Tag Archives: travel

Photo essay: a New England and Maritimes Road Trip

Foamy white waves crash into rugged coastline; icy fingers grip each other before releasing and retreating back into the peerless depths. 

This timeless and unending breathing, this ancient rhythm, it feeds my soul and nourishes my spirit. 

The earliest poem I remember having to memorize and recite in elementary school was Sea Fever by John Masefield, and in part it goes:

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
… and it has always resonated with me. I get it.
 
I learned quite a lot about traveling with the kids while roadtripping and camping around two Canadian provinces (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) and two New England states (Maine and Vermont). Those lessons will be shared in a later post, but if you’d like to whet your appetite and wet your whistle, you can find a food- and drink-centric series I wrote for LNP (Lancaster Newspaper), where I have a weekly column on craft beer. Click through the links below to view those.
 
 
 
 
I think before choosing a travel destination, one generally views photographs of it. Do you find it beautiful? Does it intrigue you? Can you imagine yourself asking a stranger to take your picture in front of a landmark or vista? 
 
In that line of thinking, here are some photos I captured along our road trip through The Maritimes and New England that may inspire you to create your own road trip itinerary.
 

I will be adding more New England and Maritimes travel tales in the near future. Until then, you can read the linked stories above on LNP.

All images were captured with my iPhone 6.

Have you ever taken a road trip through New England and The Maritimes? Where are some of your favorite places to go?

 
Street art in Burlington, Vermont
Street art in Burlington, Vermont
Moody skies in rural Vermont
Moody skies in rural Vermont
Mist rolling in from the ocean onto New River Beach Provincial Park, New Brunswick
Mist rolling in from the ocean onto New River Beach Provincial Park, New Brunswick
Have car, will travel
Have car, will travel
Lepreau Falls (looking up), New Brunswick. This spot was used by rumrunners during The Prohibition.
Lepreau Falls (looking up), New Brunswick. This spot was used by rumrunners during The Prohibition.
Lepreau Fall (looking down), New Brunswick
Lepreau Fall (looking down), New Brunswick
the sea
the sea
Bay of Fundy, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
Bay of Fundy, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
Golden hour at New River Beach Provincial Park, New Brunswick
Golden hour at New River Beach Provincial Park, New Brunswick
Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
Lichen found at Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
Lichen found at Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
Cabot Shore Wilderness Resort in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Cabot Shore Wilderness Resort in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Remote hike-in campsite at Cabot Shores Wilderness Resort in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Remote hike-in campsite at Cabot Shores Wilderness Resort in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Lakie's Head in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Lakie’s Head in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Crystal clear water at Caribou-Munroes Provincial Park, Nova Scotia
Crystal clear water at Caribou-Munroes Provincial Park, Nova Scotia
Cosmo, one of the resident hounds at Cabot Shores Wilderness Resort in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Cosmo, one of the resident hounds at Cabot Shores Wilderness Resort in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Reasons to Go Camping at Knoebels Amusement Resort This Year

The sun rises early and begins baking the inside of a slightly stuffy tent filled with gentle smokiness: memories of countless campfires over the years. My son softly groans; rolls over and pulls blue eyeglasses from a nylon pouch fixed to the inside of the tent wall, pulls them down over his head and his world suddenly exists in high definition again. He presses palms toward the sky and widely yawns with closed eyes under a mop of thick brown hair sticking out in every-which way.

My daughter already has the tent unzipped and slips through a little girl-sized opening, disappearing into the adventurous outside. She pauses, glancing between the box of breakfast food and the bathrooms. I ask if she’d like bacon with breakfast, which makes her decision easier.

“Yes, please, Mama!” she chirps as she sprints toward the bath house.

The roller coasters haven’t yet started running and the campground still has that morning hush. Soft voices can’t compete with joyful birdsong. Soon, though, I know the quiet will be broken by shrieking voices, splashing pool water and the harsh clack-clack of the wooden Phoenix coaster rising from the ashes every few minutes. 

Family camping memories at Knoebels

The yearly tradition of going camping at Knoebels began for me at an early age. My family went with another family just about every year that I can remember. I have many fond memories of burnt marshmallows (just the way I like them), bicycling with new friends, zipping down the speed slide, and going on the Cosmotron ride with its loud music and strobe lights. 

Family memories at Knoebels

It’s a tradition we started carrying on in my own family. The first time my youngest child, now 5-years old, camped, she was still wearing diapers and chomping on a pacifier.

And we don’t do RV camping – we do tent camping. Back to nature. Small footprint. Campfire cooking.

Riding the train at Knoebels

So what makes Knoebels Amusement Resort such a special place?

Located in wooded Elysburg, PA, slightly east of the center of the state and under three hours’ drive time from Philadelphia, Knoebels promises a lifetime of memories in an amusement park that has free parking and free park entry.

Family memories camping at Knoebels

Here are three reasons why you should consider a camping trip to Knoebels this year.

1. It’s affordable amusement park fun for the whole family. First off, entry to the park is free. You read that correctly – it is free. This means that if Nana wants to come up and visit for the afternoon and take the grandkids around the park, she doesn’t have to pay an entrance fee just for hanging out when she doesn’t plan on getting on any rides.

Every ride is individually priced and can be paid for with paper tickets that are sold in books, and those prices range from about $3.00 for the Phoenix roller coaster to $1.00 for Pony Carts, a kiddie ride for the wee adventurers. All day ride passes can be purchased for prices starting at $24.00 for those under 48 inches tall and $38.00 for those above 48 inches tall.

Picnic areas are free for all too. Bring your own food or grab a meal at one of the many concession stands throughout the park or a full-service restaurant . 

Pro tip: The pierogies at the Round Stand and ice cream from nearby Old Mill is a must.

Old Mill ice cream at Knoebels
Everyone enjoys a cold ice cream treat from Old Mill at Knoebels.

2. Knoebels Amusement Resort has a water park nestled between the campground and park rides. On a hot summer day, park guests won’t find a more refreshing way to cool off than spending a few hours swimming in the fresh mountain spring water at Crystal Pool.

Crystal Pool at Knoebels
Crystal Pool at Knoebels – a seasonal way to cool off on a hot day.

With a variety of water slides – lazy tube and speed – a pool for accomplished swimmers and another just perfect for kids and those who aren’t yet swimming, the water park shows in another way why Knoebels is ideal for the whole family unit. The price to swim all day is only $5 (ages 2 through 11) and $7 (12 and over), making it an inexpensive way to spend a day.

