Beer Culture on the South Coast

buzzards-bay-brewery1A little while ago I reminded you all how important cranberries are to the region I live in here in Massachusetts (and to the world at large of course!) Don’t worry, I’m not going to dedicate another entire post to cranberries, amazing as they are. This time I’m going to talk about something else we have going on here that’s also pretty special. It’s called beer. Not just any beer, mind you. I’m going to tell you about the exceptional beer that’s brewed right here in my own back yard (well, practically). So, hold on to your drink coasters people, this is going to be good.

It feels weird to say that one of my favorite spots to visit in southeastern Massachusetts is Buzzards Bay Brewing, in Westport. Especially considering that this region probably has some of the most beautiful, unspoiled landscape in all of New England. That’s saying something when our rivals are the lush green mountains of Vermont, the craggy coastline of Maine, the crystal lakes of New Hampshire and the – umm… pizza?  of Connecticut.  Sorry- I spaced a bit there on what CT has to offer. I know it’s lovely but mostly I just drive through it to get to New York, and usually the only place I linger is at Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria in New Haven- which is a landmark in it’s own right, and the pizza is the best in the country (for real, it even says so in magazines and stuff). But anyway, here you’ll find acres of unmarred fields, miles of rocky and white sand beaches, an abundance of the aforementioned cranberry bogs, sun-dappled forests, bubbling creeks and streams, quaint hamlets and quiet harbors. It’s postcard pretty.buzzards-bay-brewing

And that’s kind of the thing with the Brewery too. You don’t just go there for the beer.  You go there because it’s a pretty sweet place to be.  It used to be a farm and the huge converted barn would be cool enough, but the grounds are really what sets it apart. Not the only thing, of course- the beer is pretty darn great too, but I’ll get to that. I want to talk about the setting first. The ambiance, if you will.

Ok, so to get there you have to drive down some pretty dang picturesque roads that take you past fields and farms and beautiful old colonial homes. Then you pull into the property and drive up this long dirt road through a huge open field. You can see the barn in the distance. And, as you get closer you can see the people mingling outside, you can hear the music playing, you can smell the tasty offerings of the Fancheezical food truck that’s always there and you get a little giddy before you even park.

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On Saturday afternoons in the summer it is hands down my favorite place to be. We bring our kids and a picnic blanket and settle in for a few good hours of relaxed fun. We wait our turn for corn hole or tether ball and we save room for a rediculously insane gourmet grilled cheese sandwich from the food truck. And of course we come thirsty! The vibe there is really awesome- totally laid back, with no attitude at all. It’s just lots of people enjoying beer and good company.

img_3144And that brings me to the beer! I was supposed to be talking about beer wasn’t I? Oh yeah!! Well, Buzzards Bay Brewing has a few that I just love. Their three staples are the Golden Flounder, the Moby D and the Buzzards Bay IPA. All delicious in their own right. And throughout the year they serve up specialty brews like my all time favorite- the Sow and Pigs. It holds a special place in my heart because some of the proceeds go directly to the Buzzards Bay Coalition an environmental non profit based in New Bedford that is doing amazing things to help protect our beautiful bay and watershed. Plus, it’s tasty stuff- a perfect light and crisp summer beer. So, if you drink Sow and Pigs, you’re helping yourself but you’re also helping save the Bay! How cool is that?

winter-in-the-brewersAnd whenever you happen to stop in (and you can all year because in colder months the party moves inside!) there will probably be some fun new brews to try. Maybe The Space Left Intentionally Blank will call to you- it’s a pale ale with an intriguing name which makes it way more interesting and fun to drink, or you could sample Lizzie’s Famous 81 Whacks India Red Ale. It’s hoppy and malty- a real killer!  But, perhaps you’ll keep it simple and just go with the Octoberfest because fancy names just aren’t your thing.  Really, you can’t go wrong.  Even if you aren’t a big fan of beer (which- um… what??!!) there is something for you. It’s called Farmers Fizz and ya’ll this stuff is yummy. It’s kind of like Prosecco- so yeah, yum. You non-beer drinkers (whoever you are) will like it.  I know it.

