. I wanted to go to a new place, so we picked the NewBo Alehouse, which was just across the intersection from the market. Originally I thought we’d go to Parlor City, a great restaurant with a fantastic draft list, but the alehouse caught my eye because I could tell from the architecture that it obviously used to be a bank. 
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The place was cool, but that’s all I’ve giving it. The service was terrible, it was dead inside and we couldn’t tell who was our actual bartender, because at least 4 people took care of us. The food was not good, the bacon we were served was obviously rancid (and when we sent it back, the “chef” claimed disbelief), and the can of beer you see below was $7. What the hell?

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After our lame lunch, we had an hour to kill before hotel check-in time, so I dragged my partner on to the Brucemore tour. Brucemore is a mansion that was built in 1884 and then was occupied by 3 different families over the years.

IMG_3041The grounds now sprawl out over 26 acres. 
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The garden was beautiful. The whole place was quite lovely and the tour was fun, though they didn’t allow any photography inside.

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After our tour we checked into the Hilton. I always pay a little extra to stay here because its in the heart of downtown Cedar Rapids, so you can walk to a lot of different places. They do have a pool, but no hot tub.

The afternoon was reserved strictly for breweries. Duh. The first one we visited was Lion Bridge Brewing Company. We got great service, really good beer, and the place had a cool atmosphere.

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IMG_3062It was right along a river walk, so we took a little jaunt across the bridge to appreciate the beautiful Iowa River. I love a good river town. 
IMG_3064 IMG_3065While on the river, we found another statue. This one was inspired by Andy Warhol, the museum behind it was featuring a Warhol exhibit but my partner in crime thinks he’s a crock, so we skipped it. 🙂 Still love that statue though. 
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Our second of three brewery visits was to Turner Alley Brewing Co. A massive facility. We got to meet owner and head brewer, Bill Patterson, who was an incredibly kind and gracious host.

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Our third and final brewery stop of the day was at the newly opened Iowa Brewing Co. 3 for 3 on great beer in the city, 3 for 3 on great service at the breweries, and 3 for 3 on cool places to hang out.

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Iowa Brewing Co. is one of the first I’ve visited that has vessels laid on their sides specifically for lagering beer. I was impressed and excited all at once.

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IMG_3089At the visitor’s bureau I got a map that had all the statues listed on it, so there were a couple of times where I said, “Oh! We’re just a few blocks away, can we….?” 
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One of the things I often do on my journeys is to hit up the local farm-to-table restaurant. Once again, from a tip from the visitor’s center, we had lunch at Sauce Bar & Bistro. Holy cow. I highly recommend this place, one of the best meals I’ve had all year.

I had the Masa Polenta Sopes – 2 tamale cakes with chicken and homemade salsa, black beans, and Jack cheese. The greens were tossed in a green chili and ranchero sauce, which I enjoyed but all of my attention was on the polenta. It was the most perfect texture and the right amount of cheesiness. Yes.

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IMG_3098That was all done in the 24 hour period. Fun.

The next day I spent in Cedar Rapids, I visited two other breweries I hadn’t visited yet. Our first time was Quarter Barrel, a brewery and arcade bar that also serves food. We didn’t eat there, but their beer was pretty good.

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Then we stopped over at Third Base Brewing. Garbage. The beer was horrible and the atmosphere was suffocatingly tame.

As we drove to Third Base, we passed by a place called Rocktop that had a kick-ass looking rooftop patio (a slight obsession of mine). So after our tasteless experience at the previously visited establishment, we made an unplanned pitstop and refreshed our pallets with a Moscow Mule, one of the best patio drinks.

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Afterwards we headed towards our destination for the day, downtown to the Paramount Theater to see a show, a very cool venue I must say.

So to all the CR skeptics out there, open your mind. The area has a lot of fun, cool, locally crafted things to enjoy, give it a chance.

Update for My Sister

I was talking to my sister on the phone earlier today and I was telling her about all the stuff I’ve been working on this week. While she’s awaiting a new phone, her last one died at the hands of a 2-year-old, I told her I would take a bunch of pictures of throw ’em up here. Enjoy.

 

The Stage is where I’m going to have my record player all set up. IMG_2902

I moved the bed from the Fireplace Room to the Dad Room, and set up a second living room in it’s place.

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The Computer Room is still as such, but now I have a lot more room to work on some of my other creative endeavors. I’ve completed and picked out all of the paintings, pieces, and collages I will hang in this room, now I just have to figure out how….

IMG_2904 IMG_2905 IMG_2906I’m pretty happy with the way the Dad Room is turning out. All the weird patterns and different shades of copper, cream, and blue are working well together. 

