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Drinking Like a Lady: 2012 Review of Pumpkin Beers

17 Sep

Fall is here, and I am in my own personal heaven… It’s pumpkin beer season!

Since I’ve turned 21 I feel like the numbers of pumpkin beer available on shelves have tripled. Everyone has a favorite, but there are just too many to try in such a short season that you can’t find out. So I decided to help.

The other night, my boyfriend Alex and I painstakingly sampled seven different pumpkin beers. The things I do for this blog… I deserve a Nobel prize. We based tested each beer based on four things, scored through numbers 1-5: Color, smell, pumpkin flavor, and overall flavor. We averaged those numbers to find a solitary score along with a short write-up. Here’s what we found, scored from best to worst. Alex’s score is listed below mine, but since this is my blog the rankings reflect how I saw them:



1. Imperial Pumpkin Ale: Weyerbacher 
My Score: 3.875
Alex’s Score: 4.5
My Take: This was one of our last beers to taste. By then I was tired and ready to throw in the towel, and I was worried that would ruin things. I was wrong. The beer was a much deeper red than any other of the ones we’ve tasted before- creepy Halloween beer? It had a very sweet smell but I was happy to know that it overpowered the hops. It almost tasted like pumpkin pie. Sweet, but savory. It was so diverse, and like all good beers, it got better as it got warmer. Would I buy this again? I’m planning to after work!

Alex’s Take: Right when the beer hit the glass I knew this was going to be one of the better beers. It was a really dark red, a definite diversion from the orange ambers that dominated the night. Its spicy bouquet exploded right from the beginning. It was the sweetest smelling beer without a doubt. There was a strong smell and taste of cloves which worried me as it’s not my favorite spice but it actually added a really nice twist. That along with the good overall pumpkin spice made this a beer that I would definitely get more of.

2. Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale: River Horse Brewing Company
My Score: 3.5
Alex’s Score: 4
My Take: Of course I had to sample a South Jersey beer, and I wasn’t let down. Maybe it was fresher because it comes from such close quarters, but I haven’t been let down at this brewery yet. The foggy brown color was less than desirable, and the hops smelled a little too strongly for me, (I’m not a huge fan of extra hoppy beers) but the nutmeg and cinnamon that were hidden in the scent found a way to stand out in the taste. And as it warmed in my hand, all spice and even more nutmeg began to warm up in the scent as well. I would order this beer again: especially since I believe the freshness is something I won’t be able to find elsewhere.

Alex’s Take: Nothing particularly memorable about this beer but it was one of the most drinkable. The color was deep and opaque, and the smell was very strong. The flavor didn’t quite match the bold smell. Spices hit right at the front before succumbing to a bitterness that was the beer’s downfall. It did, however, finish with a nice kick. Coming from right here in NJ, it was one of the fresher beers which me want to try it again even more. I will be going back for a six pack.

3. Pumpkin Fest: Terrapin Brewing Company
My Score: 3.375
Alex’s Score: 3.5
My take: In a pumpkin beer I want a few things before I take a sip: a rich, amber color and a burst of cinnamon, cloves and all spice in the scent. I was drawn into Terrapin’s beer as soon as I poured it. The scent carried into the first taste, but the aftertaste was lost a little in the Oktoberfest lager- normally a pumpkin beer is an ale- and I tasted a little bit too many hops for my liking. Overall, I would buy this again in an instant.

Alex’s take: This beer didn’t wow me at the time but the more I think about it the more I want to drink it again. Before I even knew what this beer was trying to be I described it as “Marzen-like” the typical german malty beer associated with Oktoberfest. I usually think marzens are bland and pretty undrinkable. No so for Terrapin. Turns out pumpkin spices are the perfect complement to the sumptuous maltiness of the marzen. I might have to buy a case.

4. Pumple Drumkin Spiced Ale: Cisco Brewers
My Score: 2.75Image Courtesy: BrewBound.com
Alex’s Score: 3.5
My Take: I’m not going to lie: I chose this beer because of the adorable little pumpkin on the front. I originally wanted to skip it because of the idea that you “can’t judge a book by it’s cover,” but it’s a beer, not a book so whatever. The color was a very dark amber, slightly orange, and exactly what I was hoping to find in a pumpkin ale. Unfortunately, I missed the spices that are promised in the name in both the scent and the smell. I was overpowered by the hoppiness. There was a freshness from the hops that some IPA fans might love, because it brought out a particular freshness, but I was looking for warmth and spice. I wouldn’t buy this beer again, but I’ll certainly keep the bottle close by for when I need a smile.

