Category Archives: beer

Music to my ears – Modern English and Albert Cummings

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My new favorite cocktail – Cimarron Tequila,Pear Liqueur, Allspice Dram, Lemon Juice

2017 has been a year of great live performances, with a couple of exceptions. The most recent disappointing musical act I saw was Modern English at The Hollow earlier this month. I was so excited for this throwback band – the timing was ideal (the night before a holiday), I had plenty of friends going and their big single “I’ll Stop the World and Melt With You” is a classic 80s tune. What could go wrong?

Well, the tickets ($25) said 8:00 and we arrived pretty close to that time only to find the band’s equipment just being loaded into the venue. After about 20 or 30 minutes, some guys got on stage without introduction (that I heard at least) and played a song that was so friggin loud that we left the spot we had nabbed near the back bar and headed to the dining area where we wouldn’t be blasted at an obscene volume. Shortly after they left the stage an opening act came on and played some noise that just didn’t appeal to us, so we left and grabbed a drink at dp’s. Come to think about it, that drink (the Autumn in Jalisco) was probably the best part of the night. Maybe tequila isn’t just for summer.

We went back to The Hollow at about 10:30 and Modern English was just coming on stage. We stood about 20-25 feet back from the stage, but again, the music was damn loud that I just couldn’t deal. By this point, I was pretty much thinking “just play the song so I can go home, please.” They didn’t hear my mental plea, so I left. Too late and too loud = no fun for me.

Now, last night I had a completely different experience. After vowing to not squander an infrequent Saturday night off, my favorite guy and I made a pretty darn spontaneous decision to check out a blues performer downtown at The Upper Room. The space was new to us (I never went to Jillian’s) and had two distinct areas depending upon whether one had purchased general admission tickets ($20 at the door) or made a reservation prior to the show. We weren’t able to get a table so we instead staked out a spot near the railing which divided the sections and had a decent view of the stage and excellent proximity to the bar.

B44FCCA2-7D59-4CF3-B07C-B2C690A38E50Albert Cummings has played around Albany a number of times, but it was our first time seeing him and from start (when we walked past him behind the venue) to finish (when guitar geek guy copped a pick and we complimented the band on their set) it was an awesome show. The sound mix was solid, the volume was on point and the crowd was enthusiastic and fun. I was disappointed by the lack of cider as a beverage option, but the Jack’s Abbey Oktoberfest that we opted for was so very tasty that I had three. Yes, three!

Somehow I missed the fact that The Upper Room was doing a blues series, but there is one more show scheduled for next month and I’d go back again in a heartbeat. The show started on time, the band was tight (that drummer!) and the value in terms of price was terrific. I’ve enjoyed other shows (and meals) at The Hollow and will continue to keep an eye on their events calendar. Multiple entertainment options downtown are a good thing. Now, if we could just get some residents to occupy some of the space above the businesses downtown, we’d really be making progress, Albany.

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Filed under Albany, beer, concerts, drinking, Events, friends, Local, Music, Recommendations

Friday night at S & S Farm Brewery

F0E15BAC-3120-4965-BA64-9C6AEE710813Back in the day when I owned a restaurant, we had a collection of draft beverages of which I was pretty proud. We worked with local brewers and brought in small production brews that our guests really enjoyed. One of my favorite breweries, S & S Farm Brewery in Nassau, consistently produces some great beer and I always enjoyed working directly with family members when I needed a delivery.

I’ve heard that they throw a good party and for a long time now, I’ve wanted to get out to the farm to check out one of their events. Friday night, I finally got it together and wrangled two of my three sons into the car and headed east at about 5:45, having been warned that it gets crowded. Not an exaggeration, we would come to learn.

The ride out was stunning. I have a lot of really great memories that involve driving Route 20, but I’d not driven on Jefferson Hill Road before and it was so very pretty. The foliage and the old homes definitely had me considering if city life was as superior as I always think it is…

Upon arrival we were directed towards a parking area which was a short walk from the tasting room, tables, band and food. I had been warned that these Friday night things are popular, but I was stunned by the size of the crowd. There were probably 500 people there! Everyone we talked to was super nice and we got to spend some time chatting with a few folks as we waited in line to place our Burger21 order. Of course, being a practical person, I had thrown $20 to my kids and suggested they get soup or hot dogs from the second food truck since there wasn’t a line for the more simple fare being sold, while I grabbed a beer inside. With all of us placated, we committed to the approximately 40 minute wait for our excellent burgers and baskets of fries.

The food, my Brown Chicken Brown Ale and the setting were perfect. It’s been a particularly beautiful October and last night’s star filled sky was exceptional. I can’t imagine there was a better place to spend a couple of hours last night than exactly where I was. Let’s go again!

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Filed under beer, Boys, favorites, Local, Recommendations, road trips, upstate New York

Best of what’s around – Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds at SPAC

IMG_2024I’ve lost count of a number of things in my life. For instance, I can’t remember if Jeter is 2 ½ or 3 ½ years old. I no longer remember how many times I’ve flown across the Atlantic and while I can count the number of U2 shows I’ve been to (5, soon to be 6!), I can’t for the life of me recall how many times I’ve gone to see the Dave Matthews Band. We’ll leave it at quite a few.