Pro tip: The water at Crystal Pool is cold so don’t forget a plush beach towel and it’s important to keep your legs crossed when going down the speed slide or else OUCH.

3. The campground offers options for a variety of camping styles. As I mentioned above, we are a tent-camping family. It’s fun and easy to do on the cheap when there isn’t the added cost of fuel and a camper or RV. With that said, I realize there are many who prefer the rugged luxury of a pull-behind camper or a second home on wheels. Knoebels has everyone covered with spacious camp sites, electric hookup for lights (and charging electronic devices), a dumping station for RVs, and many platforms for a flat surface under a tent.

You’re never far from a bathroom, bath house, running water, and there are coin-operated washers and dryers.

Purchase wood by the bucket. Pack it yourself in the wood area near the camp office and haul it back to your site – just remember to return the bucket!

The camp store has pretty much everything you forgot to pack and now realize you need: bug spray and sunblock, paper plates and Spam, and obvious essentials like bacon that I can’t believe anyone could forget.

If you’re a church-goer, you might enjoy the non-denominational service on Sunday morning before heading back to your campsite and cracking open a beer or making a mojito to go with grilled fish tacos for lunch. No alcohol is allowed in the park but it is allowed at your site.

Standard campsites start at $46 per night.

Don’t have a tent or an RV and still want to spend a long weekend or longer at Knoebels? No problem! There are cabins and cottages available for rent.

Pro tip: This book teaches how to cook on a campfire or charcoal grill like you’ve been doing it for years. This is an affiliate link, so if you purchase the book I will receive a small amount of money. I love the book and I think you will, too! 

Learn more about Knoebels Amusement Resort on its website

Are you ready for a camping trip to Knoebels Amusement Resort yet?

Disclaimer: this post contains an affiliate link but it is not a sponsored post.

Review of the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour

In my estimation, the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour was a resounding success. This is what beer festivals should look like. The Mid-Atlantic stop of the tour was held at Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia, PA, and it was a glorious day.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour Review

The Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour was a roaming beer festival that traveled from West Coast to East Coast with an open invitation to all breweries to come share their brews at each gathering. Read more here.

The park is expansive and located directly on the Delaware River and all day cargo ships glided by, cutting through diamond-strewn water that glittered in the day’s elusive high summer sun. The line gathered at the main entrance was long and intimidating but with all the vetting the workers were doing by validating IDs beforehand, once the gates finally opened it was a breeze to enter.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour Review

It was so easy, in fact, that I was through the line and past security before I even knew what was happening. Suddenly the crowd in front of me opened up and there I was, at the gates! A collection of sampling glasses awaited festival goers under a tent and once past the tent, we were free to wander around and sample all the beer and eat all the food.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour Review

The weather was questionable. Dark clouds threatened to let loose heavy drops onto the event below but as the day wore on, the clouds turned puffier and dissolved in places before piling up again toward the end of the event.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour Review

Because there were so many breweries represented at the festival, the lines were not overly long anywhere except for maybe Russian River. They brought along some Pliny the Elder and news of that magnitude is sure to make locals in the Mid-Atlantic froth at the mouth. I opted to skip that line because while it’s an incredible beer that deserves all the hype, I’ve had it numerous times and was more interested in trying other beers I haven’t had before. 

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour Review

I didn’t keep tasting notes of everything I enjoyed at Beer Camp but I did write down all the samples I tried. Please keep in mind these are all small pours and I wasn’t driving.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour Review

I took the train down to Philly from Lancaster and watched the scenery while listening to entertaining conversations around me (I wasn’t on the quiet train). Small country towns and idyllic farmland blurred by as the train hustled down tracks with power lines guiding the way. A girl behind me was lamenting the fact that her boyfriend just wasn’t the type of guy who wants to go places on her Pinterest board, like fairytale castles in France. “I googled it and saw that if I have to google whether your relationship is over, it probably is.” 

I took the quiet train home.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour Review

This list is in chronological order and I’ve made notes of the samples I found to be exceptional.

Spring House Braaaiins – pumpkin ale

Cigar City Florida Cracker – Belgian-style white ale

North Country Paleo IPA 

Heritage Brewing Kings Mountain – Scotch Ale

Manayunk Brewery Summer Paradise – seasonal ale

Weyerbacher Sunday Morning Stout – stout aged in bourbon barrels with coffee (exceptional)

Earth Bread + Brewery The Summer Day – session IPA (exceptional)

Firestone Walker Sucaba – barley wine (exceptional)

Firestone Walker Opal – farmhouse ale (exceptional)

Allagash Brewing Saison 

PA Brewers’ Guild Guildy Pleasure – imperial pale ale

Twin Lakes Pale Ale

Berwick Brewing Belgian Gold

Climax Brewing ESB

Union Brewing Black Lager

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour Review

The Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour was exactly what I think a beer festival should be: a laid-back atmosphere with food trucks, room to move around, a fresh selection of breweries, and organized well.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour Review

The MarchFourth Marching Band did an outstanding job entertaining the crowd, including one guy who was maybe a wee bit fuddled and was dancing the hula without a hoop. I wish there would have been more performance from them throughout the event because they were wonderful.

Excellent day. Superb job, Sierra Nevada, and congratulations on your new location in Mills River, NC!

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour Review

The Sierra Nevada Beer Camp also featured a collection of collaborative beers that were poured at the festivals and available in cases. Here are my tasting notes from those beers.

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour Review

Myron’s Walk (brewed with Allagash Brewing Company) – Belgian-style pale ale brewed with coriander. Warm golden in color with slight haze. Tons of citrus and pine in the nose. Piney hop bitterness carries through the sip with Belgian spice clear at the front. This has a middling malt backbone. I get some peach and pear at the beginning. Overall impression is excellent and drinkable; it’s clearly Belgian. It is fairly hop-forward for a pale ale. A well-done collaboration!

Double Latte (brewed with Ninkasi Brewing Company) – Milk stout with coffee and lactose added. Visually, this is about as close to black as dark chocolate can get. Opaque but no haze. I get roast and coffee in the nose, along with a sweetness from the lactose. The texture is silky smooth and it is super roasty but balances nicely with the coffee bitterness and chewy lactose. I’m not typically a milk stout fan and generally dislike lactose but I’d order this again and again.

Chico King (brewed with Three Floyds Brewing Company) – American pale ale that is golden amber in color and crystal clear. I get floral, citrus and just a hint of pine in the nose. This was softer than I expected and tastes like a higher ABV than 6.5%.

