When you show up at that holiday party next weekend, don’t just bring a bottle of libations to spread good cheer, bring a display-worthy bottle to put it in. We love this one from West Elm, which is cheeky and has a Boardwalk Empire kind of vibe. We recommend arriving with that in one hand, and a bottle of Apple Jack in the other–though it works great for homemade microbrews, too!
A month or so ago on a rainy day Upstate, we went exploring down Route 9. There was not much to see or do in such miserable weather, so we stopped by the Golden Harvest Farm for a cider donut and a cup of coffee. We saw a sign that said “distillery tour” pointing towards a nondescript metal building and decided to check it out. We walked into a huge warehouse filled to the ceiling with stacked oak barrels. We had stumbled upon Harvest Spirits, home to some of the finest Apple Jack and apple vodka this side of Mississippi. Founder David Grout (who bares no resemblance to farmer Bean from Fantastic Mr. Fox, btw) is a former graphic designer whose family has owned the large apple orchard for three generations. You can see his artistic side on the front of each barrel, each which depicts a quirky illustration and turns the place into a vertical art gallery. There was a small bar serving up samples of various brews for $1 each. After tasting a little Apple Jack (an alcohol made from distilled cider), rare pear Brandy and apple vodka, we decided to bring a few bottles home for friends. The sips warmed us up in way that coffee never could.
You can taste Harvest Spirit‘s concoctions yourself if you happen to in the Albany-Catskill area on a weekend, or you could order a bottle online and have it shipped to you. To learn more about the distillery, check out this informative video.
Need a last minute Father’s Day gift? Read our review, below, of The Original Craft Beer Club
Chad and I have an indulgence tradition. We love ordering beer flights whenever we discover them on menus. A beer flight is when you are given a sample size drink of five different beers to try. Luckily, we have one favorite spot in Hudson, NY that has them all time. They rotate through a variety of local beers from nearby microbreweries, and the selection is always changing. How can we create this effect at home? At first I thought what we needed was a beer flight paddle (this one from Uncommon Goods caught my eye), but we’d have to commit to opening up and drinking four bottles of beer in one sitting. That’s just not something we do very often (lightweights!). The alternative, I decided, was to join a “beer of a month” club. My thinking was that if we had a delivery of exotic beers arriving every month, we could enjoy the flavors every weekend.
THE DEAL: The Craft Beer Club, $37.75 per month. You can try it for one month or twelve, up to you! With each delivery, you get twelve bottles, comprised of four different kinds of beer from two different breweries. You can decide the delivery date(s). You can order for one month or only, a whole year, or less.
WHAT YOU’LL GET: All the beers are US-made, and each is from a small production, independent company. One of the reasons why I liked The Craft Beer Club is that all they do is beer, unlike some other beer-of-the-month clubs that are run by companies that also do other things like wine and cheese. Chad just received his first box, and it features the Flying Bison Brewing Company from Buffalo, NY and the Evil Genius Beer Company from eastern Pennsylvania. Also in the box is a one-sheet on each brewery, providing a bit of insider knowledge and the scoop on the beers within. Especially fun for a Father’s Day treat: Recipes are included! You could make a whole feast centered around the beers you just received. Ours included a cold bacon ranch pasta salad that sounds especially yummy. In addition, we got a bottle opener as “free gift” bonus.
THE UPSIDE: The beauty of the Craft Beer Club is the feeling that you’re embracing the local beer movement. It’s like a roadtrip for your taste buds delivered right to your door. We love the information included with the beers, and so far, they’ve been great. (We especially liked Rusty Chain, an amber ale from Flying Bison).
THE DOWNSIDE: If you’re giving this is a gift, the surprise element will be hard to pull off. I sent the order in Chad’s name, because it’s coming for several months and I wanted him to enjoy getting the package. But, there’s no way to include a gift card, so when it came, he didn’t know what it was or who it was from. Also, I was hoping there would be four different breweries featured a month – not four beers from two breweries. But honestly, that’s a minor a point.
THE VERDICT: If sampling local beers is a favorite part of your travel adventures, you should give the Craft Beer Club a try. Having ales and IPAs from macro breweries in your fridge will liven up any meal. It’s a bit pricey, but worth it for the well curated selection.
Visit Craftbeerclub.com or call 1-800-200-2959.
I don’t know about your house, but we go through a lot of seltzer here. We don’t drink sodas, but dinner is not complete without some kind of sparkly water. Since moving to a house with storage room in the basement, we’ve taken to buying huge pallets of the stuff from Costco. The cost is about $5 for 20 bottles. I hate going through so many plastic bottles, but at least I live in a town that recycles them.
Then along comes SodaStream. I first encountered this gizmo at my office last year. There was one in the kitchen, and for a while, it was fun. We’d giggle at the funny noises it made and it was nice to have instant bubbles in our water cups. Then the carbonated tank ran out of juice and no one replaced it. There it sat like a big paperweight for months.
SodaStream has been getting a lot of attention the past couple of weeks for a rejected Superbowl ad. The network was worried about pissing off their big buck advertisers, PepsiCo and Coke, and pulled it at the last minute. The New Yorker asks this week if the soda giants shouldn’t be worried about SodaStream. As Joshua Rothman writes, “The problem for Coke and Pepsi isn’t that SodaStream cuts into sales. It’s that SodaStream demystifies soda.” The gadget works by simply pumping forced air into a bottle, and you can add syrup if you want a flavor. It is a simple concept. But Sodastreams cost at least $80, and the air tanks do run out and can’t be bought — or recycled — easily. We have visions of stack of them piling up and not knowing how to dispose of them. New carbonators cost about $50 bucks each, but the company wants you to bring it back to a retailer for an exchange for a full one. You just pay for air. The Superbowl ad claims Sodastream will help save the planet by not using so many plastic bottles (“More than 500 million could have been saved during the Superbowl”) but it does create another to-do on your list. I’m not sold, but tempted (does that guy, above, come with it?).
What’s your take on the SodaStream? New necessity or gadget that will expire soon?
Water filters are one of those every day objects that desperately need to be redesigned. They take up too much room in our fridge, the filters fall out or leave black charcoal flakes in our glasses when we pour them, and worst of all, they are unattractive plastic pitchers. That’s why we are happy to be endorsing Soma’s water filter via Kickstarter. With a sleek, glass carafe and an equally sleek compostable filter, it creates clean, pure water that is filtered naturally with three layers of materials: malaysian coconut shells, a food-based PLA composite and a vegan silk from India. Soma claims that the filter removes heavy metals, chlorine and other contaminants. Visit Kickstarter to see a video about how the Soma filter was created and the team behind it. Make a pledge of $50 and you’ll receive a glass carafe and a 6-month filter subscription.