Alcohol: It’s All Relative

I understand that some people are die-hards when it comes to alcohol. They like one kind or one brand. While I certainly have favorites, it’s the atmosphere that decides my drink of choice. There are a few drinks I do not like no matter the occasion. I hate all tequila: straight or mixed. I truly dislike Bud Light. I’d prefer a Natty to a Bud  any day, and that’s the truth. But aside from a few anomalies it’s my mood that dictates the drink, which explains why it’s so difficult for me to claim favorites amongst alcohol.

One of my deepest and darkest confessions is that I love Bud Light Lime. I rarely drink beer with food. The beer fills me up too much and I don’t fully enjoy the meal. Bud Light Lime doesn’t fill me up and is one of the few sweet drinks I can tolerate in large quantities. When I’m enjoying a meal in the tropics or during a hot summer day/evening there is no beer in the world I’d prefer to a Bud Lime.

ImageWhen I’m lounging by the pool or the beach don’t bring me a dark Belgian Ale, bring me a Bud Light Lime. I know their are some great summer beers out that are  better quality. But For its cost and its taste Bud Light Lime suits me perfectly. However, between the months of September and April (unless I’m on vacation) you will never see a Bud Light Lime in my hand.

Beer is very seasonal for me. The time of the year for me to drink expensive beers is during the holidays. I like Belgian Christmas Ales and they do not come cheap. I’ll spend top dollar for some of the best beers in the world. I can’t spend that kind of money year round so I have to limit myself. But if you come over to my house between December and January expect to be treated to some fine, dark beers.

My go to year round is Yuengling. I’m from PA and it’s in my blood. If I want to grab a pitcher at a bar, hang out with some friends, or just enjoy a few beers I’ll drink Yuengling. It is not expensive and tastes good. If I’m planning on only having a couple beers I’ll treat myself to a Smithwicks or a Guinness. Both are too expensive for me to consistently drink in large quantities but are both, in my opinion, two of the best tasting beers in the world. When the mood strikes me, I’ll grab my growler and head to the craft beer store to try something new.  Honestly, more often then not you’ll find me pouring crafts from my growler, as there is always a craft to suit my mood.

The same thing goes for liquor. During the summer/at the beach I drink the fruitiest cocktails you can find, as well as straight rums. My guilty pleasures are rum-runners and piña coladas. But in the winter my drink of choice is always straight whiskey. Normally bourbon, but I dabble with scotch and Irish Whiskey as well.

Yes, wine works the same. I tend to prefer dry wines to sweet but I’ll drink them both. My wine knowledge is quite limited but pick almost any wine on the spectrum and there is a situation where I’d enjoy it.

I challenge to you to do the same. Expand your horizons and don’t let other people’s opinions keep you from trying something new. You’d be surprised to learn what you’ll enjoy.

-MWez

Don’t Be a Beer Snob

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I visited Belgium last year and fell in love with beer. Trying the various Belgian craft beers was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. When I returned home I turned my sights to the ever-increasing number of American craft beers. I live in a great location for craft beer, as there are multiple breweries within an hour of my house. As I was expanding my craft beer horizons I came across an aspect of craft beer culture I was really disappointed by: beer snobs.

Craft beer is the new thing. Craft breweries and stores are opening up everywhere. Americans have shifted their beer drinking habits. Instead of consuming large quantities of cheap beer, people are consuming fewer more expensive beers. The craft beer market boomed and entrepreneurs are seizing the opportunity. As a result America’s beer preferences are expanding. Consequently people have begun to pride themselves on knowing the intricacies and differences of each style. This is great. It allows people to experiment with and perfect different beers. But it has turned into a competition to show who knows the most.

If beer is your hobby, that is great. If you know a lot about it, then that is also great. But don’t be the guy who scoffs at someone who doesn’t know whether they want a hoppy ale or a dark porter. You’re not helping anyone.  You’re not making the novice beer drinker feel comfortable. The more you learn about beer the more you should be willing to help. You don’t look cool by taking sips of a coolly named beer and priding yourself on being able to spit out a slew of nonsense. If someone is in a craft beer shop don’t look at him sideways if they look unsure of what exactly they want. Don’t judge them if they don’t know anything about beer besides the major companies.