CANfusion (brewed with Oskar Blues Brewery) – Rye bock that is orange in color and super clear. Fruity hops and spicy rye in the nose. Tons of spicy rye bite throughout and a strong malt presence. It’s pretty damn good for a bock, a style that isn’t my favorite. As it warms up, I get honey in the nose.

Maillard’s Odyssey (brewed with Bell’s Brewery) – Imperial dark ale at 8.5% ABV and 40 IBU. Extra dark brown, almost black in color with a light brown head. Tons of roast in the nose. Chocolate and roast in the mouth. 

Alt Route (brewed with Victory Brewing Company) – Altbier that is dark orange-red in color and super clear. It smells of marshmallow, sweet strong malt, and jasmine. Great floral hops.

Electric Ray (brewed with Ballast Point Brewery) – India pale lager coming in at 8.5% ABV and 70 IBUs. Golden orange in color. Musty, resiny hops in the nose. This is a dank beer and it tastes sticky. I get lager in how crisp and clean it is but some of the lager qualities are lost in this hop bomb.

Yvan the Great (brewed with Russian River) – Belgian-style blonde at 6.3% ABV and 50 IBUs. Gorgeous golden yellow with the slightest haze like a late summer sun. Warm spicy scent that carries through the mouth. Dry. Refreshing.

Torpedo (brewed with Firestone Walker) – hoppy pilsner at 5.2% ABV and 45 IBUs. Gold in color, mostly clear. Head was thick and white on first pour before it dissipated. Strong floral aroma, crisp and clean. The beautiful floral notes are in harmony with a medium maltiness. I get tons of jasmine in this.

Tater Ridge (brewed with Asheville Brewers’ Alliance) – Scottish ale brewed with sweet potatoes. 7.0% ABV and 35 IBUs. Chestnut brown in color. Spicy notes like cinnamon and nutmeg in the nose. Very sweet and malty. Full-bodied. Little to no hop presence. Very nice Scottish ale.

There & Back (brewed with New Glarus, who wasn’t at the Mid-Atlantic stop of the beer tour. What the heck, New Glarus!?) – ESB with 5.6% ABV and 40 IBUs. Orange in color and hazy and can see a moderate to high carbonation before even sipping. Creamy white head. Malty and citrusy in the nose, reminiscent of lemon zest. Strong malt backbone that is balanced by the citrus and floral hop aroma but little bitterness. Delicious.

Were you at any of the Beer Camp stops? Have you tried these collaborative beers?

Disclaimer: Sierra Nevada provided me with a complimentary pass to enter the Mid-Atlantic stop of the Beer Camp Tour. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue

“Everything at Tellus360 has a story. Reclaiming and reusing items is central to the establishment.”

Tellus360 is a live music and Irish pub in artsy and creative downtown Lancaster, PA. I entered the building from the West King Street entrance and was greeted by Ken Mueller, marketing director at Tellus360 and my tour guide for the afternoon. Ken was eager to show me the building, talk to me about future plans, and share stories about the many elements of architectural interest that are found throughout the property.

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue
Tigh Mhary bar
Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue
Tap handles at Tellus360

“The large wooden doors behind the bar are from a Catholic church in Ireland and the bar itself is from County Waterford. The bar has three sections that are divided by glass panels. Originally, the section on the left was for the women, the one in the center for the men, and the lower section on the right? That was for the kids to hang out and get some candy at the counter while Mom and Dad were grabbing a pint.”

That sounds brilliant to me. 

(click on the photos in the gallery to see them larger for more detail)

Tellus360 occupies a large building near the square in Lancaster, PA. The first and only time I was in Tellus360 before this visit was to start out a downtown walking and tasting tour called Taste the World. Tellus360 was our check-in location where were given a bottle of water and had our first tasting of the event from Upohar. At that point in time, Tellus360 sold many repurposed goods. 

In case you’re wondering, tellus means earth in Latin.

There was jewelry made from Southeast Asian landmines, bottle openers made from old bike chains, and organic and ethical clothing. Today, the space looks quite different and although the style of business has changed from retail to bar, the same blood still courses through Tellus360’s veins. Guests will still find a uniquely repurposed environment here and the evolution is magnificent.

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue
Table in Tigh Mhary

The spaces are eclectic, a mishmash of styles and texture. The front room, named Tigh Mhary, has a dais facing King Street where musicians perform. The tables are decorated with painted checkerboards and wax-dripped Jose Cuervo tequila bottles and some of the seating is old church pews. It is open and bright, pleasant and welcoming. There is a larger stage in The Temple which is located directly behind the Tigh Mhary room.

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue
Looking down on Tigh Mhary from the balcony

Writing “The Temple Bar” puts me immediately in mind of Dublin and makes my heart feel a pang over missing a city I adore.

The bar in The Temple is topped with a gorgeous piece of solid wood from Africa that bears a blackened scar from a lightning strike. As with so much of what you’ll find at Tellus360, it is one-of-a-kind. A book could be written about this place with each chapter telling its own story, a true “if the walls could talk” tale. 

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue

The stages and speakers are professional remnants from shows put on by names like Lady Gaga, U2, AC/DC, and Maroon 5. Have you heard of Clair Global and Tait Towers? They’re the groups who are putting Lititz, PA, on the map when it comes to the music scene. They’re known for quality stage design and sound setup and have further expanded their influence recently with Rock Lititz. The speakers and stages at Tellus360 came from them so it’s not a stretch to say that the music experience you’ll have at Tellus360 venue will be outstanding. 

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue

And speaking of sound, you’ll hear plenty of it here. There is music going on most days of the week in a range of styles like traditional Irish, singer/songwriter, Americana, rock (that is the most generic term you’ll probably hear today), and DJs like The Thing With Two Heads spinning goodness for your freaky selves.

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue

The bathrooms are located downstairs (also reminding me of many places in Dublin) and you should check them out even if you don’t need to actually use the facilities. The walls are covered in wood of varying colors, shapes, and sizes. One section of wall has varying bottom sashes from institutional-looking windows installed vertically, the indented handholds set at varying places and looking haphazardly perfect.

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue
Bathroom

 The sinks are long troughs, fluid in their cement design and flowing the entire length downwards to the drain. The bathroom put me in mind of a forest glade, a place of harmonious marriage between industrial accents and organic canopies. 

