New Orleans & a Taste of Tales

New Orleans – July 2018

St. Louis Cathedral through Jackson Square

A few months ago, my husband’s company announced that they would be having a work meeting in New Orleans in July. “New Orleans in July?” I said, “that’s going to be awful!” Turns out, I was right – at least in terms of the weather. July in New Orleans is objectively awful to a Northern Gal like me but because of that, it’s also cheap. That makes it appealing to people hosting large meetings and conferences.

One of the conferences held in New Orleans in July happens to be Tales of the Cocktail. This year, it happened to be held the week before Chris’ work trip and happened to be at the same hotel as his company meeting. We happened to put two and two together and fly down late Friday night, to catch the tail of Tales.

I’m not usually a fan of slushies, but when the heat index is 112F, it’s hard to say no.

Despite the fact that I’ve been doing the social media for the Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter of the USBG for most of two years, most of that as the elected “Social Media Coordinator” and despite the fact that most of the local bartenders consider me “industry,” I still have a strong case of imposter syndrome when navigating this world. My husband, Chris, is the actual cocktail nerd of the family – I can barely make myself an Old Fashioned and am often that dreaded customer who freezes like a deer in the headlights when asked if I want my Manhattan up or on the rocks. My passion for this world comes from a love of the hospitality of a good bar. In other words, I’m in it for the people.

Any fears that I didn’t belong at Tales started to dissipate when, just minutes after dropping our bags in our room at the Hotel Monteleone after our very late arrival, we walked into The Carousel Bar and within ten feet, I was being hugged by Jonathan Schulze, an MSP rep for A. Hardy Spirits who sponsored our last guild meeting. The chance meeting gave me some confidence that I was in the right place, doing the right thing.

I made myself a spreadsheet of the Tasting Rooms schedule but forgot it at home. I literally squealed with delight when I stepped out of an elevator and saw this on the wall – causing the person who created it to squeal in delight at my delight.

With only one day of Tales overlapping with our trip, our tail of Tales was mostly limited to the Tasting Rooms on Saturday and Pig & Punch on Sunday. I went into the Tasting Rooms hoping to a)taste a lot of cool things and b)feel worthy of both my attendance as an enthusiast and the media credentials I was able to get. Despite starting the trip feeling like a total fraud, I finished Saturday feeling like I’d made some contacts of actual value – several of the spirits we tasted are launching in our area soon and they were thrilled to make contact with the local guild.

Oh, and we also learned that if you wander through Tasting Rooms as a couple with him in a seersucker suit and you in a cocktail print dress, you will get a zillion compliments. That didn’t hurt at all.

Said cocktail print
My only shot of Chris in seersucker. And also of random Malort shots on the street.

Our taste of Tales taught us that we want to get back and experience more of the events next year. We learned that we’ll need to pace ourselves, eat well, drink lots of water, and share samples (at sampling events, I’d rather drink half as much of twice as many). For me, personally, I learned that I can bring value to this industry that I love so much. I need to stop doubting my place in this world, stop thinking about myself as an outsider, and start actually putting more words on paper. (Words on screen just sounds so much less dramatic!)

I’ve been discovering that while I want to write about eating, drinking, travelling, and the hospitality industry in general – I don’t want to be a reviewer. Maybe I could get more followers if I gave scathing reviews of bad places or things – but I’d rather be positive and grow organically, if slowly. If I don’t like something or somewhere, I’m just not going to post about it. Maybe that’s too “laissez faire” but I’m okay with it, because it’s me.

Night time on Bourbon Street

New Orleans is a strange city and hard to categorize. Sometimes the city felt like Paris, other times I imagined I was in Cuba. Rarely did it feel like I was in the US. I went into this trip dreading the weather, the strangeness, the insanity of places like Bourbon Street – but I left with a strong desire to go back and find more oddities and hidden gems. Because of the heat and humidity, I didn’t discover as much of the city as I would have liked but I believe the unique personality of New Orleans helped me discover myself, far more than ever expected. So, as they say on the other end of the Mississippi from my home in St. Paul, “laissez les bons temps rouler.”

Google Maps as a travel archive

I am working hard on bringing more of the travel aspect to this blog – one has to get to the right context somehow! As part of that, I’m working to create useful Google Maps for people to reference when they want recommendations in places we’ve been. It’s a fun project and is getting me very excited for our upcoming trips!

Here are a few sneak peeks, there’s still more to add.



San Francisco

Montana Spirits

I have brought home a selection of Montana beers and spirits for the past few years and this article talks about what one of my favorites (Trailhead Spirits​) is doing out there in Billings. The article also highlights much of why I’m passionate about local spirits in the first place. (I mean, besides making tasty drinks!) I’m fortunate to be in another state that is promoting similar farm-to-glass ideals!

Since Trailhead is the only distillery I’ve brought home two years in a row (first the aged gin, then the rye malt whiskey), I’m hoping to actually make it to the cocktail room and meet the makers this year!