Alex’s Take: When we opened Pumple Drumpkin I was very excited to try it. It was the only beer we tried to have any kind of hoppy smell to it which is something I love. The flavor was a big letdown though. It was absent any pumpkin flavor and didn’t pack any of the hops its nose boasted. Not a bad beer and I might give it another shot before I write it off completely.

5. Pumpkin Ale: Smuttynose Brewing Company
My Score: 2.63
Alex’s Score: 2.5
My Take: This bottle had the weakest color out of all the beers, almost resembling a typical lager. The scent carried most of the taste, with a strong hit of nutmeg right from the start followed by a sweet cinnamon scent. This beer would have suffered without it, however, as the flavor matched the color more than anything: slightly bland, almost flat even. Mild was definitely a good way to put it, but like I said the scent really made it a harmless beer to drink. Not worth a second try, however.

Alex’s Take: Sad to say this was one of my least favorite beers of the night. I love Smuttynose but this was not up to their standard. The smell was sour and the taste was overly acidic. There were times when I found myself enjoying it but the feeling would subside with the next sip. Just an odd taste that I can’t really put my finger on. I don’t think I would get this one again.

6. Punkin Ale: Dogfish Head Brewery
My Score: 2.625
Alex’s Score:
1.75
My Take:
This is the original pumpkin ale, and the only one I would drink for the longest time, and I hate myself for ranking it so low, but I was unbelievably let down. Alex and I theorize that the liquor store we visited restocked the shelves with last year’s bottles, and I’m going over to ask them the honest truth tomorrow (will I get the truth? Let’s see) because there is no way that Dogfish would put out this product. I had this beer on tap at their Rehoboth, DE location and it was one of the best beers I’ve ever drank, so for us to have sipped this super carbonated, flavorless ale on Saturday has to be a fluke. So I will most definitely be ordering this beer again, from a different store. This beer is one of the reasons I got into craft beers in the first place, so it just goes to show how easily tainted one craft beer can be from store to store.

Alex’s Take: This had to be an old bottle because I bought two cases of this last year and loved every sip. And this bad tasting would not discourage me from buying a case of Punkin again, year after year.

7. Imperial Pumking: Southern Tier Brewing Company
My Score: 2.5
Alex’s Score: 2.75
My Take: Of all the pumpkin beers- with the exception of Dogfish’s Punkin Ale- that I was going out to purchase, there was an overwhelming number of people that told me that this was the best, and of all the beers we tasted this was the beer that let me down the most. The beer was a light gold color, not the most appealing color when you’re looking forward to pumpkin. The scent had a strong metallic ring to it, so much so that upon taking my first sip I had to stop and hold my breath. That metallic scent led into the taste, unfortunately. It completely ruined the flavor for me and I gave the rest to my dad who actually loved it. Was this another bad beer from the store? I don’t know, but I don’t think it matched my expectations either way.

Alex’s Take:  I always have this beer recommended to me. Southern Tier has rarely steered me wrong but this beer was missing something. It had the most interesting color. It was almost bright orange which I thought was cool. The only thing I could smell from this beer was candy corn, something that probably ruined the rest of the tasting for me. There wasn’t a ton of pumpkin flavor, but it was different enough to make it stand out. There was a hint of brown sugar to go along with the dry bitterness of the Pumpking. Overall, I thought it was missing some complexity. It’s deep flavor was its biggest plus but also its biggest downfall as it made it a little one-note. I don’t think I could even finish another glass of this beer.

Do you have a pumpkin beer that we simply have to taste? Shoot me a comment, or tweet me @EricaBauw!

A Hair Tutorial You HAVEN’T Seen on Pinterest

13 Sep

I am a slave to Pinterest. Especially when it comes to clothes, makeup, nails… things I’m normally mildly clueless about.

