Trips Both Educational & Relaxing: The Beercation


Please pass the discount chocolate hearts.

A few days before Valentine’s Day I went to Target to stock up on heart-shaped chocolate edibles that are my reason for the season, plus some stretchy, comfy pants to wear while eating. Much to my surprise, all the heart-shaped everythings were half-off and, instead of comfy pants, a jungle of bikinis greeted me in the lady’s department. I had forgotten that department stores operate on a retail version of “bar time,” and it was closing hour for winter.

While I try to spend as little of my existence on earth thinking about, purchasing, or wearing bikinis, the tiny, brightly colored scraps of fabric did remind me of summer, vacations, and then drinking good beer while on vacation. It’s one of my most favorite things to do.

There are two widely agreed upon types of vacations: the one in which you schedule every minute of your allotted time to fit in as much sightseeing as humanly possible; and the one in which you relax for every minute of your allotted time or until your brain attains the consistency of flan. There is no such complexity in beer-focused vacations. Continue reading

The TLT: Summer Between Two Slices of Bread

The TLTBoy, do people love their bacon. Rarely have I come across a food that inspires such raw passion in people. Just this week, while a co-worker, Devin, and I were discussing the Powerball jackpot having reached astronomical sums, he said that if he won, he would throw me a cool couple million if I, a longtime vegetarian, would eat an entire pig. I’m not sure if this was meant to be some kind of gladiatorial entertainment or if he merely wanted to share his love of pork with the world. Devin did not win Powerball, so I guess we will never find out.

But that does not mean that I am immune to bacon’s charms. I have very happy memories of childhood summer dinners that consisted entirely of big BLTs and fresh ears of boiled sweet corn. To me, bacon is the taste of summer, and a curious package that my mom sent me while I was living in Cambodia helped me to recreate that taste in vegetarian form. Along with other comforts of home, like American magazines, was a shaker of something called Bacon Salt, completely vegetarian but very bacon-y. Bribing the postman to get that package out of hock might have been some of the best money I ever spent. I sliced some tofu from the market very thinly, sprinkled it with bacon salt, popped it in the oven, and boom…it was like I was back in Ohio. The Tofu, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich was born.

Over the years I have perfected the recipe, and I think it’s much tastier than the substitute bacon that you can buy at the grocery store. I will share it below for any bacon-loving vegetarians or anyone who is craving something a little lighter than pork on a hot summer evening. Make one soon while the sweet corn is plentiful and the tomatoes are at their juiciest.

Tofu Bacon Continue reading

Bottled Sunshine: a Summer Beer Sampler

Southern Tier's Hop Sun: the last & best beer we try...coincidence?

Last summer we discussed a variety of styles typically put out as summer beers. This year it’s time to get down to brass tacks (whatever that means!) and sample some breweries’ summer offerings.

We pick the first beer to try because its label was the most summery: Brooklyn Summer Ale. Its initial sharp bite brings you right out into a sunny summer afternoon picnic before it smooths out and takes you to a shady place. In fact, these exact words float through my head as part of the Pixie’s hit, Gigantic. Though an ale, the beer is pilsner-esque with that taste in the back of the mouth that borders on skunky. Must not be too bad though, because I quickly forget to taste it and instead debate the relative creepiness-level of this song: like, is the singer a voyeur or envious or both? And then admit that, man, it took me a long time to get that whole “hunk of love” line.

Up next is Victory’s Summer Love — far from a beer you’d get at a baseball game, despite the game-themed label. The perfect juxtaposition to Brooklyn, its bright sunny taste began smooth and ended dry. Reminiscent of a good pinot grigio. Suddenly and inexplicably I’m watching Liam Lynch’s This Town Sucks which I immediately recognize as my own teenage anthem to summertime doldrums. I think I quite like this beer and ponder what a difference a little Summer Love would have made to my seventeenth summer. Continue reading

A Schooling on Summer Beers

Every day I wake up and think to myself, "you never have to go to school ever again," and then I can get up.

The other day I saw a school bus drive by and my stomach dropped. I felt the same wave of dread that came over me at the end of every summer, ages six to seventeen. I’ve found there’s nothing better to rid oneself of this anxiety than indulging in something that reminds me of adulthood – like a good beer. The only question we have to answer then today is: “what exactly is a summer beer?” The answer: I don’t know and ohmigod we’re running out of summer!