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue
Sink closeup

As if two main level bars wasn’t enough, there is a balcony upstairs where the kitchen is located and food is served and further up are two more bars. (!!)

I told you Tellus360 was huge.

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue
Looking down on Tigh Mhary from the balcony

The lounge-like room previously known as Gallery360 will soon have a rebirth with sofas, easy chairs, turntables and vinyl, bookshelves, and games like darts, ping pong, and cornhole. Wood-burning fireplaces will create a warm and cozy space to relax in and chill with friends or spend some quiet time alone. The lighting in this space comes from old air raid sirens that have been outfitted for bulbs. Keep an eye on this lounge as it comes together in the coming weeks and months.

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue
Air raid siren lighting in the Lounge

The rooftop has a bar and seating area with some killer views of the city. Directly beside Tellus360 is the Downtown Marriott and behind is the Penn Square Parking Garage, which makes this a convenient location for those who don’t live in the city and want to visit.

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue
Green rooftop bar at Tellus360

I loved this rooftop area and even on a stuffy, hot afternoon there was a whisper of breeze going on up there. The rumor is that mosquitoes don’t wander so far from the ground so you’ll be enjoying the urban outdoors in bite-free peace.

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue
Green rooftop view

A green roof like what Tellus360 has implemented absorbs 70-90% of rainwater that falls during the summer.¹

More than half the rooftop is green, meaning it is covered with living plants that absorb rainwater and drastically reduce runoff.

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue
A living green rooftop!

This is an important eco-friendly feature because the city of Lancaster is currently facing hefty fines from the EPA due to massive quantities of polluted rainwater runoff entering the Conestoga River, which eventually makes its way to the Chesapeake. Just think what a positive impact the city could have on the environment if more buildings followed Tellus360’s lead by creating their own green roof areas!

Tellus360 isn’t a sports bar but it does host gatherings for sporting events. There is definite Irish influence from the Tigh Mhary bar to menu items like a full Irish breakfast with black and white pudding. That kind of meal speaks to me. “Eat me. Eat me, Amber. I’m delicious.”

See what I mean? I am not crazy because my food talks to me.

In short, Tellus360 offers something for just about everyone. They also have free wi-fi, making it a perfect space for someone to work, too. I could hang out here for hours and write. 

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue
“All who enter these doors are equal”

If you are planning an event, see what Tellus360 has to offer. If you dig live music, see what’s happening this week. Looking for a place to meet friends for a few drinks? You have plenty of options, including Irish whiskey and craft beer! My only disappointment was that I didn’t see the venue in its full glory during business hours. I need to remedy that soon and swing by for dinner and a show. 

Tellus360, an Irish Pub and Live Music Venue
Green Rooftop Bar

Have you been to Tellus360 yet?

You can find Tellus360 on Facebook! Follow them there for all the latest and stay hip to the know.

 ¹ Green Roof Benefits: http://www.greenroofs.org/index.php/about/greenroofbenefits

Keep Austin Weird: Mobile Photography Essay

Keep Austin Weird. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in Austin long enough to get a solid handle on the city. I can’t recommend the “best of” anything. I can’t share any “must see” attractions. I didn’t stand in an absurdly long line for any of the “best BBQ in town”. I was in town for Austin Psych Fest and spent most of the days and evenings at Carson Creek Ranch. I did write this Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide for where to eat on Rainey Street but please do not mistake me for being an expert on Austin.

One thing I did take note of when driving through the city is that it reminded me of other favorite cities like San Francisco, Portland, and Asheville. Many buildings are decorated with elaborate murals. Storefronts are full of curiosities. Food trucks are everywhere. 

That is not an exaggeration. 

Austin gave me the impression of being Bohemian, artsy, local-centric, and embracing of the weird.

Maybe I am totally off-base and need to return and spend more time exploring the city and discovering its personality. What do you think?

I was able to capture some of Austin’s spirit on the streets. 

{click on any of the smaller gallery-style photographs to view in a slideshow}

Keep Austin Weird: Mobile Photography Essay

Keep Austin Weird: Mobile Photography Essay

Keep Austin Weird: Mobile Photography Essay

Keep Austin Weird: Mobile Photography Essay

Keep Austin Weird: Mobile Photography Essay

Keep Austin Weird: Mobile Photography Essay

Keep Austin Weird: Mobile Photography Essay

Are you an Austinite? What should I know about your city?

 

The Ultimate Summer Roadtrip Playlist

It is almost August and while our days here in South-Central Pennsylvania haven’t been overly hot, the telltale signs of summer are still here. Baseball diamonds are packed on the weekends with eager players vying for the next home rum, social media feeds are full of smiling families posing by ocean waves, chins are perpetually tacky with melted ice cream, and wineberry picking has reached its full and ripe red peak. It is prime time to pile into the car, pick a direction, and just drive with the intention of getting lost. In honor of my favorite season, one that I wish was endless, I decided to put together my own Ultimate Summer Roadtrip Playlist for when we’re on the road and I thought I’d share it with you.

Our family recently took a roadtrip from Pennsylvania to Jekyll Island, Georgia. Despite a long car ride (~12 hours) and hellish traffic from Richmond to Baltimore, the kids did well for sitting in one place for such a long stretch of time. At least in an airplane we can get up and walk around, stretch our legs, and have more freedom to wiggle around to get ants from our pants. The car is a more stationary situation, especially when snugly strapped into a carseat. What helped break up the ride? Besides snack-sized bags of goldfish crackers, a gallon-sized bag of Texas Trash, and VTech InnoTab (affiliate link), the Spotify playlists specifically geared to kids and roadtripping were beneficial. The kids enjoyed hearing fun new songs while passing scenery like this, straight from the Wizard of Oz. 

My Ultimate Summer Roadtrip Playlist

Of course, I always encourage taking the time to visit state and national parks during your travels. 

My Ultimate Summer Roadtrip Playlist
Fort Frederica National Park

Music is one of those ingredients in life that is more than just a bonus, it’s an essential. I need music on while I’m cooking. I must have music playing when I’m cleaning. I find it nearly impossible to drive a vehicle without cranking out some tunes. I think I have a fairly eclectic taste in music and enjoy everything ranging from classical (I started studying classical piano at the age of 4), psychedelic, classic rock, metal, and everything on the fringes and in between. I don’t listen to Top 40 and I have no idea what bubblegum pop is currently getting airtime on the radio. If you’re looking for Pharrell, Katy Perry, or Skrillex, you won’t find it here. 

