That time I almost stole a kayak in Poland.

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Ok, I might be exaggerating slightly. But not much, actually. I really did almost steal a kayak. The only thing that held us back was the lack of an oar, and therefore no way to steer ourselves down the adjacent river.

So I suppose the next step in this story is to give you some context. Because you’re probably just thinking I’m some asshole who tries to steal people’s kayaks, but I promise you it’s not like that. (Ok, it’s only sort of like that.) Also, I just switched from “I” to “us” in the previous paragraph without warning, and I swear it’s because there were other people involved, and not because I think of myself in the plural. We’re not that crazy.

ANYWAY. A few weeks ago, I went to Poland for work. As many of you know by now, this usually means I go to a foreign country and I spend a LOT of hours in a field watching people play ultimate frisbee and/or selling apparel to said ultimate frisbee players. And then, once us frisbee people leave the fields, weird things happen. Because that’s how we roll. Also, we’ve all gone insane from spending 12 hours a day in a fucking field, and we don’t know how to properly behave in the real world.

And so, on this particular Saturday night, we got into all sorts of shenanigans. The tournament had ended earlier that afternoon, so all the staff were finally done and allowed to actually let loose and enjoy themselves. So that night, it was time to go. And I mean, “let’s fucking GO” level go.

First, I should begin by saying that the crew involved consisted of 4 Brits, 2 Canadians, and myself. We all work in the ultimate frisbee world, in some capacity. So by default, we’re all a bit weird, and totally 100% awesome.

The night started with champagne. Actually, I think we had hard cider first. But then champagne. And then we went out for a very late, incredibly magnificent dinner which involved a very large beer, and then more wine. (And holy shit so much food. Pretty sure the Canadian dude ate 3 entrees because he is apparently a human garbage disposal. I mean that in the best, and most impressed, way.)

And THEN we went to this insane beach bar along the river, which also happened to be right next to the zoo. As we walked through the forest on the way to the bar, we kept passing ridiculous graffiti showing zoo animals who were apparently going into space. I promise you I’m not lying. The images were very upsetting, just look:

IMG_0471I don’t know what this octopus did to deserve being sent into space against its will, but it made me sad.

I was fascinated by the graffiti, as was this British guy Jon. We were so enthralled by the crazy space animals, in fact, that the two of quickly lagged behind the rest of the group. We stopped to marvel at them and took several selfies. And then we lost everyone.

So when we found a beach bar, we assumed we were in the right place. So we bought a beer, and then looked around and realized that there were definitely no frisbee people there. And I think everyone thought we were insane because we wouldn’t stop talking about the “crazy bird” and the “space octopus.” I only hoped that everyone there assumed these were our code names and that we were really awesome special agents. (I’m certain this is what they thought. There’s no other explanation for our behavior.)

We already had a beer in hand, so we figured we would drink it and then continue onwards to find the group. And frankly I don’t remember if we kept walking, or if frisbee people just appeared out of nowhere, because suddenly we were in the right place and everyone we knew was there too. It all seemed to happen rather magically.

We ordered more beers and then spent some time sitting on a very funky piece of architecture that I believe Jon referred to as a “geometric orgasm.” I wish I had a photo of it, but I don’t. It was pretty cool, though. His description was fairly accurate, to say the least.

And that’s when we saw the kayaks.

So here’s a little thing about me: when I get drunk, I like to do things that a) I probably wouldn’t want to do while sober and b) seem WAY more fun than they actually are. So at that particular moment, I was inexplicably excited about sitting in a kayak. Actually, I think I was more excited about the prospect of going down the river in said kayak, but getting into it was step one.

Fortunately, Jon (who I had only just met) turned out to be as ridiculous as I am, so he was as excited about this idea as I was. So we went to the kayaks. And we crawled into one. And I think we sat there for a good hour, with the very serious intention of actually taking the kayak down the river, but lamenting the fact that we didn’t have an oar. Pretty sure someone was hiding the oars from us, probably because whoever owns the bar is very smart and knows that stupid drunk people will otherwise try to steal their kayaks. (We totally would have stolen that kayak. Totally.)

IMG_0499This is a terrible photo, but it proves the existence of the kayaks and us being in them.

Eventually we got out of the kayak, because sitting in a non-stolen kayak and doing nothing gets pretty boring after a while. But then we were hanging out on the floating dock next to the kayaks, and the Canadians thought it would be funny to untie the floating dock from the thing it was attached to. While Jon and I were on it.

So for a brief moment, a new idea came to be: Let’s take this raft down the river!

IMG_0500Our Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn rafting adventure begins! (Except not.)

We very quickly realized that was a terrible idea and we would probably die, but fortunately there was still one tiny chain keeping us attached to the mainland. (Without which, we were totally fucked, actually. Because, if you can’t tell from the photo, there was no way off the raft at that particular moment.)

But then, as Jon attempted to pull us back using that tiny chain, it snapped. I was completely unaware of this fact, but he began to panic and kept telling me to “Jump! Hurry, jump to the other dock!” while I kept saying “Dude, chill out, you’re overreacting.” Because I just thought he was being a sissy. But apparently, for a brief moment, we almost actually floated away down the river. Which would have been exciting, but then I probably wouldn’t be around to tell you this story, so I’m kind of glad that didn’t happen.

And of course, in the midst of all of this chaos, we continued to drink beer. In fact, despite the fact that we’d just had a near-death experience*, we managed to continue drinking for several hours. And then a wedding party showed up after their reception, which apparently had been at the zoo. We thought a zoo reception was pretty cool, until this guy kept yelling “DO YOU KNOW HOW SCARY IT IS TO BE IN A ZOO AFTER DARK?! THERE ARE BEARS EVERYWHERE.”

It was about this point that I realized I was far too drunk and tired to be having a conversation with someone who has severe bear-phobia and is still suffering PTSD from his nighttime zoo experience. (Frankly, I think he’s an idiot, because I would LOVE to be in a zoo at night. That sounds fucking dope. You could pretend to be a jungle explorer. You could practice your night vision. YOU COULD STEAL A MARMOSET.)

(I promise I wouldn’t actually steal a marmoset. I barely know how to care for myself, let alone a small monkey.)

