Black Isle Brewery – Scotland

Black Isle - 4620.jpg

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!

Black Isle - 4707.jpg

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

Black Isle - 4685.jpg

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.

Black isle brew pub.jpg

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!

Black isle brewery

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.

Black Isle - 4695.jpg

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!

Black Isle - 4692.jpg

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.

Fall in Israel – Rosh Hashanah

IACW_9763.jpg

The weather, the holidays, and the spirit of Fall in Israel are all definitely different from our beloved Virginia, but we are enjoying the adventure. This was a big weekend for us and the country as we celebrated the New Year, also known as Rosh Hashanah. Until last year, I used to be unfamiliar with the Jewish/Israeli holidays, aside from their dates pre-labeled in my calendar over the years. For all of you like me, living in Israel means three days off of school, celebrations and toasts, religious observances, lots of new traditions, and it is a great time to travel or explore for us non-observant expats.

IACW - camping.jpg

Since we have missed our Fall traditions from back home, we took the long week and went camping at Horshat Tal in the Golan Heights with a few of our favorite outdoorsy friends.  We also toasted the new year at our favorite Israeli winery, Pelter Winery and one of our favorite Israeli craft breweries, Galil Brewery (they have pumpkin ale!). It was a wonderful time to be removed from the pressures of school and work and just be together and laugh a lot. Plus, I checked a few things off our Fall bucket list!

IACW_9806IACW_9471

I know I say it all the time, but experiencing the cultures of the country we live in (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and those of the people we befriend is truly one of my favorite things about living abroad. It makes me so happy to listen to the boys sing holiday songs, share the salutations in the language, and try traditional eats and treats. Their favorite Rosh Hashanah treat is apples dipped in honey, eaten to symbolize a sweet new year.

IACW apples_9780.jpg

It is especially fun to experience each of the holidays through our youngest at a local Hebrew gan (pre-school). On the Friday before the holiday the parents were invited to join a toast to the new year. The littles all wore white, the traditional color worn on Shabbat (the Sabbath) and for holy days. There was a rabbi who talked (in Hebrew of course) about the holiday and blew the shofar for us. We sat and watched the children sing and clap to songs they had clearly been learning leading up to it. I couldn’t help but smile at the tiny hands holding up glasses of tirosh (children’s wine) toasting and shouting “Shana Tova”!

Our big kid had his own Rosh Hashanah celebration at the international school and learned about the holiday in Israeli Culture class, which is one of his favorite classes. He just loves the teacher too! She has them singing fun songs, speaking in Hebrew, and excited to share it all at home with us. Let me tell you, we have learned a lot because of it! Fun fact, similar to our beloved Greeks, the Israelis see the pomegranate as a symbol of prosperity, health, fertility and happiness and they are particularly important and given as gifts at Rosh Hashanah.

IACW_pm3179.jpg

To learn more about the holiday check out this fun video. I can really get behind the heart of starting fresh and walking into the new year on a sweet note!

Here’s to a sweet (and intentional) new year!

Shana Tova!

kdg

Origami birds courtesy of fellow gan mom, Noa, check out her blog post: I’m on Leave

Virginia is for Craft Beer Lovers

In honor of Virginia Craft Beer Month, I thought it would be fitting to share some of the amazing craft breweries we have visited. We have yet to make it to every region of Virginia, but we will one of these days! This is a booming industry with lots of talented brewers and a culture all it’s own. At the heart of It’s a Colo{u}rful world and DGRCP is community over competition and that this what I love most about the craft brew culture. There are so many fantastic stories of established breweries helping up-and-coming brewers. There is even a tradition of handing out stickers and having a spot for other breweries’ stickers, fostering a feeling of togetherness. That is the type of stuff I can get on board with and support! Here’s to all the amazing craft breweries in Virginia making some amazing beers to be enjoyed and experienced with family (kids and dogs welcome) and friends! Don’t forget to tag #ToastVA #VAcraftbeer #LoveVA when you visit.

