Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Cooking with Beer: Carbonnade Flammande

Carbonnade Flammade (or Flemmish Beer and Beef Stew) is a favorite cooking tradition in our house hold.  Not too difficult to make and sure to get raves from family and guests (and so good that our snobby French friends asked for the recipe).  You may use any dark, rich beer but let me assure you that Chimay Grande Reserve (Blue) is perfect.


2 lbs beef chuck, cut into 2" squares
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 slices bacon, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 cups Belgian Quadrupedal Ale (Chiimay Grande Reserve)
1 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
3 sprigs Thyme
1/4 cup Parsley
2 sprigs Tarragon
2 bay leaves
Bread and roasted fingerling potatoes for serving

Season beef with salt and pepper in a bowl; add flour and toss to coat.  Heat 2 tbsp. butter in a 6-qt. Dutch Oven over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, add beef; cook, turning, until browned (about 8 minutes).  Add remaining butter, garlic and onions and cook until caramelized (about 30 minutes).  Add half of the beer, cook (scraping the bottom of the pot) until slightly reduced (about 4 minutes).  Return the beef to the pot with the remaining beer, stock, sugar, vinegar, thyme, parsley, tarragon, bay leaves, and salt and pepper.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until beef is tender (about 1 1/2 hours).  Serve with freshly baked bread and roasted fingerling potatoes (or steak fries).  Enjoy/

Friday, December 12, 2014

World Beer Festival, Raleigh, NC

Not sure if they are ambitious or have delusions of grandeur .... either way, tickets go on sale Monday, Dec. 15 should you wish to attend.

Join us at the 10th Annual World Beer Festival Raleigh
Saturday, April 11th, 2015
Moore Square Park, downtown Raleigh
2 Sessions: 12-4pm & 6-10pm
Pre-sale begins Monday December 15th at 10am!

General Admission: $50
  • Tasting glass with unlimited 4oz tastings from over 250 of the finest beers
  • Access into the Art of Beer Experience for beer ingredient samplings, pairings, educational seminars, a mini commercial brewery and more!
VIP Admission: $100
  • Tasting glass with unlimited 4oz tastings from over 250 of the finest beers
  • Access into the Art of Beer Experience for beer ingredient samplings, pairings, educational seminars, a mini commercial brewery and more!
  • Enjoy a private lounge complete with private bathrooms, food and music!
  • 3 issue subscription to All About Beer Magazine
How can you fit over 250 beers into one stocking?
World Beer Fest tickets make the perfect stocking stuffer!Buy for the beer lover on your shopping list. 
Subscriber pre-sale begins Monday at 10am. Subscribers of All About Beer Magazine will be emailed the pre-sale code Monday prior to the on-sale time.
General public on-sale begins Wednesday (December 17th) at 12pm EST. 
Questions about the World Beer Festival-Raleigh? Send us an email!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Restaurant/Brewery Review - Ulele

We finally were able to reserve a spot for dinner in one of Tampa's hottest new restaurants, Ulele. The most exciting aspect of the coming evening is that it is also a brewery, SCORE! Wait, sorry, we were wrong, it was wide to the left..

If I were a restaurateur and wanted to include a brewery, I would do so because I did not want to serve my clients fizzy piss water beers.  You know, the mass market corporate beers that every other hipster joint in town serves.  Why, oh why, then did the owners of Ulele decide to brew their own fizzy piss water beers to replace the mass market fizzy piss water beers?  The selection was stunningly boring.  Ulele Light, Water Works Pale, Honey Lager ....YAWN.  There was absolutely nothing on tap that interested me enough to order it .... truly one of the most boring, uninspired selection of beers that I have ever seen in a brewery and I quite literally ordered water instead.

The food was pretty good, a bit better than average, but not much more than average.  The fish was over-cooked, the asparagus was under-cooked and the food was all served tepid warm.  For all of the hoopla (including a Golden Spoon Award as one of the best new restaurants in Florida) we were quite taken aback by the lack of inspiration.  We would be willing to return to Ulele but will not put in on our list of preferred dining spots.

1810 North Highland Avenue
Tampa, FL 33602

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Beer Dinner w/ Rapp Brewing and Urban Brew & BBQ November 2014

Have you ever been to an expensive restaurant that serves you dinner as a series of courses served over several hours instead of a several different servings piled up in the middle of your plate?  You know, the meals that offer wine pairings for each course for an additional $50.00?  This dinner was exactly like that ... and exactly opposite of that.  "How so?", you ask.  Well ... it was exactly the same in that we were served several courses over the period of a couple of hours and we did have drinks paired to each course.  Other than that it was the complete opposite.