So, after many failed attempts at conversation with the terrified-of-bears man, we decided to leave. And before we even managed to make it out of the park, the sun was rising.

Leaving a bar at sunrise? That’s some college-level party shit right there. I haven’t done that in years. Mad props to the crazy British/Canadian crew for partying like rockstars.

I am so proud.

 

*Ok, we didn’t actually have a near-death experience. But it could have been a near-death experience if we had floated away. We just didn’t try hard enough.

*****

[Next time: When in Ireland…]

My triumphant return to the mountains (of cheese and beer)

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After living in Amsterdam for two months, I was starting to lose my shit a little bit. I love this city, but the lack of even the tiniest hill has started to wear on me. I don’t handle the flatlands very well.

This doesn’t mean I moved to the wrong place, by any means. It just means I will need to leave about once every 2 months and go see some mountains. Yes, I know. I’m a weirdo. But I happen to be addicted to very tall, pointy rocks. Call me crazy.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go all that far from Amsterdam to find mountains in Europe. Also, Switzerland is BOSS.

I hardly know where to start, because as I think back to those two-and-a-half days I spent in Switzerland, my brain is bombarded by memories of snow (SNOW!), fondue (CHEESE!), beer on the mountainside (BEER! IN THE SNOW!), and trying not to fall off a sledge and tumble down the mountain (DANGER!).

So I will start here: a good friend of mine moved to Geneva last fall. This was all very exciting to me, because we determined that once I moved to Europe (just a few months later) we MUST hang out (duh) and I really needed to be in a place with mountains, so this was all just too convenient.

So I flew to Geneva. Melissa met me at the airport. And then we went out for fondue because HOW COULD WE NOT?! I mean, I’ve never been to Switzerland.* It had to happen.

(I should probably mention here that the fondue was DELICIOUS. I mean, holy shit. Swiss cheese is the fucking bomb, man. Wow.)

The night ended there because we had to get up early (lame).  But not really lame, because on Saturday we caught a 7:30am train to Interlaken. I COULD HARDLY CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT. I still can’t, apparently.

The whole thing was basically magic because Melissa had organized everything. So we got in, dropped our stuff at the hostel (which she had previously arranged, of course), and then went and had a leisurely lunch while overlooking the mountains. So romantic!

And then the REAL shit happened. We went UP one of those mountains. In a gondola. For like, half an hour. It was insane. I’ve never spent so many successive minutes in a gondola. It was truly epic.

And then at the top, we walked into the little ski shop and asked for sledges, just like we had been told to do by the woman in the hostel. And they gave us sledges. With basically zero instructions. And they said “Yeah, you just go down the mountain. Follow the purple signs. It takes about 2 hours.”

2 HOURS?! The whole thing was completely insane. Because…2 hours? How fucking high up were we?? And of course at first we couldn’t even find the purple signs. And then when we did, we realized it was fucking steep, and we had NO CLUE how to actually steer or stop our sledges.

So, as you do in such situations, you get on a sledge, point yourself downwards, and hope you don’t die.

Chester was Melissa’s steed, and he was a gentleman. For the first several kilometers, Chester slowly and steadily steered Melissa down the mountain (i.e. she dragged her heels because she was terrified and didn’t want to fall off a cliff, which is pretty reasonable if you ask me). On the other side was Tony, my very mischievous steed, who led me on a wild ride that involved a lot of yelling, a lot of very sharp corners, a collision with a snowbank, and several intentional falls to avoid going off the edge of the mountain. (All this is to say, I attempted to sledge down the mountain with abandon, and it’s pure blind luck that I’m still here to tell you this story.)

IMG_0019Melissa and Chester on their grand day out.

The best part of all of this was when we were actually stopped by an older Swiss gentleman who was taking a leisurely sledge trip down the mountain (probably a weekly ritual, judging by his skill level). After watching me careen wildly around a corner and nearly fly off a cliff, he asked “So, do you ladies actually know how to stop?” To which we very bluntly replied, “No! We don’t!” And then he rolled his eyes and showed us how. And he suggested we try to be more careful. Our response to this was to burst out laughing because seriously, WTF were we doing sledging down a mountain in the Swiss Alps?

After this we actually started to slowly get the hang of it. The turns became easier, we finally understood which side of the rope to pull when we wanted to go a certain direction, and we became more attuned to the mechanics of slowing down.

But then we arrived at our first crossing. Our very gradual and windy sledging path cut directly across one of the ski routes. So we had to look left for incredibly speedy skiers coming full speed down the mountain, and then make an attempt to cross at a time that would be expedient for both parties. This turned out to be a complete disaster, with our initial attempt to cross being thwarted by a human going 15x our speed towards us, at which point we got up off our sledges, grabbed the ropes, and ran screaming across the ski slope. Because we are classy like that.

And here’s the point where this story actually starts to get relevant: after what seemed like an age of continued sledging down the mountainside (it might have been an hour, in fact), we saw a very simple sign in the snow. It said ‘BEER’ with an arrow pointing to the right.

SALVATION WAS HERE.

We dragged our sledges up a short hill to the ski-in bar and stopped for a drink. Because when there is beer on a mountainside in the Swiss Alps, you literally can’t say no. (At least, I couldn’t. Because this seemed like pure MAGIC. How the fuck do they even get the beer up there?! There are no roads! Just skis! It’s fucking magic, I tell you.)

It was pretty clear that we were being laughed at by all the actual skiers and snowboarders around, because we had no idea what we were doing and we had “parked” our sledges in the ski-drop area like we belonged there. Which, perhaps, we didn’t. But IDGAF. It had to be done.

And then we drank oversized beers. Like you do in Switzerland.

Version 2The biggest beers! The best beers.

So I’m not sure if it was the size of the beer or the altitude (probably a combination of the two), but we were decidedly tipsy after our pit stop. And we had another half hour of sledging ahead of us before we reached the bottom of the slope.