IACW - VA REGIONS BEER.jpg

Northern Virginia (aka NoVA) – 

IACW - BRB -8274

Brew Republic Bierwerks – It was a real treat to meet head brewer and one of the owners of Brew Republic, Darcy. She is passionate about the process and shared her experience of moving from a homebrewer to a real brewery (and taptoom) as she prepared to open her own – see community! We really enjoyed tasters of their patriot ic beers paired with sliders and pretzels, yum! For a non-acoholic beverage they offer their own root beer on tap. Standout brew: Patriot 212 Helles Lager | 5.0% ABV |18.0 IBU Take aways: Growlers, bottles, cans, & swag | #ToTheRepublic #ANationOfBeer 

IACW - CC_3372.jpg

Capitol City Brewing Company – The first brew pub in DC post-prohibition has deep roots in the DC Metro area and is located in both the Capital and Shirlington, VA. It has also been a long standing favorite for our family. Plus, complimentary pretzels – need I say more? Standout brew: Award winning Amber Waves American-style Amber Ale | 5.6% ABV | 31 IBUs | Take aways: Growlers & swag #CapCity 

IACW - FW - 8253.jpg

Fair Winds Brewing Company – Voted DC’s Best Local Brewery for the second year in a row. The taproom is intentionally airy and light with a stack of board games, in house snacks, and food trucks outside, all inviting you to come taste and stay awhile. The designer in me just has to say I really dig that their nautical branding is consistently carried from their logo to the names of their brews. Standout brew: Howling Gale IPA West-Coast style IPA | 7.2% ABV | 80 IBUs | Take aways: Growlers, cans,  & swag 

IACW - FBC_3088.jpg

Forge Breworks – This no-nonsense brewery is perfectly located in an industrial park, where they forge both Belgian Ales and German Lagers that pack a punch, some coming in as high as 11.5%. There is something for every adventurous beer drinker. Standout brewBrown Dwarf Star Quadruppel | 11.5% ABV | and The Empress Imperial Pilsner | 9.2% ABV Take aways: Growlers  & swag 

IACW - HB_3298.jpg

Heritage Brewing Company – We have visited both the brewery and taproom in Manassas and their new brew pub in Arlington, and both sites perfectly house these flavorful, revolutionary-themed ales. I truly appreciate their attention to detail in the decor and food choices, as well as their beer – seriously all of their flagship brews are great. They also serve and sell Veritas Cold Brew coffee at the brew pub for those need a caffeinated pick me up. Standout brew: American Expedition Honey Ginger Wheat Ale | 4.5% ABV | 15 IBUs and  Double Taxation Imperial Indian Pale Ale | 9.0% ABV Take aways: Growlers, bottles, cans (of both beer and coffee),  & swag #heritagebrewing

IACW - OBH - 6816.jpg

Old Bust Head Brewing Company  The first time we visited OBH we became fans of this brewery’s mission, crafting inventive and flavorful beers while nodding to their Fauquier County roots. They are so creative, using a myriad of ingredients including a variety of fruits and vegetables, even chilis!  It is even a treat for the underage crowd with their delicious root beer floats. Standout brew: The Graffiti House West Coast-style IPA | 7.5% ABV | 75 IBUs and Watermelon Bright Prospect mixed with Margarita Gose  – a creative sour concoction! Take aways: Growlers, bottles, cans, & swag #oldbustheadbrewingcompany #oldbusthead

IACW - PC_3388

Port City Brewing Company – This fantastic brewery won Small Brewing Company of the Year in 2015 and is one of my personal favorites. I just love their motto “We put the ‘ale” in Alexandria!” They definitely deliver great award-wining year-round brews, as well as tasty seasonal ales, including Tidings one of my favorite Christmas beers. Standout brew: Optimal Wit Belgian-style White Ale | 4.9% | 15 IBUs and Colossal Five English-style Old Ale | 9.8% ABV | 55 IBUs  Take aways: Kegs, growlers, bottles,  & swag #PCBC

IACW - WE_1284.jpg

Water’s End Brewery Aptly named because indeed at some point “water ends and the beer begins.” A laid-back and easy-going atmosphere with a separate play area for children including toys, games, and coloring books (THANK YOU!). Outside food is welcome and the Paisano’s pizzeria across the way seems to be a regular guest at the brewery and they don’t charge a delivery fee. They even have a Beer Club that we would definitely be members of if we lived close by, it truly is a neighborhood brewery! Standout brew: Hop Drop Double IPA and Damn Beer Golden Ale|5.0% ABV Take aways: Growlers  & swag #webrew


