Friday, December 31, 2010

Merry Christmas!

We went to St Louis to spend Christmas with my family this year, and it was so much fun! We hadn't spent Christmas with my family since 2006, when we attempted to celebrate Christmas in our small apartments in Kansas City just days before our wedding. Being at my parents house this year was just like old times, with a couple sorta crazy husbands joining the mix (see below for kiwi juggling proof of the crazy husband issue).

The main focus of our holiday weekend was food and beer, obviously. The apple didn't fall far from the tree on this matter, and my whole family tends to focus on these two elements at any get together. Sadly, our holiday beer wasn't fully conditioned in time, but Joe and Dan took a trip to the grocery store to make sure we didn't get too thirsty! I also shared some of my pickled vegetables from this summer, which everyone gobbled up. I think the dilly beans were the crowd favorite, and I really loved the dill carrots, too.

We went out to our favorite pizza place, Pi, on the 23rd, courtesy of my grandma. It was a delicious meal... I love their deep dish! It's always fun to hang out around the Delmar Loop area in St Louis, where this pizza place is located. We got a little silly waiting for our table, though...

Brendan & Colleen, in the cozy waiting area at Pi.

We got a little picture happy!

My parents enjoying the Schlafly Christmas Ale.
We got dressed in our Sunday best on Christmas Eve, and went to Mass. Then we came home to eat a fantastic Italian feast. Christmas morning meant TONS of gifts to open, then some lazy time in our pajamas while we checked out all our new goodies. We ate some more, had some drinks, and just soaked up a relaxing day together. What a great Christmas!
The guys cleaned up pretty well, huh?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Rockwell Brewing: Winter Spiced Beer

Merry Christmas!

We decided a little late to take a stab at making a Christmas beer, so this batch has officially been renamed as a "winter beer". We've only tasted an early bottle or two, because the bottle conditioning is still underway. The added carbination will make the final product more balanced, but it seems like the tastes we've had are very promising. We wanted it to have lots of spices in it, and the orange peel added a great citrus note. This will be an enjoyable quaff for the bitter winter months ahead.

We found the recipe on, a website Joe found recently. The site is full of great sounding beer recipes, contributed by homebrewers from around the country. Santa also brought Joe multiple beer books this year, so expect some tasty batches from us this Spring!
Here's the link to the recipe.
Thanks for helping us with the bottling, Henry!

It's important to enjoy a brew while doing your own homebrewing... and this batch's beer of choice was Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Soaking up the holiday season

I've spent today getting ready to head down to St Louis for Christmas, and I couldn't be more excited! Christmas is my all time favorite holiday, because it ends up being a full month of celebration with friends and family. When you toss in our anniversary (4 years on Dec 29th!), and New Year's Eve, it ends up being a really fun and social time of year.

The kick off to this season is of course Thanksgiving, which we spent in DeKalb with Joe's family. The star of the weekend was Liem, our little nephew. He was a lot of fun to watch and snuggle with, and has already changed a lot since we first met him in September. His parents are doing great, too, and it was fun to catch up with this side of our family!

The new mom!
Oldest & younger brothers... forever bonded after a summer of living together in Kansas City :)

Post-turkey poker playing. Joe kicked ass!

A few days after Thanksgiving, we were back home and I was craving leftovers. So I decided to roast a turkey breast, bake some stuffing, and have a second Thanksgiving dinner just for Joe and me. It was a feast, and the leftovers kept us happy for days!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The book club that brews together...

Last week the girls in my book club got together to discuss our latest reading. As we discussed the book (A Walk in the Woods, which was good, but no Neither Here Nor There), we veered off into many other topics of conversation. Someone mentioned that the group had originally wanted to plan lots of social get togethers in addition to the book club meetings, and that we should try to get back to that focus. I thought this was a great idea, because the ladies in this group are a great bunch, and I would love to hang out with them more than once per month.