So we continued on in a hilariously inebriated fashion, with many stops for photos (OMG LOOK HOW PRETTY) or (LET’S TAKE A SELFIE!) or (We’re not that drunk, this is still safe. Right?). There was a whole lot of giggling. And for a while there we thought we might be a bit too drunk, until we saw a guy on a sledge collide with his friend such that they both slid off the side of a small cliff, at which point we realized that we were still fine and weren’t that drunk after all.

IMG_0020We’re not that drunk! (No, we are that drunk.)

So the story doesn’t have a very exciting ending, I must admit. We made it down the mountain. No one died (that we’re aware of). And later that night we even managed to go out for what turned out to be a very lovely and authentic Swiss meal. (With wine! See, I told you we weren’t that drunk.)

(Ok. We might have been that drunk.)

*****

*That’s a lie. I had been to Switzerland once. But it was actually a really awful experience, which included a failed attempt at finding dinner (we drank beer instead), sleeping for 7 hours, nearly losing a drone on the mountainside, the smallest pain au chocolat in history, and then finally escaping into Italy. So mostly I try to forget it. (Although the drone story is pretty fucking great. Ask me to tell it to you sometime.)

Reykjavik parties harder than I do.

Just a few weeks ago I turned 28. And apparently that means I am super old, because shortly after that I went to Iceland and couldn’t keep up with anybody.

Alright, this isn’t 100% true. I did keep up with them one night, but it kind of broke me. There isn’t really anything else to do here except tell you the whole story.

I took a trip to Iceland for 9 days (more on that later). During this trip, I attended a 5-day music festival (more on that later, too). During this festival, I met a lot of awesome people. Seeing as all of us were on vacation, we decided we should probably party like we were on vacation. So on Friday night, we did just that.

[Side note: The whole trip basically consisted of me staying up way past my bedtime and drinking more than I should. But Friday night was particularly epic and demonstrates that I can, in fact, still party like a college kid.]

The night began as the previous two had: concerts. Lots and lots of concerts. We’d been out to a few shows during the day, followed by some “cheap” eats and a brief rest at the hostel. And then it was go time. We headed out to one of the official venues to see more music. I was with a German, a French-Canadian, and a non-French Canadian. Rag-tag crew ftw.

After the first set, Martin (the German) and Marie (the French Canadian) weren’t really feeling the music, so they decided to go to a different venue. But I felt like dancing, so Todd and I stuck around and danced our asses off to some sick electronic music by these guys:

Then we moved on to another venue for some more jams. The performance we went to see was sort of “meh” so we were formulating plans to leave and meet up with others. But then, right at midnight, a new band started playing and it was sort of insane. Live house music? As in, house music with 3 girls singing live over it. And somehow, despite the fact that I don’t even like house music, it was amazing. Perhaps it was because we were already drunk (probably). But regardless of the reason, we dove into the crowd and danced like the crazy drunk people we were, while simultaneously dodging the leather-jacket-wearing 60-yr-old men who were having what appeared to be the time of their lives. Who knew?

Once that ended, the logical choice would have been to call it a night. But no. It’s Friday night. It’s Reykjavik. We’re on fucking VACATION, yo. So we met up with this American girl Kari and hit the bars.

We began to wander the city hoping to find a cool spot to party (aka DANCE). It was kind of an ordeal: this bar didn’t have music, that bar was too full, etc etc. Eventually, after some wandering around in the rain, Todd (who was sans hat or raincoat) said that he really didn’t care where we went but it would be nice if we could just go inside somewhere. This seemed like a reasonable request, so we went into Bravo.

bravo

We had actually attempted to see a show at Bravo earlier that day, but it was super full and a crazy woman on the street wouldn’t stop accosting us, so we left. But when we went inside at 1am, it was pretty empty. Apparently it was still “early” in Reykjavik. WTF.

The DJ inside was totally on point, however, so we stuck around despite the lack of crowds. (Usually no crowds = bad sign, but they were playing early 90s hip-hop, so we legitimately couldn’t leave. It’s a sin to leave a bar that’s playing “No Diggity.”)

Within about 15 minutes of our arrival, the bar was packed. We danced, drank beers, took shots of Brennivin (Icelandic aquavit), and danced some more. We also got an asshole kicked out of the bar after he spilled beer on me and shattered Kari’s full glass of beer. (It made me sad that he was American. He’s giving us all a bad name.)

Despite that unfortunate incident, the three of us were having a blast and probably could have stayed there all night. But around 2am the DJ started switching up his playlist. And very quickly, all he was playing was 80s rock ballads, so it was no longer a viable dance option. I don’t know what it is with Europeans and 80s music, but you really can’t dance to that shit. Sure, you can scream it into the abyss and jump up and down while you’re drunk as fuck, but where’s the fun in that? I need to move my ass, people! And “Don’t Stop Believin'” is just not ass-moving music.

So we grabbed our coats and walked out the door. And there was really only one option.

Kiki.

kiki-queer-bar

There were a number of reasons this was the obvious choice. First, it was directly upstairs from the bar we were already in (too easy!). Second, there was no line (which there had been an hour before). And third, it was a gay bar (which guarantees good music, duh).

Kari and I turned to Todd. “So. Gay bar?” Todd is a trooper, and we were all drunk, so he said “whatever” and we went in.

And we danced. And danced! And DANCED SOME MORE. There was probably more drinking involved as well. I don’t even remember anymore. Here are the things I DO remember:

  • Belting Britney songs with Kari like a pro.
  • So much Lady Gaga. Seriously. So. Much.
  • The crazy gay guy who wouldn’t stop trying to make out with me and Kari. (I still don’t understand this phenomenon.)
  • Todd eventually disappearing.
  • Kari & I realizing Todd had disappeared, and deciding perhaps it was time to go home (around 4am).

We got back to the hostel to find Todd hanging out in the kitchen. So of course, like the responsible people we are, we decided to drink some wine. And hang out more. Because who needs sleep anyway?

And then, just before 6am, we all decided it was probably bedtime.

So here’s the deal. I love to drink and hang out with friends. Sometimes I’ll get too drunk. Maybe I’ll even close out a bar (at 2am in Seattle). But I haven’t stayed out until the wee hours in YEARS. Like, since I was in college.