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And here’s some of the collage work I did this week…up close…First pages for my book, second art for my wall.

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What my creative process looks like. 🙂

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My First Trip to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

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I recently had the pleasure of visiting Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for the first time. We stayed at the Abbey Resort, a sprawling, 90-acre resort located in Fontana, on the Abbey Harbor, just off of Geneva Lake.

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We chose this destination purely for relaxation purposes. After a very busy May, my partner in crime and I were both very much in need of some time away. At first this was a little hard for me, I’m an active person who usually has a lot going on; and when I travel, I like to explore my new terrain and see what’s out there. The thing is, there wasn’t that much to do, and that was the point.

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So we arrived, checked in, spent the next hour navigating the massive resort and all of it’s parking lots and finally settled in. The above picture was the view out our backdoor. The picture below is the friend I found in the tree in our backyard. (It tickled me….where did he come from?!)

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The first night we were there we walked around the resort and the harbor it sat upon. We ate at one of the resort’s three restaurants, then walked down to Harpoon Willie’s, a fantastically fun establishment and the only one we visited twice while in town. The bartender, Stephanie, was awesome; her and local man, John, at the bar gave us the best local intel.

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After having a cocktail there, we walked back along the water and stopped at a place called Chuck’s, a standard lake bar. Afterwards we went swimming, ordered room service, and called it a night.

Breakfast the next day….
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After more swimming and coffee and newspapers, we decided to drive into Lake Geneva, the city, to have lunch before touring the local observatory. I had heard from a couple of different sources to eat at Popeye’s so that swayed our decision. The food was excellent. We split Shrimp Alfredo and the Cheddar Burger, which was chosen because of the cheese description on the menu, “a scoop of cheddar cheese sauce on top of a slice of sharp cheddar cheese”. You trust Wisconsinites when they talk about cheese.

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Well it was voted “the best”….

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After lunch we headed to the Yerkes Observatory. Why? Because it’s one of the biggest telescopes EVER, that’s why…and that’s cool to me. What was not cool? The tour guide.

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I called ahead to make sure there was a tour and what time to arrive. “Sometime between 1:50 and 1:55”, said the lady on the phone. This should have been a sign. Didn’t matter though, we arrived at 1:58 and they still let us in.

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The place is absolutely beautiful. The history is somewhat fascinating, but because the tour guide was so terrible, it was very hard for me to concentrate on what he was saying. It would have been better if it was self-guided, with like a handout, with all the facts I need to know. I can learn on my own, without being talked to like a 5 year-old, which is what said tour guide did.

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I have to admit, though, he had some good info. He talked to us about the architecture of the place, the sizes of different telescopes, how they work, and how the glass for them was created – which I had never considered before.

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He didn’t really say what this thing below is, but I found it to be hilarious. (I’m pretty sure I used to have that desk.)

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After nap and swim time, we had wine and cheese at the piano bar on the resort. The piano man was amazing, at times he would play one-handed while rocking on a trumpet with the other. Despite the tour guide, this by far was my favorite day.


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Our last day was more of the same, leisurely eating and drinking. I had to visit the one brewery in town, however they didn’t open until 3pm so we killed some time at this super cool, empty, wine store and lounge, The Bottle Shop.

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We split two different flights, the “Sweet” and the “Sparkling”. I rarely drink white wine so it was a nice change, a perfect pairing with the very hot afternoon outside. I was pleased with the weather we were gifted with while there, it rained a bit each day, but never when was inconvenient for us.

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Geneva Lake Brewing Co. was all right. I had their Double IPA, my partner in crime had their flagship, the IPA. The brewer and assistant brewer were there and let me look around a bit, it was kind of messy and not well put together, plus the brewer was kind of rude. (The assistant brewer was super nice.) The beer was all right though, I’ll give him that.
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For our final evening we wanted to have a nice dinner somewhere, so we picked Medusa. It was recommended to us by many of the people we talked to when we asked for the best fine dining restaurant in the area.

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We had the place to ourselves at 6 o’clock at night, which was perfect. It was somewhat close quarters, a smaller restaurant, so I doubt I’d like it much while it was busy. I was fascinated by this monitor above the bar; it was the only television in the place and it showed what the chef was preparing.

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I got the filet and it was delicious. They had this homemade ketchup that had red peppers in it that was magical.