The funniest thing to me is when people wear T-shirts that say, “drink local beer,” berate the big beer conglomerations, but then get upset when someone new decides they want to expand their beer horizons but don’t know exactly what they’re talking about. You should be happy that people are willing to spend more of their hard earned money to drink the more expensive but craft produced beer. Don’t pride yourself on knowing more than someone else. I guarantee you there is someone who knows more than you. Your beer store is not cool due to the fact that only a small group of ‘enthusiasts’ are allowed through the front door. Your beer store is cool because it has a variety of fun new beers to try.

Don’t be a beer snob and we can all enjoy this beautiful elixir of the gods, while supporting small business owners and furthering the product.

-MWez

The Current State of Country Music

I have liked country music my entire life, but I truly caught the country music bug in high school. I went through various musical phases overtime but generally my big three have always been country, rock, and rap. Until high school, rock and rap edged out country but around 10th grade that changed in a major way. I became obsesseImaged with country music; all forms of country,mainstream, underground, alternative, classic; everything. I dabbled into the greats such as Waylon, George Jones, Steve Earle, and Vern Godsin. I loved the super-poppy artists such as Kenny Chesney, Jason Aldean, and Luke Bryan. All the way down to Texas Country with Josh Abbot, Corey Morrow, and Reckless Kelly. I honestly like it all.

I scoffed at the ‘old-timers’ who called new country terrible and yearned for the days of Hank Williams. They claimed it was too infused with rock, shallow, and boring. I loved it. I loved the rock influences; in the beginning I even loved the rap influences. Why wouldn’t I? It was a combination of my three favorite genres. It made sense to me, and still does. The new country artists were just as heavily influenced by 60s, 70s, and 80s rock as they were with classic country. They didn’t grow up listening to Merle Haggard at parties; they grew up listening to AC/DC. They loved country but rock was cool. When they began making their own music they fused the two. That was awesome and I supported this new country sound 100%.

But as we enter the middle part of the new decade everything has changed. Country music has officially become terrible. New artists are not making country music. They are not even making good music. If it was good but not necessarily country I could deal with it. It is not good, and most of it is horrendous. New country is the product of a corporate and greedy machine. The culture of country music has to change.

I am not an expert in music. I can’t go into the technical details of what distinguishes genres. I don’t want to and I don’t really care to. I like music. I understand that country is distinguished by a few key instruments: fiddle, banjo, steel guitar, slide guitar and the list can go and on. I understand the reluctance from country traditionalists to accept new elements to their music. But this is not my position. I am not claiming for a change in how country sounds. (Honestly I am but I believe there is a bigger issue that must be addressed.) Country and adjectives such as rebel, outlaw, outsider and independent go together. They should go together. Country music is supposed to be the voice of rural and small town America. It is supposed to be the voice of people who live their lives they way they want. They do not conform. They don’t care what anyone says about them whether it be city slickers or country-folk. They live their lives however they desire and their music sure as hell reflects that.

Nashville is currently dominated by the same personalities that litter Hollywood and Wall Street. They are driven by greed and personal gain. They are very smart people. They know what sells. And that is their motivation: what sells.  When hiring new artists, songwriters, and producer, execs are concerned with what will make them the most money.  They figure out a formula and milk it for all it’s worth. As country music began to move away from a more traditional sound it gained a wider audience. Crossover artists became very common. This process has ben ongoing for decades. Country music became a gold mind. Major record labels began to flood Nashville. It was not a huge problem, in my opinion, until very recent. I may not have agreed with it but at least the content was still good. But a very definite formula was invented. And the record labels realized the people could not get enough of it.

As the world becomes increasingly more materialistic so does country music. Today’s country music panders to the very things that it stands diabolically opposite of. It all leads back to the money people in control. The product is watered-down to the max. The same song is being released over-and-over again. The songs are clichéd and unoriginal. The culture of country music has become shallow and predictable. Something has to be done to change it.

*This post was basically my rambling I feel very strongly about this topic and I wanted to get this overview out there. There have been signs recently that paint a positive picture for the future of country music. I will be adding many posts in the future that delve much deeper into this topic. I will single out specific individuals (artists, producers, songwriters, and execs) who are both hurting and helping country music. But main objective will be to stay positive and shed some light on some great artists who deserve more spotlight. Thanks for reading.