I’ve got memories from some DMB shows that I’d prefer to forget. There was the year a man seated below our balcony seats got urinated on – that was gross. On another occasion rabid fans rushed the back gate at the end of the grassy area behind the vending and out ran the outnumbered security force to gain access to the show. That situation was pretty entertaining to watch, unlike the year the crowd actually pushed through the gates at the back of the amphitheater in an obnoxious show of entitlement and rushed the stage. That was just kind of scary.

Friday night, though? That was all new. First – it was “just” Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, not the entire band. I’d never seen Dave without the band before and I’ve got to say I loved it. Sometimes things get a little too jammy for me when each player takes an extended solo and I really enjoyed the stripped down experience. The setlist   was pretty damn phenomenal and we got lucky with the weather with barely a misty drizzle over the course of the entire evening.

We parked in a different area than usual and the tailgating was absolutely on point. We didn’t see anyone getting out of hand or vomiting, two things I’ve seen far too frequently at DMB shows in the past and everyone was just completely chill. We spent a couple of hours hanging out and achieved the ideal state of…zen, let’s call it zen, before taking the short walk to the gate. We staked out some lawn space, but I know I was never even tempted to sit. It was all about dancing.

FullSizeRenderSpeaking of dancing – we had a fantastic vantage point to take in the writhing mass  of humanity that was the lawn. One guy in particular kept us all entertained with his enthusiasm and sense of rhythm. There were no obnoxious frat boys or bros to be seen and it was almost as if the entire audience had been dosed with something that resulted in pleasant politeness. It’s too bad whatever that was isn’t in the water universally because we could all use more nights like that. It was a perfect Dave show – whether you were a newbie or a veteran of the scene. So. Much. Fun.

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Filed under beer, concerts, Events, favorites, friends, Music, road trips, Saratoga, SPAC, Uncategorized

Things to love about Germany


We’ve been back for about 10 days and there are some really positive impressions from our trip that I thought to share. How about one for each day we were there?

1. Roads. I don’t think I’d mind paying a 19% VAT if the money went into highways and other infrastructure. We traveled a few hundred miles on the autobahn and those roads are beautifully maintained.
2. Groceries. In Berlin we shopped at Lidl which is similar to Aldi. For less than $9 I bought the following: a fresh pineapple (fair trade), a quart of apple juice, 2 croissant, a package of sliced gouda, a large plain yogurt, a small fruit yogurt and a pint of chocolate milk. 
3. Beer. I almost exclusively drank hefeweizen, although I had the occasional shandy and in Berlin I drank a specialty beer called Berliner Weiße mit Schuss. It’s wheat beer with a shot of woodruff. Kind of sweet but a nice way to end the night, I thought. 
4. Public transit. It’s available, easy to understand and cheap. A day ticket cost approximately $7.50 and my son rode with me for free. 
5. Cleanliness. The streets, the bathrooms, the trains, with only one exception (a bathroom at a big tourist spot) all were immaculate.
6. Markets. The Munsterplatz is the place to be if you’re looking for produce, flowers, cheese, meats and prepared foods. We also checked out some markets that were more like American flea markets, also. Good deals were all over the place.
7. Flowers. Germans like their gardens and even in early spring, most homes have tended plots of land. The lilacs bursting open everywhere were lovely, too.
8. Ice cream and cake. There’s an acceptance level of these sort of items perceived by Americans as “treats,” and both were included in our afternoons.
9. Coffee. Dark, strong and delicious.
10. Punctuality. The only clock I’ve ever seen not tell accurate time in Germany was the battery operated one in our rented apartment. I love counting on the church bells and public clocks to keep track of time for me.

A bonus thing: DOGS! They were everywhere – restaurants, cafes, trains, stores, yet, not once did I see any piles of poop.

The only that I didn’t appreciate was the prevalence of cigarette smoking that still goes on. It seems like smoking is much more pervasive in Germany than in the States. I suppose I could complain that the weather wasn’t great either, but, really…spring is a crap shoot in Albany, too. At least the hail that fell on me was German hail.

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Filed under beer, Europe, favorites, Germany, Observations, Spring, travel, vacation

Deutschland, 2017

A69B9E6B-9F72-4581-AE2C-814616DEE529-13571-00000AC233BF55C6As our long awaited trip approaches, Quinn and I are both getting excited for our upcoming adventure. I’m kind of impressed with this kid’s pick for his Mom & Me adventure – the Black Forest and Berlin, with a 2 day pit stop in Nuremberg, on my request, to break up the drive.

This will be Quinn’s second trip to Europe, but his first to Germany where he’ll be meeting members of our family. We’re planning a holiday dinner reunion of sorts and I smile each time I imagine my youngest son being introduced to his great aunts and uncles and second cousins. It’s definitely going to be awesome and emotional for everyone.