The next day I got an email from Jess, who had just hosted the book club. She noticed that many of us either brewed our own beer or were interested in learning how, so she invited everyone over to brew with her and her boyfriend Natan, an experienced home brewer. I wasn't scheduled to work on Sunday, so it worked out perfectly!

Joe was especially excited to help with the process, because Natan does all grain brewing, which is a more advanced method than the extract or partial mash techniques we have done. It involves more equipment, which requires some upfront costs that we haven't been willing to commit to yet. Natan has done a bunch of DIY projects to get his equipment in order, and seems to be so comfortable with the whole process. He really knows his stuff!

This is Jess showing off the new tool Natan made for sparging the grains. It involved welding and making tiny holes in a metal pipe, so I don't see Joe and I making anything like this in the near future. Overall the process is not too different from what we already do, once you get to boiling the wort then it's all the same steps.

(Side note: Jess is an amazing host, with major cooking and baking skills. I am pretty sure I will never turn down an invite to hang out at her house. She made a fantastic veggie platter that I couldn't stop eating, and some addictive pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. And another amazing baker in the group made chocolate cupcakes with stout... so appropriate for a brew get together!)

Here's most of the set up for all grain brewing. Basically, hot water goes into the top, then slowly drips into the grains that are in the bottom container. The water seeps through the grains, making the wort. Then you boil the wort, cool it down (Natan had a nice homemade wort chiller, too), add your yeast, and let it ferment. There you have it-- how to brew in 100 words or less).

All grain brewing is done in bigger batches than the other methods, so most people use a turkey frying burner to boil the wort. This is best done outside, away from any nice kitchen equipment or finished floors, cabinets, etc.

Last but not least, if you're going to be outside brewing some beer, you might as well smoke some meat, too. The grill smell had me drooling!

Joe and I haven't brewed for a couple months, so I thought this was just the motivation we needed. I think we'll brew this Sunday, and my vote is for a spiced Christmas ale. Tis the season, right?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Checking in...

Ok, so I haven't posted to this blog in a while. Life has been busy, we haven't been brewing, I've hardly kept up with my other blog.... blah, blah, blah. No excuses, I'm a slacker! So, how about a few life updates? Here's what we've been busy doing:

We did a Brown Line Pub Crawl at the end of August. It involved taking the L from stop to stop, visiting various bars along the way. This picture was taken at Scott's, a gay bar, pretty early in the night. They actually played "It's Raining Men" while we were there! After this the pictures got more embarrassing, but we did have a really fun night!

We went to St Louis for a quick visit at the end of September, and decided we were overdue for a visit to the Anheuser Busch brewery. It's still pretty gross beer, but it was impressive to see such a big operation. Very different from the microbreweries that we usually tour! The property of the brewery was really nice, with old brick buildings and nice landscaping. It was fun to see, but it's still very unlikely that you'll catch Joe or I sipping on a cold Bud.

My Dad and I posed by the international beers, now that they're owned by Inbev. Much more our taste!

We did a quick stop in Columbia, to relive our college days for an afternoon. Campus was so different, because they've done a bunch of construction in the last couple years. It was fun to wander around, and made us very nostalgic for the good old days. We had lunch at the Berg and walked by the columns, and deemed it a good little visit. I'd love to get back to Columbia for a full weekend at some point, to see a football game and visit more of our favorite bars and restaurants. Go Tigers!

Then we drove across the state to visit our new nephew in Kansas City. Liem was such a cute and snuggly little baby, and Joe and I really enjoyed seeing him. His parents were doing great, and it was a nice opportunity for us to get together with a few of our siblings.

In October, our friends Mario and Steph got married. It was a beautiful ceremony and reception, held at Mario's parents house in the country outside of Chicago. Mario is a chef, and made most of the fantastic food. Steph worked at Goose Island, and was able to brew a beer for the wedding. The setting was beautiful, and they did an amazing job with the decorating. Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves that night!

At the end of October I ran the Go Go Green 5k in Lincoln Park. It was nice weather, and not too crowded of a race. I didn't get to train much in the weeks leading up to the race, so I was pleased to manage to run the whole course without walking. I'll never try to say I'm a hard core runner, but I do love the feeling of running a 5k every once in a while!