Central Virginia – 

IACW - WW_2915.jpg

Wild Wolf Brewing Company – A true family brewery led by a mother-son team, Wild Wolf wowed us with their tasty brews and their “farm-fork” and sustainable story. Their site is close to the Shenandoah mountains and surrounded by beautiful landscapes making it a truly picturesque place to sit and sip awhile. Standout brewBlonde Hunny Unfiltered Belgian style Blonde Ale | 6.8% ABV | 21 IBUs Take aways: Kegs, growlers, cans,  & swag #wildwolf #wildwolfbrewingcompany


Hampton Roads (Coastal Region aka the 757) – 

IACW - Alewerks_3169 copy

Alewerks Brewing Company – The oldest brewery in Williamsburg with a great history of creating crowd pleasing ales. They also brew exclusive beers based on historic recipes in collaboration with Colonial Williamsburg. They have a large range of brews from classic IPAs to the more extreme barrel aged ales. Standout brew: Jubilee X Belgian Strong Dark Ale | 12% ABV  Take aways: Growlers, bottles,  & swag #Alewerks

IACW - BC_3012.jpg

Brass Cannon Brewing Company – The atmosphere is carefree with its yellow and green paint job, shelves of board games, and chalkboard wall. Brass Cannon invites patrons to join in their challenges and draw on the wall. The beers were surprising and full of flavor. Standout brew: Angry Scot Scottish-style Wee Heavy Ale | 7.8% ABV  Take aways: Growlers, bottles,  & swag 

IACW - ComBrewing - 6163.jpg

Commonwealth Brewing Company – Ever since we first walked into this refurbished firehouse, this brewery has been one of our favorites. The beach vibes definitely lend to a laid back atmosphere with outdoor games, board games, and inventive Belgian inspired brews.  Being walking distance to the Bay certainly doesn’t hurt! Standout brew: Big Papi Double IPA | 8% ABV | 61 IBUs, Wapatoolie Tropical IPA | 6.4% | 90 IBUs, and Cheval Au Soleil Belgian Wit | 7.6% ABV | 17 IBU  Take aways: Growlers, cans,  & (FANTASTIC) swag 

IACW - OCB

O’Connor Brewing Company  Just like their logo of the tree, this brewery’s roots go deep in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk brew scene collaborating, mentoring newer breweries, and hosting events. Their space is definitely conducive to hosting large events with a stage at the back and plenty of seating. They have a wide variety of ales, promising that there is something for everyone.  Standout brew: Discovery Scotch Ale | 9% ABV | 32 IBUs and Spyhop White IPA | 7% ABV | 65 IBUs Take aways: Growlers, bottles,  & swag #OBCBeer

IACW - SB_0368-.jpg

Smartmouth Brewing Company – One of the original breweries in the area and a fan favorite among our VA Beach family.  Their cheeky, in your face brand lends to the vibe around the tasting room where you can check out their craft on tap, in a can, or through the windows. Outdoor games are a big draw and a fun way to pass the time with friends (and kids!). Standout brew: Murphy’s Law Amber Ale | 5.8% ABV | 35 IBUs Take aways: Growlers, cans,  & swag 

IACW - VBC_2983

Virginia Beer Company – Two College of William & Mary grads opened the brewery a little over a year ago and have enjoyed impressive success in a short time frame. They have a wide range of well refined beers and are truly taking a foothold in Williamsburg. We are excited for them and look forward to our next visit. Go Tribe! Standout brew: Wrenish Rye Amber Ale | 6% ABV | 39 IBUs and try a bottle of Barrel Fermentation Saison. Take aways: Growlers, bottles, cans,  & swag #VirginiaBeerCo


Check out Virginia Tourism’s list of Breweries here to discover all the other great local breweries we cannot wait to visit! Please let us know what you think when you visit these, we hope you enjoy yourself!

Cheers!

kdg

 

A Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Pilgrimage

IACW - DFH - 1919.jpg

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.

IACW - DFH - 1985.jpg

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.

IACW_DFH crew 2856.jpg

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.

IACW - DFH tour.jpg

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.”

IACW_DFH crew 2 2856.jpg

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.

