When in Brugges! Things to eat edition.


Not going to lie, the train to Brugges was a little bit hectic, in a super embarrassing way.

I consider myself an avid train riding professional. I am not talking, "oh I can get around the New York City subway on a weekend" train rider. I am talking, "I know exactly where I need to stand on the platform to be closest to the exit I want or to make the connection without having to wait" train rider. So when I travel internationally, I have no problem riding the train, I actually prefer it. But when you throw a foreign language in there, I like to give myself extra time. Fast forward to Belgium, I thought it would be smart to buy my ticket to Brugges when I arrived in Belgium (a day ahead) so that I wouldn't have to wait in line the morning of (all good in theory). Turns out despite me buying the ticket from the teller, a full day in advance, and she spoke English, I still ended up with the wrong ticket to Brugges.

Happily, everyone in the Brussels area speaks English well, and the the conductor took pity on me, (so even though I bought a one way ticket) I was able to continue on to Brugges no problem. But shout out to that conductor - you are my hero! And I cheers my super cute cup of espresso to you!

I spent most of my morning enjoying the walk from the train station around the outskirts of town. But as I mentioned in my previous post, I was aiming to make the climb to the top of the bell tower as one of my first activities in town. I highly recommend grabbing a quick snack outside the bell tower before jumping in line - I opted for frites! (Check out that close up below). There are two stands immediately outside the bell tower. Both are excellent. Just make sure you choose your sauce wisely. As a German girl, I opt for frites with mayo. But there are other awesome sauces including a curry ketchup that are just as good!

If you grab the fries and plan to jump in line immediately, be sure to finish the fries before you enter the ticket office. The teller will spot you from across the room and yell at you in front of everyone that "no food is allowed upstairs." Jokes on her, I got my money's worth.


After working up an appetite climbing stairs, I was super excited about eating a real meal in Brugges! I had the Rick Steve's guide in hand, and he had recommended a ton of local beer halls to check out. A place where you can enjoy delicious Belgian beer and local fare. However, most of these places are only open during "lunch hours," say from 11:30-2pm, so if you wait until late in the day to eat, you will miss the boat!

I think I came on the perfect storm of a Monday, that was also a holiday, and waited a bit too long to grab lunch, so sadly most of the places were closed already for lunch and sadly I couldn't come back for dinner. And one location was so hidden I never found it, like Diagon Alley hidden. But if you have the opportunity to eat there - definitely go for it!

When the local favorites are closed, I decided to find what was out there for "beer with a view." I ended up at Develorium Grand Beer Cafe (at this point, my sixth attempt to find a open establishment). While the cafe leaned towards the corporate vibe, you could not beat the view, and the beers were delicious.


Above you can see I ordered the tasting tray with the (from left to right) liefmans fruitesse, maredsous abbaye, and la chouffe. This was actually the first time I had la chouffe, but it is a beer you can find easily in the U.S., so if you are craving a taste of Belgium at home and it's on the list, I highly recommend it.

I closed my day with a tour at Half Moon Brewery. It was excellent! The tour is offered in English and fills up early! So I recommend booking the tour first thing in the day if you arrive in Brugges without a reservation. The tour takes you all over the brewery, you learn a lot of history and actually have an opportunity to view the city from a nice deck! 

Even better, your ticket includes a full beer in their bar afterwards - I opted for the blonde. Completely refreshing after a full day of walking. 


And with that last sip of Belgian beer, it was time to say good-bye to Brugges and hello Amsterdam, the next leg in my journey. Check back for more fun tips about eating and drinking in Amsterdam coming soon!



When in Brugges! Things to see edition.

When I initially booked this eurotrip - I thought I would spend two days in Brussels. But in a last minute switch, I decided to take a day trip to Brugges - and it was the best decision ever! Brugges has definitely maintained is medieval architecture and charm, while accepting some of the more modern attractions. The town is filled with shops, breweries, restaurants and other touristy things to do - definitely a city worth visiting!

I took the train from Brussels to Brugges. It was such an easy way to travel. It only took an hour and Brugges city center is only a 10 minute walk from the train station. Plenty of time to enjoy the multigrain crossaint I picked up before I jumped on the train. (Multigrain - still tastes like a stick of butter, but you feel like you "accomplished" something for your health).