We have been lucky enough to have attend a great many events like this and some of these events come quite close to the lofty aspirations of a Michelin starred restaurant and their wine pairings with cuisine that makes your job drop and your taste buds dance.  BBQ is not usually described as 'cuisine' and beer is rarely mentioned as the drink of choice for the cultural elite.  Luckily, we are not the cultural elite and we were not expecting the finest of fine dining .... we came to eat.  And best of all the cost of the whole dinner was around what we usually pay for a wine pairing during fine dining

Our host for the evening, Andy Salyards, is not who you expect to find as an owner/operator of this kind of joint.  First of all Andy is from California.  Not Memphis, not Texas, not the Carolinas ... California.  Then he must be the product of a long line of restaurateurs, right?  Nope, he was a sailor ... a frigging sailor.  No, this charming fellow just always wanted to own his own bar and grill and when his wife was transferred to Florida he kind of fell into this place, and we are happy that he did.  Hell, everyone knows that the best BBQ is a creation of the culture of the dirty south.  Sweaty, grimy and grim BBQ joints make the best smoke ....
everyone knows this.  Urban Brew and BBQ is none of those.  Clean, tidy and in good repair, the building has enough architectural interest that if you drink a few too many and squint your eyes you can pretend that you are in one of those traditional dives.  But then there is the beer board mounted of the wall front and center, with their current craft beers listed that would never been seen in an old style barbeque joint.

The dinner itself would not win many accolades from the food writers in the large markets but was well prepared and tasty.  I would like to have seen a few more risks taken but they chose items that were safe and proven.  Sometimes risks = failures and on this night, we had no failures.  All of the beers were from Rapp Brewing.  If you know anything about Greg Rapp you need to know of his passion for brewing correct beers.  Rapp's beers are flawless reproductions of the styles that they are labeled.  If he says that he is making a Munich style Hefeweissen, then you may bet your last dollar that it will be a remarkable example of that beer.

Our first course was a simple green been casserole with house cured bacon that was tossed in a tiny cast iron skillet rather than the traditional gooey layered mess that you grew up eating.  It was nice, light and simply elegant.  It also took much convincing to keep one of the snobs from taking this cute little skillet home.  As is typical with beer/food pairings, the food and beer started light and moved toward heavier and more intense as the meal progresses.  Our beer was a delicious light and easy drinking blond/helles beer. 

For the second course the beer was more of the star for us.  The 8% Dopplebock was rich, malty and smooth that had a noticeable alcohol kick in it.  The prosciutto cup that it was paired with had a cooked egg inside, sprinkled with sea salt.  Pairing a dopplebock with a salty meat dish is a never fail option for a German style beer. 

Do you know the advantage of being the only child of a brewer?  You can pout and say "Daddy, I want a strong Belgian style golden ale", and viola, you get it.  Apparently his daughter, Candi, tried and loved this style in a brewery in Ashville and her father, being a brewing genius, whipped her out a version.  You can also call it an Alcohol Yeast Bomb, because that is exactly what it is.  Andy took a bit of a risk for our third course with this one in that he house cured a ham for this pairing.  Not that cured ham is a rarity, but this was the first time that he has ever tried curing a ham, which takes 8 days, and we applaud his efforts.  The smoky ham and the candied carrots were a perfect counterpoint to the yeast bomb.

Our favorite course, the fourth, was fried turkey paired with a robust porter.  Typically when you are serving poultry you want to use something lighter, like a saison, but the fried aspect of the brined bird made is strong enough to stand up to the porter.  The bird was tender and moist and served with mashed potatoes and gravy.  The porter was silky smooth and chocolaty, reminiscent of a chocolate silk pie served at traditional Thanksgiving Day dinners.

By the time the desert course came around we were packing a healthy buzz and our stomachs had little room left.  Sweet potato soufflé with marshmallows?  This evil little bastard came with candied pecans and topped with marshmallows served in the mini cast iron skillets.  Rich, cinnamon decadence.  The malts in the Rapp Amber accented the sweet potatoes oh-so-well .... smoooooth.  The dish was so delicious that it was devoured before we even remembered that we were taking photos, sorry.

On the whole the event was very well appreciated by our group and we applaud the efforts of those involved.  Bravo, gentlemen.

We highly recommend that you try Urban Brew and BBQ as that their BBQ is among the best in the bay area.  And while Rapp Brewing is a bit out of the way in Seminole you are nuts if you haven't been or planning to go. Superior beers. 

Cheers - Bon

Urban Brew and BBQ
1939 Central Ave,
St Petersburg, FL 33713

Rapp Brewing Company
10930 Endeavor Way,
Seminole, FL 33777

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Beer Review: Dogfish Head Theobroma Ale

Dogfish Head Brewery Theobroma Ale - 9% ABV

I am quite sure that by now you have had at least one Dogfish Head beer, probably one of the 60 minute or 90 minute IPA's.  The 120 minute IPA is a real treat but seemingly sporadically available at best.  So tell me, have you tried any of their specialty ales?  Like the one made from scrapple or perhaps the one made using spit?  No?  If there is one thing you can say about Sam Calagione is that he is adventurous when it comes to brewing.  He is also a bit of a beer scholar and loves to research ancient beer styles and has passed down what he has learned in Dogfish's Ancient Ales line. 