This playlist features bands including the following: Pearls & Brass, Graveyard, 16 Horsepower, Dax Riggs, Judas Priest, The Band, Crosby Stills & Nash, Canned Heat, Wolf People, Dead Combo, Los Vigilantes, and more. I’ll continue adding songs to this playlist as I stumble across fitting songs on Spotify.

Don’t have Spotify yet? Why not? It’s free! 

 

The Ultimate Summer Roadtrip Playlist
Photo courtesy of Spotify

Spotify is a streaming service that boasts over 20 million songs that are free to access and listen to anytime day or night, on your desktop, laptop, or mobile device. Every day they add another 20,000 songs so if there is something obscure you’re looking for, chances are they’ll get it eventually. Sure, there is some competition on the market but I don’t plan on even trying any other services because the quality of service I’ve had with Spotify has been outstanding. I choose to pay a nominal fee of just a penny under $10/month so my music isn’t interrupted by commercials and I can listen to my music even when I’m offline through their handy download function. It’s worth it. I dig it. If you don’t have Spotify, download it for free and give it a try. (Disclaimer: Spotify doesn’t have a clue who I am and this is not a sponsored post)

Anyway. My Ultimate Summer Roadtrip Playlist samples are below. If you want to head right over to the playlist and , here you go: Ultimate Summer Roadtrip Playlist, but stay a little while and listen to some samples below!

And the entire playlist:

 

What songs would you put on your own ultimate summer roadtrip playlist?

(Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link as indicated above. I only recommend products I have personally sampled or use. I am not affiliated with VTech in any way but my kids enjoy their InnoTabs.)

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer

Jekyll Island is part of the Golden Isles, located in charming coastal Georgia and surrounded by salt marshes and warm ocean currents. The island is about 7 miles long by 1.5 wide and offers all the amenities necessary for a great vacation for families or couples. Jekyll Island is a state park and an entry fee is required to drive onto the island.

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer
Entry point onto Jekyll Island

The entry cost for vehicles is $6 per day and it’s good for 24-hours of driving on-and-off the island. If you’re staying for an entire week and don’t plan on leaving the island at all, don’t bother buying the week-long pass, opt for the day pass and you’re set. If you want to explore the other Golden Isles then consider purchasing the week-long pass.

So what makes Jekyll Island a great travel destination for you?

The natural beauty. The wide, expansive beaches have hard-packed sand and tidal pools that beg to have bare feet splash in them.

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer
The wide beaches are beautiful

The water is comfortably warm and shallow, with gentle waves that allow even little travelers to feel confidence in the almighty sea. My 4-year old daughter, Lotus, paddled in and out of the water on her own while wearing an inner tube around her waist.

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer

At one point the somewhat murky water smacked her in the face and she shouted, “I hate this water!” but after a few minutes of stewing on the shoreline and angrily digging toes into the sand, she came back out and spent hours giggling and playing. 

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer

Driftwood Beach is located on the northern end of Jekyll Island and is a dramatic area, a graveyard of trees.

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer

Finely grained and sun-bleached limbs with roots thrusting into salty air in an unapologetic rigor mortis litter the sand and reach longingly for the ebbing ocean and horizon beyond. Little crabs and cockroach-looking creatures scurry and scatter among the rocks and trees, and sea birds gather for the obvious feast.

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer
Common scenery on Driftwood Beach

This seemed to be a popular local spot for photography sessions because there were at least a handful of fancy cameras capturing the magic hour while attempting to wrangle young clients into staged poses when they’d rather be running in the sand and surf. 

As always, all images posted here were captured on an iPhone 5c.

Wildlife? Jekyll Island’s got it.

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer
Coastal whitetail deer

During our week stay, I saw wild dolphins just offshore, sand dollars galore, horseshoe crabs, an abundance of coastal whitetail deer, terrapins crossing the causeway, and our friends caught and released many sharks while fishing off a boat in the channel.

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer
Horseshoe crab

Many sea turtle nests are located on Jekyll Island and the surrounding islands. Sea turtles seek high ground for their nests and they face so many obstacles in reaching adulthood that the Georgia Sea Turtle Center was founded to give them a fighting chance at survival.

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer
Georgia Sea Turtle Center

They rehabilitate, educate, and help to preserve the environment. The Sea Turtle Center has educational programs for all ages, a museum to learn more about the life of these quiet creatures, an observation window into an operating room where doctors remove fishing hooks and stitch up other injuries, and a hospice area where turtles are given the chance to gain strength and heal in peace. 

Historical significance. The idea behind the Federal Reserve was discussed and mulled over on Jekyll Island by the big-wig bankers and major financial players of the day. It was once the private playground of the wealthy, with plantations and the Jekyll Island Club dominating what is now the historic district.

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer
Jekyll Island Club

The Jekyll Island Club is still in operation and has a spa on-site and I’d love to spend a few nights there at some point in the future. You know, for research purposes … not because I’d enjoy the luxury and pampering or anything. The grounds are magnificent and ooze with deep Southern charm, thanks to the old and gnarled trees that positively drip with Spanish moss. 

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer

Jekyll Island embraced slavery at one point in her history. In fact, the last known ship to bring Africans to the United States for the dastardly purpose of slavery was The Wanderer, a pleasure-yacht-turned-vessel-of-horror. It landed in Jekyll Island in 1858. Today, visitors can learn more about this scar on our nation’s history by going to the Jekyll Island Museum for a full exhibit on The Wanderer and honor the lives of those brought over by visiting the memorial which is located in the southern part of the island at St. Andrews picnic area. 

Head to St. Simons Island and visit Fort Frederica. About 30 minutes away from Jekyll Island is Fort Frederica, located on St. Simons Island. This was once a British military outpost and was built in 1736 to defend against the Spanish. It held soldiers and their families, as well as merchants and those with trades like bakers, shoemakers, and blacksmiths. 

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer

The grounds today are mostly cleared of buildings but much work has gone into preserving the history of the fort. Roads are mapped out with street signs, remains of foundations have plaques telling of who once lived there along with a display of artifacts that were found at each location. The ditch that contained the moat is still in evidence surrounding the entire fort and it’s easy to imagine palisades and fort walls surrounding it in the glorious yesteryear. It is built on Frederica River and was established by General Oglethorpe. It served its purpose for years before the Spanish threat waned with British victories and the fort declined and is now in the state you’ll find today.

