Saturday, August 31, 2013

Jackson US Summer Tour 2013 - CA

     With the hopes of finding a little down time before going back to Hong Kong we spent our last week in Huntington Beach with an overnight trip down to Escondido in North San Diego County.  Our time consisted of visiting with family and friends, spending time at the pool and beach, and of course - visiting breweries.

     Highlights from our time in California:

1.  Brewery tours in North San Diego County
     Since San Diego County is unofficially the mecca of craft beer these days with over 60 breweries, a quick trip down to the northern bit was a must.  Marisa researched the area and found that a few breweries that we've tried were very near each other and would make for a good road trip.  We were spoiled with having Susan as our designated driver and made a stop at Port Brewing Co./The Lost Abbey, Mother Earth, and Stone.  We had an excellent itinerary and were able to meet up with family in the area for dinner at the Stone brewery before spending the night in Escondido and hitting up the Taylor Guitar factory the next day.

First stop on the tour was Port/Lost Abbey, which we came across from a distributor in Hong Kong, oddly enough.  The Lost Abbey tends to brew belgian styles like another brewery in the area that we weren't able to visit - Iron Fist. 

Since Susan is a recently retired school teacher, it was time to turn the tables and take her on a field trip to learn about the world of "craft" beer.  This photo was taken just seconds before her mind was literally blown. 

I was impressed by the huge variety of beers that these breweries offer in this relatively small brew space - the former Stone brewery before they moved to their current location down the road.  While we didn't love most of their beers, you can hand select the beers that you taste - each for the very reasonable price of $1 per tasting (no matter the gravity). 

Since two other recommended breweries were closed on Tuesdays (Iron Fist and Latitude 33), we took a short drive up to Vista to the Mother Earth Brew Co.  The tastings here were $2 each and I must say that these guys blew us away with fantastic versions of a variety of styles.  I was also able to sample a peanut butter stout and not die - the bartender promised that they used a peanut extract which doesn't tend to cause reactions. 

Quite possibly the best pale ale I've ever had - the Pin-Up Pale Ale.

I don't love the hippie name, but I respect the beer - and they have a nice homebrew store adjacent to the tasting room that offers a variety of classes.  One important distinction to make....if you live on the East coast then you may have had beers from "Mother Earth Brewing" out of Kinston, NC, which is in no way related to this brewery.  Apparently there's been a legal battle over the name so subtle changes to the names.

Voted America's number-one brewery by Zymurgy magazine.....Stone Brewing Co.  This was the main place we had to visit since it's so famous and thus, this was the only real tour that we went on.  It's a massive brewer compared to the other two places we visited and these guys have only been around since 1996.

The tour was informative and the guide was knowledgeable in answering all of our questions during the tasting afterwards.  The one thing I must say for Stone is that it's not for everybody.  These guys put out very strong-tasting beers that are just too much for some beer drinkers.  I really enjoyed the tasting at the end and there are a few of their beers that I will definitely buy in the future, but I usually avoid picking up their 6-packs because they aren't the most sessionable ales out there. 

After the tour we stayed to have dinner at their very popular restaurant.  Stone apparently has their own farm and so they do a lot of farm-to-table dishes that are very nice, but also on the pricey side. 

It was nice meeting up with Susan's cousin Joe, his wife Keely, and son Griffin. 

2.  Cookout at Ju-Ju and Jason's
     It's always nice to meet up with Marisa's friends from way back when we're in town and this year was no exception.  Julie and Jason had us over for some tri-tip and grilled vegetables (very California and unrecognizable as a Southern cookout).  The weather was smokin' and we had a great time catching up.

The sun goes down and the knitted sweaters come out!

3.  Taylor Guitar Factory Tour
     We love tours and having been to the Martin Guitar factory in Pennsylvania, we had to put the Taylor factory on the list since it's relatively close to Huntington Beach and since I own a Taylor guitar and not a Martin.  Unfortunately, our visits to HB usually coincide with major holidays like Christmas and the 4th of July when the factory is closed.  This year we beat the norm and made it to El Cajon, CA in August to finally see how they do.  I took tons of pictures and I will likely write a separate post for those that care about guitar factories.  Here I've just included a select few pictures.

Notice the variety of styles made on a daily basis here. 

The neck is apparently the most time-consuming piece to make and they have a unique design that bolts to the body rather than a more traditional dove-tail joint use by other manufacturers. 

The level of customization and craftmanship on the fingerboards and the inlays is impressive to say the least. 

It was difficult to walk out without a new toy, but I settled for a t-shirt and coffee mug.

4.  Angels vs. Indians
     Terry, Marisa's step-dad, is an avid Cleveland Indians fan so we were excited to have the chance to catch them against the Angels in Anaheim.  Going to baseball games in the summer just seems like the right thing to do.  Fortunately for Terry, the Tribe came away with the 5-2 victory.