And of course, I was fucking broken the next day. I slept until noon, woke up to shower and eat breakfast, and then slept again until 4pm. Because I am TOO OLD for this shit. But I don’t care. It was one of the greatest nights I’ve had in a very long time.

So, thank you Iceland, for making this happen. And thank you Kari & Todd for being there while it happened. There’s no way in hell I could do that every weekend, but if I could do it once a year with y’all, I would be most honored.

*************

[Next time, on Christina’s adventures in Iceland: I drank Icelandic beer and saw the Northern Lights! Coincidence???]

Too Drunk for January

Guys, January is over. In fact, February is almost over too. WHAT HAPPENED???

Instead of looking back and realizing that I was simply too busy with work to remember January, I am fabricating a new story: I was simply too drunk to remember January!

Now, in order for this crazy story to make any sense, I’ll have to go back in time a little bit. Basically, it all started over Christmas when I went to DC to visit my parents and my dad fed me a lot of beer. (This is generally what happens when I go home. My father is an enabler who says things like, “You know, you really shouldn’t drink so much,” while pouring me a glass of 11% abv beer. Hypocrite.)

When I arrived home just before midnight on December 23rd, I assumed my dad would be asleep (his bedtime is like 10pm). But apparently he had been waiting for me to arrive, just to have an excuse to open a bottle of Trappistes Rochefort 10. Belgian Quad. 11.3% abv. Holy. Hell. I have the best father on the planet.

So then, the next day was Christmas Eve, followed by Christmas (duh). During those days, much craft beer was consumed.

Also wine.

Oh, and scotch. ALL OF THE SCOTCH.

And then–because we hadn’t had enough–on December 26th we went and visited some breweries!

The first stop was Heavy Seas Brewing, which was honestly only OK in my book. Their IPA and Lager and Pale were really just average beers. Not bad, mind you, but nothing to write home about either.

But then there was the Porter. Oh man. They make a damn good porter. My dad ended up buying a 6-pack of Peg Leg, and 2 of the bottles ended up coming home with me. Because my dad is the best.

After that, we went and did the brewery tour at Flying Dog Brewery. YES. First of all, this is one of my favorite microbreweries. They make incredible beer. Damn. Second, the tour was actually FUN! I’ve been on so many brewery tours and they’re basically all the same. But this one was unique! I got to drink wort, which was super weird (and sweet and yummy!). I got to watch them bottle (in action!) and we saw their crazy science lab. And on top of all of that, Hunter S. Thompson was best buds with the founder so the walls are covered with weird shit like this:

Also, the guy who led the tour was this amazing, bearded, goofy, nerdy beer man with a super weird streak and awesome sense of humor. Because of him, I have decided that my future husband must be a brewer. So yeah, I’m now taking applications. Holler.

We tried like 15 beers between the 3 of us after the tour, and I was super drunk and incredibly happy. And then, just 2 days later, we went to another beer bar and had a sumptuous dinner with beer pairings. Fantabulous.

Basically, I spent a week in DC getting drunk on amazing beer with my parents.

So when I got home, the only way I could even begin to imagine celebrating New Years was with fantastic beer. So I went and bought some fantastic beer at my favorite bottle shop and headed over to a friend’s place, where we proceeded to drink said fantastic beer and play lots of Jenga.

And then I just couldn’t stop! I was just drinking beer for weeks straight! (That’s an exaggeration, but I was drinking quite a lot of beer. Completely against my father’s instructions.)

One of the more amazing beers was called Stochasticity Project: Master of Disguise by Stone Brewing. It’s a golden stout. By that I mean, it looks like a golden ale. But it tastes like a stout. IT WAS MIND-BLOWING. Confusing and delicious.

And then I drank a fantastic beer that I brought back from the Netherlands last summer: Bitch Black Saison by Brouwerij De Molen. It tasted like a fucking campfire. In the best way imaginable. Somehow, despite how smoky it was, it went down so smooth that I probably could’ve consumed it all night long.

And then I went to LA, and things got super crazy:

Indeed, that is a trunk full of boxed wine.

(Full disclosure: I drank none of that. It was, oddly enough, for a work thing. And we gave it all away. So I didn’t drink any boxed wine, but I got several hundred people super drunk on boxed wine that weekend. Huzzah!)

And then I went to Europe! Amsterdam, Bruges, Gent, and London. London was a bit of a bust beer-wise (I did drink quite a lot of gin though). But you can bet your ass I drank a shitload of beer in Holland and Belgium. Oh yah. You betcha.

There was some of this:

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 And some of this:

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And my particular favorite, this:

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I mean, can we just take a moment and talk about how awesome that label is? Brouwerij ‘t IJ is an incredible brewery and they make fantastic beer. The one above, for example, is an IPA brewed in the American west coast style. So, of course, I’m pretty obsessed with it. (It’s fucking delicious.)

That photo was taken in an awesome bar in Amsterdam, which had fun stuff on the walls like this:

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So yeah. That was my January! I spent much of it either on the road or drunk. Or both. Wheeee!

February has been less travel, and a bit less beer. But I got crazy and bought a bunch of beers last week, including Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin IPA, which is SO DELICIOUS IT’S LIKE CANDY. I can’t stop.

And tomorrow….17 mile bike ride to a brewery??? I must be a crazy person.

Hope your 2015 is starting out as successfully (drunk) as mine!

Apparently I’m a liar.

Last time I posted, I said I’d post every Friday about the 5 new beers I tried each week.

Instead, I haven’t posted in over 2 months. Oops.

You know when you actually intend to do something, but then life kind of gets to you and bites you in the ass? And suddenly it feels like everything has gone horribly awry? Yeah. That was most of October and November.

But you know what? It’s not a big deal! All is well, and despite the fact that I’ve been horrible about sharing my stories, I’ve done a fair amount of awesome drinking over the past few months.

Right now, for instance. I’m drinking this amazing beer called Victory at Sea, by Ballast Point Brewing.

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 22.57.53First of all, it’s 10% abv. (And FYI, I’m on my 2nd one. And that’s after a 22oz of a different winter beer. So, suffice it to say, I’m drunk. #winning)

Second, the food pairings include pulled pork, mole, and chocolate cake. This beer is out to kill you…with all the most delicious things you can think of (including coffee, which is IN the beer).

