The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Archive for the ‘Things To Do’ Category

Half Acre Beer Company

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on July 4, 2010

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Our time in Chicago was packed full of activities.  Aside from meeting up with friends, the Wife’s big goals were to introduce me to the Taste of Chicago and Giordano’s pizza.  While were there, though, we thought we’d try to experience a local brewery. 

We ended up at Half Acre Beer Company

Our friend signed us up for a tour at the brewery at 1 pm.  It was kind of an odd location for a production brewery, really.  Tucked in the heart of a small neighborhood, it looked like more of a place for a brewpub than a production brewery. 

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We arrived just in time for the tour to begin.  We didn’t need tickets, per se, to join the tour, but we were requested/required to sign up for the tour.  The brewery was under construction.  Evidently the first year of production had been more than a little successful, and so the company was having to expand operations.

The tour began by helping ourselves to a dixie cup of beer from one of the pitchers.  More on the beers in a minute.  The brewery tour was pretty standard, really.  They have a 15 bbl brewhouse, which was acquired used from a brewery in Colorado.  You can also see the grist hopper on top of the mash tun.

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Then we checked out the mezzanine where the ingredients were kept.  One interesting thing about the brewery is that they cask-age a small percentage of their beer for competitions and festivals.  Two of these barrels are wine barrels and the other two are whiskey barrels.

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After checking out the mezzanine, we went back downstairs to see the fermentation tanks and canning line. 

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At this point, we had some time to ask some questions.  A couple tidbits that came out during the tour:

  • Half Acre uses water from Lake Michigan to brew, appropriately treated and filtered.IMG_0390
  • Spent grains are sent to local farms as high-protein feed for animals.  This really isn’t that novel of a use for spent grains, as lots of breweries do this that I’ve been to.  However, it’s a solid green practice for the 1,000+ lbs of spent grains (plus absorbed water weight during brewing) per batch.

 

  • Half Acre conditions (carbonates) their beer after primary fermentation, i.e. they post carbonate.  This is pretty common for most breweries, but is distinctly different from Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (among others), which uses natural carbonation from the yeast during alcohol production.  There are tradeoffs between the two methods; cost, control, purity, etc.

 

  • Half Acre has a canning line for the beer.  The pictures I took of the canning line really didn’t turn out, unfortunately.  There are any number of reasons that most breweries, particularly small breweries, bottle their beer.  One big reason, though, is that canning lines are frequently very expensive, and cost-prohibitive for smaller breweries.  Half Acre, though, had a canning line for their beer.IMG_0387

After the tour, our industrious tourguide, Gabe, was clearly interested in getting back to work, as soon as his music was turned back on.  We headed back to try the other beers.

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The Gossamer Ale is their flagship beer, as far as I can tell.  A simple, tasty ale, it was the perfect color, texture, and aroma for a good-ol’ “drank’n” beer, like Kath’s husband Matt would say.

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The Daisy Cutter Pale Ale was perhaps the most flavorful pale ale I had in a long time.  It really bordered, in terms of hop aroma on an IPA, but the Wife, who is distinctly NOT in the Pale Ale/IPA camp, found it refreshing and tasty.  Pale Ales and IPAs, having perhaps surpassed deep golden lagers as my beers of choice, was an exquisite beer, appropriate for any afternoon on the back porch.

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The Over Ale, while not appealing directly to my tastes, was a brew worthy of your time.  It was not particularly heavy nor rich, as I find a lot of dark beers to be, it was more like a black lager or amber ale (in terms of mouthfeel), than the rich, thick feeling of a stout or porter.  The Wife seemed to particularly enjoy it.

After enjoying our time in the brewery, we headed into the adjacent Half Acre Brewshop.  Half Acre memorabilia (or paraphernalia, or whatever it’s called in this instance) was for sale, including shirts, hats, and pint glasses. 

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Growlers with the Half Acre logo were also on sale, but only when filled.  I was hoping to add a Half Acre growler to my growler collection for homebrewing, but I didn’t really want to risk hauling the beer in my checked luggage, and I somehow didn’t think I had sufficient time to get through it before we left Chicago. 

