Friday, August 26, 2011

A Surly Attitude

Cans, Kegs and Malt
Recently I participated in Surly Brewing tour in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.  Surly was a brand that I had no experience with before this tour.  The only thing I knew before arriving at the brewery is how hard it is to book a tour, with dates closing within an hour from them becoming available.  That should have been my first clue that Surly fans are loyal fans. 
My tour started in early evening.  My small group checked in and received five sample tokens and a sheet describing what they had on tap.  Immediately we started to sample, we were each allotted five small but satisfying samples.  The tap room had a party feel as they pumped in music and groups of friends found spots to stand and talk about their samples and life in general.  It was announced that the tour would start soon and that we could grab a sample before we went into the brewery.  Most guests than grabbed a sample glass to sip on as they were in the brewery.  The first half of the tour focused on the history and future plans of Surly.  There was then a short break during which guests could grab another sample or examine the brewery.  One of my friends a home brewer was impressed with how close he could get to some of the equipment.  I would say for a home brewer this field trip is a treat as they can examine larger scale brewing equipment and compare it to there home setup.  The second half of the tour consisted of how beer is made in the brewery.  The brewery and tour was all held in one room. 
During this tour I was impressed with several things about Surly:
·         Surly is growing:  In 2006, they produced 1,748 kegs.  In 2009, that jumped up to 18,174 kegs.  This year they estimate they will sell around 35,000 kegs.  With that sort of growth, even with new equipment they are clearly busting at the seams.  So it was exciting to hear their plans for future growth. 
·         Surly drinkers are Surly fans:  Surly has created a loyal customer base that knows their beer, knows Surly (including the staff) and associate themselves with the Surly brand.  Several on this tour had taken this tour before! 
·         Have fun and others will learn:  Our tour guide was great.  He was a volunteer that clearly loves Surly the brand.  He loved telling us about the history of Surly and beer making.  And despite some kid questionable language, his attitude helped us to learn about beer and the science behind it better than we would have in a more formal setting. 
I chose the following five beers for my samples,
·         Coffee Bender: One of my companions said this was a must try due to its uniqueness, so I jumped in and selected it first.  It is a dark brew infused with coffee.  The dark stout mixes well with the rich coffee flavor and is a unique taste with a coffee after taste.  My first sample was a success, but of the five I drank this was only my third favorite. 
·         Hell: Hell is a light lager that I chose due its seasonal nature.  It was good but very light and not a preferred beer for someone who prefers porter.  But I would choose this over any large brewer light beer if I had a choice.  But it was my least favorite of my samples. 
·         Furious: Wow, now this is a unique beer.  I chose it because this seemed to be one of Surly’s more popular offerings.  It is an India Pale Ale loaded with hops.  It is probably one of the most bitter beers that I have ever drank where hops is the clear and overriding flavor.  It was my 4th favorite sample. 
·         Bitter Brewer:  I looked over at my friend and said, “Can I hug it?” My first sip reminded me of English Ales that I discovered when visiting the United Kingdom.  This is my preferred taste profile, along with porters, in beers with a rich orange color and bitter flavor.  This was my favorite Surly brew and I would definitely pickup this seasonal beer if I ran across it. 
·         Bender Ale: This is a good, rich and satisfying porter and my second favorite of all my samples.  If I had to pick a Surly when Bitter Brewer is not available this would be my go to option.    
I feel weird rating these beers.  Overall, I enjoyed all five brews I sampled.  Surly Brewing is a growing local company that in many ways is the American dream, with a founder who followed what he loved and found others in employees and customers who shared his dream.  I would take other friends to this party, I mean tour, in an instant and find it easy to cheer on this company.    
Words to Remember

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hell is Real (But I Hate to Admit It) by Brian Jones

Brian Jones in Hell is Real (But I Hate to Admit It) discusses his voyage of self-discovery that the Hell of the Bible is real and how it has impacted his life.  Jones examines why he personally failed to hold to a personal belief in heaven and why as group Christian by in large do not believe in a real hell.  The then details how a real belief in the doctrine of hell has impacted his ministry and moved him to become very serious about salvation and helping others to avoid an eternity in hell.  Finally, he provide his readers practical advice and guidance to leading non-believers to a saving faith in Jesus, and thus helping them to avoid an eternity of wrath. 

Overall this text led to mixed reactions from me.  First, realizing that I have failed to understand my own beliefs more fully on heaven and hell I have found the recent literary conversation about heaven a timely and interesting one.  And this book definitely falls into that conversation, and provides a different view point of once you believe in hell this is how you can behave.  And I found his evangelism advice helpful, useful and realistic especially as one who sees this area as a weak spot.  And I love his explanation of a Christian as an foreign ambassador living amongst unbelievers.  But there were also misses for me.  He discusses uncovering how Bible study led him to discover the truth of hell for himself.  I would have loved for him to walk his readers from fully through this process.  Additionally, he discusses God’s wrath, but in my mind never fully answers the question of why God is wrathful.  Finally, Jones who clearly is a compassionate man describes himself and statements as a way that can only be seen as harsh and unkind.  These comes especially in the first half of the book where the second half better draws out Jones’ personality.  Overall I was hoping for a fuller discussion of the doctrine of hell than was provided in a book which is really a call for evangelism.    