-MWez

Stowe, VT: Restaurants/Bars

One of my favorite parts of traveling is trying new food and restaurants. Stowe has great restaurants and before heading to the mountain I would highly recommend setting aside some cash for at least a couple of great dinners. I am going to break down a few of my favorite restaurants that I had the pleasure of attending.

Harrison’s Restaurant & Bar — 25 Main St, Carlson Bldg, Stowe, VT 05672

I attended Harrison’s on NYE and was extremely pleased with my meal. The hotel is located in a basement and is fairly small; no more than 20 tables. Despite its size we didn’t feel claustrophobic as the tables were large and fairly spread apart. The main feature of the dining room is an electric fireplace, and while I would have preferred a real fire, it was a nice touch. The wait staff was excellent; informative, attentive, and prompt. For appetizers we had crab cakes and fried oysters. Both were excellent, the crab cakes contained mostly meat and little breading while the oysters were surprisingly light and full of flavor. For dinner I had the peppered strip steak which was also excellent. The desert was by far the best part of the meal, which is saying something because the entire meal was delicious. We ordered the profiteroles with homemade ice cream. The profiteroles were the best I have had in my entire life. The ice cream was also delicious even for Vermont standards. I was dreaming about this desert the rest of the week. There were a number of specialty cocktails, a solid craft beer selection (which can be expected for any Vermont establishment), a nice wine list, and the bartender served a generous pour of whiskey. Overall I would highly recommend Harrison’s.

O’Grady’s Grill & Bar —  504 Mountain Rd, Stowe, VT 05672-5104

We stopped in at O’Grady’s for an early dinner on a Saturday. We sat at high-tops in the bar area and were surprised at how good of a meal we received. The biggest surprise was the waiter/bartender. Very often you find the service a little lacking when one person is acting as both the bartender and the waiter. This is both understandable and expected when eating in the bar area. O’Grady’s bartender was fantastic. Our drinks and water were always fresh and our orders taken quickly. I had the homemade crispy wings to start that were fantastic and cioppino for dinner, which was perfectly spicy and zesty. My girlfriend thoroughly enjoyed her lobster roll that consisted of huge chunks of lobster meat. We asked if we could have the ice cream sundae to go. The waiter stated that while this request had never been made before, he was sure they could figure it out. The Guinness on tap met my high standards. I would highly recommend O’Grady’s.

Von Trapp Family Lodge Dining Room — 700 Trapp Hill Road, Stowe, VT 05672

We attended the Trapp Lodge for dinner based on strong online reviews. The atmosphere at the lodge is fantastic. The lodge is huge and isolated up a long driveway. The lodge is designed in an Austrian style and as someone who has visited Salzburg, Austria (where the Trapp Family originated) I can attest it is true to its vision. The dining room is quite large; the wait staff is highly professional and made the meal an enjoyable experience. However, I can’t give the food a fair review. I opted for the tasting menu due to the lobster entree. The lobster entree was delicious and had about half a lobster’s worth of meat. The pork belly appetizer was average and the raspberry puff pastry desert underwhelmed me. Overall I would recommend the Trapp Family Dining Room.

Matterhorn Bar & Grill  — 4969 Mountain Road, Stowe, VT 05672-4805

The Matterhorn is one of the most popular spots in Stowe for locals. It is Stowe’s only true bar. Matterhorn has live music every Friday and Saturday the bands playing the nights we were there were pretty good. I did not try the food but it was recommend, especially the sushi, which is unlikely for a place like this. The Ski Apres is extremely popular and can actually get a little too crowded. The Matterhorn is perfect to grab a beer after a long day on the mountain, to have some good food and drinks, or later at night to just hang out and shoot some pool. I would recommend the Matterhorn.

Other Recommendations

McGrady’s Restaurant: Excellent breakfast and scones. Highly recommend.

Whip Bar and Grill: Solid steak house. Recommend.

Bistro at ten Acres: Recommend.

-MWez

Stowe, VT: The Mountain

I recently spent a week snowboarding Stowe, VT with my girlfriend. I have been skiing Killington my entire life but this year I wanted to try something new. I am going to put up multiple post discussing each aspect of a ‘ski vacation’ but I am going to start off with the most important thing: the boarding/skiing.