The total haul

I kind of failed at blogging my trip. I’ll try to get caught up. Migraines prevented me from getting to as many beer places as I’d have liked, but I still did pretty well.

Here’s what came home with me. It took two suitcases and a lot of luck!

From Ireland:

  • White Gypsy – American Pale Ale – Several people recommended this to us as one of the best craft breweries in Ireland. It took a last minute cab ride across Dublin to the Drink Store to find a bottle, but I got it!
  • Galway Bay Brewery – Bay Ale Irish Red Ale – A half-pint of this was my first beer in Ireland! Mom and I hiked to Oslo in Salthill so that I could get something other than Guinness and I ended up having a great chat with one of the guys who works there.
  • Porterhouse Brewing Company – Celebration Stout – We had lunch at the Porterhouse bar in Dublin and I had a flight of four great beers. I’ve found a couple of their stouts here in Minnesota but this one sounded interesting. It was matured in Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey Casks.
  • Brown Paper Bag Project – Oxman Dark Brown Ale – I know next to nothing about this beer except that the brewery name had popped up a few times in my research.
From England:

  • The Kernel – Biere de Table – The next six are beers from The Kernel, a little brewery in London. I had emailed them to ask if their London Sour was on tap anywhere as I couldn’t make it during their open hours. They were awesome enough to invite me to visit and do a beer swap. If I recall correctly, this was a saison then aged in a wine barrel. I should have taken notes but I was just too excited. Also, it was really hard to find. Thankfully they were brewing that morning so I followed my nose!
  • The Kernel – Table Beer – Haven’t tried yet, one of their commonly found beers.
  • The Kernel – London Sour – This is the beer I hunted them down to try. It was a really light and refreshing sour beer, I can see it converting some people otherwise scared of sours.
  • The Kernel – London Sour White Wine Barrel – They did a series of sours, each aged differently.
  • The Kernel – London Sour Red Wine Barrel – See above. 🙂
  • The Kernel – London Brick Collaboration Red Rye Ale – I’m a sucker for rye so I had to have this!
  • The Wild Beer Company – Scarlet Fever – Again, I don’t know much about this beer. But when a bottle says “Red ale + toffee caramel + citrus hops” I don’t need to know much.
  • Weird Beard Brew Co – Saison 14 – This goes on the list of “beers I bought because the name popped up in my research.” Well, that and “beers I bought because I know someone with a weird beard.”
  • Partizan Brewing – 7 Grain – Another London brewery
From Wales:
  • Brains Craft Brewery – Boilermaker Welsh Whiskey IPA – Brains isn’t really a craft brewery, more a smaller “crafty” branch of the big S.A. Brains operation. But this was an appealing find because Brains makes the mash for Pendaryn Distillery, and this IPA was then matured with Penderyn whisky infused oak chips.
From Spain:
  • Nomada Brewing Company – Gato Negro Black Brett IPA – Wait, Spain?? WTF?! I didn’t go to Spain but when I placed an order for a couple of these bottles to get delivered to my hotel, this popped up on the store’s list of sours and I was intrigued. So one Spanish beer snuck in.
Glassware and Other Booze
You know what would go well with a suitcase FULL of beer?? Some breakable glassware and other booze!!
Left to right:
  • Bunratty Irish Potcheen – Apparently “Irish Moonshine.” Bought in a souvenir shop so I fully expect it to be horrifying. The bottle claims it was banned in 1661 and only recently legal again. Kitsch level is high, expectations are not.
  • Jameson glass from the distillery
  • Guinness 2013 St. James Gate glass – apparently they do a different design each year.
  • Guinness new style pint glass – there are ridges on the side and an embossed harp. Apparently this will be the new standard Guinness glass.
  • Buckingham Palace tot glass
  • Craft Beer Company pint glass
  • Tiny Rebel half pint glass
  • Penderyn whisky nosing glass
  • Penderyn Distillery spirits sampler – Five Vodka, Madeira finished whisky, Brecon Gin, Merlyn Irish Cream Liqueur
  • Penderyn Distillery whisky sampler – Madeira finished (their flagship product), Sherrywood, and Peated

All quiet on the Irish front.

Not much to report today. We travelled from Galway to Fossa via Dunratty Castle, Adare, and Killarney. The castle and attached folk park was nice. The tour guide was enthusiastic, funny, and knowledgable. Having an enthusiastic guide really makes things more fun.