So, we have this pretty awesome brewery in Westport. And, in a few short months there are two – TWO!- breweries opening in New Bedford. Oh happy day! That’s honestly kind of life changing. And, it shows you that the beer culture on the South Coast is alive and well… thriving even. This is great news for all of us who live down here because we are starved for culture of any kind!  And beer culture, yep- I’ll take it!

Just a little thank you, Mr. President

p012513ps-034111The other night my daughter and I were watching a photo montage that someone, somewhere on some social media site had posted that documented the inner heart of Barack Obama’s presidency and I just have to tell you that it brought tears to my eyes. It left me with a gut wrenching sense of loss. And I can’t say my daughter was dry-eyed either. She’s 12, she shouldn’t be moved because she sees the President of the United States acting like a human being. But she was, and more than that… she was sad. She was sad because she, like the rest of us, knows what’s coming next.

The video collage was just a series of pictures of him being the decent, respectable, good humored, intelligent, thoughtful man that he has proved to be over the past eight years. None of the content had anything to do with public policy, or climate change, or health care, or arms agreements, or immigration reform or anything like that. But it was a stark reminder of what we’ll be giving up when he leaves office. Because being President of the United States also means being the type of person that all of America and all of the world can look up to. A leader that kids want to model themselves after, someone parents want their kids to strive to be. A good, moral, upstanding, pillar of our nation who exemplifies our values, mores and ideals. Someone who truly believes in America and puts the nation first (or mostly first- it is politics after all).1d4de8e2-e62d-4ab5-ac07-b3e048f04785-620x372

I am not here to talk about what he did or didn’t accomplish as President (that’s a different post entirely).  I’m just trying to say that I will mourn the loss of a President and First Family that I can look up to and respect. The Obamas have been GOOD for America- because they showcase what’s good IN America. They are a loving, generous, grounded, close knit family who believe in each other and believe in making a positive difference in this world. I am proud that they are the First Family of this great country, because for me they exemplify what we can be as a nation. We can be inclusive, we can be tolerant, we can create positive change by taking good ideas and working together to turn them into actionable plans.

That’s why the sharp contrast of Donald Trump is so completely incomprehensible to me.  I simply do not understand how anyone- ANYONE- could support him even if they despise Hillary Clinton with every bone in their body. And, I get it- I can see that people do, and I’m not going to use this post to try to change people’s minds about her. I’ve done my research and I’m satisfied that I’ve vetted her enough to understand that she is probably the single most qualified person to run for office EVER, and I’ve researched all the right-wing propaganda and media hype and have found most of it can be completely debunked or found at least to be mostly untrue. I did that on my own and it’s not my place to tell anyone that they should do that too (although by the way it’s pretty easy). But what I would like people to think about is this… Donald Trump has absolutely no idea what it entails to be President of the United States- not from a policy standpoint, and not from a temperament standpoint. He doesn’t even seem to understand the laws of our nation or have a good handle on what our Constitution is all about. And furthermore, he’s a misogynistic, narcissistic hate-monger who continuously tears down the good people of this country and pits groups against each other to incite violence and instill fear. How on earth is that going to make America a better place than it is now?

We aren’t a perfect nation; we still have so far to go to get where we really ought to be… and what we need is a competent, qualified, sane leader who can at least move us in the right direction. Someone who, even if they aren’t quite the total package, is at least someone who has proved to be dedicated to her country, someone with more than 30 years of practical, hands on experience. Yes, politicians are self serving, but they are also public servants and I think it’s unfair to say that Hillary Clinton has spent her entire political career ONLY being motivated by personal gain. I mean, there are really so many other things she could have done to earn a ridiculously high paycheck. But she has chosen to remain in public service and be embattled, criticized and ridiculed and she’s done that, at least in part, for us.

What do we get with Donald Trump?  Just “not Hillary”?  That’s just stupid, because “not Hillary” is NOT good enough for us. We deserve better. We all deserve better.