We're planning to brew with some friends this weekend, so I'll try to remember to take a few pictures to share on the blog. Also, I'm hoping we'll have the time and extra cash to brew something for ourselves pretty soon. My vote is for a spiced Christmas ale!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Making the Most of Chicago Summertime!

Somehow I managed to not post to this blog for an entire month! I guess that shows how busy we've been. Thankfully, it's mostly been a busy month of fun stuff, like out of town visitors, pig roasts, and summer fun! I'll do some highlights, but try not to overrun this post with millions of pictures.

First, our friends Tara and Kieth came to visit from Kansas City. They brought their ADORABLE almost one year old, Jack, and we had so much fun catching up with them and hanging out with this little guy. They are great friends, and we always enjoy spending time with them. It was a quick weekend, but we squeezed in some time in Lincoln Square, a visit to Green City Market, and a tasty lunch at Goose Island. This was the first time they'd flown with Jack, so we tried to make it really fun and easy, so they'd come back again soon!

We had another visit a few days later, when Chris and Elena came up from Austin. We showed them the swanky side of Chicago when we had dinner at Sushi Samba, followed by drinks at Roof at the Wit Hotel. They also came over that Monday, to help us celebrate Joe's birthday. It is always entertaining when we get to catch up with Chris, and Joe and I agreed that Elena is a cool girl and a great match for Chris. I tried convincing her that she should move here, but she seemed to think the winters would be too hard on her Texas upbringing. I'll keep trying to tell her otherwise...

Next up was a baby shower for my friend Cathy. We've been good friends since high school, and I'm so excited for her and her husband Troy. They're going to be great parents, and I'm excited to watch their family grow. I can't wait to hold their little girl, and have already offered up my babysitting services whenever they need me :)

That night we went to a pig roast at my friend Clair's house. She's a former coworker from The Chopping Block, and she hosted quite a bash. There was a ton of amazing food, great people, and free flowing beer... so obviously, it was a good party!

The day after Cathy's shower and Clair's party, we attended the Slow Food Pig Roast at Goose Island. Yes, two pig roasts in two days! It was amazing... there were about 8 or 9 well know Chicago chefs that offered up fantastic pork dishes, and they were all pretty amazing. I think my favorite came from The Gage, but it was really hard to decide. We got to tour the brewery, too, which is something not usually available to the public. This event was such a special treat, plus the proceeds went to Slow Food, an organization I really believe in.

I couldn't resist asking these two guys for a picture. On the left is Greg Hall, the brewmaster for Goose Island. On the right is Paul Kahn, one of the best known local chefs. Their food and beer have been a part of some of my most memorable nights out in Chicago, and it was so cool to just be hanging out with then at the Roast.

It was a great day for food and beer on the west side of Chicago!
Ok, that got me through mid August. I still have more fun stuff to share, but I have to call it a day. This post is officially full... I told you we've been busy! Hope you're enjoying the end of summer as much as we are!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Celebrations in Kansas City and St Louis!

As I sat down to write about our fun trip to St Louis last weekend, I made a discovery. On our camera were pictures from our other Missouri trip of the summer, when we went down to Kansas City at the beginning of June. So I'm going to make this a double trip post... these drives down to St Louis and Kansas City do tend to blend together, so it seems fitting. Also, I have to say it's funny how much I am connected to the state of Missouri at this point. Nine years ago I left home to attend the University of Missouri, looking for a journalism degree and a little space from the great state of Colorado. I'd never even been to the state before I drove through and toured the campus, but it just felt like the right fit. I didn't quite get that journalism degree, but I've ended up with so many ties to Missouri that it's almost funny. If I had to guess I would say we've been to Kansas City or St Louis at least 6 or 7 times in the last year!