Perhaps the description of the history of the beer is better told by them: 

"Theobroma is a celebration of chocolate, the food of the gods.

This Ancient Ale is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras that revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions.

The discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1,200 B.C. As per the analysis, Dogfish Head's Theobroma (translated into "food of the gods") is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs (from our friends at Askinosie Chocolate), honey, chilies and annatto (fragrant tree seeds).

It's light in color, not what you expect from your typical chocolate beer (not that you'd be surprised that we'd do something unexpected with this beer!).

This beer is part of our Ancient Ales series -- along with Midas Touch, Chateau Jiahu, Sah'tea and Ta Henket -- so step back in time and enjoy some Theobroma."

After reading the importance of chocolate to the beer, it is a bit surprising that the beer isn't the color that you would expect, it is a rich orange gold with lots of floaties and sediment.  There is very little to no chocolate smell but you can smell the barnyard hints from the yeasts, honey, and a bit of the alcohol ethers as well. The texture is the comfortable richness that you get from a golden Belgian ale.  The flavor is quite unique and worthy of praise, but again, don't expect a chocolate bomb, the chocolate is very subtle.  Actually the chili peppers are more taste forward and provided a bit of a surprise kick with it's noticeable burn.  You will also notice the earthiness from the yeasts and very little hop bitterness (only 6 IBU's) but the chili burn will keep your tongue interested long after you swallow. 

I am quite please with this purchase and recommend that you try it when it is available, but I am not sure that I will buy it again.  Interesting, extremely interesting, but not earth shattering.  Cheers - Bon

Should you happen to be travelling to Delaware (yeah, right, no one happens to be in Delawar) and wish a brewery tour visit them at:
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
6 Cannery Village Center
Milton, DE 19968

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Honey Ale Sweet Potatoes

Well, America's most honest holiday is upon us .... Thanksgiving.  A time for feasting and spending time with your loved ones.  And if it was up to you, you would skip the cooking part and just spring for a feast cooked by someone else at Oystercatchers, right?  But you don't get a vote, do you?  Mom wants everyone to get together at her house.  Joy.  Of  course, Mom is making the turkey and the stuffing, but she wants everyone to bring a side dish.  You could gloop out a can shaped mass of cranberry sauce on a plastic plate OR you could actually bring something that will impress even your jaded, uninspired family.  This is easy.

                                                     Honey Ale Sweet Potato Casserole

- 8 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks.
- 2 bottles of a Honey Brown Ale
(There are a few breweries in Florida that make Honey Brown Ale ... You should be able to find a good honey brown ale at Leukens in Dunedin or perhaps at Total Wine on Dale Mabry. Worst case you can find the Dundee Honey Brown Lager in many locations).
- 5 tablespoons of butter (the real kind, damnit, no margarine for snobs).
- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 1/2 cup of pecan pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Boil the sweet potatoes in 1 1/2 bottles of the beer and enough water to submerge them until they are tender (about 25 minutes).  
Drain the potatoes and add the remainder of the beer and the other ingredients but hold the pecans for later.  Whip with an electric mixer until creamy.  
Butter a large casserole dish and place the potatoes in and scatter the pecan pieces evenly over the top.  Bake for 20 minutes until the top is browned.  
DONE!  Now let's eat!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Our Thanksgiving Day 2014 Beer Recommnedations

Thanksgiving, the day when we Americans celebrate life and family, or as it is called at our home
Gluttony and Bickering Day. What a delightfully honest holiday.  We Snobs would like to help you annoy your yellow fizzy water swilling family members by allowing you to show your prowess at choosing the correct beers for Thanksgiving.  You can then look down your nose and sneer "Instead of Bud Light for every dish, why don't you try this ... it has flavor".  Absolutely guaranteed to infuriate your bumpkin kin so that they will be happy to see you leave early, so that you can go to your local pub or brewery and spend Thanksgiving afternoon with the people you really like.

First Course - Appetizer
"Start light, finish heavy" is our motto so we  are going to start with a Goat Cheese Salad..  We recommend Hoegaarden as a light, refreshing delight to begin the day of decadence.  The oh-so-slight citrus and light texture do not overpower the delicate flavor of the cheese.  Make sure the you pronounce the beer name the Dutch way (Hoo-garten) and correct everyone when they pronounce it the American way (Hoe-garden).
Should you wish to support your local producer, we heartily recommend Saint Somewhere Saison Athene to fulfill your needs.

Second Course - The Feast
Turkey is such a delicately flavored meat that it is easy to overpower the flavor.  You hop heads are reading this and yelling "Double IPA!", which is, of course, the exactly wrong answer.  If you are a hop monster your palate has already been destroyed and you can stop reading now.

