Black Isle Brewery – Scotland

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It wouldn’t be a DG family adventure without us checking out the local brew scene. We discovered a stellar brewery just outside Inverness, Scotland. The Black Isle Brewery started as a Homebrew operation 20 years ago and now ships all around Europe and as far as Canada and Japan. They haven’t broken into the USA market yet, but I’m certain they will at some point. They are that good!

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In 2011 they moved to their current facility located north of Inverness and 2 years ago opened their first brewpub in the city itself.

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We visited the brewpub first for some delicious pizzas and to sample a few brews before making the 20 minute trek to the brewery the following day. At the pub, the atmosphere is light and funky, combining the classic wood and industrial look of the brew world with pops of tangerine and painted murals of the local landscape (pictured behind our sleepy kid below, ha). In addition to the food and beverages, you can also rent a room and stay for the night as you romp around the highlands or if you’ve just one too many Migrator DIPA’s to continue on.

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Having had a lovely evening the night before, we were happy to visit the brewery itself. Kate, our brew guide, met us at the door and invited us on a tour of the facility to learn about their process and their space. She was so kind to our boys and didn’t mind their silly questions and odd comments like “yum it smells like pasta!” What?! Not like this is their first brewery, ha! Boiling wort does not smell like pasta, I promise!

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We learned that they are committed to a totally organic process and grow most of their malts on the farm next to the facility. Once the mash is finished, they feed the spent grain to the black sheep in their pastures. Since Scotland is too cold to grow their own hops, they source organic hops from California and New Zealand, depending on the recipes.

I really dig their logo as well, design geek that I am. It features the flower of Scotland, the thistle, and each brew has a designated color for the bloom of the thistle. The creative behind the labels and logo is the brewer’s wife. She recently started to develop variations on the their original labels to differentiate between their flagship brews and their special ones like their barrel aged oatmeal stout and collaboration brews. Oh, and we learned that each of the brews is named after a bird in from the area too, pretty cool.

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We had the honor of interacting with the master brewer himself. He overheard us and recognized that the hubs is a true brew lover, so he stopped and chatted for a minute. He demanded that we take home two bottles of the newest brews literally fresh off the label line! He was correct in his suspicion that we love us some hops!

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Another great note about Black Isle Brewery that makes them stand out from other local UK brews are their higher ABVs (alcohol by volume). Although they do have sessions ales at about 3%-4.5%, good for a few rounds at the pub, they also have some heavy hitters at 8-10.4% (specifically of interest to my beer guy!). We found it rather interesting how low the average ABV is here, but it makes sense if you plan to be watching a rugby match for hours. Interestingly, I did recently learn from some British friends that if you go outside the main cities to the small towns, the pubs have taps with higher ABVs. It’s good to be “staggering distance” from your lodgings though!

If you’re visiting Scotland and like a well crafted, organic brew, we highly recommend tasting one of the many Black Isle ales they offer. They even have a tasty Gluten Free brew called the Gold Finch. This brewery truly was a standout for us. Try it and let us know your thoughts!

Cheers!

kdg

Follow along with our brew adventures with #dgbrewphotos on Instagram.

A Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Pilgrimage

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A Dogfish Head ale flight was one of our first tastes of craft beer. We were hooked. For about a decade our crew of friends would meet us at Dogfish Head Alehouse in Falls Church and Fairfax for dinners and a much needed catch ups. While each of us has our own favorites styles, DFH is famous for using weird ingredients in their recipes so we almost always started with a taster flight. My favs include the Namaste White, Rasion D’Etre, and the Punkin Ale.