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Overall my time in Lake Geneva was exactly what I wanted. Relaxation, delicious food, great company. I recommend it to anyone who wants a vacation where there isn’t too much more to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trappist Westvleteren 12

After my first home brew experience, I shared with my fellow brewers a Wastvelteren 12, also known as the “Best Beer in the World”. It is a 10.2% Quadrupel brewed by Brouwerij Westvleteren (Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren), is a brewery founded in 1838 at the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus in Vleteren, Belgium. They began selling this particular brew to the public in 1940.

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It was in the early 2000’s when the beer exploded in popularity as Rate Beer.com dubbed it “The Best Beer in the World”.  The brewery went from having 30 some visitor’s a day to lines out the door trying to buy the brew.

There are 11 Trappist monasteries producing beer currently, Brouwerij, produces the fewest amount of gallons (126,000) a year, where Chimay produced the most, (3.2 million). Despite the demand, Brouwerij has no desire to increase production, the brewing process is solely to support their monastery.

The monks brew 70 days out of the year. 5 brew, 5 bottle, on the original copper kettles, the only monastery to keep theirs during both world wars. And the beer retails $2 a bottle at the brewery. Fascinating.

I was given the beer as a present and sat on it for years. I felt like my first time home brewing would be a nice ‘thank you’ gift as well as a good way to mark the occasion. image1

The brew was perfect. I have never had anything like it. Fruity, sweet, datey, pruney, with hints of candied sugar. There was no burn despite its high ABV, it was dangerously smooth. I hope to meet this beer again someday….maybe even visit where its from.

My First Home Brew Day!

Sunday, March 13th, 2016, marked a very special occasion for me, my first batch of home brew. It took place in the ‘Boar’s Nest’, pictured below, my friend’s pretty awesome man cave. IMG_2044

At the last MUGZ home brew club meeting, two names were drawn to brew a beer with ingredients provided by the club; the same grain bill, hops, and yeast but the brewer comes up with the recipe. Then we meet up in April and drink them both and talk about it.

My name was pulled. I even specifically said, “don’t put my name in there!!” I’m not a home brewer, I don’t have a brew set up at home, I attend these meetings for the love of information and creativity. But I guess, after 4 years of hanging around the QC home brewers, its about time I start brewing myself.

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So I went over there around 1pm, we got the electric system all set up and water filling and then heating up.  We then milled the grain with a cool rig where an electric drill became a crank turn.

Once we had enough water and it was hot enough (166 degrees), we “mashed in”, which is a brewers way of saying we dumped grain into super hot water and stirred in a round with a wooden paddle.

Then we waited for an hour to let the grain germinate a bit, so we could open it up and get it to release sugars.

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Then we sparged. The grain settles to the bottom of the kettle and acts as a filter. I poured hot water over it, while it was draining into the kettle and having that nice sugar water, or wort, run off.

This was also the first hop drop. We then brought this sugary water up to a boil and kept it there while we performed the second and third hop drops every 30 minutes. This is also when we had to rehydrate the yeast – see our yeast was in this powdery form but we added it to 100 degree water to wake it up a bit before adding it into the wort.

 

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After the boil and hop drops we put an immersion chiller in the drop the temperature as quickly as possible. We transferred into the carboy fermentor and pitched the yeast.

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Now it sits in this fridge until it is transferred into a keg, carbonated, and dry-hopped. It will be unveiled on Sunday, April 24th, 2016 at the MUGZ Meeting at Rebellion Brew Haus.

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The Fireplace Room: Project #2

IMG_2101The second room I decided to paint is the Fireplace Room. I painted it the hospital-gown green many years ago with my father. It took us three or four days to complete the job. This is why I was dreading it at first, but then I realized the difference between cheap paint (green) and good paint.

I purchased a 5-gallon bucket of Eggshell Behr Paint from Home Depot and it has worked phenomenally for me in both rooms. I’ve had to do one coat in both rooms and the color turns out smooth and consistent. The whole painting process in this room took about 6 hours. Set up and tear down, I’d say 9 hours total.

First things first….TAPE. I hate this part the most.

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Second…patch any holes or cracks….

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Third, go to town. (And by that I mean paint.)

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I absolutely love the way it turned out. The eggshell compliments the wood in the room so well, it brings about a nice warmness which is nice compared the sterile green it was before.

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For now it is set up as a second bedroom for my sister, niece and brother-in-law who will be coming to stay with me soon! Then eventually it will be turned back into a living room.

 

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My First Trip to Galena, Illinois

galena-mainThe title of this entry is a bit misleading in that I have been to Galena, many many times, but only straight to Chesnut Mountain Resort, I had never spent any time in the town. So when my buddy asked if I wanted to get out of town for the day and check it out, I naturally said, “yes”.