There are dozens of brews out there that call themselves “summer beer,” such as the Sierra Nevada Summerfest sweating on my desk at this very moment. The language on all their labels promises crisp, light, thirst-quenching drinks. For the most part, they all have a fairly low alcohol content, too, lending themselves to long, hot afternoons. With those characteristics in mind, let’s take a look at some of my favorite styles that will cool you down on these remaining Indian summer days.

Wheat beers cut the heat pretty efficiently, and I find hefeweizens to be some of the most effective. Yeasty and fruity, they come in pretty tall, thin glasses with a curl of lemon or orange on the lip. (A highly contested piece of fruit, as some so-called aficionados claim it ruins the taste and head. Come on, let’s have a little fun here.) The best hefe I ever had was a Weihenstephaner (they’re also fun to say!) on a blistering day in Boston. Continue reading

Lasagna Roll-ups…Olé!

lasagna rollsIn the dog days of summer, most people are loath to turn on their ovens, but I always think of it as lasagna weather. My sibling’s birthdays in July and August were occasions upon which they were allowed to control the culinary fate of the rest of the household. Ryan birthday comes first and, sensibly enough, he always decreed that my mother should make Lasagna Roll-Ups. Dawn, forced into making a choice a mere fourteen days later and feeling pressure to change it up, usually went with Chi-Chi’s Mexican Restaurant. (Despite her yearly pleading with my father not to reveal to the singing waiters at Chi-Chi’s why we were there, we have many photos of my sister as a sullen teenager with a sombrero crammed on her head, scowling at a softball-sized serving of fried ice cream with a candle stuck in it.)

I have nothing against Chi-Chi’s but I always felt like my sister got a raw deal, being robbed annually of those lasagna rolls. This recipe has ruined me for any other variety of lasagna. When I first tasted the layered version, it seemed like a slapdash disaster compared to the firm cheesy bundles that my mother would pull sizzling from the oven. Below, I’ll post my Great-Aunt Mary’s original recipe as well as a video showing how you can tweak it to your own tastes.

And here’s the original recipe. Continue reading

Summer Cocktail Spectacular

cocktailTemperatures are once again rising like a flock of seagulls on the wing. It’s important to hydrate…and why not throw in a little gin while you’re at it? We’re calling on all you gifted mixologists out there to cool our sweaty brows.

Send your signature summer cocktail recipes to We’ll try the ones we like best and rate them according to taste, creativity and capacity to refresh.

It’s only right that the winners receive a token of our gratitude. What will it be? An artful swizzle stick? A crocheted beer coozie? A hand-mixed glass of Shannon’s signature cocktail, the Bee’s Knees? You’ll just have to win to find out.

So get to it! Shake, stir, and please, please chill. The address for entries is, one more time,

I’ve Always Depended On the Ryeness of Strangers

ryeness of strangers“This – this is the Blanche DuBois of beer! Do you know who that is?” My aunt looks at me, disbelieving, and then wheels around to look at my father, “These ‘young people’ don’t get the reference!” She has just finished her sample of beer number three and sits on the floor in mock indignation. I’m embarrassed that I don’t immediately recognize the name and smile back idiotically. My aunt has spent the entire day visiting with her older sister and her elderly mother and has a well-deserved jump on the rest of us in terms of beer sampling. She lays on her back. “There’s one more, right?” I answer that there’s two. “Oh, Jesus.”

Today we’re tasting rye beers. Why rye, you ask? Because they’re hip, dammit, and like most hip things I know of, they’ve been hip for a while but I just noticed them. Rye beers are simply beers that have some rye brewed in the mash along with the traditional barley.  They’re dry, bitter, sour, and stick with you; there’s a Woody Allen joke waiting to be made here and I’ll let you do it. I have found them a welcome addition to the brutally hot afternoons of Ohio in the summer – perfect for those of us tired of hefeweizens and sangria.

The tasting starts off with a bang as we all say cheers and take a swallow of Founders Red Rye PA (6.6% abv). Right off the bat we get to play with the word “mouthfeel,” as this is positively sparkly. Continue reading