Review Copy Provided by The B&B Media Group, Inc. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Trip to the Summit

Summit's Really Big Stocked Fridge

One recent Saturday morning I attended a Summit Brewing Company brewery tour in Saint Paul with a few guys.  I had only had a Summit product once before so for me Summit Brewing was a company that I was not overly familiar with other than knowing it’s a local company.

My tour was a late morning tour.  After check in our tour guide gave us a brief history of brewing and the Summit Brewing Company.  I was impressed how the role of monasteries and abbeys were specifically called out in the history of brewing.  Additionally, the lecture gave me information about home brewing and microbreweries that I was not familiar with.  Afterwards we were given a short walking tour of the plant.  Bottling was not occurring this Saturday and I would have loved to see the bottler in action.  The highlights of the walking tour included the giant refrigerator filled with packaged bottles and filled kegs and the fermentation room with its massive steel vats filled with beer finishing as it prepared for bottling. 

During this tour I was impressed with several things about Summit:
  • ·      Summit is a very green company.  Not only do used foodstuff and water get reused or resold     for other purposes but the major brewing equipment was second hand within the plant.  The bottler also was purchased used at a large discount from another brewer, while Summit also sold off their old bottler to yet another brewer.  This pattern of buying used equipment means that equipment in the plant was gathered from locations as far as California and Germany. 
  • ·      No matter your age, everyone loves standing in a giant refrigerator.  I can remember when I had taken kid groups through pizza restaurants with big freezers and watched them giggle.  Adults do the exact same thing. 
  • ·      The staff and volunteers really knew their beer and were enthusiastic in sharing it.
  • ·      Summit is generous.  The samples they gave participants were far from a taste but a satisfying draft.  Additionally they gave away several tap handles in a short trivia game which we found out later cost over $25 a piece in the gift shop. 
  • ·      Spirtual conversations are everywhere as I bored tour guides and my companions with information from The Search for God and Guinness

I chose the following three beers for my samples, samples which were quite generous.
  • ·      Honeymoon Saison from the Unchained Series: I chose this since it was a limited edition brew that I was not likely to stumble on before it was retired.  It was a very hoppy beer that my friends did not enjoy.  I found it interesting but not something that I would typically select for myself.  But the unchained series and Honeymoon Saison are getting some nice press locally
  • ·      Silver Anniversary Ale: Again with this being a limited edition I had to sample it.  Being a highly trained palate, joke, I found the fruit flavors added to this ale to give a tang that I just did not appreciate.  Tang, is that a real word?  My companion who also sampled this brew also did not like it.  

Though I did not love neither brew, I would happily drink both of these if offered and I finished my glasses.

  • ·      Summit Oatmeal Stout: I love dark beers and was planning to sample Summit’s porter.  But availability and knowing my palate dictated my decisions.  I tried the first two because they would not be widely available.  The stout beat out the porter because the stout is only available by draft.  And honestly the spots that have the stout available don’t serve Happy Meals so I would not be likely to stumble on it.   This was by far my favorite of the three samples with its dark smooth goodness.  My mouth is salivating as I think about my beer desert.  

Great Northern Porter Would Like Your Attention!

Overall this was a really good day and tour that I would urge anyone to try once.  My companions would have preferred more but smaller samples so they could have dialed in their own preferences from Summit’s offerings better.  One stated he preferred weird Belgian beers, but with the Summit Belgian not available this day he had to seek something new outside of his comfort zone.  While I knew at the end of the samples, though I was being adventurous, I could guarantee my final beer sample was something I would really enjoy.  And I did enjoy it!  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My First Hands-On Bible

My First Hands-On Bible is a preschool targeted Bible story compilation using the New Living Translation.  The Bible translation is abridged but is not revised for children, so the editors recommend stopping and discussing complicated words when necessary.  Each story is about 3-5 pages long and is accompanied by illustrations that children can understand.  Additionally each story includes cues and activity suggestions that help engage children in the story with actions to perform, like saying a work or pretend playing an action.  Additionally, each story is followed by a short prayer, questions suitable for preschool and short activities.  The text does not include all of the Bible, but selected stories from both the Old and New Testament. 
Overall, this Bible is very appropriate for preschoolers.  The NLT translation does not speak down to them, but provides them a piece of text that their parents could easily be reading in their own Bibles. I used this Bible with my church’s preschool classroom and found that children stayed engaged as I read the story thanks to the brief activities interjected into the text.  Additionally afterwards they stayed on task, and had fun, as we did things seven times in celebration of Naaman’s cleansing.  And each child remembered, thanks to that activity, that Naaman washed in the Jordan seven times as they were released their parents.  I’m very impressed with the post lesson activities and am seriously considering using this Bible with preschooler’s long term.  My only complaint, which another children’s worker had to point to me, is the illustrations.  The illustrations of people are exclusively Caucasian, and I wish they showed the greater diversity of God’s people.  But despite this complaint I would easily consider adopting this text in my ministry. 
Review Copy Provided by Tyndale House Publishers