There are two ways to consider this pairing .... if turkey is the star of your show, you should consider something light and slightly citrus with ample carbonation.  Unibrou's Ephemere is very slightly sour with the classic holiday flavors of cranberry, coriander and orange peel.  The effervescence is light and friendly on the tongue, cleansing the palate as you progress through the meal.

If the turkey less important to you and you live for the dressing and sides, let's talk brown ales.  Actually, let's go super geek with this one and suggest Westmalle Trappist Dubbel.  This magnificent brew is so superbly crafted that none of the flavors are identifiable.  It is slightly sweet and malty with a clean dry finish and so complex that almost any food will match perfectly.  It has the added bonus of being a trappist ale, which means that you can drone on and on for hours about the history of the monks toiling away in their monasteries and creating these wonderful beers as a food substitute during fasting.  So very snobby, so very annoying.

Your local substitute should be the venerable Maduro Brown from Cigar City
Ham or roast beef instead of Turkey?  Think British Pale Ales or Belgian Tripels.
Vegan or Vegetarian?  As that the fats are missing and that flavors are .... muted, let's recommend that you go big.  Heck, in this case drink anything you want.

Third Course - Dessert
So many desserts ..... so many flavors.  For conversations sake, let's make this easy.  Try to match the flavors based on the type of dessert.  For example a pumpkin ale to accompany a pumpkin pie, a chocolate stout for chocolate cake, a lambic for a fruit pie, etc., is the easiest way to go.  However, you may choose to skip the food part altogether and just have a dessert beer....that is a decision that we can stand behind.  May we suggest the Rapp Brewing Peanut Butter Stout?  Or perhaps 610 Brewing Horchata Shout?  Both of these can only be gotten from the brewery but worth the trip to fill your growler.  If you happen to have a bottle of Marshal Zhukov laying around this would be the time to tear into that beast, don't you think?

We hope that you are able to enjoy your holiday with family or friends and wish you health and happiness.  Cheers - Bon

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Oktoberfest Travels Part 4: Tidbits and Useful Hints

Here are a few tidbits of information that may (or may not) help you if you have never made the trip to Germany. 

1.  The Food:  You have all seen or heard the clichés about German pounding down sausages, schnitzels and beer.  Those clichés exist for a reason ... it's because Germans eat lots of sausages and schnitzels and drink an ass load of beer.  Vegetarian?  Vegan?  I would highly recommend doing a bit of research before you go because while vegan and vegetarian restaurants exist they are rare.  Not a fan of sausages and schnitzels?  Quit whining Nancy, you can also get a bit of fish. If I hear of you eating at McDonald's (even though they serve beer) while in Europe I will stick my foot up your backside.

2.  Bathrooms:  The good news is that bathrooms are easy to find and usually quite clean.  The bad news is that you will rarely find one that is free.  That's right, Peanut Bladder, expect to pay .50 cents or more every time you tinkle so hold it just a bit longer, OK?

3.  Money:  At the time of this year's Oktoberfest it cost $1.27 to buy one Euro.  What that means is that something tagged as 4.00 is really costing you about $5.00.  My advice is to ignore the money exchange rates and just have fun ... don't do the math.  There is also the 20% VAT (value added tax) added to just about everything you purchase.  There are tricks to getting back the VAT with larger purchases, but we typically just ignore them.  While you are not expected to tip at the 20% rate that we in the U.S. are forced to tip because restaurant owners are too cheap to pay their employees, a tip of between 5% and 10% is usual.  It is also important to note that the comma (,) and period (.) are reversed in Germany so a price will be shown as 1,50 instead of 1.50.

4. Transportation:  The public transportation is Europe is exceptional (  The cost of taking the S-Bahn (Stadtschnellbahn literally, "urban rapid rail") from the Munich airport to the center of Munich is about 1/5 the cost of taking a cab (though trying to figure out the ticket machine was the most difficult part of the journey).  Once you are in town you make take the trolley (very cool), buses or the subway (U-Bahn with 'U' meaning Underground, where you can't see anything, so don't use it, OK?).  Want to have an idea of the routes check this then print, memorize and eat the maps.  There will be a test.  Our recommendation for travel is to WALK, you lazy bastard!  The city center is small and easily walkable and besides, you need the exercise.

5.  The Language Barrier:  The country is called Germany (actually Deutschland) and they speak German (actually, they speak Deutsch) so don't expect anyone to speak English, even though many of them do.  Take the time before you go to learn a little Deutsch.  Pleasantries, numbers, how to order a beer (ein bier, bitte) and more.  Do not get frustrated or angry because they cannot communicate with you, it's their frigging country.  Just smile, shrug and walk away if you cannot understand.  My usual source is the Pimsleur language courses ( which are quite reasonable priced and fairly decent for the minimal needed to get by.