Another lovely evening for a baseball game. 

We had the full experience with hot dogs and souvenir cups. 

5.  Family visits
     As with every other place we went this summer, of course the purpose was to connect with family.  We mostly spent time with Susan and Terry, but also visited with Grandpa John, Uncle John, Aunt Nancy, Nana Margaret, and Aunt Pam.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Jackson US Summer Tour 2013 - Boston and Newburyport, MA

     In recent years a summer trip up to the New England area has become a given as we have family in Newburyport as well as friends in Boston.  It doesn't hurt that ol' Beantown is a great city with lots of colleges for Marisa to visit and breweries for me to check out.  Last year we came down for a Red Sox game, toured Boston College and endured a Sam Adams brewery visit.  We also participated in several Yankee Homecoming events in Newburyport which were reason enough for a return trip.
     This time around we stopped in Boston first to see my boy Matt Davis in his new home of Somerville before continuing up to Newburyport for a second helping of Yankee Homecoming festivities.  Of course the primary goal was to spend time with the Winters, visit our nephew Nolan and log some hours poolside.  I'm happy to report that all objectives were met this year.

Highlights from our time in Massachusetts:

1.  Harpoon Brewery
     While we didn't make it in time for an official tour of the place, we had a great time sampling beers and throwing down gourmet pretzels in the taproom with Davis and Kim.  Having done both Sam Adams and Harpoon now, I definitely put my stamp of approval on both of these fine establishments.  Don't visit Boston without seeing at least one of these.

Matt is not afraid of the dark. 

One thing I appreciated was that they sold three different samplers to try: IPAs, UFO series, and seasonal (or whatever this one is called) 

It looks worse than it was......or maybe it looks exactly like it was.  Don't worry, we were able to take public transportation afterwards. 

Marisa's favorite - UFO hefeweizen. 

Great time had by all, but not the easiest place to get to using public transit.

2.  Salisbury Beach
     Now I don't want to admit to being a beach snob, but when someone refers to a beach in New England I have already passed judgment and written it off as a cold, rocky strip of beach that may feature a sweet lighthouse but isn't fit for summer enjoyment.  However, we were able to take a short drive to Salisbury Beach and I now stand corrected - there is at least one beach in New England that doesn't suck.
Sisters reunited at the beach

Susan stayed bundled up 

 and I worked on my skin cancer.

3.  Yankee Homecoming Events
     Once again there were several events that we participated in for the festival.  The beer fest was a huge improvement on last year, mostly in terms of the weather, but also the offerings.  Marisa and I ran the 5K again, both setting personal bests from the previous year.  Perhaps the biggest addition was the authentic local wrestling which brought back memories for me from the Paulding County Community Center.

Nothing better than a beer festival WITH a designated driver - thanks again Kendra. 


The "New England Championship" pitting "Big Gun" in the luchador mask against the Yugoslavian Grizzly.  It was intense but by far the most entertaining part was the heckling from the sidelines.  "Put 'em in the Boston Crab".  "Slap his chest".  "There's a ginger on your back, Gun!  What?  I don't think he knows its a ginger." 

Jeff and Nolan, seconds before Nolan cocks back and tosses the football through a tire with zero hesitation......left-handed.  Can you say "scholarship"? 

It was nice getting to introduce Newburyport to Matt and Kim since they aren't too far away now. 

Another year, another ride on the train.  Note to self, if I ever get desperate for cash I should operate a train at festivals.  At $3 per head we decided that he easily pulls a few thousand per weekend - that explains the smile on the conductor's face.

Pre- 5K race 

Post 5K race 

Nolan digs the mighty machines

4.  Guys' Nite Out, Girls Nite In
     While Jeff, Nolan and myself went out for dinner and duck-feeding, the ladies hosted a jewelry party with tons of yummy finger foods.

Just as we started to feed the ducks we were distracted by a small snapping turtle.

Jeff scores man points by subduing this reptilian beast and demasculating it by showing everyone his underside.
There were a lot of ducks and Nolan went with the "feed one enough so that he'll make it through the winter" strategy rather than the more socialist "a crumb for every bill" method.

Jewelry party!!  Kind of makes you glad to have a penis so you don't have to partake in these things.

Fancy finger foods 

Sisters with the jewelry party lady, Heather.

5.  Other breweries and family time
     Throughout the week we were able to get-together with extended family and friends, hang out at the pool and visit a couple more local breweries in New Hampshire and Newburyport.  We always enjoy the simple life of a New England summer.

Portsmouth Brewery/Smuttynose Brewery - Portsmouth, NH

Marisa, Kendra, and Susan with family friend Mary.

Extended family time with the Riley/Faherty/Mitchells.

Pool time with uncle Justin

Newburyport Brewing Company

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