When I arrived, I walked toward the city center stopping at sights along the way. The first stop was one of the most interesting. I walked through Beguinage, a semi-monastic community of women. The sight was serene. The community is known for its calm and quiet atmosphere, but was most interesting was at art installation within the community. In the courtyard were wooden tree houses. The houses were purely symbolic of children or playgrounds, meant as a juxtaposition with the quiet community. (No one is actually allowed to play in the houses - but it was very beautiful).

Next, I continued to walk up town through many canal-lined streets. It was so much fun to wander on my own! The town is very picturesque - as you can see from the panorama shot above!  

Whenever I visit a historic town, I love to see the old sights. Contrary to the the U.S., "historic sights" in Europe usually involve climbing to the top of a church tower or castle tower that was built during the medieval era. It's a nice way to earn your afternoon beer while usually guaranteeing a great view of the city. As long as you get over the feeling that a strong wind may topple the tower over forever.

For Brugges, that meant stopping by the Belfry of Brugges, a medieval bell tower with a narrow, steep staircase of 366 steps. Narrow is definitely an understatement here. This is a trek that could be difficult for older individuals or anyone who gets nervous in cramped spaces because there were definitely portions of the staircase that were one-way only. (Which definitely made it interesting for passing people). But the views of the city are definitely worth the wait.

One interesting aspect of the square the visitor staff didn't emphasize was across the square. A multi-faceted sculpture with mirrors at different angles. Think "the bean" in Chicago got together with a rubik's cube and had a baby. It is angled just right that when you are looking at the sculpture you can see the full view of the tower, and surrounding buildings, perfectly! 

If you are looking for some interesting shopping in addition to sight-seeing, I did stop in a few interesting shops. Nothing particularly notable to write home about beyond the typical "Belgian" touristy shops. I'll admit, I did leave town with a box of delicious chocolates and some cool postcards. But it was very difficult to walk into the shop below and leave with nothing. I guess the only salvation was the thought of traveling to Amsterdam with multiple bottles of beer - that probably wouldn't be the most fun ever. 

But if  you hit Brugges towards the end of your trip, or have a car, check out The Bottle Shop, tons of individually bottled Belgian beers (say that 5 times fast) available for sale!

All in all, despite Brugges being a bit touristy, I saw a lot of sights without breaking the bank! It is a highly walkable town, and if you want to see more, I would recommend a bike! I never felt unsafe or bored while walking the beautiful streets of Brugges!

If you are wondering more about what there is to eat and drink in Brugges, check out my upcoming post, "When in Brugges! Things to eat edition." I cover all the best places to grab a beer!

Until next time.



The Nerd-Off Series: Belgian Style Ale vs Pinotage

So what is the Nerd-Off Series?  All too often, when hanging with friends in the alcoholic beverage industry, you find the boys officially in the beer camp and the ladies loving wine. In an effort to learn more about beer and prove to the boys that wine is a wonderful drink - I have enlisted the blog's resident beer guy, Anthony, to nerd out about beer and wine.

So what are the rules? Kelley picks a wine, Anthony picks a beer and we exchange, taste, review and share our thoughts here. Enjoy!


Anthony's Pick: Goose Island's "Sofie"

Hiya there wine nerds! Today I have the absolute pleasure of describing a beer that I had bought for Kelley called Goose Island's "Sofie." Goose Island is a very popular brewery located in the state of Michigan and probably most well known for its barrel aged stout, Bourbon County Stout. However, this time around, I thought Sofie, which is a Saison style brew, would be the perfect selection for Kelley because she had mentioned she was a fan of Saisons. Saisons are pale-ales, known for their light and fruity flavors and high carbonation. And since Kelley is predominantly a wine drinker, I chose this beer because it almost drinks like a sparkling wine and I feel that it is a beer that both beer and wine drinkers can appreciate. It also does not hurt that this beer happens to be aged in wine barrels.

Sofie is currently rocking a solid 98 on the beer rating website, ratebeer.com. And this is no surprise since it represents a true example of Saison-style brew. When poured from the bottle, Sofie will appear as a hazy golden color accompanied with a fast dissipating white head. When taking in Sofie’s aroma, one can detect hints of lemon, grapefruit and a slight hint of wheat. After taking a sip, the drinker will taste exactly what they smelled - right up front there is a lot of citrus flavor, with a slightly sour finish. The carbonation of this beer adds an effervescent quality to this beer that would be quite agreeable to sparkling wine drinkers.

Since this beer is light to medium bodied as well as slightly dry it would be best served with a light meal, such as a salad or sushi. I for one enjoyed this beer with a few rolls of sushi and, I can say with a great deal of confidence, that it was one of the better food and beer tastings I have ever put together. What's even more exciting is that most sushi restaurants are BYOB, so if you chill one of these bad boys for around two hours before you leave to go to the restaurant, you will be ready to rock when you arrive at the restaurant.