Why You Should Plan A Trip To Jekyll Island This Summer
Mature trees and Spanish moss

Fort Frederica is a quiet place with a hush hanging in the air. The citadel and barracks are still somewhat intact and the graveyard still contains the remnants of tombs. Spanish moss grows thickly and rustles quietly in the breeze, not wanting to disturb the rest of the footsteps of those who once walked these streets.

It only costs $3 for visitors who are 16+ to visit and is an excellent day trip from Jekyll Island. Definitely check out the museum for an educational video on the history of the island, additional artifacts found at Fort Frederica, and a few fun activities for children.

Stop at the Pier Village in St. Simons Island for a range of dining options before heading back to Jekyll Island.

Jekyll Island is an attainable destination for most any budget. You can stay where our nation’s wealthiest used to flock, at the Jekyll Island Club with rooms starting around $189/night. There are various chain hotels like Quality Inn and Suites and Holiday Inn Resort, as well as other luxurious accommodations like Villas by the Sea and the Beachview Club

House rentals are another option, which is how we stayed in Jekyll Island, thanks to an invitation from great friends! Here is a list of current offerings on Airbnb and VRBO.

Go camping! The Jekyll Island Campground offers primitive camping sites ($29/day) and full hook-up sites for RVs ($38/day for pull-through). It is located near Driftwood Beach and there is a general store located on the grounds for necessities you may have forgotten.

Jekyll Island offers quiet solitude with the option of luxury amenities, outdoor adventure, and historic interest. Charter a fishing boat. Go paddle boarding. Kayak along the coast. Bicycle along more than 20 miles of trails. Go to Summer Waves Waterpark. Hit some balls around the golf course. Relax. Breathe. Feel the stresses of life melt away.

These are the reasons why you should plan a trip to Jekyll Island this summer. I’ll be running a photo essay shortly with more of the natural beauty found on Jekyll Island.

Find out even more about Jekyll Island here.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. My only credit must be given to our wonderful friends who invited us to stay with them at their friends’ beach house. 

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin {Rainey Street Edition}

I will be the first person to tell you that this should not be taken as any sort of definitive guide of where to eat in Austin. I didn’t have nearly enough time to explore the city and eat all the food. That’s okay, it just means I’ll have to go back and eat drink explore some more.

Local Austinites, I’m sure, have about two dozen other places to eat and drink that they prefer over what is listed here. Are you from Austin? Travel there often? What else belongs on this non-definitive guide? I’ll add it to the growing list of where I need to go next time.

I was only in Austin for five meals, the other meals we had at Austin Psych Fest or at HausBar Farms and Guesthouse. This limited our exposure to the dining scene. The parameters for our search included but was not limited to: tacos, BBQ, craft beer, Texas craft beer, and Texas border cooking. 

Here is part one of a two-part series on where we ate food and drank beer and margaritas in Austin, Texas. I’ll call this the Rainey Street Edition.

Food, craft beer, and travel is a trifecta of happiness.

Rainey Street. Parking is a crooked and haphazard affair where sidewalks can’t be found, laughter is loud, and what appears to have once been a small community has evolved into a bustling enclave for bars and restaurants. 

Banger’s 

Banger’s is located on hip and chaotic Rainey Street in Austin.

 There is outside and inside seating at Banger’s, the former consisting of long family-style picnic tables piled into a large courtyard. Entry doors lead inside where porcine taxidermy overlooks additional family-style tables and a tap list of over 100 beers.

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin

Banger’s prides itself as having the largest selection of sausages in Austin and they offer meats like duck, antelope, venison, and more common varieties containing pork and chicken. 

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin
From left to right: Southern Anteleope & Venison Merguez, Dak Bulgogi

Of course I had to get the Southern Texas Antelope & Venison Merguez, because where else am I going to find Southern Texas Antelope in Pennsylvania? It was mildly spiced but not spicy and surprisingly moist inside a casing that popped with every bite. I’ll be honest, though, the Dak Bulgogi that my friend chose was amazing. From Banger’s menu, the Dak Bulgogi: 

Bulgogi Chicken Sausage topped with sriracha, kimchi, oyster sauce, cilantro, carrots, and jalapenos on a kolache bun with a side of soy caramel lime. Served with a house made kimchi salad and sun dried shrimp chips.

C’MON.

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin

With such a huge variety of craft beer, outstanding sausage and a poutine dish worth sharing with your friends, the laid-back atmosphere at Banger’s is definitely a place I’d go back to again and again.

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin
Poutine

They also offer menu items like fried cheese curds, currywurst, boiled peanuts, a michelada bar, and beer milkshakes.

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin

If you want to get a tattoo of the cute Banger’s logo, a hybrid cowboy boot/beer mug, talk to your server. Apparently they have a deal with a local tattoo shop and it’s free. 

I should have gotten one. Talk about awesome conversation-starting souvenirs. Banger’s, we’re talking about this tattoo the next time I’m in town, okay?

They have live music, many events, and are dog-friendly.

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin

The legends of their founder, Olaf Gufstafson Banger (OG Banger), are colorful. See their website to read all about him.

Now I want a sausage.

Banger's WebsiteBanger's Facebooktwitter

 

Craft Pride

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin

Craft Pride is also located on Rainey Street, close to Banger’s and wholly dedicated to all things Texan and craft. There is a small bottle and merch shop, inside seating that is decorated richly but simply, and outside seating areas.

The interior walls are black with an ornate pattern, the comfortably curved barstool-style seats at the pub tables are covered in black leather(ette) and heavily studded at the arms. On the ceiling is a large cut-out wooden plank relief of the Lone Star State, appropriately decorated with a single illuminated star.

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin

You will only find craft beer made in Texas at Craft Pride, with offerings from more than 20 breweries taking up 54 taps and 2 casks from breweries like Live Oak, Hops & Grain, and Saint Arnold. The staff is knowledgeable and happy to answer questions about the beer that is served there. If you don’t understand a style, just ask!

The Non-Definitive But Delicious Guide: Where To Eat In Austin
Detroit-style Carnivore Pizza from Via 313

If you need something to nosh on while at Craft Pride, head out back to the courtyard and order one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had, an exotic Detroit-style pie. Via 313 is a food truck that is parked behind Craft Pride and sells pizza by pie, consisting of four corner slices. One pie was plenty of food for two people. 

But what is Detroit-style pizza?