So, of course, I love this beer. It feels like a battle, tastes like magic, and makes me feel sooooo gooooooooood.

I could babble on about that, but I could also tell you about this other cool thing I did…which involved being in Banff National Park (whoa) and drinking the best black pilsner I’ve ever had. To be fair, I wasn’t entirely aware black pilsner was a thing. But I knew about black lagers and black IPAs, and I love both of those things. And this black pilsner. Hell. It fucking blew me away.

In fact, it blew me away so much that I returned to the brewery again just one day later and bought two bottles to bring home with me. (Side note: Canadian border patrol thinks I’m some sort of loony because I travel alone so much. So every time I lie about how much beer is in my vehicle/luggage, I’m always a tad concerned that they’ll search me and discover I’m lying, and then I’ll get the real Canadian border treatment. Which is probably really boring.)

But before I even got to border patrol, there was yet another awesome drinking experience to be had!

After nearly dying* in the mountains driving from Banff to Vancouver, I made it to my hotel (yes, HOTEL, not hostel, which is where I’d been in Banff). So I got my OWN ROOM with a BIG BED and it was so fucking magical. I got in around 6pm and was so spent from the 9-hour driving trauma that I almost just went to sleep immediately.

But NO. I’m in fucking Vancouver for one night, I have to do SOMETHING at least.

So I went out to the best cocktail bar in the city.

L’Abbatoir is one of the many cocktail bars that is recommended by the “interwebs” when you’re in Vancouver. But it’s the only one where the mixologist is actually mentioned by name in articles. That’s the sign, folks. If they actually name their mixologist, he/she must be really good.

So I went there. And I met Sean. And Sean is, in fact, very good at making cocktails.

I was lucky enough to sit at the bar, and even luckier because Sean was training a new bartender. So not only did I get to watch him mix drinks, I got to watch him explain in detail how to do it, and why they are made a certain way. I was secretly taking notes. Because I’m a thief.

Ok, not really, I was just taking mental notes. But it was sweet! And Sean seemed super cool. Plaid shirt and beard, which is just basically the mixologist tell here in the PNW. And he was smart and had a ton of friends visiting him, and he made a goofy/adorable joke when I tried to ask him a question. All in all, I give him an A.

He did tell me where to go in Seattle (which is the question I ended up asking). He mentioned Tavern Law (he borrowed one of their recipes, as is mentioned in their menu) and Canon (amazeballs) and ZigZag. That’s the one I hadn’t been to, so I told him I’d be sure to check it out. He told me I definitely should, and if I do, I should say hi to Paul.

WIN. I have an in. New mixologist friendship is imminent.

Basically, after having 2 drinks at L’Abbatoir (both of which were magnificent) and meeting Sean (super cool and friendly) and talking to two of his friends (also cool, one of which I want to BE someday), I’ve decided I need a mixologist friend.

I mean, I also need a beer friend.

But mixologists are rad, yo!

Anyway. That’s all I got for now. I’m rather drunk. And despite my ramblings, I have yet to make a mixologist friend, so I need to do that. New years resolution: make mixologist friend. Also, beer. Yeah. All the things.

2014 was the year of ME. (As self-pronounced by myself and my roommate.)

2015 will be the year of…mixologist friend-making? I should probably think about this some more.

Yup. That’s all. Too drunk to keep talking to the internet.

 

*I wish that my “nearly dying” statement were an exaggeration, but it’s not. I actually almost died a few times on those roads. Me in a small sedan (rental) with no snow tires in the middle of a blizzard = me losing control of my vehicle more times than I’d like to count. Were it not for the fact that I a) didn’t panic and b) am a pretty good driver, I might not be here to share this story today. Special thanks to the truck driver who watched me spin out for 15 seconds, because he seemed concerned (from what I could tell in my rear-view) and I’d like to think he would have tried to save me had I gone off the edge of the cliff.

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[Next time, on Christina’s drunk adventures: I go visit my parents! And I bring them crazy-high ABV beer! And my dad inevitably gets me drunk and feeds me lots of Scotch! Yay!]

 

[Five Beer Friday] Hopped up on freshies

Oh hey friends. This past week I made an incredibly important decision. It’s going to completely change my life. For reals. Ready? Here goes.

Every week, I am determined to try 5 new beers.

WHOA.

Ok, that’s not actually all that difficult. It simply means that every time I go have a beer with a friend, I need to try something I haven’t had. And in Seattle, that’s fairly easy to do. There’s new beer everywhere all the time!

So, each Friday, I will post about my 5 new beers. I’ll do my best to describe them to you all, but keep in mind that a) I’m often drunk when I’m drinking, and therefore not great at taking notes and b) sometimes I’m with friends so I’m awkwardly taking notes under the table and pretending I’m not, so when I look back at them they’re completely incomprehensible or illegible.

But whatever. I’m still gonna do this.

So, without further adieu, my inaugural Five Beer Friday post commences!

Week 1 – October 2nd-9th

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This week was dominated by fresh hop beer season. And that’s pretty much the best. I freaking LOVE me some fresh hops. Here’s what I tried:

1) Amarillo Fresh Hop IPA – Backwoods Brewing [October 3rd, Chuck’s Hop Shop]

This was a lovely brew. Quite mild, in fact! Hoppy (of course), but not nearly as bitter as many fresh hop ales. It was bright and a tad wheat-y. Very drinkable! (Perhaps too much so…) 6.4% abv and 30 IBUs

2) Hop Gusher FH ISA – Worthy Brewing [October 3rd, Chuck’s Hop Shop]

This one was much hoppier than the previous one I tried. Meridian as opposed to Amarillo hops. It was bitter, but mildly so (didn’t dry out your tongue or anything). Despite being so hoppy, it also had a lot of grain flavor to it, which was interesting. And a tad of sweetness, kind of as an afterthought. 5.1% abv and 57 IBUs

3) Citra Fresh Hop – pFriem Family Brewing [October 7th, The Pine Box]

Man, do I love me some pFriem beers. This was just fantastic. Bright and floral, tasted like a meadow! It was so easy to drink with an incredible hops aroma on the nose. 5.5% abv and 35 IBUs