If after this post, you find that you must try the Saison style of beer, you should check out the following offerings to satisfy your Saison cravings: Ommegang Brewery’s Hennepin ale, Brooklyn Brewery’s Sorachi Ace and Saison Dupont, which is brewed by Brasserie Dupont.


Kelley's Thoughts on the Goose Island "Sofie."   What can I say - Anthony really hit a home run with this beer. Not only is it my favorite style of beer, the brewers at Goose Island really did this style justice. After pouring the beer I thought it smelled somewhat like a German Heifewiesse. But after tasting this beer, it was clear it was something different. The refreshing citrus flavors of orange and grapefruit were very prominent. As Anthony suggested above, I paired the beer with sushi. When I go for sushi, I frequently go overboard with wasabi. This means the underlying flavor of my favorite sushi dishes is spice. Turns out, this was an awesome pairing with the beer. The heat from the wasabi almost pulled the fruit flavors out and amped them up a notch. Nothing but appreciation for this beer and food pairing. Yum!

Kelley's Pick: Pinotage from South Africa

I picked Pinotage because Anthony mentioned a while back that he was a barbecue fan. I love Pinotage because it has the dark fruit flavors, medium-body, with tons of smoke and spice on the finish. For more information on Pinotage, check out my earlier post describing the basics. Until next time!


Cocktail Hour: Drambouie, Hibiscus, and Poppy - Oh My!

I am a big fan of happy hour. If you're reading this, I have a sneaking suspicion  that you may appreciate a sturdy drink or two as well. But, have you ever thought of the history behind "happy hour?" Sure, it may seem like happy hour is nothing more than a bar and restaurant scheme to get us in the door and stay for dinner - but it had to have more humble beginnings than that right?!

Of course it does - and naturally it dates back to prohibition.

When America went dry with Prohibition in 1920, everyone started to congregate in speakeasies and hidden bars. Including the ladies. Yes, it wasn't until Prohibition that women were even really allowed in bars. Adding ladies to the already curious blend of good drinks and conversation was bound to result in a good time worth repeating. Every night. At the same regular time.

During the 1950s and 1960s, thirsty speakeasy-goers began to move their good drinks and conversation into the suburbs. Suddenly, if you were interested in spending a night on the town with your friends, you were more likely to be found grilling out back than in a secluded, dimly-lit bar in the city. 

Finally, but the 1970s, cocktails were popular and grabbing drinks with your friends after work was a societal necessity. From this point on, how we referred to that perfectly refreshing time to grab drinks after work and before dinner depended on the marketing goal of the establishment. Happy hour is generally associated with drink specials and is about consuming a decent volume of drinks. While cocktail hour is about refined spirits and craft cocktails. 

Now that we have talked a little history, let's talk drinks! Specifically, I wanted to chat about a few interesting spirits that you may have not heard of before and will definitely add a little sparkle to your regular cocktail hour.


I recently discovered drambuie and it is a great addition to any scotch based drink! Drambuie is a golden colored liquor made from malt whiskey, honey and spices. The honey and spice flavors add a sweet and complex flavor to your cocktail. If you are interested in giving this honeyed whiskey a shot, check out some suggested recipes above.

Rusty Nail: Equal parts Drambuie and scotch over ice.

Rusty Mule: 1 part Drambuie, 3 parts Ginger Beer, squeeze two lime wedges and serve over ice.

Rusty Royale: Start with 1 measure of Drambuie in a champagne flute. Fill the rest of the glass with sparkling wine and garnish with a twist of orange.


Greenbar Distillery Fruitlab Organic Liqueurs.  

My next two spirit-based suggestions are actually made in the same distillery - Greenbar Distillery. I first heard about Greenbar Distillery while listening to my favorite podcast The Dinner Party Download. The podcast discusses various topics in news, culture and food that would help any dinner party-goer be the life of the party.

Greenbar Distillery is so interesting because not only do they make organic spirits, but they are also pushing the envelope in terms of flavors. If you manage to find a bottle of their Hibiscus or Poppy Liquer, I urge you to check them out!

Hibiscus Liqueur. This liqueur adds bright red color and a delicious floral aroma to your cocktails. It would pair well with vodka, gin or sparkling wine.