Both Adare and Killarney were cute towns but mostly just shop after shop of the same stuff. It’s hard to get excited about an Irish wool scarf when you’ve seen the same one in a dozen shops in multiple towns. Yes, they say “made in Ireland” but I have to wonder, by whom? Or by what?
We’re spending tonight and tomorrow at a lovely country inn just off a lake. After two nights of city noise, tonight we’re more likely to hear moos. They served us a beautiful dinner, though I was a little disappointed by the beer list. Heineken on tap, Coors and Budweiser in bottles. I had wine.
Tomorrow we tour the Ring of Kerry, Muck Ross gardens, and then have a “traditional Irish evening.” I’m a little skeptical about how traditional it’s really likely to be, but I guess if I think of it as an “Ireland Theme Park,” as it was described by someone at the bar last night, then it should be okay. 
But if THEY don’t at least have Guinness, I will be starting a riot.
P.S. I have no way to transfer my many photos off cameras onto my new iPad mini so sorry these are so text heavy. Trying to take a few photos with my phone and uplad those to break the monotony.

Ireland days one and two

I posted some photos last night before passing out, now I`ll try to fill in some story while I`m a bit more awake. Hotel wifi isn`t connecting right now so no idea when this will post but I`m typing it at 9:30pm on Monday from our hotel in Galway

The flight from JFK to Shannon was only about six hours and between takeoff, landing, and meals I only got about three hours of sleep. That made for a very long day as it was straight onto the tour bus and off to the Cliffs of Moher. It was a bit of a hike uphill to get to the top of the cliffs but what a view! It really was amazing.

From there we drove through the Burren, a huge area of land carved by glaciers and made up mostly of rock. We drove through that area on our way to Galway. Despite being told to prepare for chill weather maxing out around 65F, we hit a heat wave with 75 or so. Oh, and the AC on the bus wasn`t working. The warmth of the bus plus the lack of sleep made the whole bus a bit drowsy and crabby so arriving at the hotel, I think we all ran to the showers.

After a bit of time to rest and clean up, our tour leader, Willi, took some of us on a walk through the main section of Galway, to get a better idea of the area. Then it was a lovely dinner in the hotel before crashing quite early and quite hard.

Today we were up for a good Irish breakfast and the on our way through the Connemara region to Kylemore Abbey. The Connemara region was starkly beautiful. Rocky wet soil has made it difficult for farming or settling and so we could drive many miles between houses. Even the flocks of sheep were rare. I found it kind of haunting and wanted to get out and hike through the deserted land and hills. As someone with little to no interest in athletic activity, it was an odd place to get the urge to go hiking.

Kylemore Abbey was a lovely “modern” castle, built about 150 years ago by Mitchell Henry as a “love letter” to his wife. It was a nice estate with a small church. There were also some big Victorian gardens, but time was running short so we skipped those. We drove back through more of Connemara Nation Park and passed by an old bridge featured in the classic John Wayne movie, The Quiet Man.

Upon returning to Galway, we did a bit of shopping and then had fish and chips at McDonaghs, apparently a bit of a local institution. After popping in to several pubs on the high street of Galway, only to be disappointed by the beer selection, we walked about half an hour to the Salthill area on the water so that I could finally get my hands on some good beer. It was worth the walk, especially given the long chat with one of the employees of the bar/brewery. I think I`ll let the beer info be a second post.

Tomorrow we pack up here and head to Killarney via Bunratty Castle and Adare. I`ll be back whenever I get WiFi!

First beers in Ireland!!

Okay, so long story sort of short…

Firstly, I wasn’t feeling great last night (Sunday) which isn`t surprising given the lack of sleep and the heat on the bus. A few people got a pint before dinner but I needed rest. Then we had lunch at the Kylemore Abbey and the only beer option was Amstel Blue if I recall correctly. There was some beer on the bus, but cans of Budweiser and Heineken.

Surely, when we got to Galway and found a pub, I would finally find some good Irish beer. Ideally good Irish beer OTHER than Guinness and Murphys.

First pub? Nope. The only Irish Beer I hadn`t heard of was Bearmish Irish Stout, and they were out. But the bartender mentioned a pub up the road that brewed there own. So we wandered up and found a sign for their beer, brewed by Galway Hooker (a large brewery, not in Galway). Hey, at least it was unique so I`ll give it a shot. It`s a vanilla porter, I like that. Or I probably would like that if they had any left. Boo, Beer strike two.

Finally Mom and I decide to walk to what was our original plan all along…Oslo. Yes, a bar named Oslo in Galway. But the bar is attached to Galway Bay Brewing. Apparently we missed the speech an employee gave to a group of tourists but he ended up sitting with us and having about a 45 conversation about the craft beer scene in Ireland and America. I got a few tips for breweries to look for in Dublin and where to buy bottles to bring home. 

I started with the Galway Bay Irish Red Ale, it was really tasty, smooth, and balanced. Then I was going to try their stout but the brewery employee chatting with us actually recommended the oatmeal stout from Trouble Brewing. It was a good suggestion. So good that I finished my half pint before I even realized it. Malty, smooth, with just a hint of bitterness on the finish. 

It took almost 36 hours on the ground in Ireland for me to get my first beers, but it was worth the wait to get something good and local. Now, it`s time for another night of sleep so I am ready for another full day.