4) Hop Trip FH Pale Ale – Deschutes Brewing [October 7th, The Pine Box]

This was a hops collision! Nugget, Centennial, and Crystal hops combined to make this a super bright pale. But not at all bitter, considering all the hoppiness in that glass. A tad more grainy than the Citra from pFriem, but very drinkable and light. 5.4% abv and 38 IBUs

5) Protege FH – 10 Barrel Brewing [October 7th, The Pine Box]

Unfortunately by this point I was pretty drunk, so I have terrible notes. In fact, all they say is: “I’ve already had 2 beers, so it’s hard to know…” Not sure what I was trying to tell myself there. BUT, this was all Crystal hops and I remember liking it, so that’s nice. It’s an English Bitter style, but with the fresh hops in there you almost couldn’t tell. 4.5% abv and 25 IBUs

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So there you have it! My 5 beers for this week. I also recently drank a few other fresh hop beers, so here’s the quick and dirty list:

  • Fresh Hop Citra IPA (Breakside Brewery)
  • Fresh Hop Vortex IPA (Fort George Brewery) — best FH ale I had all season
  • Fresh Hop Amarillo IPA (Schooner Exact Brewing Company)

[Next Week on Christina’s Beer Adventures: PUMPKIN BEERS. The season is here.]

[Drunk Baking] Adorable Apple Cake

On Sunday afternoon, I got drunk and made an apple cake. It also happened to be super adorable. Here is the story of how the adorable apple cake came to be.

October 5th. The Un-Live Blog.

3:22pm – Open a beer. Drink it. Gotta warm up your drinking muscles and relax your cooking muscles. #science

3:46pm – Open beer #2. Time to start cooking!

4:01pm – Spend far too long cutting apples. Blegh.

4:02pm – Drink a bunch of beer.

4:07pm – Quick clean up. Drink more beer because you’re too sober. Restrain yourself from eating the apples that are now coated in sugar and lemon juice.

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4:17pm – Halfway through beating the batter. Arms are tired. Need more beer.

4:21pm – Seriously, why are you drinking your beer so slowly?

4:28pm – Finish beating batter. Lick the beaters. Chase with beer.

4:29pm – Dance break!

4:35pm – Beat those eggs whites! Listen to “Beat It” as you do so.

4:40pm – OMG THE BATTER IS DONE.

4:42pm – OMG this cake is going to be amazing.

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4:45pm – In the oven! Eat remaining batter off the spoon. Finish beer.

4:49pm – Beer #3!

4:50pm – Dance break.

4:55pm – Dishes break.

4:58pm – Dishes are done!

5:00pm – Cake smells amazing. Still 20 minutes to wait. TORTURE.

5:01pm – Distract yourself by doing something else in the kitchen.

5:05pm – Successfully quarter an acorn squash. This has nothing to do with cake. Also, it only took 4 minutes. DAMNIT.

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5:07pm – Continue drinking beer and dancing around the living room.

5:12pm – OMG HOW HAS IT ONLY BEEN 5 MINUTES. I am too impatient right now. I blame the beer.

5:13pm – Drink beer. Again. Because what else are you going to do?

5:17pm – 2 MINUTES LEFT.

5:20pm – TIMER WENT OFF OMG IT’S DONE.

5:20pm – Shit, no it’s not. DAMNIT.

5:20pm – Set timer for 5 more minutes. Glumly drink more beer.

5:21pm – Beer is awesome!

5:26pm – THE CAKE IS DONE. Look how adorable it is!

Photo on 2014-10-05 at 17.36 #5

5:27pm – Allow cake to cool. Try to figure out how to edit a video. Fail completely. Drink more beer.

5:35pm – ROOMMATE IS HOME! Yay! Now I can actually do something productive with that acorn squash…

[At this point, hours pass. I do, in fact, cook the acorn squash. My roomie and I also make salmon and kale. We be fancy. We eat dinner. I drink about half a bottle of wine. The drunkenness continues. Dinner is delicious. And then cake-time continues.]

8:49pm – CAKE. (Suddenly I have remembered that cake happened earlier.)

8:50pm – Make honey glaze for cake.

8:51pm – Honey glaze is done! (Yeah, it’s basically just slightly-warmed honey. Whatevs.)

8:52pm – Glaze cake.

8:53pm – THIS CAKE IS BEAUTIFUL.IMG_20141005_210914

8:48pm – My roommate and I then proceed to devour said cake. And by devour I mean we each have a small slice that we eat very delicately with a fork. Because we are classy like that. (I mean, we just had salmon + squash + kale for dinner. We be classy folk here in Seattle.)

Ok, I’m pretty drunk. Umm. Yep.

OH. Right. Recipe. If you want it, I stole it from Smitten Kitchen. Cuz she’s pretty much the best. You can find it here!

And now I have no more to say. Happy Sunday!

In San Francisco I drank all of the things

A few weeks ago I went to San Francisco. Because why not? I’m going on business trips all the time, so I figured it was about time I took myself on an actual vacation. A 100% pleasure trip.

The weekend was…interesting, to say the least. That is to say, it didn’t quite go as planned. But I suppose that’s to be expected when I take myself on vacation. I rarely make actual plans anyway.

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I took Friday off work and hopped on a noon flight to SFO. I landed around 2pm and took the train into the city, where I met my friend Bill at his office. (He works at a startup. Like everyone else in San Francisco.) He finished up some fun tech-y coding things (read: I don’t know what he was doing) and we headed to his place, stopping to pick up a six pack along the way.

After a beer and short rest at Bill’s sweet pad, we began the evening at the Rogue Ale House. I had two Rogue beers (which of course I failed to write down). We then moved on to a pizza joint, where we ordered delicious slices and had another pint. Then we went to another bar where we had yet another pint.

At this point I was five beers deep (most of you probably counted that on your own). And we hadn’t even met up with my friend Devo yet. It wasn’t even 8pm. The night HADN’T EVEN STARTED.