“At every turn, our restless desire to create what hasn’t yet been imagined keeps us bringing new stories, new tastes, and new experiences to you.” – via Dogfish Head website

Sam Calagione, the owner and founder of DFH, started his homebrew journey with a cherry ale, a rather ambitious recipe for a first timer, back in the mid-1990’s. The brew got rave reviews from his friends and coworkers and he decided that rather than following his English major path he was going to be a craft brewer. He won a homebrew competition later for his Punkin’ ale and has been winning awards and aweing brew enthusiasts ever since. Sam even  hosted a television show called Brew Masters were he traveled the world with his genius brew team to discover new (and old) brewing techniques, recipes, and inspiration for new beers. It was really fascinating for us as homebrewers as we were able to watch, learn, and get to know DFH. Talk about brand loyalty, ha! You can read more about their story here.

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For years, our closet friends Melissa, Joy, and Kyle, have walked this craft brew journey with us. Kyle and Tom have become quite the brew snob bros. The five of us have been talking about taking the trip from Northern Virginia up to Rehoboth, Delaware to the original brewpub. This summer we finally made it happen. Our “pilgrimage,” as we are referring to it, included a tour at the brewing facility, happy hour at Chesapeake & Maine, dinner at the newly constructed brewpub, and finally a stop at the original brewpub where it all started to shop.

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At the DFH brewery we partook in our 4 free tasters as we waited for our tour of the facility; also free. The team behind the bar was friendly and willing to chat about their favorites as we tried some of the exclusive offerings and newest brews. We sipped the decidedly sour cider first, followed by the SeaQuench session sour, which was like a margarita in a can, then Flesh & Blood IPA (not as citrusy as I imagined it would be), and the Fort.  Others in the group also tried a barrel-aged version of DFH’s Olde School Barley Wine and a cask version of their English Strong Ale. All were unique and complex in their own right.

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When our fabulous tour guide Marge (pictured above) called us to attention we found our way to the cubbies of crocs and safety glasses. We did not anticipate the need for closed toes shoes (it is summer at the beach after all), so we found the thoughtfully provided crocs that fit to protect us from the various puddles and spills we may encounter along the way. Armed with corny, but funny brew puns and anecdotes, Marge took us through the beginning of DFH and showed us where the magic is made. We learned that Sam and his team were the first to incorporate continuous hopping into their brews, having been inspired by a cooking show. Also, most of the pieces of equipment have been named by Sam, including their very own continuous hopper, Sir Hops-a-Lot – “he likes big hops and he cannot lie.”

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To an English major, names and symbolism are important and Sam takes the naming process very seriously. Marge relayed that the DFH team does help with the creative process as bit, as well. In addition, their mission statement  is rooted in a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, which is where they derived their slogan “off-centered ales for off-centered people” and it is painted on the facilities wall to remind the team what is truly the heart of their work.

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Once we left the brewing area of the facility my crew wanted to go drink all that delicious well made beer at the bar, however I had to see the packaging and shipping department so I continued the tour alone. The designer in me had to know more! What I learned was that the font DFH uses was originally a stamp set that Sam used to label his brews and has since then been converted to an actual font called “doggie font.” They have an in-house graphic design department that creates the labels and packaging, however they have used illustrations by artists they admire to create the label art. Pretty cool!

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Marge also shared that that the original homebrew bottling process took Sam and his buddies about 8-10 hours to bottle 100 cases. Now in 2-3 minutes their state of the art bottling line can bottle and package 7,200 cases. Mind blowing right?!

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Once the tour was over we made the trip south from Milton, DE to Rehoboth. The original brewpub, where until recently one could exclusively taste test small batches of experimental recipes and paired with a delicious and very intentional menu, now stands between two newly constructed restaurants.

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I love intentional and cohesive design, so as you can imagine it was not lost on me that the design of the restaurant buildings mimics the brewing facility in Milton, to include the circular windows reminiscent of bubbles and the wood and metal materials used. Read more about DFH brewing and eats here.

