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.

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!

The Year I Almost Ran Boston

I should be feeling sore -painfully sore -and drained today.  And I do- but it’s all mental instead of physical.  Because yesterday I was SUPPOSED to run the Boston Marathon.  I’ve been training for months, and anticipating the day for much longer than that.    As an avid recreational runner who loves running races (though I’ve never done longer than a 1/2 marathon) it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.  And I turned 40 this year, so I thought it was the perfect time to go for it.  Plus, I had a good reason to run- a good cause to support.  I signed up to raise money for Children’s Hospital Boston, in honor of a dear friend’s son, and my own daughter who has spent time and been successfully treated at the hospital. I raised almost $6000.

I was ready.  I wasn’t nervous a bit.  I told everyone my goal time to finish was under 4 1/2 hours, but in my head I had been thinking I could probably do it in 4 hours and 15 minutes if I was having a good day.  And, I knew I’d have a good day.  I didn’t skimp on training and I had dedicated myself in the way that I knew prepared me well.

But then the weather forecast started changing.  And, the temperatures started climbing.  I started to get a little nervous and began to adjust my expectations.  4.15 probably wasn’t realistic- but I could still shoot for 4.30 or 4.45 and be happy.

Then, as we sat at the CHB marathon weekend kick off party we go the first email from the BAA advising people to take a deferment to next year because the weather was looking to be dangerously hot.  My husband (who was also running) and I thought about it for a minute, maybe two, but then pressed on.  We deleted the email and headed out to pick up our numbers.  We were still running.  But, even then I was nervous.  87 degrees is hot when you are just stitting outside sipping water.  Running 26.2 in that kind of heat seemed a little daunting.  I re-adjusted my goal again.  A 5 hour marathon was ok with me.

Sunday progressed as planned.  I did my last easy 2 mile loop to keep loose, we hydrated, we ate bagels for breakfast and egg white sandwiches for lunch.   We dropped the kids off at my sisters and headed home to have our pasta dinner and get to bed early.

Then we got the second email from the BAA.  This one was worded even more strongly than the first, and carried a warning from the medical directors.  It basically said if you were a first time marathoner, or if you haven’t qualified, or if you hadn’t run in heat in the past ten days, or even if you were experienced and hadn’t run a hot marathon you should sit it out.  The email went on and on.  And we got nervous.   We thought about our two kids.  We thought about a friend who’s husband had died a few years back from dehydration.  We thought about alot of things.  And, we thought- this is NUTS.    Really is it worth the risk?  And we thought: no.

So we decided to defer.  We turned the alarm clock off before we went to bed.

But still- I woke up at 5:3o.  I was sad.  It was already 60 degrees.  I put on my marathon shirt and went for an 8 mile run.  A consolation prize.  I cried.  It sucked.  But I still felt like it was the right decision.  Then I started watching the coverage.  And I thought- holy crap.  We are going to be the only two wimpy people to defer.  The marathon seemed to be progressing as normal. We SUCK.  But by then it was too late.  We had made our decision.

We went to Wellesley to cheer on our braver teammates.  It was pretty clear that it was a brutal race.  People weren’t looking good and it was only mile 15.  A woman collapsed right in front of us.  Many, many others were walking already and a lot of them had that dazed, ashen look that signals total exhaustion.  As wave three runners started passing it was looking worse and worse.  A friend texted me from mile 11 and said so many people were already toast it was starting to get scary.  Ambulance sirens filled the air.  The medical tents were overflowing.  It was hard to watch.  I found myself with tears in my eyes- partly because I was mad at myself for not being out there, but mostly because I felt for those people.  It was moving- that strength and courage it took for them to do that.

It was bad. But I still wished I was out there.

Over 4000 people decided not to run for one reason or another- maybe it was the heat or maybe it was for other personal reasons.  I give so much credit to the 22,000 people who decided to go ahead and run the marathon despite the daunting, dangerous heat.  They are all heros to me- just for going out there and giving it a go.  I don’t know how many of them wish they had deferred.  I don’t know how many of them regret not finishing, or how many of them feel sick today.  But I know all of them should be beyond proud that they were brave enough to get out there and do it.

For me, even given my regret about it, I still think it was the right decision to defer.  I think I probably would have been one of the 2000 people that ended up needing medical attention, and that’s not the marathon experience I wanted to have.   And, it wouldn’t have been fair to my kids. Or my husband.  And, I would have been a nervous wreck thinking about my husband out there too.  My head would not have been in the game.  I probably would have been defeated by the heat and anxiety by mile 2.  But, I do feel a bit like a loser.  I didn’t follow through on my plan.  Fell short of my goal. Failed.

We’ve signed up to do the NJ marathon in a few weeks, and we’re hoping that helps rid us of the feeling that we lamed out.  Hopefully it will.  And, for sure we’ll be back in 2013, running from Hopkinton to Boston in whatever weather mother nature decides to throw our way.