IACW - DFH - 1945.jpg

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!

IACW - DFH - 1947.jpg

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?!

IACW - bottling.jpg

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.

IACW - DFH - 2023.jpg

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.

IACW - DFH C&M.jpg

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!

IACW - DFH brewpub.jpg

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!

IACW - DFH - 1893

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

Brew Adventures & Inspirations

IACW - Brewmaster Festival - 6516.jpg

Almost seven years ago we started our homebrewing adventure. I surprised Tom with a Mr. Beer homebrewing kit and in our tiny blue kitchen he crafted his first brew. The first beer recipe came with the kit and, while it was easy to drink, it was fairly un-remarkable. Regardless, he was surprised by how simple the process was and was hooked. Not to mention, this was a hobby I could totally get on board with!

IACW - tasting.jpg

As we began exploring this new world of beer, we discovered more and more craft beers. If you didn’t already know, craft beer is made at smaller breweries and not mass produced on large scales like those from corporate breweries. Often times their smaller scale lends to more inventive and complex beers, as well as better quality ingredients. In the interest of learning more, we started seeking out new craft brews and Tom started absorbing knowledge.

IACW - Commonwealth

While it took me a little longer to develop my palate, I loved every brew tasting and brewery tour along the way. It was on those adventures that I discovered my passion for photographing beer. I found myself inspired by the rainbow of natural colors that comes with a flight of tasting glasses arranged on a wood board. Much to my Tom’s chagrin, I found myself asking him to wait to taste until I had the perfect photo. Last summer I was humbled when the Virginia Tourism company contacted me to purchase one of my images and feature it in their #VAcraftbeer photo competition.

IACW - VA tourism

Many brews and several years later, Tom is now brewing here in Israel in our bomb shelter. Yes, you read that right, we have our very own bomb shelter equipped with it’s own A/C unit making it the perfect place for fermenting. Using equipment he’s gathered via online purchases and at the occasional stop at a homebrew store, he has been exploring a myriad of beer styles. Among the recipes he has tried are: a Belgian wit ale, an Irish-inspired red ale with roasted chestnuts, a pumpkin ale, Belgian ale with honey and sage, and a barleywine – aptly named the “Bomb Shelter Barleywine” since it was fermenting (and then aging) down there for months.

IACW - homebrew.jpg

We’ve also had a blast exploring the nascent Israeli craft brew scene. A few of our favorites include: Alexander Brewery (4), Busters Beverage Co. (5)Dancing Camel Brewery (6), Galil Brewery (1), Jems Beer Factory(3), Libira Brewery (2), and Shapiro Beer (7).

IACW - Israeli Brew copy.jpg

There is also this fantastic place called the Beer Bazaar, with several locations around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, they focus on distributing local brews, including their own, and have pubs with selections on tap. Not only are the beers delicious, but the people behind them are fun to hang out with!

IACW - beer bazaar.jpg

A about a month ago, another brave homebrewer gathered a few other homebrewers together to create an American expat “brewmaster” event.  With the help of our friend, Shayne (below top left), they invited the guys behind the Beer Bazaar, Shapiro, and Busters Beverage Co. to spend the day with us at this beer tasting event and homebrew “competition”. The professional brewer took the time to taste and rate each of the homebrews. After their thoughtful deliberation, they shared their thoughts with the novices. Tom was awarded best aged beer for the Bomb Shelter Barleywine and he was humbled by the response and feedback he received from crowd, especially the pros. Like most of us creatives, he is often his harshest critic, so it was great to see how positive the reactions were to his craft.

IACW - brewmaster.jpg

We don’t know where this homebrewing journey will take us one day when Tom retires, but I love the idea of opening a family brewery back in Virginia. Until then we will continue to learn and drink better beer. On that note, the next time we head home to Virginia for a little rest and relaxation, we will be touring a few breweries, new and old favorites. I will, of course, be documenting our brew tour and exploring the colors of the beer world, from the golden wheat to the ruby red ales to the dark brown stouts. Stay tuned here and follow along on Instagram and at my hashtag #dgbrewphotos.

IACW - cheers.jpg

Share your favorite brewery and/or brew with us in the comments below, maybe you can introduce us to a new one!

Cheers,

kdg