 “We’ve learned from working with Dogfish Head for the past nine years that the company has its own special culture and loyal fan base, so we set out to design a space to provide the background of the unique Dogfish experience,” says Chris McAdams, Project Designer at DIGSAU. “It’s a very raw, wooden, naturally finished space, built with a few special off-centered quirks, like the barrel booths and the nook by the bar – spaces where people can say ‘that’s my spot’.”  (found on the DFH website)

We thoroughly enjoyed our cocktails at Chesapeake & Maine, where they focus on the DFH liquors rather than the brews. You can also do tastings of the liquors at the brewing facility and learn more about the process there as well. We said cheers with a Bloody Mary, a couple of  Sun Salutations, and a Sea Shanty. All delicious and refreshing. I loved all the attention to detail in this nautical fantasy design, including the oyster chandeliers, sea monster map wallpaper, and the rope tying station to practice your skills while you wait.

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From Chesapeake&Maine we made our way to the new brewpub for some fantastic eats. Our favorite plate being the the soft pretzel bites. In our collective book, they are must at every brewpub – seriously pretzels and beer are made for each other!

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It was a fantastic day full of DFH geeking out, the only stop we did not make on this pilgrimage is the newly designed Inn. Which we will hopefully make it to sometime in the next decade, ha!

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We would love for you to share your DFH experiences with us in the comments below! What’s your favorite off-centered ale? Have you made it to Milton or Rehoboth? If not we totally recommend it!

Cheers,

kdg

Flavors of Fatherhood

{Guest post by: Jenny Delaney Frickie}

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Fatherhood is not something you can easily define, for the seasons of fatherhood are as fluid as the cold beer he drinks after a long hard day. There are many different kinds of fathers in this world. There is the stoic father who laborers tirelessly for his family, expecting his actions to speak the words he can’t seem to share. There is the goofy dad who seems to be as young and carefree as his kids, exemplifying the art of playfulness at all stages of life.  There is the adventurous father who is only satisfied exposing his family to the wonders of the world, instilling a life long fascination of exploration. There is the handy daddy who can fix anything he sets his mind to, especially the treasured toys of his children.

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A father can be each of these and more at one point or another. As the seasons of life pass from one to the other, and the challenges of each season wear heavily upon his shoulders, a father never ceases in his labor of love for his family. He will move from the season of “daddy” to the season “dad”, just as spring all to quickly turns into summer. The summer years will fade to the brisk fall evenings, as pre-teens begin to push against authority. Then suddenly a father must weather the blizzards and winter storms of the teenage years with the hope that the spring of adulthood is just around the corner- when once again he will be a wanted voice of wisdom and encouragement.

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Through it all, a father’s heart carries the burdens of his family with pride. He takes great care in providing shelter and food for his little tribe. Yet his provision goes so much deeper. His encouraging words and cheering smiles provide the very confidence that will propel his children into world in search of success and prosperity. A father’s love fills his children’s souls and prepares them for the day they will encounter the enormous love of their Father in Heaven. A love they are able to receive and believe in easily, for they have been loved unconditionally all their lives.

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A father instills within his son what is means to be a good man; devoted and loving. He helps define the man of his daughter’s dreams, as she will seek a man who embodies the positive characteristics of her daddy. 

John Luke

Fathers instruct their children, raising them up with honorable character and setting ever-widening boundaries that prepare for adulthood. Father’s are caretakers, providers and lovers. They are hard workers who make investments not just financially, but emotionally and spiritually. No, fatherhood is not easily defined for it encompasses all aspects of life and is displayed as uniquely as the beers displayed at a store.  Fatherhood is determined by the man’s personality and season in which he resides; his flavor and color is unique- but a refreshing cold beer nonetheless. 

Cheers to you dads!

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IACW - Jen bio picAlong with being Katie’s little sister, Jenny is a Christian author, a home school mama of three, and Marine wife. In between parenting and teaching, she uses her limited free time to write inspirational devotions and children’s literature. Her first published essay was chosen for the I HEART MOM anthology of motherhood.

This is Jenny’s first guest blog post on IACW and we look forward to her sharing her heart and inspiration with us in the future!