If you find me on Pinterest, you will find an entire board dedicated to just hair styles and makeup, mostly I am constantly looking for ways to curl my hair. My hair doesn’t hold a curl. Don’t join the 23 years of hairdressers and friends in a dorm room with an expensive straightener and tell me “I can make it curl, they just didn’t do it right.” You’ll just look silly. It doesn’t curl. It falls in 10 seconds or less.

Out of the beach wave tutorials on my Pinterest, I have actually tried all of them, as opposed to just pinning it and never looking again. Half of them leave my head partially curled, then the rest slumped and weird looking, the other half turn my head into a frizzy nightmare that can’t even look acceptable in a bun.

So I’m sharing with you my beach curls that I’ve been using for years that actually works. And they’re legit, because I actually got this idea from going to the beach! When I had really long hair it would get knotted up from the waves, so I would French braid my hair into two braids before heading out. Then, when it dried I would take it out and have these amazing waves that actually lasted all day. So here is my super easy, super effective curly/wavy hair tutorial for girls who can’t get it right.

1. Add a small amount of product to the bottom half of wet hair. By wet I mean as soon as you get out of the shower. I use Herbal Essences Tousle Me Softly mousse, mainly because it’s crazy cheap. Sure, you can use more expensive products… but why bother? It’s not like I’m styling my hair all the time.

If you dont have any products try adding a few tablespoons of salt to warm water and wetting your hair with that. After all, this is a beach hair inspiration, salt water was kind of what got this idea into my head in the first place.

2. Divide your still wet hair into 2-6 equal parts. The more divisions you make, the tighter the waves will be. I chose six, to get more of a curl and less of a loose wave, but usually I divide it into four. Plus, I always do this at night, right out of the shower and about an hour before I go to bed. That gives me 8 hours for my hair to dry. If you want your hair to stay clean and ready for night time, try doing two parts. The easiest way for me is to split my hair into a middle part like I was making pigtails, then divide each half into their own halves. Tie all of the parts off with their own hair tie.

3. French braid each individual section of your hair. Now here’s the thing: I am completely clueless when it comes to hair. I can do a basic ponytail, I can pin the front back with a bobby pin, and I can french braid. That is all I know how to do. If you are awful at everything like me, I guarantee you that you can learn to French braid your own hair. It is much easier than it looks, and there are 200 tutorials on YouTube and Pinterest. Once you learn a french braid, you can do so so much! Including this tutorial.

When your hair is done all it has to do is dry. When I want this to be clean and ready for the evening I use two braids, and pin the two braids back so that it looks like a neat style on the lower back of my neck that I can wear to work. Plus, once you braid your hair into more than two braids you kind of look like Snoop Dogg… and that’s awesome.

Got my mind on my money and my money on my mind…

4. When your hair is dry, unbraid and voila! It takes about 8 hours for particularly thick hair like mine, but for thinner hair it might take 5-6. No product needed at the end, it should last all day! Below is this mornings’ results, awkward smile and everything! You have to try this out. It’s so easy, especially when compared to all the crazy ideas to get the same results that people put on Pinterest.

 

 

Comment if you have any questions, or if you want to know which tutorials I have tried that have crashed and burned miserably.

Drink Like a Lady: Coming this Friday…

11 Sep

I am currently looking at 7 bottles of the country’s finest pumpkin ales, all crying to be opened and enjoyed. Check back Saturday for a full, detailed review on my favorites, plus what you should look for when picking your new favorite!

Summer Staples

11 Jun

Summer is in full swing… AKA it’s freaking hot outside. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the season. New Jersey basically turns into an Amazon forest or something and humidity turns those sunny days into more of a nightmare.

Still, there is one plus: new clothes and styles! I love summer shopping: dresses, sandals, the whole kit and kaboodle. So I’ve done the painful research and found the staples that I need for this summer to at least look cool while I’m slowly boiling in the Jersey heat.

Bright Wedges
Target, $29.99
This has been my year in heels. I’ve never had much of an occasion to wear heels, but now that I’ve got a real job I’ve been rocking them with each season like it’s nobody’s business. In fact, wedges were the reason I decided to write this post in the first place. You can’t avoid them and they are available in the cutest colors and all different heights. My advice is to check out target for some really good deals, like the ones pictured or the ones I’m wearing now that I found for $8! Yeah, call me the ultimate sale hunter.