For starters, it’s delicious. The crust is crunchy and full of cheesy grease-soaked flavor, the toppings are piled on the crust and the sauce gets spread on top. We chose the Carnivore pizza and it was truly memorable, what with its pepperoni, ham, sausage, and bacon. The menu also includes The 500 (with pepperoni, jalapeños and pineapple), the Continental (prosciutto, arugula, and parmesan), and the Omnivore (cremini mushrooms, sweet onions, green pepper, pepperoni, and hot Italian sausage). Order your pizza, sit back down with your beer and an order number placard, and have it delivered right to you.

Craft Pride has events like Flight Nights, release parties, and live music. When stepping out on Rainey Street, Craft Pride and Banger’s are great options for you.

Craft Pride: WebsiteBanger's Facebooktwitter

Via 313: WebsiteBanger's Facebooktwitter

I hope you enjoyed this first post in my Non-Definitive but Delicious Guide of Where to Eat in Austin, the Rainey Street edition! Check back next time for Guero’s Taco Bar and one or two more locations.

Austin Psych Fest 2014, a Trippy Hipstamatic Review

The setting:

Carson Creek Ranch. Located 10 minutes from East Austin, TX, back a dusty rural road and close enough to the Austin-Bergstrom Airport that details can be clearly seen and nearly touched on the many overpassing planes. It’s early May so still cold and damp at home for those of us with Northeastern blood, but the temperature here has already pressed into the mid-90s and it is as dry as tinder.

Austin Psych Fest 2014, a Trippy Hipstamatic Review

 The ranch itself is comprised of more than 40 acres but Austin Psych Fest is held on one 20-acre tract that is snuggled up against the lazy banks of the Colorado River.  

Austin Psych Fest 2014, a Trippy Hipstamatic Review

 There are three stages: a main stage facing the river but at a distance, a pavilion stage near the main stage that is under a large tent, and an amphitheater stage set right along the Colorado River. The slowly moving green water is thick with rebellious clusters of algae that have broken free from the masses along the bank and float merrily along. It appears inviting for a swim but there are signs advising against it because of poisonous snakes and probably liability.

Austin Psych Fest 2014, a Trippy Hipstamatic Review

Large trees interrupt dusty land that is dotted with stubborn tufts of scrubby grass that refuse to succumb entirely to brown death. On the first day I noticed many people wearing bandanas around their nose and mouth and it didn’t take long to understand why. Whenever the  wind picked up, clouds of dust rose into the air, stinging my eyes, invading my nose, and settling like a powdery sludge in my lungs.

Austin Psych Fest 2014, a Trippy Hipstamatic Review

I was happy to be wearing my boots and wide-brimmed hat to help protect my skin from the elements. On day two I began wearing a bandana and it made a noticeable difference in my ability to breathe.

The people.

I recently read a link-bait article (you know, “10 reasons why…”) about the types of assholes one meets at music festivals. I’m telling you right now that I did not see any of those article-blasted assholes at Austin Psych Fest and I didn’t see them at Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Holland, in 2011 either. Maybe they’re rampant at bubblegum-pop meathead music festivals like [redacted] but the type of crowd that attends a festival like this is there for one thing: the music. 

I saw a woman and her daughter hula hooping. I saw the same man all three days of the festival and he could have just left Spoutwood Farm Fairie Festival. There were a lot of mom jean shorts, floppy hats, band t-shirts, fringes, ankle boots, and other distinctly Bohemian styles. I saw a woman wearing a Steve Buscemi shirt which was completely amazing and there was plenty of leather. 

Austin Psych Fest 2014, a Trippy Hipstamatic Review

One woman was walking around with cut-off jean shorts and nothing but Texas Longhorn-shaped pasties – or stickers – adorning large breasts. Everything is bigger in Texas.

It’s a family-friendly event. There is camping. I saw quite a few young kids running about with their parents or guardians or squirming while having earplugs stuffed into their ears. Other than the pasty-lady, everyone was fully clothed. This is a perfect springtime festival to cut a child’s teeth.

The food and drink.

Beer is expensive at Austin Psych Fest. So is the liquor. Maybe that’s one reason why I didn’t notice any visibly intoxicated individuals at the festival.

Austin Psych Fest 2014, a Trippy Hipstamatic Review

The only drunk dude I saw was outside the festival on the way back to HausBar Farm and Guesthouse (ideal lodging for anyone attending this event) when we stopped at a gas station and a black Cherokee pulled up crookedly beside us. He walked right over to our driver’s door with his tight black jeans and tighter grey-striped shirt of The mOObs and asked if we just came from the festival.

“Yeah, you guys have that, uh, have the look,” said a man with long straggly hair who looked like the genetic child of David Lee Roth and Iggy Pop. “Man, I totally wanted to go to see Quilt but I had a friend in need. You know how it is.” After some more conversation that was less intelligible, he walked off to get his late-night gas station goods. 

That’s the only intoxicated story I have but it’s a good one.

Tips for attending Austin Psych Fest: take a bandana, tissues for toilet paper, and a water bottle.

Dos Equis sponsored Austin Psych Fest so they were one of the only beers available. I opted for the $6 tallboy lager cans most of the time.

Austin Psych Fest 2014, a Trippy Hipstamatic Review

Water was free at the on-ranch filling station, located at a fairly central point of the property. There were food trucks aplenty set up along the perimeter of the open field, featuring a range of foods from vegetarian to pizza to a truck selling food like fried goat brains and rat stew. 

More random ranch observations.

There were plenty of lavatories available in the form of porta-johns. Some were specifically designated as female-only but of course it didn’t take long for them to be defiled by the standing urinators at the festival. I never had to wait in line which was nice. There wasn’t any toilet paper by the end of the third festival day, which wasn’t as nice. 

Austin Psych Fest 2014, a Trippy Hipstamatic Review

Circular mirrors were hanging by string in one of the trees. During the day it reflected the sun and once darkness settled onto the ranch they glittered like twinkling stars. Another tree had several swings attached to solid limbs, a quiet spot to relax and escape the Texas sun. Down the steep hill toward the banks of the river and in full view of the amphitheater stage were hammocks, their occupants gently swaying with eyes closed, arms crossed over their chests, taking in the experience by a sort of musical osmosis. 

Speaking of darkness, the golden hour in Texas is incredibly gorgeous.

There was an AT&T charging station with several types of adapters to dock one’s phone. I chatted with a woman who was visiting from France, her first time in the States. She was loving the festival. The chargers worked slowly but a little extra battery is better than nothing and I was thankful for the amenity.