Grand Poppy Bitters.  This liqueur is truly original. It is somewhat bitter sweet with flavors of flowers, herbs, and citrus. Similar to the European tradition of aperitifs, its great on its own or mixed into your favorite vodka based cocktail.

Happy mixing and Cheers!

Skunked Beer: How to Tell and What to do about it?

There’s a Skunk in Your Beer!?

That’s right folks, time for another article about beer! Today’s topic is one that has caused quite a bit of conversation among beer drinkers all around the world. What causes a beer to be “skunked?" A beer that has been skunked is one that is flawed and usually rendered undrinkable due to a chemical reaction caused by both natural and artificial light sources. When a beer is skunked it tends to take on the scent of a skunk and can taste almost rubbery. Needless to say, one should never be stuck with a skunked beer. This post will offer some tips on how to avoid this rotten reaction.

It may be surprisingly to learn that light, not just heat, is the primary cause of skunked beer. When light reacts with the hops compounds (a primary ingredient in almost all commercial beers), it provides the energy necessary to boost the sulfuric compounds present in beer. These sulfuric compounds often have strong, almost offensive odors (think the smell of gas). 

So what are our friends in the beer industry doing to protect us from skunked beer? The answer lies in --- packaging!  Every vessel that a beer can go in plays an important role in whether or not the beer is susceptible to skunking. However, some examples of packaging are better than others at protecting beer - let's consider the following:

Metal Containers

The best packaging for beer may not come as a surprise. Metal containers, such as kegs and beer cans, are the best packaging to protect your beer from that, oh so dangerous, blue light. The metal surface prevents light from reaching the beer and keeps your beer unskunked.  

Colored Glass Bottles

If you are not drinking from a keg or a can, your next best option is a brown bottle. If exposed to light long enough the brown bottle does not stand a chance, but for the most part it does a very good job of keeping your beer fresh. Just don’t leave your beer out in the sun for too long. Following brown bottles is green bottles. Unlike brown bottlers, green bottles are rather lousy at protecting your beer. Beers in green bottles tend to get skunked very quickly after being exposed to direct light sources.

Clear Glass Bottles

Lastly, clear bottles are the worst at protecting your beer from the light. A very famous beer company puts their beer in clear bottles, and by the time you are ready to drink one of those bad boys, there is a high probability it is already pre-skunked. I am not going to say which brewery ... but let’s just say they use a lot of beaches in their advertising and recommend that you jam limes into the bottle. (Perhaps in order to hide the skunky smell).

As mentioned above, one of the more popular misconceptions when it comes to skunked beers is that it is triggered by a change in temperature. For example, if you take a beer out of a fridge and let it get to room temperature, it will increase the odds of it becoming skunked. Luckily, this is not true! The primary way that a beer will get skunked is light. When it comes to temperature, beer may also become skunked if you go from one extreme to another. So if you taker your beer in the cooler, to the inside of your car, on a 95 degree day, then you might see some negative effects on your bottle of beer.

To surmise, the amount of light your beer is exposed to plays a very important role in whether or not it is at risk to skunking. Also remember, moving your beer from a cold environment to a warm environment, for the most part, will not have that much of a negative impact on your beer. Now get out there, keep your beer out of the sun, and use remember these tips to enjoy skunk free beer!



Beer 101: The Perfect Pour

While wine will always have my heart, I have to give a tip of the hat to America’s favorite fermented drink - beer! I am excited to introduce one of our first posts on beer from our newest guest blogger Anthony!
— Kelley

Howdy wine nerds! Now don't be alarmed. I'm not here as a beer fanatic hacker to commandeer the wine blog and only talk about fine brews. Some people may think beer is not the most exciting topic, but I could not disagree more. To me, beer is just as versatile and steeped in history as its grape-based counterpart. And through a series of blog posts, I will try and make beer believers out of everyone who happens to stumble across this website (if you're not already).

I will sum up what my personal story is rather quickly. My name is Anthony. I work at a liquor store in northern New Jersey. I love beer. Don’t get me wrong - I like nothing more than drinking a fine wine every now and then, as well as drinking nice scotches and bourbons, but when push comes to shove I am a beer guy through and through. Then one day after work, Kelley and I were discussing the alcohol industry and when she suggested I guest post, I was happy to step up. But let's get to the more important part of this post… the beer.

So where do we start when talking about beer? I like the idea of starting at the very beginning. When I say beginning, I am not talking about the history of beer or how beer is made, but the beginning of a beer-drinking night. And every beer-drinking night starts with one important thing every beer drinker should know - how to fully execute a perfect pour.