So, first, our trip to Kansas City. Brian and Julie, Joe's brother and sister-in-law, are expecting their first child in August, and our whole family couldn't be more excited! Early in June we got the chance to drive down and help them celebrate at a baby shower. On Friday night we had a family dinner at Waldo Pizza, an excellent pizza place with a killer beer list. I also had a chance to hang out with Laura and Dan, who had moved to KC only days earlier. The next morning I joined the girls to ooh and ah over adorable baby boy gifts as the guys played golf and feasted at Oklahoma Joe's. That afternoon Julie and Brian hosted a cookout, with lots of tasty food, and cold beer for the non-pregnant folks. It was so fun to hang out and catch up with everyone! We are glad to be living in Chicago at this point, but do get nostalgic about how much fun we used to have in KC each time we visit. Lucky for us, we'll have to go down again in another few months, when their little guy makes his appearance. We're so excited for him to arrive!

We managed to stay around Chicago for a while after that trip, just working and enjoying the HOT summer weather. This past weekend we headed south again, this time to the eastern side of Missouri. We were there to celebrate two big occasions-- Dad's 60th birthday and Colleen's 18th! Of course, the weekend started off with pizza, which my family begs Joe to make every time we visit. We made 6 or 7 pizzas for the whole gang, and enjoyed just sitting around the kitchen hanging out and laughing more than we needed to :)
Saturday we had a small party to celebrate the two milestone birthdays. We ate and drank in true Haggerty fashion, and had such a great time! We did an Italian themed feast, with good Missouri beer to wash it down. We also sampled the Belgian double ale that Joe and I brewed for my dad, and he loved it! We had fun making a special batch of beer to comemorate his birthday, and I know he appreciated how he has passed his love of beer and brewing on to the next generation. It was wonderful to all be together again, and I know my Dad and Colleen felt very loved and celebrated. It felt like a quick weekend, and I'm already eager for the next time we'll all be together!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Intentional Happiness

Life has been a little frustrating around our house lately. Mostly, it's jobs. I can't even get a call or email about any of the teaching jobs I'm applying for, no matter how many times I update my applications. I'm not unhappy with my current jobs-- babysitting and The Chopping Block-- but in terms of schedule and pay, they are jobs I can't sustain on forever. We've been living pretty comfortably regardless of my minimal income, but after doing so for over a year, things are starting to get tighter. I won't bore you with all the details, my point is just that I'm frustrated. I want a real, "grown up" job again, and I want it to be in a school setting. Joe is also feeling a bit stuck at his job, with frustrating management and not any obvious place to get to. So between the two of us, there have been some crabby evenings around our house!

That's where intentional happiness comes in. I first saw the idea of it on my friend The Kitchen Witch's blog, and I commented on how I've been trying to pick out the positive aspects of my life recently. She sent me a !!! card to keep in my wallet, and I've been trying to actually pick out and document some of the !!! moments in my life. Here are just a few things that have made me stop and appreciate my life this week.

This year I have been growing some herbs and tomatoes on our back porch. Not only have I not killed the plants, but they're actually edible! These tomatoes were the first on the plant to turn red, and Joe and I were so excited to eat them. That's major !!!. I also had enough home grown basil to make a batch of pesto, which is now in cute little containers in my freezer, waiting to be eaten.

A great !!! for us is homebrewing. Making beer is a hobby that I am happy to share with Joe. We have so much fun working together to see the process from beginning to end. This is bottling day, which is always fun.

I've been cooking a lot of farm-fresh produce lately, from our CSA share and from farmer's markets. Cooking always brings some !!! into my life. No matter how broke we get, I have a hard time compromising on food. We're mostly eating vegetarian at the moment-- cheaper AND healthier for us and the earth. This was an amazing recipe I made up for grilled polenta squares with collard greens and spring onions, topped with zucchini and white bean tomato sauce.