White Jeans
Gap, $69.95
I tend to avoid white clothing like the plague. White and I don’ get along for too long. It’s only a matter of time before I somehow manage to spill something dark-colored and permanent on a brand new item. I’ve gotten used to walking around with stains on me, but now that I’m turning into a full-fledged adult I should probably make some changes.

I have wanted white jeans for forever, and this summer it’s an undeniable desire. Colored jeans are everywhere, and I’ve been obsessed with white on navy blue recently. Pretty much anything slightly nautical, I’m on board. Plus, they’re versatile: day to night and all that jazz.

Maxi Skirt
Pac Sun, on sale! $39.50
Oh gosh, how wonderful are Maxi skirts? I get little chills just thinking about them. They are like more fashionable sweat pants: super comfy and easy to throw on with anything. Plus, short people like me can usually just roll the top over or do a quick hem on the bottom without any worries. I’ve been secretly eyeing up long skirts for a few years, and I’m so excited that people are finally rocking them. I fully embrace the hippie-chic look, which is why I can’t stop daydreaming about this tie-dyed skirt, but they make a ton of bold colored maxis that, when paired with a solid tank top and some chunky gold jewelry, look effortlessly classy.

Strapless, Floral Dress
Old Navy, on sale! $18.99
Best part about summer? Dresses. Picking one dress for this blog was hard enough, but I’ve had my eye on this little number and now that it’s on sale I feel like it’s time to pounce.

Giant floral prints may look tacky on guys, but they look awesome on ladies so I plan on taking full advantage of that giant step for femininity (sarcasm, everyone, sarcasm). Plus I love a strapless dress with an elastic top. Without that thin piece of elastic you are stuck pulling up the sides of your dress all day long, but it’s such a lifesaver when designers (most likely women designers) use their brains for such a simple solution.

Straw tote
Michael Kors, $328
I am not encouraging you to go out and spend $300 on a purse. That would be absolutely bananas. I’m just saying that if I had the money to throw around this would be my ideal suggestion. It’s actually a purse I stumbled on while I was doing some research for my job (see it in print next month! Yay shameless plugs) and have fallen in love with it. So has the rest of the world, apparently, because it was on backorder soon after it hit the Internet. I love that this has straw, a little leather and the perfect amount of chain. Plus, it is humongous, which is just right for a crazy bag lady like me.

Toms
Zumiez, $44.95
Normally I wouldn’t be able to justify spending almost fifty bucks for a pair of shoes that are practically slippers, but I have to make an exception for Toms. This fabulous brand of super-comfy slip ons actually match your purchase, by delivering one pair of shoes to children in third world countries that could not otherwise afford their own.  That might be why every celebrity under the sun originally made them a trend. I like them because they’re plain canvas, and you can totally tweak them to make them your own.

Patterned Shorts
Gap, $49.95
I’m at an age where cutoff jean shorts are slowly becoming more trashy then trendy, so searching for an alternative was necessary. And then I discovered this year’s patterned shorts trend. I used to wear shorts with designs on them, when I was 10 years old and my mom still shopped for my clothes and everything was covered in pink bunnies and embarrassing stuff like that. So, yes, you can guess that I was slightly hesitant to embrace this new idea.  But then I discovered that patterns can be cute… really cute! And not ugly at all. What a concept!

Drinking Like a Lady: Lancaster Strawberry Wheat Beer

8 Apr

When I see a beer that advertises some sort of fruit in it I can’t help but get excited. My sweet tooth does backflips. They usually don’t meet my expectations, however.

With fruity beers I feel like you can go overboard with a cider or I can’t taste any fruit at all like a pale ale. But fruity wheat beers rock. They are awesome in every sense of awesome. My favorite wheat beer , 21st Amendment Hell of High Watermelon, only comes out in the summer so I’ve been waiting patiently for months for it to come out…

Then I stumbled on the Lancaster Brewing Company. They make a Strawberry Wheat Beer that I fell on tonight during a trip to the liquor store. It is fabulous. Just a hint of strawberry taste combined with the beer. Gosh. I’m in heaven. I don’t even like strawberry flavors that much and I love this.

Definitely give this a try. It’s perfect for a nice sunny weekend or when you want to settle in and watch baseball. Since it’s baseball season… finally!