Soooo, this is where things went south. Because Devo showed up and we “went out” for real. To Polk Street. Which, I have decided, I don’t like very much. It was kind of bro-y. Also I was way too drunk to engage with anyone besides Bill and Devo anyway. I honestly don’t know how many bars we went to. I think it was three. I drank more beers. I also had a pickle-back. And lots and lots of water.

But despite watering myself profusely and taking a midnight stroll to the top of a hill with a pretty sweet view (which I hardly remember), the next day was a disaster. I spent much of it over the toilet and didn’t manage to truly get out of bed until 4pm. Ouch.

But you know what? I RALLIED. I fucking rallied like a champ. I finally dragged my ass out of bed, showered, and headed south to my friend John’s house. We promptly left his place and headed into The Mission for dinner.

Before we move on, can I just reiterate that I am A CHAMPION?!!? Any normal person would not have been able to go out again after a hangover like that. Hell, even normal me probably wouldn’t have. BUT I DID IT. Because I am awesome.

For dinner, John and I went to Mission Chinese. And it was absolutely fantastic (thrice cooked bacon omgggg). We shared a bottle of sake. (Seriously, I ROCK.) And then we went on our way to the next spot. In an effort to avoid beer, we went the cocktail route.

And so we headed to The Hideout, a nice speakeasy-style cocktail bar located in a back room of another bar (Dalva). I was a fan. The drinks were good (and actually quite different from Seattle cocktails, which was kind of fun to experience) and the atmosphere was just right. Great music too.

My friend Ben joined us there and we went on a strange adventure for a bit. First, we met up with a friend of his as she was walking her dog. We then stopped in at someone else’s apartment (they were having a dinner party? I dunno, it felt awkward.) and hung out on their roof for a while and drank Fernet.

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[Side note: Fernet, let me tell you now, is foul. Avoid at all costs. It tastes like mouthwash. But Ben decided that I was missing out on a quintessential San Francisco experience if I didn’t drink some, so I had to. I will not do it again.]

We then went back to girl-with-dog’s apartment to drop off the dog, and finally headed back out to the bars. Or bar, I should say. We went to El Rio, a really awesome spot that I really hope to go back to again some day. There was a massive patio out back (with a GIANT lemon tree in the middle…bearing fruit, might I add!) and we sat outside in the lovely warm weather and drank Tecate. (Yes, I know I said I wouldn’t drink beer…but that’s what I was handed so I drank it. Because wasting beer is a crime.)

After a few beers and some delicious arancini from the street vendor who had set up shop in the courtyard, we headed back home for the evening. All in all, a much more tame evening.

Sunday was my “touristy” day. I went to the Presidio, walked to the Golden Gate Bridge, bussed south a ways, had some lunch at a cute neighborhood café, wandered over to the Sutro Baths, and then met Bill at Ocean Beach where he had just finished his beach league Frisbee game.

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I then hopped on a bus all the way back to the other side of the city to meet my friend Bri for beers at 21st Amendment Brewing. This was pretty much the only thing I actually had on my list for the weekend, so I’m glad I made it happen. The brewery is really cool, definitely a spot I could hang out in regularly. And the beers. My fave. I had their unusual winter seasonal (Sneak Attack, a saison brewed with cardamom) and then the Dubstep, an imperial IPA.

After drinks I went back to Bill’s place and we wandered out for some spicy Korean food for dinner. Then we went to bed. Cuz I had to get up at 4am to catch a plane. (Lame.)

All in all, the weekend was great. I sure would have liked to do more eating and drinking, but I suppose that’s hard when you spend a whole day retching. I suppose I’ll just have to go back and try again sometime. Maybe I’ll have better results.

Highly doubtful. But hey, it might just be crazy enough to work.

Seattle: The Ballard Beer Experience

[Part 5 of the Series Where I Catch You Up on My Drinking Doings Since December.]

BALLARD.

That’s where the beer lives.

But seriously, it’s true. The beer lives in Ballard and I have been there to drink it. Ballard is a crazy place. They have, like, 15 breweries. And only like 200 people actually live there.

(That is a gross exaggeration. The people, I mean. There are 15 breweries. More than that, maybe. But probably more than 200 people also.)

ANYWAY.

My point is, the breweries per capita in Ballard is insanely high. The beers are also insanely good. So that’s why, on a rainy Saturday in February, I went there with my friend Aiva to drink those beers.

The Washington Beer Association was actually hosting a special beer “Open House” on that day, which was part of the impetus for going beer tasting. Said open house involved hundreds of breweries across the entire state hosting special events and tapping special, rare brews from noon to 5pm on the same day. It’s kind of an awesome idea.

We figured that in order to take full advantage of this special event we should go somewhere where there are a ton of breweries within walking distance of one another. So, Ballard. Because that’s pretty much the only place in the whole city where that’s true.

We started at Northwest Peaks Brewery, a nanobrewery that I actually hadn’t been to before. They had some sort of special beer on tap outside, but we decided to cozy up inside the super-tiny space and order taster trays. I drank 4 beers: Eldorado Pale Ale, Redoubt Red, Challenger IPA, and Snowfield Winter Ale.

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(Also, the table was made of maps!)

Our next stop was to trek a few blocks through the rain to one of my favorite Ballard beer spots: Reuben’s Brews. And the place was HOPPIN’. There was barely standing room, let alone places to sit. We decided that since we were already there we should drink something. Aiva ordered a taster tray, and I went for the special release: a Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Russian Stout.

Yuuuummmmmmmmmm.

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Oh, did I mention that it was 11% abv? Granted I only got a 6oz pour, but still. If I weren’t feeling it after brewery #1, I definitely was after this beer.

At this point, we had 2 options. We could go to Stoup Brewing for more new beers, or we could go to Jolly Roger Taproom (Maritime Pacific Brewing) for happy hour and snacks.

Snacks are good. Especially when you’ve been drinking. So we did that. (And we also drank more.)

That’s where we met up with Kurt.

Kurt is a 60-something man who I met at a bar last fall. He is a Ballard local and loves beer, so he asked me to let him know next time I was in the area. So I did. And he came and drank beers with us. He also regaled us with stories of his youth, when he would get high and and go to crazy parties and hook up with girls. (Or wait, that story was about his trip to Iceland. Last year.)