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I picked up a pint glass and had a nice chat with gentleman minding the store, Mike, about the brewery, the shop, and the general business of brewing.  He was friendly and personable, and he let me get a picture with him for the blog.

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Half Acre is still building up their distribution area.  With the brewery expansion, though, stay tuned for a Half Acre beer available in your favorite Chicago-area bar.

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Pinball through the ages

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on June 5, 2010

As we’ve mentioned in a couple of blog posts, we had our first group of friend and family visitors (aside from the Husband’s dad) come to visit us this past week (well technically, they came to celebrate our friend Jeff’s 30th birthday… we were just lucky enough to already live here 🙂 ).  Normally, when we’ve visited Las Vegas in the past, we’ve spent most of the time on the strip though a lot of the group has also been to Hoover Dam before.  Since we have our cars here, we decided to try to entertain our friends with things off the strip that are a bit less touristy (only a bit less).  Using the Husband’s Roadside America iPhone app (which tells us of lesser known tourist attractions in a town), we found out about the Pinball Hall of Fame museum.  It was located near the Liberace Museum which we were also interested in visiting (until we learned it was $15 per person).  So, just to the Pinball Museum we went!

The museum itself is in a non-descript warehouse looking building.  If you didn’t know what to look for, you’d miss it (and of course I didn’t get a picture for you so, good luck!).

According to their website, the Pinball Hall of Fame was created by the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club to house and display the world’s largest pinball collection.  All of the games are fully operable and range from 25 cents to $1.00 per game depending on the age (I think).  There’s no entrance fee and all pinball profits go to local charities.  How cool!?!?!

Upon entering the building, we were immediately in awe of all of the pinball machines.  But first, we bought candy! 🙂

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As promised, proceeds support local charities.IMG_3081 On to the pinball machines… I walked up and down the aisles to see what was available.  They had old machines and new ones.  The older ones had index cards providing background on them which was just fascinating.  I personally was most drawn to those from the 50s and 60s!IMG_3083 This one had a stand-up baseball player.  A blower blew a ping pong ball up and you pressed a button to make the batter swing.  A tad on the slow side of course but so cool!

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IMG_3085 Some of them needed to provide us directions.  I definitely found myself in front of a handful of machines that took me a few minutes to figure out.

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IMG_3087 In addition to pinball machines, there were some old school and unique general arcade games.  In this skiball game, in addition to trying to get the balls in the slot, there was a target to hit.  If hit, the alien sank (like a dunk tank!).  He even taunted you 🙂

IMG_3088 This pinball machine was for two people.  It rotated angles for each player.  Lots of fun!

IMG_3089 We could have spent hours in the Pinball Hall of Fame, but a bunch of our friends needed to check into the hotel so we had to end at some point.  Before we left though, we enjoyed popcorn from a 1960s popcorn dispenser and I grabbed a Throwback Mountain Dew made with real sugar! I personally can’t stand the taste of HFCS so I love finding sodas with real sugar.  This didn’t disappoint!

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In the back of the building, it looked like there was a kid’s birthday party going on.  I don’t know the details of setting one up, but it seemed like a great place to do so.  We will definitely be back with more visitors!

Do you have a favorite pinball or arcade game? I personally fell in love with some baseball pinball games with actual guys that ran around the bases.  It was quite fun!

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Guest Wanderers Head to Salzburg – Part II of II

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on May 22, 2010

A Day in the Life, Part II

Hi there, me again – back for Part II of my day in the life post about our trip to Salzburg, Austria. If you missed Part I, you can read it here.

If you’ll recall, I left off at the bus stop, having just returned from The Sound of Music Tour. We were feeling particularly adventurous today, so we decided to do ANOTHER tour with the same tour company. This time we did the ‘Mountains and Salt Mines’ tour with Panorama Tours.

2:00 – We hop on the bus for tour #2. I’m still not sure if 2 tours in one day is a little crazy, but we’ve already explored the city on foot the day before, and we’ll have tomorrow morning to do more of the same, so we might as well, right? We asked the dude at the tour company kiosk for another tour that wouldn’t have any overlap from the Sound of Music tour, and that’s how we ended up on this one.

