Sunday, March 28, 2010

How's that for a big picture of my book cover? If you don't recognize the plants entwining around the glasses, bottle, and the body, those are hops plants, essential to producing a great brew whether lager or ale--the bitterness factor.

Now here we go with the final installment of my travels through brew. Now you know the ugly truth about me and beer.

The story of how beer betrayed me ( and how I forgave the brew).

I go to College

Here’s the betrayal part which I find hard to forgive. I had my first beer at a college party. What I remember of the party is that it was held outdoors, and I went to it with the college bad boy, a guy from (shudder) New Jersey. I don’t know how many beers I had, but enough for this nondrinking gal to feel really sick. My date told me I needed to throw up (I already knew that), and he clapped me on the back. Up everything came. I felt better, true, but, sincerely deceived by a golden liquid that seemed so innocent. No more beers for me until graduate school.

I Discover Good Beer and a Good Man

I did part of my graduate work at the University of South Dakota where an annual “Hunt Party” occurred every spring. It went on for a long weekend and included both graduate faculty and students from the psychology department. Everyone brought food and drink. The food was some of the best I remember and included squirrel, rabbit, antelope (Pronghorn), and deer, whatever was left in the fridge from hunting the previous fall. The beer was homebrew, the wine also homemade. It was my first taste of good beer—strong, rich, hoppy—sometimes necessary at the bottom of the bottle to strain the dregs through your teeth, but it was great.

I went on to the University of Georgia for my Ph. D. At the time, the university was located in a dry county. You could buy beer and wine at a few restaurants, and finally some stores came in selling packaged beer and wine. Those were the lean years. No one I knew made home brew and, looking back, I realize, for that reason and many others, I didn’t know the right people.

Off to upstate New York to teach at one of the universities there and then to spend time in Connecticut where wine is the drink of choice. I followed along with the crowd, my university colleagues, from whom I hid my secret urge for a cold one. Then I met the only cowboy in all of Connecticut. He saved me from impending yippie-ishness by introducing me to microbrews, first in Utah, of all places, then throughout the Southwest. We finally moved to New Mexico. In all that heat, those people understand the need for a cold one.

Now my cowboy (he’s a keeper) and I spend summers on the Butternut Creek in upstate New York restoring an 1874 cottage. The best part of being there is I live in an area filled with microbreweries. They are fun to visit and they make some of the best brew I’ve ever tasted.

Of course I still drink wine, and scotch, and cosmos, but there’s nothing like a hand-crafted beer on a hot summer day. In the winter? I’m in Florida. Not on the beaches. Don’t be silly. I told you I live with a cowboy. We have a house in rural Florida where you have to watch those spurs on the dance floor. And, oh yeah. They have brew pubs and how!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Why beer for a scotch drinker?

I'd like to tell you a bit more about myself, to make clear why I created a microbrewer as my protagonsit in my new mystery A Deadly Draught. Let me give you a quick tour through my drinking history. I'll do this over several postings. I call it "Memories of Brew" and I'll begin with the early years.

Memories of Brew

The Early Years

Let me tell you a bit about myself. If you already know me, then the question you may ask is, why are you writing about beer? Aren’t you a wine drinker? Or a scotch drinker? Or didn’t you say you like to sip pomegranate cosmos in the summer out by your trout stream?
Yes to all those questions, but beer and me, well, we go way back. And perhaps if beer hadn’t betrayed me in my early college years, I’d have discovered microbrews a long time ago.
I was raised on a dairy farm in Illinois in a family where the only booze in the house was a dusty old bottle of Mogan David wine left over from a Thanksgiving dinner right after the war, that’s WWII. As a child of three, I found it, and then my mom found me, a little silly on the back porch floor.
A continued interest in spirits continued throughout my preschool years fueled by the attentions of my father’s sister, my Aunt Fernie, a six foot tall, redheaded, blue-eyed, opinionated woman who often baby sat for me when my mother was not feeling well, which was often (I wasn’t a bad child, but I was a trying one, much like Aunt Fernie). Fernie worked as a part-time bartender at one of the local bars called the Brass Rail. My mother discovered years later that Fernie was a creative babysitter who took me with her to work, sat me on a bar stool, and served me Shirley Temples. I found them not so exciting as that bottle of Mogan David.
I didn’t learn much about beer, but I did get insight into beer drinkers. First, you can drink a lot of beer if you run back and forth into the bathroom frequently. You can also make your beer regain its head by putting salt into it. Most importantly, beer is cheap so you can drink a lot of it and, you know, run to the bathroom. And if you want to make the brew even more healthy than it already is (think cereal in liquid form) dump in tomato juice. It’s called a red one.
By the time I entered kindergarten, I considered myself quite sophisticated. My mother considered me corrupted.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

another draught

Hi there. I'm glad you found me. This is my first post on my new blog. Let me tell you what Hera (the protagonist in my new mystery A Deadly Draught) and I have planned.

Hera is a microbrewer in the Butternut Valley of upstate New York. She's introduced me to many other brewers nearby and some in Florida. We thought you might like to meet some of them, so we plan to interview a few and have them answer questions about craft beers. In addition, I may talk a little about my connection to beer and how Iget my ideas for what I write. And we shouldn't forget that beer goes well with food, so I'll provide some recipes for you also.

If you don't have access to a local microbrewery or if the weather is too terrible to go outside and shop, let me tell you what I like to do on weekends. On Friday or Saturday night, I play bartender for my neighbors. Here's my recipe for my favorite weekend drink, a pomegranate cosmopolitan:

2 parts vodka

1 part triple sec

1 part pomegranate joice

1/2 part lime juice

Put into a shaker with ice and shake, shake, shake. Pour into martini glass. Have only one.