So, anyway… I kind of got off track (this really ugly election tends to stir up this roiling uncontrollable urge to vomit my very passionate opinions whenever I have the opportunity) but as I was saying:  THANK YOU Mr. President, and THANK YOU Mrs. Obama for being inspiring and positive role models for my kids, for making me believe that the world CAN be a better place, and for making real strides in helping our nation become a welcome place for all people from all walks of life.  This election season has shown the worst we have to offer and has created a deep and ugly divide, and the bitter aftermath of it will surely test all of our moral fortitude.  But during these trying times we won’t forget the message you’ve given us: the beautiful message of hope.

 

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Cranberries Are Cool

img_4907  Hey, you know what we did today?  We went to the Makepeace Farms Cranberry Harvest Festival.  And you know what else?  It was pretty darn cool.  I don’t know why I was surprised by how many people were there or by how much there was to see and do, because on the South Coast of Massachusetts cranberries are a really big deal.  Like really, really big. Like huge.

I drive by tons of cranberry bogs on my way to work.  Mostly they just look like scrubby fields full of dried up weeds and sandy dirt, but once a year they come alive in glorious bursts of reds and pinks.  When the fields are flooded and the berries rise to the surface and they start to get corralled for harvesting- well, the colors are so vibrant, so striking, so breathtakingly beautiful that you might perhaps be so impressed by the sight that you are tempted to pull over and take a few compelling photos (hey, Instagram opp!) After all, it’s not something you see every day. But, 1) you feel silly doing that and 2) you are running late because you had another hectic, whirlwind morning of trying to get four people out the door at different times and 3) you’re for once lucky enough NOT to be driving behind an 18 wheeler or a Fed Ex truck on the narrow, winding back road that makes up 80% of your commute, so you don’t.  And it’s kind of a shame because it’s sooooo pretty and it will all be gone by the time you drive home.

img_4879Did you know that the cranberry is the state berry of Massachusetts? No you didn’t!!!  Well it’s true. Not only that but cranberry is also the official state color AND cranberry juice is the state beverage of Massachusetts. If you tell me you knew all of that I might have to call you a liar.  I mean, who knows that kind of stuff?  I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a state beverage. But I do now because I went to the cranberry festival!  I hope they ask this question the next time I go to Trivia Night at our local pub. Then I’ll finally be able to answer a question correctly.  Trivia is not my strong suit, but now I know something trivial! Hoorah!

Yep, we sure do love cranberries here in Massachusetts.  Yum, yum.  Actually, can I be totally honest?  I actually don’t really like cranberries. While we were waiting in line for the wagon ride to take us out on a tour the woman in front of me offered me a raw cranberry.  She had a huge cupful.  I don’t really know how she got them, because there were signs posted everywhere warning people not to go in the bogs or take the berries so I knew she couldn’t have done that, because everyone follows the rules right?  Anyway, as she asked me she was popping them in her mouth like m&ms.  Have you ever tasted a raw cranberry?  Ugh, they are the most sour, most off putting, face puckering berry imaginable. And it’s sad because they look so tasty. But it’s a trick. They are only palatable if you boil them down to jelly and add like 16 cups of sugar. I can’t imagine anything worse than eating them raw. And I always pass on the sauce at Thanksgiving (unless my mom makes it- hers is ahMAZing because it has nuts and other stuff like apples and random things so it doesn’t taste like cranberries at all).  And also, by the way, they aren’t great for making garlands for Christmas trees.  I tried that one year because I saw it on Pinterest and let me tell you, it’s really hard to get a needle and thread through those suckers. But anyway, lots of people love them, and they are a very important fruit. Obviously.

So, it’s kind of cool that we live in the cranberry capital of the world.  If it weren’t for our little corner here, Thanksgiving across the country just wouldn’t be the same. And we wouldn’t have craisins.  Oh- also something interesting I learned today- craisins have only been around for about 10 years but they are now the number #1 cranberry product sold worldwide. Craisins are made from the skins of the berries that are used to make juice. The skins used to just be thrown away, but then some genius thought- hey these dried up skins look like raisins, so let’s keep them and call them.. hmmm.. what will we call them?  Ah! I know- craisins! Because it’s a cranberry raisin! And that’s how the craisin was born.  In case you were wondering.

Perhaps you will find yourself here in southeastern Massachusetts one day in early October. If so, please do check out the festival. Or just drive by a bog or two.  I promise that you will never look at a cranberry (or a craisin) the same way.