Our time in the Black Forest will be busy with family, but I’m hoping to get to Freiburg for an afternoon and perhaps even over to Colmar, France for a few hours. I’d like Quinn to see as much as possible, naturally, and the area where my family is from is perfect for crossing over the Rhine and into Alsace, home of some of my favorite wines. It wouldn’t be a bad way to spend a day.

Nuremberg and Berlin will be both be totally new cities to explore. Nuremberg appealed to me because of its rich history and architecture and Quinn will be beside himself to see sites he’s only read about or seen in documentaries. I can’t wait to walk cobblestone streets with half timber buildings on either side and I can almost taste the beer already. Proust!!

I’ve heard so much about Berlin from friends who have visited in recent years. They use words like “cosmopolitan,” “artsy” and “edgy,” which could pretty much describe me, too, right? Seriously, there’s a lively arts scene, terrific nightlife and vivid history all waiting for us to experience. We’ve got what looks to be an ideal Airbandb with plenty of room for all of us (we’ll be with my uncle and aunt) and I’m hoping for good weather and lots of time outdoors. We might even make it to Potsdam to check out a castle, which is kind of funny since I’ve never even been to Potsdam, N.Y.  Maybe if there was a castle, I’d go there, too.

Have you been to these areas in Germany? Any must-sees you’d recommend? Please share any tips or suggestions!

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Filed under beer, Boys, Europe, family, Germany, holidays, Recommendations, travel, vacation

Deutschland on the Hudson

Last week I was lucky enough to host my Uncle and Aunt. They were touring New England in that wonderful way that tourists seem to do, but most Americans don’t, visiting cities and sites scattered around multiple states and racking up more than 2500 miles on their rental car.  Because of my crazy schedule, we didn’t spend as much time together as I would have liked, but we did get around a little over the weekend. Saturday was Oktoberfest in Albany and we had a great time checking out the Seen downtown.  My family definitely liked Wolff’s Biergarten – especially after seeing their team’s competition being dealt a loss, and were entertained by the crowd and the activities.

Sunday we did a driving tour on the other side of the river with stops at Golden Harvest for cider donuts and some spirits sampling, Olana, and Hudson for a walk about.  One of the coolest coincidences was my finally meeting, after nearly a year of placing orders electronically, one of the people who distills the applejack we use at Lark + Lily .  Turns out that Derek lived in Stuttgart when he was a student and it was a joy to hear he and my relatives speaking German together.  I think we can all appreciate a little bit of home when we’re on the road and this was a perfect dose of familiarity for my family.

It’s always hard to see far away family go, but Quinn and I are excitedly looking forward to meeting up with them again next spring when we’ll travel to Germany to visit. I bought our tickets last week and our loose itinerary includes three nights in the Black Forest, two nights in Nuremberg and four nights in Berlin.  Bis dann!

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Filed under Albany, beer, family, Germany, Local, road trips, upstate New York

Beer run

imageBack in the day, taking a beer run involved driving into town and picking up a few sixes of something cheap. My, how that has changed! The other day I decided to mix up my run a little bit by running down on the Corning Trail. It was a gorgeous day and the breeze off the river felt fantastic on my bare shoulders. I ended up running about 6 miles in an up and back route and felt really happy with the experience. So happy that I started imagining running the trail all the way to Troy…

Sunday was my first entire day off since the school year wrapped and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to get some solid miles in. I asked a friend to meet me in Troy and decided to start my run from home rather than driving my car to the parking lot by the trail. It added a few miles, but really it was all downhill from the DelSo to the river, making for an easy warmup. Other than the blazing sun, of course.

I ran for about an hour and 40 minutes and covered close to 11 miles, great training for the half marathons I’ve decided upon for later in the summer and through the fall. The Corning Trail is super flat and fairly lightly traveled. There were just enough cyclists, walkers and runners to prevent me from feeling isolated, with most of them on the southern part of the path. Surprisingly, there is no evidence of all the heavy equipment traffic that was present during the recent construction and maintenance of the I90 bridge. It’s a wonderful place to get in some scenic miles and we’re lucky to have it available.

When I reached the parking lot in Menands where the trail kind of dead ends, I followed the bike path route on Route 32, as I would if I were cycling. I’m not sure if the path continues beyond that lot along the river. Do any of you know? This part of the run is the least scenic since you’re basically running alongside 787, but there are some interesting homes and I now know where Sadudee is for future reference. I made my way below 787 to the Green Island Bridge urged on by the thought of a cold beer, having depleted both water bottles I had brought along.

I had remembered Wolff’s Biergarten as being a bit up the hill in Troy but, as I crested the bridge, I was thrilled to see that beer was even closer than I had imagined. With one final push, I ran the remainder of the bridge knowing that a cold beer and a warm friend waited. I think I want to run this again. Who’s in?

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Filed under Albany, beer, Exercise, ideas, Local, running, Summer, Troy, Uncategorized