Category Archives: beer

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

Let’s party like it’s 1999

imageLast night my soccer playing middle son and I went down to Wolff’s Biergarten to take in the women’s World Cup semi-final game. It was a great match up – #1 ranked Germany vs #2 USA and we, along with the majority of those present, were thrilled when our women were victorious with a final score of 2-0.

The bar was packed and the roars of the crowd were deafening. It was fantastic. There were so many familiar faces and it took both hands to count the number of former students who were present. Time does move on, doesn’t it?image

The last time our women’s team won the World Cup was 1999, the same year my middle son was born. I remember we were in Harwich Port, MA and had the game on the little television set which was in our bed and breakfast. My oldest son was two and was completely captivated by the post-game excitement emanating from that small TV perched atop the mini fridge. It was unforgettable.

If England beats Japan tonight, Sunday’s final, a USA v England match on Independence weekend promises to be epic. I hope to be with both of my big guys, Liam the Anglophile and Griffin the baby born in our last winning year, at the Biergarten. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Photos from last night’s match are here.

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Filed under Albany, beer, Boys, Events, family, Germany, Local, SEEN, soccer, Summer

The (not so) Great Pumpkin

image: janoskis.com/

Now that it is October, I’m ready to address the apparent plot for pumpkin flavor to dominate American palates from August through December.  I mean, seriously, to how many products will fake pumpkin flavor be added?  Click here to see a fairly comprehensive list of products available currently.  Prepare to be impressed – or repulsed.

How do you feel about this?  Are you a pumpkin aficionado?  Is your autumnal existence incomplete without the infusion of the great orange gourd?  Or maybe, like me, you enjoy a taste of something seasonal but don’t really understand the need for “whipped peanut and pumpkin pie spice flavored spread” or “pumpkin spice fettucine?”  How did this happen?

According to an article I read, it seems we have Starbucks to thank for the current obsession with pumpkin everything.  Their pumpkin spiced latte hit the market about 10 years ago and there’s been no stopping the demand for more room in the garden for pumpkins.  Prior to 15 years ago the state of Virginia had no pumpkin farms.  Today, more than 4,000 acres are devoted to pumpkin patches.  Geez, that’s a lot of ground for poor Linus Van Pelt to cover!

image: pbs.org

For the record, I enjoy an occasional pumpkin spiced latte on a crisp fall day.  I love to add a half a cup or so of canned pumpkin, along with nutmeg and cinnamon, to my waffle batter this time of year.  Pumpkin pie?  Yes, please!  I am absolutely down with that.  Recently, though, when a guest at the Wine Bar (who was visiting from Hong Kong) questioned me about the pumpkin flavored beer we were offering on draft, I really didn’t know what to say.  “Um, uh, during ‘autumn’ we Americans like to flavor as many edibles as possible with the flavor of pumpkin?”  Yeah, that.  Sigh.  Good grief.

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Filed under beer, Coffee, Food, Observations

World Cup recap – bonding over balls and beer

Are you a soccer fan? Prior to the recent World Cup tournament, I certainly wouldn’t have declared myself to be one. When I answered Matt Baumgartner’s call for temporary employees to assist during the tournament, I was responding as a worker, not a soccer fanatic. But, something has definitely changed. This whole soccer thing? I think I like it.

Although two of my boys play soccer, I’ve avoided the moniker “soccer mom” with the skill of a teenager ducking household chores. Not me, no way. I attend games and cheer enthusiastically from the sidelines, but I certainly have no interest in driving around in a minivan with a soccer ball decal stuck to the back window. You know me, I’m not much of a joiner or follower.

The first match I worked was Team USA vs Portugal. The crowd at Wolff’s Biergarten was tremendous – pumped up and loud, but in no way aggressive or obnoxious. I loved their enthusiasm and the excitement was contagious. This was definitely going to be fun.

As “our” team advanced, along with Team Germany, the team of my maternal side of the family, I realized that my soccer playing middle son needed to be part of the scene. I arranged to bring him and a couple of his friends down to check out a match. They were awesome! In a crowd of hundreds, they hung out, clad in red, white and blue, mesmerized by the game and the other spectators. I was impressed by their poise and comfort and knew that Griffin and I would become regulars for the duration of the tournament.

As the matches came fast and furious, so did the communication between my family and me – emails, Facebook messages and status updates. Knowing that my family in Germany were occupied watching the same event as we were, was intensely comforting. Who knew that a ball game could make the world seem so small? I absolutely loved it.

When Team USA was eliminated, we placed our energy into cheering on the motherland, Deutschland. Our German flag accompanied us to the subsequent matches and I cherished the opportunity to be proud of being German in a world that doesn’t always perceive us as being worthy of admiration. The hefeweizen flowed and steins were raised amidst shouts of Prost! and Griffin and I hung out, side by side, united in our interest for 90+ minutes.

Photo: Wolff's Biergarten

Photo: Wolff’s Biergarten

Four years from now, my son will be 19, perhaps not as inclined to hang out in a sports bar with his mom as he was this year. I’d like to think, though, that he’ll someday tell his own children about the times he and I spent together watching the World Cup. If he doesn’t, believe me, I will.

More pictures from the tournament here.

http://www.timesunion.com/seen-events/slideshow/SEEN-U-S-A-vs-Belgium-World-Cup-at-Wolff-s-88979.php

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Filed under Albany, beer, Boys, Events, family, Germany, soccer, Summer, television