For the most part, a bottle or can of beer does not come with a set of detailed directions like a T.V. dinner might. It may be surprising to the beer-drinking novice to think that there are very specific ways to pour a beer - but do not let that get to you too much because no matter how you pour a beer it is still going to taste delicious. This article is meant to share the “proper” way to pour out a beer so that you can get maximum enjoyment out of your beer purchase.

Before we even start thinking about pouring the beer, we want to get it to the proper temperature. This may come as a surprise to you, but a beer does not need to be as cold as the Rocky Mountains for it to taste its best. In fact, most beers should not be that cold at all, and many beer styles have different temperatures that they should be drunk at to enjoy properly. For example: IPA’s (India Pale Ales) should be served at 45-50 °F and a stout or porter should be served at around 50-55°F. Beer reference guides can easily be found on the internet super highway just in case you want to get your beer at the correct temperature.

Once the beer is at the correct temperature, you can now uncork/open it and prepare for that elusive perfect pour. When it comes to pouring beer, I prefer what beer expert Randy Mosher has to say on the matter: “Pour the beer right down the middle of the glass, wait for the foam to settle, and if needed, pour a little more.” There is no need to dribble beer down the side of a tilted glass like a wimp, Pour it down the middle of the glass with some vigor. It may take a little time to fill the glass, but just be patient because the beer will be fantastic in the end. Hold on a second though, do not forget that every beer has a certain glass that will accentuate the beer’s particular style. It may be helpful to do some research as to what kind of vessel will work with different beers. It is not a necessity, but boy would you look like a true beer nerd if you were drinking an imperial stout out of its proper glass (a snifter glass!).

The last step in this process is the greatest step of all, and that is to enjoy the beer. Kick back and relax because you have followed all of the proper steps when it comes to the perfect pour, and you are now ready to get the most out of your beer drinking experience.

Have specific questions on beer for Anthony? Leave a comment below! Otherwise, stay tuned for more awesome posts on beer!

Tis the Season: My Favorite Hot Holiday Drinks

One of the main reasons I love the holiday season are the festive parties! Whether you are celebrating with co-workers, old friends, or family, holiday parties are just tons of fun. Especially because its time to break out all the fun holiday cocktails that we only see around this time of year. Below are a few of my personal favorites (specifically because they are easy to make with a few ingredients). Feel free to share your favorite twists or recipes in the comments below!

Glühwein.  (pronounced "gloo-vine") This drink is both delicious and very sentimental for me. It's a traditional German drink that my Oma would make during the holidays. I love it because its traditionally served at the outdoor holiday markets (Christmas/Easter) in Germany and Austria. It's a perfect way to bring the community together. 

Ingredients: 1 bottle red wine (Recommended Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, or fruit forward red); 1 cup water; 1/4 cup sugar; 2 cinnamon sticks; 4 cloves; 1 orange peeled for zest and juiced.

Directions: Heat water, sugar, juice and spices. Once infused, and red wine and heat through, be careful not to boil. (Easier option, warm all ingredients in crock pot for at least an hour).

Traditional Mulled Wine.  While Glühwein is traditionally made with red wine, you can make Mulled Wine (the American version) with other types of wine. A few of my favorites include fruit based wines. Try Apple Spiced wine with cranberry juice. Or Apple Cranberry wine with cinnamon, cloves and orange zest. Don't be afraid to experiment. The only thing you can do wrong is boil the drink.

Mulled Cider.  While fall is over, there is still room for apple cider at the party table. To make a base mulled cider follow these instructions: Heat 2 quarts of apple cider with one apple, 2 teaspons of whole cloves (typically cloves are studded in the apple), 1 orange thinly sliced, and 1 cinnamon stick. Add light brown sugar to taste. Once warmed through, remove from heat and add 1 cup of rum. I would likely substitute the rum for bourbon.

Irish Coffee.  The classic irish coffee is just black coffee, brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of Irish whiskey. Add Bailey's for fun. Given the popularity of Keurig's these days, I would recommend making these individually. 

Hot Toddy.  If you are looking for something on the stronger side (hey, we all have annoying siblings right?) then I recommend the Hot Toddy. Simply put, its hot tea with a shot of whisky (I would prefer bourbon or brandy over rye). But here's the recipe if you need it: combine liquor, 1 tablespoon of honey and the juice of 1/4 of lemon. On the side, prepare a cup of hot black tea, once fully steeped, combine with liquor. 


Happy Holidays and Cheers!