Next Up:  Oktoberfest Travels Part 5:  Oktoberfest

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Florida Winners at GABF 2014

Florida didn't show well this year at the Great American Beer Festival, but we can take pride in 2 of the 3 medals by Florida brewers are local (ish).  Congrats Tampa Bay Brewing.
MedalBeer NameBrewery
BronzeReef Donkey APATampa Bay Brewing Co.
American-Style Pale Ale
BronzeVTwinMotorworks Brewing
Vienna-Style Lager
GoldPop's PorterWynwood Brewing Co.
Robust Porter

Friday, September 19, 2014

Brown Ale - The Best Beer Style of Them All

As I sit here sipping this delightful "Old Crafty Hen" Vintage Ale (6.5% ABV) from Greene King/Morland Brewery I am surprised by how much I am enjoying the flavor.  Then, I am surprised that I am surprised.  Over the years I have consumed thousands of different beers searching for the perfect beer.  From face imploding IPA's to fruity Lambics to watery Chinese lagers, I have studiously tried them all.  Everything from Coors Light (many hundred) to Westvleteren 12 (once) are tried with equal gusto, hoping to find 'the one' (the Westy 12 comes really close).

The dawning realization that whenever I visit a new brewery or pub with an unfamiliar selection I invariably order (if available) their brown ale.  But why?  Because it is the test of their competence as brewers.  If you can't make a good brown ale it is likely that you are not going to impress me with your other selections.  There have been many occasions that upon visiting a new brewery that I have walked away leaving a half empty glass of inferior brown ale and not having tried any of their other offerings.

Why the brown?  It's the balance.  The yin perfectly matching the yang.  The earthy malts and slight sweetness magically balanced by the subtle hops.  The alcohol content just strong enough to give you a gently buzz without making you incoherent.  Carbonation that is just enough to bring a bit of texture to your tongue but not so much that you belch like a walrus and served at a temperature that is like the baby bear's porridge.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good stout.  I adore the crispness of a cold lager after a hot, sweaty day, I crave an intense IPA when consuming a fiery curry.  But in the end, the beer of the choice is the brown whether it be a dubbel, a dopple or a nut, just give me the brown.  Cheers - Bon

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oktoberfest Travels Part 3 - Hotels

Don't you love an opulent, spacious hotel room with a bathroom bigger than your garage?  Thick, overstuffed mattresses with piles of pillows of every shape and filling .... ahhhhh delightful ... well, you're not going to get that here.  At least not a a reasonable rate.  If you are one of those with the financial status that will allow you to stay in the George V in Paris then the odds are quite high that you are not reading this blog.  Now don't get me wrong, you can find American style hotels that are sterile and familiar, but why in the hell would you want to stay in one of those?

Most of the hotels that you find in Europe are older buildings with character that were constructed at a time when fat, pampered Americans were not so common.  En-suite bathrooms were also not common and most hotels found their guests sharing a bathroom with everyone else on their floor.  Indeed, you can still find hotels using that setup.  To accommodate modern travelers that demand a bit more privacy, bathrooms have been added to the hotel rooms which cut into the available space of the guest rooms.  This has led to smaller rooms and some very interesting bathroom layouts.

Now to the average spoiled American traveler, the challenge of having to figure out how to wash in a shower the size of a dishwasher is intolerable.  You will find much pissing and moaning by self-indulgent travelers whose arrogance demands that everything be just as it is at home.  These are the same ninnies who don't bother to learn the language of the country that they are visiting and think that yelling a question at a waiter in English will help them better understand what they are asking.  Instead, think of your journey as an adventure.  So you get water all over the bathroom floor .... so what?  So the shower curtain sticks to your ass when you try to bend over to wash your feet ... so what?  It will make for good stories when you return home.  If, however, you need a large, predictable bathroom in your travels, may I suggest Chicago?  In order to accommodate the addition of a bathroom into each room, space within the room had to be given, thus you will also find many hotel rooms quite small.  You're only going to sleep there right?  So why do you need a huge room?

