Thursday, November 14, 2013

Arkansas Times' Craft Beer Festival

Earlier this month, James, his best friend Jake, and I went to the Arkansas Times' Craft Beer Festival.  There were over 50 breweries (national and local) and many local restaurants serving samples.  

We sampled Brazilian rice and beans, barbecue, bangers and mash, and brats, but the beef stew from Cregeen's Irish Pub in North Little Rock was my favorite.  

Everyone was given a scorecard for keeping track of impressions of the different samples.  

We tried beers from Abita, Anchor, Evil Twin, Green Flash, Hermitage, New Belgium, Ommegang, Tommyknocker...  We tried a beer from Marshall Brewing out of Oklahoma City, which is the brewery that made the special Gentlemen of the Road Guthrie Stopover beer.  One of my favorites was a Pumpkin Pie beer from Core Brewing & Distilling out of Springdale, Arkansas.  We also got to try a sour beer for the first time (which was one of the last ones we far the life of me I can't even remember what brewery served it!).  I actually really liked it, but I can't say that I'd rather have a glass of that than some of the others we tried.  There were some local breweries, too, but we decided to stick to more of the harder-to-find-around-here brews because we get a lot of local beer anyway.

My hands-down favorite was North Coast's Old Stock Ale.  

We didn't attend the festival last year, but heard from several people that it was much better this year.  We had an awesome time and for $35, it was money well spent!  I will definitely try to make it next year...and bring more friends!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Camping: Toad Suck Lock & Dam

One of our absolute favorite things about fall is camping.  Things have been incredibly busy this year, but we did manage to get in our first camping trip of the season (besides our Gentlemen of the Road trip) a few weeks ago.  Although we live pretty close to the Toad Suck campground, we had never actually camped here before.  

And actually waiting until the last minute paid off this time!  Because the site is run by the Corps of Engineers, most people had moved to State Parks for that weekend due to the government shutdown.  The campground is usually pretty crowded, but our timing worked perfectly and we ended up with a very nice couple of days.

The site was beautiful and quiet and it was fun watching the barges go through the lock and dam.  A couple of friends went with us, so our new tent was perfect.

The weather got quite cold at night, but nothing a campfire and several layers of quilts couldn't fix!

And also the perfect excuse for s'mores!

I don't see us being able to fit in anymore trips this year before the weather gets too cold, but we will definitely keep Toad Suck in mind for future camping trips.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ich Liebe Oktoberfest!

A few weekends ago, James and I reserved our neighborhood pavilion and threw an Oktoberfest party.  James brewed an Oktoberfest ale (we have yet to venture into making lagers) and my mom and I made lots of German food.  Dad announced the "tapping" of the keg with the traditional "O'zapft is!" ("It is tapped!") and the fun was begun!

Mom's apple streudel was a huge hit, and I had to include cinnamon-sugared almonds and gingerbread cookies.  We had pretzels, a cheese platter, German potato salad, and James's homemade sauerkraut.

My family lived in Germany for several years, so my parents have lots of neat items that we used to give the tables an authentic look.  So thankful to have a mom with such a great eye!  I didn't get many photos of the decor, but we used the traditional blue and white tablecloths and pennant banners.  

We ordered a spiral cutter/slicer to make Oktoberfest radishes.  The slices were a lot thicker than I'd like, so I intent to explore other options for this before next year.  Any suggestions?

James grilled TONS of brats!

We had lots of family in town which was so, so nice.  My awesome aunt Melissa loved spending time with Natalie.

We had such a great time.  The weather was perfect and food was delicious.  We are so blessed to have an extended family that is so close tight-knit.  We had family here from four states!  Lots of Oktoberfest music and of course "The Chicken Dance."  All of the girls were dancing and we even got Natalie joining in on it!  That was probably my favorite part of the evening.  I really hope that this is something we will turn into a yearly event....and Natalie should be a pro chicken-dancer by then. :)