We start out by climbing into the mountains past some beautiful countryside. We’re actually in Germany at this point.

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We go past Obersalzburg which is right around where Hitler’s retreat (Eagle’s Nest) is located. We went by several WWII landmarks and our guide filled us in with all of the historic details.

3:30 – We hit the Halleinsalt mines.  This was pretty cool – it was a working salt mine that also had a few levels open to tourists. So we put on our fancy mining gear and jumped onto a train that took us down into the mines

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The tour lasted about an hour. It was pretty interesting. We learned about how salt is mined (not as boring as you may think).

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We also got to slide down this massive wooden slide that they have down in the mines. I’m wondering if the miners are really working down there, or if they just screw around on the slide when the tourists aren’t there. Maybe they have other fun stuff like monkey bars down there. Probably not. As we learned on the tour, mining is really hard and dangerous work.

There was also a lake down in the mine, and we took a boat across.

4:30 – All of this mining worked up an appetite, so the tour group hit a café across the street for a snack.

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So we’re not used to this food/travel blogging thing, and we kept forgetting to take pictures before eating. Kate had a bowl of tomato soup, while I decided to drink my snack.

5:00 – We left the little mining town on our tour bus, and headed back to Salzburg.

6:00 – Naptime for Kate. Here was our second spouse time out of the day. Kate took a nap for about an hour, and I went back down to the hotel lobby and checked email and got caught up on work.

7:00 – Naptime and work time are both over, so now it’s dinner time.

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We decided to go to the local beer hall [insert link http://www.visit-salzburg.net/sights/muellnerbraeu.htm]

At first we were worried about smoke, but the good news is that they have a non-smoking room, as well as a couple of smoking rooms, so we were able to save our lungs.

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The beer drinking process is a little difficult to follow. You start by picking out your own stein – either .5L or 1 liter. I went with the one liter option, because I have little to no self control. Kate went with a Fanta. Prices were not too bad – about 5 euro for a liter of beer. Seems reasonable to me. No idea what kind of beer it was, but it was good.

8:00 – Time to get some healthy food to go with our beer and Fanta. Kate went with a plate of fries. I went with something that looked like a hot dog. If you haven’t been to Austria or Germany, their Wiener stands are pretty hilarious. They’ll have eight color photos of different food options, which all look like the same damn hot dog to tourists. I chose #6.

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9:00 – Keeping with my theme of no self control, it was time for round 2. Another liter of the good stuff for me, and another Fanta for the lady.

Editors Note: Kate would typically be keeping up with me in the beer department, but she’s a baby-mama-to be, so no beer for her for the next six months or so.  (HungryWanderers’ note:  Congratulations!!!)

schnitzel and roll

9:15 – The hunger comes back, so we go with some schnitzel and a pretzel roll.

9:30 – We meet up with another American couple who we met on The Sound of Music Tour. We finished our drinks making idle chit chat. Again, I was a couple of liters in, so I doubt the conversation was too deep.

10:00 – We walk back to the hotel and call it a night. All in all, a pretty good day.

We had a great time in Salzburg, and recommend it to anyone looking for a quaint town with lots of history and great scenery. Thanks to the Hungry Wanderers for letting us post about our trip – happy wandering!

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Cross Country Road Trip Ideas

Posted by Amanda @ The Hungry Wanderers on April 14, 2010

Hi blog readers! No photos in today’s post… for those of you who’ve been reading for a bit, you know that the Husband and I are moving to Las Vegas! Well, that move is coming up quite quick. We leave Charlotte in a little over a week!

We’re currently trying to plan our drive out there and we’re looking for any recommendations for hotels, restaurants and sites as well as stories or tips from your own experiences. In general, we’ve broken down the trip to stop and stay in:

Nashville
Little Rock
Oklahoma City
Albuquerque
Flagstaff or Sedona

Been to any of these cities? If so, any hotel recommendations? Eaten in any? Do share!

Of course, we’ll be blogging throughout the trip but we’d love to get some ideas from our readers on what to do and what to steer clear from. Thanks!! 🙂

Posted in Hotels, Restaurants, Things To Do | 14 Comments »