You will often here American ask "how many stars" does a hotel have in order to determine how nice the rooms are.  Here is a secret .... the star system in the rest of the world means something completely different than it does here in the U.S.  Actually, the star system in the U.S. has no meaning whatsoever.  There are no rules governing how many stars are 'awarded' to a hotel.  They are arbitrarily determined by visitors or private ratings agencies and there is nothing to keep a fleabag hotel from calling itself "4 star".  In Europe, the star system actually has been defined, but not as a measure of opulence, but as a measure of services provided by the hotel.  The German Hotel and and Restaurant Association has defined the German classifications as:
* Tourist
** Standard
*** Comfort
**** First Class
***** Luxury
The mark "Superior" is used to flag extras beyond the minimum defined as beyond the minimum but not enough to take it to the next level.  The services required to attain these standards are as follows:
HotelstarExcerpt of the catalogue of criteria
  • 100% of the rooms with shower/WC or bath tub/WC
  • Daily room cleaning
  • 100% of the rooms with colour-TV together with remote control
  • Table and chair
  • Soap or body wash
  • Reception service
  • Facsimile at the reception
  • Publicly available telephone for guests
  • Extended breakfast
  • Beverage offer in the hotel
  • Deposit possibility
\bigstar \mathbf SSuperior TouristThe Superior flag is provided when the additional service and accommodation provisions are not sufficient for the next Hotelstar. The bathroom facilities are usually at the same level as for two stars hotels but built from cheaper materials. The cost for regular inspection by independent associations is waived as well.
\bigstar\bigstarStandardIn addition to the single star (*) hotels:
  • Breakfast buffet
  • Reading light next to the bed
  • Bath essence or shower gel
  • Bath towels
  • Linen shelves
  • Offer of sanitary products (e.g. toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving kit)
  • Credit Cards
\bigstar\bigstar \mathbf SSuperior StandardThe Superior flag is provided when the additional service and accommodation provisions are not sufficient for the next Hotelstar. The Standard-Superior does usually offer the same service level as three-star hotels but the interiors of the hotel are smaller and cheaper so that the three stars were not to be awarded by the inspection body. A two-star superior does not require mystery guesting.
\bigstar\bigstar\bigstarComfortIn addition to the standard star (**) hotels:
  • Reception opened 14 hours, accessible by phone 24 hours from inside and outside, bilingual staff (e.g. German/English)
  • Three piece suite at the reception, luggage service
  • Beverage offer in the room
  • Telephone in the room
  • Internet access in the room or in the public area
  • Heating facility in the bathroom, hair-dryer, cleansing tissue
  • Dressing mirror, place to put the luggage/suitcase
  • Sewing kit, shoe polish utensils, laundry and ironing service
  • Additional pillow and additional blanket on demand
  • Systematic complaint management system
\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar \mathbf SSuperior ComfortThe Superior flag is provided when the additional service and accommodation provisions are not sufficient for the next Hotelstar. The accommodation facilities for a superior hotel need to be on a modern level and fully renovated which is checked regularly.
\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar\bigstarFirst ClassIn addition to the comfort star (***) hotels:
  • Reception opened 18 hours, accessible by phone 24 hours from inside and outside
  • Lobby with seats and beverage service
  • Breakfast buffet or breakfast menu card via room service
  • Minibar or 24 hours beverages via room service
  • Upholstered chair/couch with side table
  • Bath robe and slippers on demand
  • Cosmetic products (e.g. shower cap, nail file, cotton swabs), vanity mirror, tray of a large scale in the bathroom
  • Internet access and internet terminal
  • "À la carte"-restaurant
\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar \mathbf SFirst Class SuperiorThe Superior flag is provided when the first class hotel has a proven high quality not only in the rooms. The superior hotels provide for additional facilities in the hotel like a sauna or a workout room. The quality is checked regularly by mystery guesting of an external inspection service.
\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar\bigstarLuxuryIn addition to the first class (****) hotels:
  • Reception opened 24 hours, multilingual staff
  • Doorman-service or valet parking
  • Concierge, page boy
  • Spacious reception hall with several seats and beverage service
  • Personalized greeting for each guest with fresh flowers or a present in the room
  • Minibar and food and beverage offer via room service during 24 hours
  • Personal care products in flacons
  • Internet-PC in the room
  • Safe in the room
  • Ironing service (return within 1 hour), shoe polish service
  • Turndown service in the evening
  • Mystery guesting
\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar\bigstar \mathbf SSuperior LuxuryThe Luxury star hotels need to attain high expectations of an international guest service. The Superior Luxury star is only awarded with a system of intensive guest care.

*courtesy of Wikipedia

Yeah, not what you thought, right?  But again, that doesn't mean that you will not get a crappy room in a 4-star hotel or that you cannot get a wonderful room in a 1-star hotel. You  really must do some research to find the right room.  
* If you want to go old school and share a bathroom with your fellow travelers (and usually save a bunch of money) look for a hotel with no stars .... and yes, they are quite common.  

Where do I look to find a hotel room?  Good question, Bubbette.  
Here is a list of hotel search websites that have led to much aggravation by screwing up my bookings in the past:
- Travelocity
-  Expedia

Here is the list of hotel search websites that has not screwed up my bookings:

So, who do reserve through?  THE HOTEL
Here are the two sites that I use to find hotels in Europe ... then I go to the hotel website and book my room through them.
Be sure that you confirm your reservation a few weeks before you go.

Remember folks, just as here at home, you get what you pay for.  You want a nice room?  Spend the money to get one.  -Cheers. Bon

Monday, September 8, 2014

Oktoberfest Travels Part 2 - Airline Roulette

There are going to be 2 really annoying aspects of your trip that you cannot avoid, the TSA and the airline that you choose.  Unless you choose to take the trip via cruise ship you cannot avoid either one.  We will take a look at the TSA a bit later, but for now lets choose an airline, shall we?