It’s an easy hour and a half drive up Highway 61 in Iowa, then you cross over the Mississippi River in Dubuque. We got really lucky with the weather we had that day, it was windy but the breeze was warm and the sun was shining oh so brightly. It was perfect.

Galena is a super cute town. Tall brick buildings filled with shops up and down a crowded street. We visited on a Sunday and weren’t the only ones with the idea of a day trip to the city, the streets were bustling with folks of all ages, shapes, and sizes.

galena-mainWe decided on eating lunch at One Eleven Main, a farm to table restaurant, a menu filled with local fare and handmade concoctions, a place right up my alley. I ordered a bloody mary and a cheeseburger, a fairly standard order for me, both were delicious.

IMG_2206 IMG_2205Afterwards we just meandered up and down the street, popping into different stores selling anything from antiques to toys to lingerie to wine and cheese, Galena has a little something for everyone.

I clearly had to stop at the Galena Brewing Co. I have had several of their beers before, in fact their Coffee Porter was the first beer I ever tapped at REB. I was impressed by their output given the space they have to work in.

IMG_2212 IMG_2211We popped into the Great American Popcorn Co. It was amazing. They handed out samples of any popcorn you wanted to try as well as spoonfuls of warm caramel they use for their caramel corn. Mmmm.

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Afterwards we stumbled into Jamie’s Wine Studio and had a guided tasting with Jamie herself. It was fun, there was another couple there too and the 5 of us ended up spending a good amount of the afternoon in there together. The place is a gorgeous wine store with a bar in the back. They serve cocktails as well as glasses of wine. It was a little pricey but a good time.

1913873_1027592503930439_2985098380543061510_n 1186852_613513302005030_1126608578_n I loved my time up in Galena, it was far too short of  a visit. I look foward to returning again soon. Next time we’re staying in a Bed and Breakfast and I look to explore the nightlife of the little town.

Beware QC On Tap is Back

For some reason, America’s On Tap craft beer festival franchise, is coming back to the Expo Center on Saturday, April 16th. I heard nothing but negative feedback from the attendees last year; ran out of the good beers they did have, it was too few tickets for too many dollars, the lines were outrageous.

And yet, they return….and I know why! This is a huge, bi-state craft beer market, filled with people that will show up, will wait in line, and will appreciate true craft. However, we are a spoiled bunch of Quad Citians; not only do we have 6 breweries within the 4 quads but many more in the outer lying areas. We also have 2 home brew clubs that are filled with incredibly talented individuals, we have a meadery, a couple of distilleries, a beer university and a local beer historian!

To put it simply, we are no joke. The Quad Cities knows about its beer and the greatness that’s being produced today. That’s why I’m still boycotting this ridiculous affair. Once I make up mind, I’m pretty adamant, I felt the exact same way last year:

2015 Article on Why I Would Not Go to QC On Tap.

The Cold Room – Project #1

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1921 is massive. And it needs a ton of work. However, the house itself is in solid shape, most of my tasks are cosmetic but they’re still things that I want to do and come with several benefits attached. Because my home is so big, I’m taking things one room at a time, it’s the only conceivable way for me to tackle the ‘to-do’ list without going crazy.

I chose the Cold Room for my first project. It’s the least used room on my floor so it could stand to be “under construction” for any length of time. We call it the Cold Room because it was just that, before my father replaced all of the windows in the house. Every Fall we would put plastic over the windows in all the rooms, a daunting task that took all weekend long typically, even with all 3 of us working. Now with the energy efficient windows, I close one of the two vents going into the room in the wintertime, because it gets super warm. But the name remains.

AH5A0041This is what the room looked like for the last several years. It was my television room, just off my bedroom, on my side of the house.

First thing I did was remove the carpet…

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In both rooms on my side of the house, under the carpet are wood floors that have been painted only about two feet in, all the way around the room. I’m guessing there was a rug “installed” here and has long sense been removed.

The room has fake wood paneling on the walls and I did a little research, decided to paint it. I sanded the walls down, then wiped them off, then taped all the edges.

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I chose a neutral paint color. I have 6 very large rooms, 2 bathrooms, a walk in closet and two huge hallways. I’m going to try and keep things in a similar color palette without making it all look the same. I also have some very high ceilings, so I’ve got to keep it light. I bought a 5 gallon bucket of this paint and intend on using it in the Entry Way and the Fireplace Room as well. And quite soon I believe.

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I’m just about there…..I’m getting really excited!!

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Finally found the right rug, pillows, and art! (Thanks to my moms for the painting.) As soon as I can get someone over here to help me hang it up in a not so crooked fashion, I’ll post the final pic, room completed 😀

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