At the beginning of the second day a police officer was spraying down the ground with a hose to help keep the dust under control. That was appreciated.

The Deluxe VIP area didn’t seem to be worth the extra money spent. There were never too long of lines to get alcohol in the general admission area and the viewing area wasn’t a whole lot better in VIP than in general admission either.

The music.

Of course the music was amazing. It’s why we went. To see bands like Graveyard, Kadavar, Tinariwen, Earthless, and about a dozen more notables was a dream. To see them perform in a venue like Carson Creek Ranch was Paradise. Everything about the environment all around the ranch made the fuzzy psychedelic jams and grooves slip inside my soul. I can close my eyes and still feel the relaxing vibe I experienced at Austin Psych Fest.

If you enjoy listening to even a handful of the bands in the lineup, make the pilgrimage to this festival. You will not regret it.

Austin Psych Fest 2014, a Trippy Hipstamatic Review
Graveyard

Here is a recap video put together by Austin Psych Fest for the 2013 festival. 

All photos were taken on my iPhone 5c using the Hipstamatic app.

Please click on any small photograph to see it full-sized. If you have specific questions about Austin Psych Fest that I didn’t cover, leave a comment and I’ll answer to the best of my ability.

 

Jester King Brewery, Where Every Beer is Funky and Wild

The day was bright and sunny with big puffy fair-weather clouds overhead that slid across a washed out Texas sky. This ranch land was the stuff of my dreams: patches of shading trees dotting a somewhat rolling landscape covered in an multicolored array of wildflowers. I’m sure I caught sight of zebras at one ranch we passed on the short drive out of Austin and into Texas Hill Country. It added to the magic I felt as soon as we exited the city and entered the wild.

Jester King Brewery, Where the Beer is Always Funky and Wild

We have been lucky enough to receive Jester King beer a few times in beer trades and having the opportunity to visit their brewery was a treat because their beer is not only finely crafted, it is uniquely their own. Their traditional farmhouse ales are brewed using wild yeasts captured and cultivated right on their 4-acre plot of ranch. While everything they create is done in the lambic-style, all is region-specific to Austin. Wild yeast in Austin is different than wild yeast in San Francisco and is different than wild yeast in Belgium. Yeast is everywhere, all around us, always hungry and searching for sugars to consume. In that respect, all yeasts are similar, but they differ from place to place in subtle ways. By using wild yeast, their own well water, and local grains, Jester King Brewery has created a product that is intrinsic to their own little corner of Texas Hill Country.

Every beer at Jester King is funky and wild.

Jester King Brewery was founded in 2010 by two brothers. The building in which they brew was once a machine shop and now houses a 30 bbl, or ~900 gallon, brewhouse. They are currently in the middle of an expansion and are excited about the future and their ability to create even more magic with the addition of a 30 bbl cool ship. A coolship looks like a giant shallow brownie pan and is used to hold the wort as it cools and becomes inoculated with the wild yeast in the air.

Jester King Brewery, Where the Beer is Always Funky and Wild
Coolship

The word coolship is an English version of koelschip, a Dutch word for this type of vessel. 

For their barrel-aged beers, Jester King uses a cool ship to cool the wort and become inoculated with wild yeast before racking it straight to a barrel after 24 hours. Some of their beers are fermented in stainless tanks but the same wild yeast that inoculates the cool ship wort is used to inoculate the beer in the stainless tanks. When they first started brewing, they set wort on the roof to attract and harvest wild yeasts. They sent that off to a laboratory where they were able to determine exactly what wild yeasts were present on the property and from there they were able to replicate and cultivate the native yeast composition. 

Jester King doesn’t use a brite tank to condition their ales like many other commercial breweries. A brite tank is the place where the process of refining and clarifying the product of yeast and other large particulates continues after primary fermentation. It is also used for carbonation, and storage before kegging or bottling. Some breweries serve beer on tap directly from the brite tank.

The process from start to finish on some beers at Jester King takes two to six months or more. Their goal is quality and one phrase I heard several times by our knowledgeable tour guide was that they use “sensory analysis” to determine when a beer is ready. They’re on the yeast and beer’s timetable, not their own.  

Bottles are conditioned at least one month. Barrels that once held mezcal and wine are used to age beer and some get blended or reintroduced to fruits for additional dryness as the yeasties receive another serving of sugar. Something I always wonder is how often infection occurs when using wild yeasts in previously-used barrels. Our tour guide addressed that question.

Jester King Brewery, Where the Beer is Always Funky and Wild

“Barreled beer is aged at least a year before we perform a sensory analysis on its progress. About 10% of barrels may be infected and in that case we dump the beer,” at this point there was an audible gasp from the tour group, “and leave the barrels exposed to the air to give them time to get rid of the bad bacteria.”

Barrels provide a happy environment for oxygen-scavenging bugs.

Barrel-aged beer is conditioned for a period of time ranging between three to five years. The brewers at Jester King are like mad scientists, mixing and blending these beers and tasting and mixing some more until the farmhouse potions are just right. I envy their job, don’t you?

Everything at Jester King is done by hand – the bottling, capping, labeling – it’s all a labor of love.

What can you expect when visiting Jester King Brewery?

Jester King is open and airy, with many picnic tables set along the slope behind the brewery and the adjacent building housing Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza shop. Guests can play cornhole, take part in a free brewery tour (author’s note: always take the brewery tour), order pizza and have it delivered to your picnic table, and sample the many beverages that are offered at Jester King. I enjoyed being able to purchase small quantities of each beer, allowing me to try more varieties than if I had a full pint of just one or two.

Not only can you purchase samples of ale Jester King ale, there is an impressively curated selection of other regional beer, mead, wine, kombucha, and even cold-brewed coffee. You’ll also find many rare beers from all around the world.

This is a dog-friendly environment, as we found most places in Austin, and there were at least half a dozen hounds hanging out with their owners. 

Buy a bottle or several while you’re at Jester King. Take one home for a beer-loving friend. There are also shirts available for purchase in both men’s and women’s sizes and styles. I got a shirt for La Vie en Rose, a farmhouse ale refermented with raspberries.

Visiting Jester King Brewery is a must when traveling to Austin, whether you’re into beer or not. It is located only about 15 minutes outside the city but feels like a completely different type of world. 

It’s the type of world I could definitely make home.

You can find Jester King brewery on the web, on Facebook, and on Twitter.