Which airline is best?  Which airline won't screw you on fares? Which airline won't lose your luggage?  HA!  Trick question, they all suck!

Being fairly frequent international travelers we have found that they are all equal in most aspects, but we did have a relatively good experience flying KLM on our last journey.  We also used to fly a specific airline  (which shall not be nAAmed) because of it's loyalty program, but not it has become so very difficult to use those miles that we now book based on airfares alone.  I would love to be able to lie and tell you that we always fly first class but the reality is that we fly the cattle car section like most of you will.

How do we choose when to take our trip?  With very few exceptions spring and autumn are the best times to fly to Europe.  The hordes of tourists have dissipated and things have calmed significantly. Ahhh, Spring .... the flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing, the weather is ... erratic.  Autumn however, autumn is a joy.  The exuberant colors of turning leaves, the smells of baked goods and roasted chestnuts, the (mostly) predictable, dryer weather make for an unforgettable stay.  Avoid August (when most Europeans take their holiday) if at all possible unless you love huge crowds of sweaty, smelly people.

When do we purchase our tickets?  Remember this phrase "90 days pays".  We have tried many times to beat the "90 days pays" system (by buying tickets very early or very late) and have failed in every instance.  For some unknown reason the most reasonably priced air fares are posted at around 90 days in advance of your flying date.  This time the best fares were found 92 days in advance and would have saved us around 15% off of the fare that we actually paid (due to me ignoring my own rule and trusting an all knowing airfare website that promised me the fares would decrease, which they did not do .... *face palm*).   But which day of the week is best?  Tuesday.  All airlines announce their sales on Tuesdays, thus look for your best price in the evening on the Tuesday just  before your 90 days, Or whichever day your Ouija board tells you.

Where do we find the best fares?  If you buy airline tickets through a travel agent you are either very old or very naive.  Why pay someone to do what you can do better and cheaper?  The best way and by far the most common way to buy your tickets are via the internet, but you must be careful.  To find the most reasonable air fares you must go to one of the search engines that specialize in pricing a multitude of websites.   Be wary of the 3rd party search engines (let's come up with a non-existent company name that won't ruffle anyone's feathers ... let's say PriceOrb) that purchase the airfares for you as that they can cause you huge headaches.  Now if PriceOrb makes a mistake in the bookings the airline will not allow you to make any changes or fix the problem, you must call PriceOrb to fix the problem and we both know that the odds of reaching a human at this company is slim at best, and if you do reach a human they will probably have only the most basic grasp of your language.  The second problem, to which I can personally attest, is that you quite often will not be awarded the flyer miles for the trip because you did not make the reservation.  Lastly you will find that PriceOrb fares are not really up to date and find that your airfare is more expensive than the fare posted.  "We're very sorry, but the fare chosen is no longer available and now we must break you".
For the most part I use Kayak ( to find my airfares and have found it to reasonably accurate, but that doesn't mean that I trust Kayak implicitly.  The best method for finding your reasonably priced airfare is by using a site like Kayak to locate an airfare and then going to that airline's website and purchasing it directly from them.

 You can assume that you will pay at least $1,000.00 for each fare and if you should be so lucky as to find it for less, BUY IT.

Next time - Hotels

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Oktoberfest Travels Part 1

I am a tumbleweed, a feather in the wind, a wanderer a ..... a beer pilgrim.  I must admit that I have a severe travelling bone and because of this itinerant bone I have dragged Mrs.Vivant around the world, attending beer festivals and touring breweries because, well because we bloody well enjoy doing so. 

Quite likely the most celebrated beer holiday in the world is Oktoberfest, which is celebrated by beer aficionados around the world and I have celebrated the fabulous fall fest from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Suzhou, China.  Oddly enough, I have never been to the big one ... THE Oktoberfest, in Munich.  Why not?  Damned if I know, but this year we will attend and do our best to drown in Marzen.  Wanna join us?  No?  Why not?  Because you don't know how?  Gwaaaannnnn, really?

We are constantly amazed at how many people would like to travel to Europe or farther afield but do not know how or are intimidated by the process of planning the trip.  So the Snobs are going to walk you through the process (in a multipart series) and show you how to make the journey.  For those of you on a tighter budget who believe that you cannot afford the trip, we will also show you how to do it on the cheap.