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Overall I was fairly pleased with the mountain. Snow conditions were average for east coast skiing: mostly packed powder, a few patches of ice, and some nice powder in the trees. Such conditions are all that  can be expected when boarding Vermont. On average Stowe had about 70 trails open out of 114 which is not bad for January. Stowe has clearly invested in their snow-making abilities and were throwing snow on most trails. The mountain is separated into two peaks but I spent most of my time on the Mt. Mansfield which is the larger of the two. Spruce Peak is the smaller peak and has more beginner terrain. The trails are fairly wide and their is some  steep terrain. Stowe has two terrain parks and one rail garden. The terrain parks were not overly impressive. Stowe’s focus is on their trails. If you are looking to spend most of your time at the terrain park I would not recommend it. If you are looking for some challenging and steep trails I would definitely recommend it.

Stowe has a new system for lift tickets. When you arrive at the ticket booth you purchase an evolution card which comes with an online account. You can access your account online and purchase either packages or daily lift tickets. The evolution card operates similar to EZ Pass. You Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 4.33.27 PMpass through gates prior to boarding the lift and your card is automatically scanned. This is a great system because you can purchase daily passes which automatically load to your card and because it allows the lift line to move quickly as each lift ticket is not individually scanned.

I did not eat at any of the lodges so I cannot comment on the food but; the Waffle Haus waffles are without question one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life.

I will be adding a few more posts about the village of Stowe including restaurants, hotels, bars and shopping.

-MWez

An Ode to Dive Bars

I love dive bars. I want my bar to have a classic look. Dark, dingy, medium volume music, 5-6 simple beers on tap, medium-shelf liquors, and a well-worn/authentic atmosphere. This is the kind of bar that makes me feel the most comfortable and where I can truly be myself. When asked to define what a dive bar is I usually have  trouble. It’s similar to Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of porn: “I know it when I see it.”

ImageEvery country has their own unique style of bar/pub. Of course each county borrows themes and styles from other countries, but each culture creates their own specific style. I believe a lot can be ascertained about a culture’s personality from studying their preferred watering holes. When it comes to America the iconic watering hole is a simple bar which clearly has one purpose: drinking. Many bars in America try to portray this image when in reality the purpose of the patrons is anything besides drinking.

There is a time and place for loud music and dancing within a boisterous crowded atmosphere. But the majority of the time when I’m heading to a bar; I want to take a seat, have a beer/whiskey, talk to some friends/strangers, listen to good music and just chill out. The best place to do this is at a dive bar.

A true dive has to be popular amongst locals. If a bar is popular amongst locals that tells me a few things. It is not overpriced, it has good bartenders/staff, it has good drink, and good music. Music is very important when judging a bar. A juke box or touchtunes is a plus. I want a mixture of good music (for me I prefer country/rock) but more importantly it has to be loud enough to clearly hear but not too loud that you can’t talk over it in a normal voice. The bar should have billiards or darts (maybe shuffleboard but you rarely find that in a true dive), but should never have a DJ. The purpose of attending the bar is to drink and the bar owner understands that. For a dive bar to be at its best you should feel comfortable going solo, plopping yourself down at the bar, and having a drink. The bar should be empty some nights, decently crowded other nights, but NEVER packed. The crowd that wants an overly packed bar wouldn’t be found at a true dive. And the decor has to be genuine and simple. It should have a local flare but not a faux local flare. Dive bar’s attract authentic people

I love attending dives and they are becoming harder and harder to find. When you find a dive that you like cherish it, they’re few and far between. America has it’s roots buried deep in frontier culture and nothing screams America like a frontier style bar. Here’s to hoping that the masterpiece that is the true American dive does not fade away.

-MWez

Not a Critic

I am not a critic. I do not consider myself a critic nor do I usually agree with what critics have to say. I am simply a normal person giving a normal persons’ opinions, views, and experiences. My reviews are not meant to be critiques but rather a description of my personal experiences.

Many ‘experts’ say that for a blog to be successful it has to have a focus. This blog does not really have a focus. I believe this blog will be interesting to people who are looking to experience things on their own or like to hear someone else’s opinions. If I dislike anything I am not necessarily saying it is bad, I am simply saying I did not enjoy it. I’m also not saying that something I like is the best or everyone will like it. I am a unique individual and while I anticipate people will agree with me I also anticipate many will highly disagree.

Again I am stressing that I don’t consider myself a critic because I am not an expert in any single field. With that said I hope you enjoy my random musings.

-MWez