Basically, Kurt never really grew up. And it’s sort of awesome.

At this point, it was 4:30pm. We had half an hour until the beer events would end. We could hit up one more brewery, or we could not. Then Aiva suggested we go to Populuxe Brewing, which wasn’t on the event list but is super awesome so we went there anyway. (Aiva also really loves this place, and she is cool so I trusted her.)

It was a very cool place. Well done, Aiva.

Also, Kurt bought us beers! (He said he was very thankful that we gave him an excuse to stop folding laundry. We are so nice.)

I was pretty tipsy at this point. I also had dinner plans at a friend’s house, so I purchased a growler (whee!) and somehow clumsily made my way south to a neighborhood far, far away from Ballard.

The best part of this day was the fact that I drank tons of beer. The worst part is that there were still, like, 10 OTHER BREWERIES that I didn’t get to go to. So…I guess I have to go back to Ballard. Very soon.

P.S. You will notice that I did not tell you what beers I drank at Jolly Roger or Populuxe. That is because I don’t remember. And I was inebriated enough that I forgot to write them down on Untappd too. La dee da.

Honolulu: Where hopeless romantics spend Valentine’s Day alone eating red velvet cake in a UHaul

[Part 4 of the Series Where I Catch You Up on My Drinking Doings Since December.]

Oh, where to even start with this one. The title sums it up pretty well, I think.

Ok, so here’s what happened.

WAIT. I just ran out of wine. And I don’t have any more. THIS IS TRAGIC. I’ll just have to switch to something stronger.

Scotch. That should do the trick.

ANYWAY. As I was saying. Hawaii was an interesting trip. I flew in by myself on a Wednesday, landed very late, and crashed on a friend-of-a-friend’s couch. Thursday morning, I woke up early, sought out a coffeeshop, and then promptly took myself on an 8-mile hike. Because I am a badass.

DSCN1783Yeah I hiked there. Cuz I could. Don’t be jealous.

After said hike, I followed the advice of my friendly host and went to the Honolulu Burger Company for lunch. Let’s just set the stage for a moment here: I had just spent over 3 hours hiking 8 miles (and climbing 2000 feet), I was hot and sweaty and gross and starving, and nothing could have possibly satisfied me more than a burger at that very moment.

And holy crap. That burger didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was so amazing that I am not sure I’ll ever have a better burger again in my life.

Local free-range beef (from the big island). Topped with perfectly cooked Kalua pork. Topped with grilled pineapple salsa.

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OMNOMNOM.

After my feast, I had plans to go to the art museum. But instead, I went back to the apartment and showered because I was actually a gross, sweaty mess. At that point it was past 2pm and the museum wasn’t really an option.

And so, BEER.

Yes, folks. I finally made good on my promise from 2012. I went to the Kona Brewpub.

So I’m going to be honest. I wasn’t super impressed with the brewpub. It felt a bit touristy and suburban.

BUT. The beer was delicious. And that’s pretty much the only reason I went there anyway.

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As you can probably tell from the photo above, I ordered a taster tray. It contained the following beers (in order from left to right, for those of you who even care):

  • Fire Rock Pale Ale
  • Black Sand Porter
  • Paradise IPA
  • Pohaku Nui

You’re probably wondering what the hell Pohaku Nui is. I wondered too, and then the waitress told me “It’s an Imperial IPA, but it’s really strong, so…” and looked at me as if I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

Oh, PLEASE.

So duh, I ordered it. (It’s 11% abv, in case you were wondering. Wheeee!)

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After my tasters, I decided to order one more pint before leaving. So I ordered the other Hawaiian-sounding beer, the ‘Auana Ale. Apparently (I learned) this is Kona Brewing’s take on the traditional Hefeweizen, except it’s filtered.

This sort of blew my mind. Hefeweizen is always unfiltered. ALWAYS. Like, I’m pretty sure that’s a rule or something. The bartender explained that the brewers didn’t really want to make a Heff, but they wanted to see what would happen if they filtered the same recipe. It’s actually really good.

I wish I had a more exciting story to tell after this, but unfortunately I don’t. I went back to where I was staying, where my lovely hosts cooked dinner for a friend of theirs who was visiting and kindly allowed me to join. It was a lovely meal. And then I went to bed.

The next day was Valentine’s Day.

So let me preface this next part by saying two things: 1– I generally dislike Valentine’s Day (just on principle, and I feel this way regardless of my relationship status); and 2– since I often get shit for hating Valentine’s Day, I try to “like” it by doing nice things for myself.

I had decided to use the previous day as my Valentine’s gift to myself because I knew I’d be working all day on actual Valentine’s Day. (Hence the hiking and burgers and beer…I basically took myself on a day-long date.)

But weirdly, despite the fact that I got up at 7am to work on this beloved holiday, things went crazy smoothly. By noon, we had done all the errands we needed to do leading up the event I was in town for, and my coworker (who I had picked up that morning) left me to go surfing with a friend.

So there I was. In Kailua. Alone. With a 17-foot UHaul truck.

After about 20 minutes of circling, I finally found a place to leave the damn vehicle and I decided to take myself out to lunch.

I guess I get a double Valentine’s celebration! (Says the girl who hates Valentines.)

So I took myself to lunch to one of the most popular spots in town, which (obviously) serves local cuisine. Because I’m in Hawaii damnit, and I want to eat Hawaiian food.

I ate more Kalua pork, this time in sandwich form. As I was preparing to leave the restaurant, however, I noticed a display case at the front. In this case were desserts, most noticeably a red velvet cake type dessert. It wasn’t cake, per se, but more of a cake in a cup with cream. It looked just delightful.

Well, fuck it, I thought. I’m gonna pamper myself.

And so I bought a cup of red velvet cake-ish, and awkwardly asked for a plastic spoon.

And then I went on my merry way. The plan was to walk to a park, or even the beach (just a few blocks away), but then it started to rain. And so I went back to the UHaul.

And I ate my scrumptious cake with a spoon. Alone. Sitting in the driver’s seat of a UHaul. Which was parked on a busy street. On Valentine’s Day.

I swear it wasn’t weird.