Part 1 - Travel Documents

"Gracious me", you say in your best southern drawl, "wherever do I begin"?
"Well, Bubbett", I reply in my best Rhett Butler, "right here":

In order to leave the country or enter another country you MUST possess a Passport, yes, even Mexico and Canada.  It is unfathomable why in this day and age that you do not have one, but you would be amazed to find out how many people don't possess one (OR you are one of the people who do not have one and are not amazed in the least).  In several countries you must also attain a Visa (not, not the credit card, you knob, a travel visa, i.e. a travel permit) which is applied for through the destination countries that require them (Brazil and China and others) and not through our government.  Few, if any, European countries require Visas and your Passport will do just fine.  The process can take as much as several months so apply for your Passport well ahead of your scheduled travel time.  For an event as big as this one, you must make all of your plans way, way ahead of time, unless you are fat with disposable income (in which case, will you please adopt me?  No?  FINE!)  We booked this trip 6 months ago.  You will not be able to book your air travel until you have one of these lovely little blue books, so start applying. - Cheers, Bon

Next Up - Booking Air Travel

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Oktoberfest Bier!

I was having a stroll through my local beer paradise and was a bit surprised to see how many Oktoberfest beers are already out.  Man, do I ever love a good Marzen.  Since ther are so damn many of them being produced now we thought we would help you sort out which Oktoberfest beers to try.  This list is of the most popular Oktoberfest beers as voted by the readers of Beer Advocate.

Most Popular Beers: Märzen / Oktoberfest

Most Popular Beers: Märzen / Oktoberfest
1Augustiner Bräu Märzen Bier
Augustiner Bräu Kloster Mülln
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 4.60% ABV
The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.40% ABV
3Summit Fest Bier
Summit Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.50% ABV
4Great Lakes Oktoberfest
Great Lakes Brewing Co.
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.50% ABV
Surly Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.00% ABV
Element Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 8.35% ABV
7Ramstein Oktoberfest
High Point Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.00% ABV
Karben4 Brewing
Märzen / Oktoberfest
9Spezial Rauchbier Märzen
Brauerei Spezial
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.30% ABV
10Ayinger Oktober Fest-Märzen
Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer KG / Brauerei Aying
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.80% ABV
11Berkshire Oktoberfest Lager
Berkshire Brewing Company Inc.
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.80% ABV
12Staghorn Octoberfest
New Glarus Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.25% ABV
Parallel 49 Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.00% ABV
14Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest-Märzen
Hacker-Pschorr Bräu GmbH
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.80% ABV
15Augustiner Bräu Oktoberfestbier
Augustiner-Bräu Wagner KG
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.00% ABV
16Millstream Oktoberfest
Millstream Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.70% ABV
17Ayinger Kirta-Halbe
Privatbrauerei Franz Inselkammer KG / Brauerei Aying
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.80% ABV
Heater Allen Brewing
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.40% ABV
19Thomas Hooker Octoberfest Lager
Thomas Hooker Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.70% ABV
20Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen
Paulaner Brauerei GmbH & Co. KG
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.80% ABV
21The Kaiser
Avery Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 10.20% ABV
Metropolitan Brewing
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.50% ABV
23Live Oak Oaktoberfest
Live Oak Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.80% ABV
24Klosterbräu Braunbier
Brauerei-Gaststätte Klosterbräu
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.70% ABV
25Moat Octoberfest / Märzen
Moat Mountain Smoke House & Brewing Co.
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.00% ABV
26Série Signature Oktoberfest
Les Trois Mousquetaires
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 4.10% ABV
Free State Brewing Co.
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.40% ABV
28Märzen Oktoberfest
Prost Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.80% ABV
Flying Bison Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest
30Allgäuer Oktoberfest
Allgäuer Brauhaus AG
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.50% ABV
31Glazed Over
Jack's Abby Brewing
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.50% ABV
32Paulaner Oktoberfest Wiesn
Paulaner Brauerei GmbH & Co. KG
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.00% ABV
33Smoked Märzen
Holy City Brewing
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.20% ABV
34Black Oak Oaktoberfest
Black Oak Brewing Co.
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.00% ABV
Port City Brewing
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.50% ABV
36Rothaus Eis Zäpfle
Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus AG
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.60% ABV
37McNeill's Oktoberfest
McNeill's Brewery
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.00% ABV
38Dam Straight Lager
Dillon Dam Brewery
Märzen / Oktoberfest
39Oktoberfest Lager
Half Pints Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.20% ABV
40Fest Marzen
Sudwerk Restaurant and Brewery
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 7.50% ABV
41Thomas Creek Oktoberfest
Thomas Creek Brewery
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.00% ABV
Thirsty Dog Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.00% ABV
43Innstadt Stadl-Bier
Innstadt Brauerei
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.40% ABV
44Sweetwater Dank Tank Danktoberfest
SweetWater Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 8.50% ABV
Pennsylvania Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.60% ABV
46Penn Oktoberfest
Pennsylvania Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.60% ABV
Sprecher Brewing Company
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.00% ABV
Lost Nation Brewing
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 5.80% ABV
OPA-OPA Steakhouse & Brewery
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 7.00% ABV
50Hofbräu Festbier
Hofbräuhaus München
Märzen / Oktoberfest / 6.30% ABV