My jobs have random hours and are low paying, but they allow me !!! like this. 3:00 pm, on the back porch... Get Up Kids on my ipod, homebrewed beer standing by, and a book to enjoy. Ok, so I didn't really enjoy the book (The Sun Also Rises), but I get to feel !!! for relaxing out back in the middle of the day :)

I'm sure I'll document some intentional happiness again. It's a good exercise in counting my blessings, which are many! What made you appreciate life this week?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Recent brewing experiments

I don't remember exactly when we brewed our first batch of beer, but it was sometime after Joe's birthday last summer. His birthday is towards the end of August, so we're still more than a month off from a year's worth of brewing. In the last eleven months, we've brewed 8 batches of beer. I'm proud of that fact, because it shows that we found a hobby we enjoy, and are really working on getting better at it. I've helped Joe with just about every batch, not only because it's easier with two people, but also because I really enjoy the process. It's so similar to cooking and baking, and I savor the end result with a sense of accomplishment. Within the next few months I would like to take the lead on a batch of beer, and to see it all the way from recipe selection to sanitation and bottling. Don't worry, I'll blog all about that experience!

We have gotten a little more bold with our beer making with recent batches, now that we're more comfortable with how the process works. We just tasted our "doctored up" IPA, which was a pale ale kit with our own hops added. I saw this as being similar to taking a boxed cake mix and adding ingredients to make it more gourmet, and I think this beer turned out a lot like that. It wasn't the best beer we've made, but it was not bad at all. When we went to bottle it, the fermented beer was very murky, which we attributed to the dry hop pellets. Next time, we'll use whole leaf hops or somehow contain the pellets before dropping them in. We attempted to filter the beer, which was a long and somewhat successful process. We were really cautious about avoiding contamination, but this was still a risky experiment. Thankfully, the first couple bottles we've tasted have been good. It's a very strong IPA, almost more than I can handle. But as a slow sipping beer, it's not bad. Nothing like the Dogfish Head IPA recipe from our Extreme Brewing recipe book, but not a bad attempt at adding our own touch to a recipe.

We also recently made a Belgian double that called for two pounds of honey along with the malt extract. We haven't tasted the final product yet, but the dark brown color and smell of honey and malt was pleasant and enticing when we were bottling it. I can't wait to taste this one!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Birthday Celebrations!

Last Tuesday I turned the big 2-7. As Joe has pointed out numerous times, this means I'm in my late 20's... and this kind of freaks me out! 30 is around the corner, which is crazy to me. So I guess I better live it up for the next couple years, because life ends when you turn 30, right?!

Ok, I'm really not that freaked out about getting older. I do like to use my birthday as a good excuse for a totally fun day with no work and lots of playing, and this year I did an exceptionally good job making it a fun celebration. The day started with my good friend Cathy, who is my favorite buddy to hang out with mid-week, since we both have jobs with random hours. We went to Kuma's Corner for some amazing heavy metal burgers, which were fantastic. Then we switched to girly mode, and went to a nearby salon for some mani/pedi pampering. It was such a treat, and a perfect way to spoil myself on my birthday!

Cathy and I have decided to use our weekday lunchtimes to explore popular Chicago restaurants that are usually packed. We've done Hot Dougs and now Kumas, and I have a feeling we'll continue this tradition.

I got the Megadeath burger, and it was to die for. The Kuma's burgers are hard to beat!

BLT Salad for dinner, with pretty painted toes on the side :)

I made dinner for Joe and I using some of the fresh produce from our CSA share, then we headed down to Lincoln Park to see one of our favorite bands, Mates of State. They aren't from Chicago, but happened to be playing a Lincoln Hall on my birthday. It was a great show, and Joe and I had so much fun! Officially a great birthday celebration!

We officially celebrated on Saturday night, too, with a party at our house. We used it as an excuse to share our home brewed beer, which our friends seemed to really like. There was plenty of beer to go around, and we celebrated our youth with a rowdy game of flip cup (which my team won!). We enjoyed the nice weather out back until a neighbor shushed us around 2:30, and slept in pretty late the next morning in an effort to recover. I had so much fun hanging out with all of our friends, and have to say this was the best birthday I've had in recent memory!