Monkey Bread: a Fail-Proof and Delicious Dessert

4 Apr

As Easter creeps up this holiday I join a lot of my friends in trying to help put together a menu for family dinners. In large family settings it can be really tricky to find food that everyone can enjoy, so oftentimes the simpler recipes tend to shine. Think about the stars of your holiday meals: turkey, ham, potatoes, all very simple but absolutely necessary for a successful holiday meal.

Dessert has always been a challenge for me when it came to holidays. My desire to impress and my love for baking has always trumped the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) rule of thumb. I hate the idea of making something as standard as cupcakes or brownies, but I knew for this year I would need something that everyone could enjoy.

Enter the Monkey Bread.

My mom has been making Monkey Bread since I was young, mainly because it’s super simple and crazy delicious. I decided to whip up a batch this weekend, and took my own little twist on it to make it even more successful. If you’re strapped for time and looking for a cheap fix, I guarantee that this will be a hit this holiday weekend.

Monkey Bread

Ingredients
2 packages, Pillsbury Grands Refrigerated Biscuits
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tub (14 oz.) Land O Lakes Cinnamon Sugar Spread

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a bundt pant with a small amount of the Land O Lakes butter spread. Usually to do this I take a paper towel, scoop a small amount off the top of the tub and rub it in with my hands. It doesn’t matter if you put too much on, as it all melts into the same place, but don’t skimp!


2. In a large bowl, mix together your sugar and cinnamon. It will look wonderful and light brown and fabulously delicious. I like to make 2 cups of this, keep it in a Tupperware, and spoon it over buttered toast in the morning for a quick breakfast.
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3. Cut all of your biscuits into quarters and throw them into the large bowl of sugar, completely coating every piece. When shopping, make sure you buy the biscuits, not the layered dinner rolls that Pillsbury makes. Drop those pieces into the bunt and repeat until your out of biscuits. The remaining cinnamon-sugar can be poured over top of the bundt.


4. Melt the remaining Land O Lakes butter spread in the microwave, only for about 20 seconds, then pour that evenly over the top of the biscuits. If you would rather use butter, be my guest, but I found this stuff at Wegmans for pretty cheap and it has changed my world.


5. Bake for approximately 35 minutes. When the top is browned and you think it is done, take it out and examine the open spaces in between, and push down on a few of the pieces on top. If it feels squishy and soft, the inside is raw, but if it feels stiffer the inside is baked. Don’t worry about the top burning when trying to cook the inside. If that becomes an issue (I’ve made this recipe a ridiculous amount of times and I’ve never had that problem) put a piece of foil over the top.
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6. Flip your monkey bread out of the bundt and onto a plate and you’re done! The hardest part will be not grabbing it right away, but remember that it is pretty much covered in molten caramel, so please be careful! And enjoy!
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Try This: Easy, Grilled Dinner

30 Mar

Tonight was a tricky night for dinner for Alex and me. It’s Thursday, which is the best day of the week (30 Rock, Community, Swamp People… you get the picture), but it’s also a very, very, very crazy week at work so I’ve been stuck at the office fairly late.

Considering that I love Thursdays so much I really wanted to cook a nice dinner, but I needed to find something that was very quick (my Thursday shows start at 8 p.m. AKA way too early) and still very cheap. So a little searching on the FoodNetwork.com and I found my answer.

It may be a little bit cold for the spring time in New Jersey, but we still decided to celebrate the season and do some grilling. Peeled, raw, extra large shrimp were on sale at the grocery store, and I almost never eat shrimp for dinner, so Alex and I decided to make Bobby Flay’s Gambas al Ajillo. My favorite vegetable in the world, asparagus, is in season so I knew we had to make that too.  I have been dreaming about grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, and once again I turned to my main man Bobby Flay.

Now if you’re having a fancy dinner party or something lavish, stick to Bobby’s recipe word-for-word. If you’re like me and are not trying to buy a million ingredients, simply take your asparagus, snap off the ends, toss them lightly in olive oil, salt and then wrap 3 pieces together in one piece of prosciutto and grill for about 15 minutes. We threw some french fries into the oven as well, but you don’t really need them. Take the fries off the plate and you still have a very full plate! They didn’t really get eaten because everything else was so insanely delicious.

Voila, a dinner that took maybe 25 minutes tops. Give it a try!