Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Automobile standouts from 2017!

By request, I am going to start sharing more pages and experiences on this blog from Lifestyle Publications auto column and Instagram! Here’s Part One of what I have driven in 2017. This Chevy Bolt EV above was an impressive hybrid!

Cheers Everyone!
So yes, as many of you know, I also review cars, hence my “Cruisin’ For A Brewsin’” slogan is complete! Of course, I know how to separate the two and responsibly feature both separately, so when we are not drinking, we need cars to get us around, right? Well, while my Ale Sharpton alter-ego takes a break, I love testing out automobiles, and do my best to let you and my millions of readers for Lifestyle Publishing’s Driver’s Notebook section know what’s hot on the road with a more down-to-earth, everyday life approach. I thank you and the automakers for asking me to share my experiences on this blog. That means a lot!
With 2017 coming to a close, I am going to start posting some of the sedans, coupes, trucks, vans and sports car standouts that I have reviewed throughout the year. To kick things off, I am going to start with General Motors since Chevrolet has an incredible deal right now where EVERYONE gets their gracious employee discount for a limited time. (Go here for details.)

2017 Chevy Bolt EV
I was blown away by the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV. This is especially true when GM lived up to the hype that was generated from this all-new hybrid; its super cool representatives boasted it could make it to Asheville, N.C. on one charge from Atlanta and challenged me to see for myself. And guess what? It did! And after plugging it in at a charging station at the Aloft Hotel, I explored one of the most amazing beer cities in the world. Here is my full review for one of the many Lifestyle Publications that featured it along with my Instagram post here. That's an interior shot which also aimed to please.
Base price: The LT Trim is $37,495; Premium is $41,780 with all options as reviewed.
Gas mileage: 255 city/217 highway/238 combined
Please go here for more information.

I got a chance to drop the top down on Buick’s 2017 Cascada coupe that was a joy to drive during the late summer in Atlanta. Its standouts included a top that was easy to collapse when hitting the road (and great for the threat of rain), a surprisingly roomy trunk for a convertible, and a lot of options for the starting price around $33K. (My 1SH Sport Touring edition was $37,990 fully equipped including 4G LTE Wi-Fi.) Its sleek body, 5-star safety score, roomy trunk, and availability in Sport Red with 200 horsepower made this car one of the most memorable for 2017. Folks used to say Buick is for only the elders. Their new line of four-wheelers including this Cascada has me begging to differ.
Base price: $33,065
Gas mileage: 20 city/27 highway
Please go here for more info.

SUVs are killing it in today’s auto industry because consumers value power, speed, great looks, high-tech options and expansive cargo while accommodating multiple folks. The 2017 Tahoe accomplishes all of these feats with stellar results. Up to nine passengers can travel in its luxurious cabin while the lucky conductor takes on the options of off-roading to maneuvering through busy city streets thanks to its four-wheel-drive maneuverability in numerous trims. Getting this in all black sitting on 18-inch, polished aluminum wheels had folks wondering if a high-powered politician was inside. (Check out the Z71 Midnight edition above.) This was fun to drive for sure, and my extended family and friends didn’t want to see it go. Neither did I.
Gas mileage: 16 city/22 highway
Please go here for more info.

2017 GMC Canyon
Want a solid four-door pickup with good looks, an ease to load, and the ability to haul a massive load for an amazing price? Look no further than the 2017 GMC Canyon.  Even with all of its capabilities powered by a 3.6L V6 engine, it still had a smooth ride, was easy to park, switched lanes effortlessly, and took on Atlanta’s busy roads while looking good doing it thanks to its attractive exterior. Coming in both a crew and extended cab, it’s your choice how much you want to utilize this for work or play starting under $21K!
Base price: $20,885
Gas mileage: 22 city/30 highway
Please go here for more info.

Look for more reviews soon!
(All photos courtesy of General Motors.)

Monday, December 4, 2017

North Carolina brewery follows up on my controversial article for CraftBeer.com.

Black Star Line owner L.A. McCrae adds more insight and thanks to those who supported her mission to make extraordinary beer.
Here is the front page of the CraftBeer.com article I wrote. (Photo by Scott Douglas)

It has been a busy fall, but I had the opportunity to write two articles this past month for what’s turning out to be one of my favorite media sources to contribute to—CraftBeer.com. They do whatever they can to support craft and independent breweries; showcase the people who make them possible; provide tutorials; and simply spread the love of what I consider the most complex and wondrous beverage in the world.
To add, I appreciate how especially the editor-in-chief Jess Baker agrees with what I consider worthy stories; rewardingly, the feedback has been tremendous since my first contribution this summer. It was this story on Brick Store Pub’s 20th anniversary which CraftBeer.com nominated for the 2017 North American Guild of Beer Writers Awards. That meant a lot! My profile on Little City Brewing in Raleigh here, and introduction to the incredible sour and barrel-aging complex Monday Night Brewing added called The Garage followed.
And then there’s my most recent CraftBeer.com article on BlackStar Line Brewing Co. here. It helped bring national attention to owner L.A. McCrae’s shocking recounts of racism, sexism, death threats, and overall shocking resistance from numerous members of their North Carolina communityespecially in their home base of Hendersonvillesince opening in early October of 2017. I was already familiar with Black Star through their Instagram posts on this handle, but when fellow writer Scott Douglas reached out and informed me of all the deplorable happenings that were going down, things got real. Scott wanted to know if I could help get the word out on a national level and I didn’t think twice. Luckily, CraftBeer.com was the first media source I reached out to and Jess didn’t blink an eye. It was posted within a business day of my submission.
L.A. McCrae at  her brewery. (Photo by Scott Douglas.)
The sharing of the article immediately followed on social media with retweets and Facebook posts, condolences in the comment section; financial backing to their crowdfunding campaign, and overall support from the craft beer community globally. Thankful for the results, L.A. wanted to extend the initial article by providing a follow-up interview geared towards recognizing others who have helped Black Star persevere; I happily posted our post-interview on my blog. Please read both the original article and L.A.’s important additions below.  Here it is:

L.A. McCrae: Ale, thank you so much for taking a late evening phone call from Javi [chief operation manager and assistant brewer Javier Naranjo] and I. We are so grateful for your responsiveness and support. As you know, last week was crazy busy for us. We completely overlooked mentioning some key parts of our story and want to make sure we give credit where it is due. Thank you so much for this follow up.

Ale: No doubt! I understand that you wanted to give some more detailed recognition to the many folks who supported you through all the adversity you have faced since Black Star Line's early stages in Hendersonville, right?
Yes. Almost from the very beginning of Black Star Line Brewing Co., Kendra Penland, the executive director of the Asheville Brewers Alliance, has been helping us navigate locations and connect with our craft brewing family. She, along with members of the ABA, provided us a warm welcome to the area and truly extended their resources and capacity to make us feel ‘at home.’ Countless hours were spent with Kendra texting, emailing, and over coffees and beer, planning for our future. As we were dreaming out loud about convening the first ever Black Brewers' Gathering, it was Kendra who immediately said the ABA would sponsor, support, and do whatever they could to help us with the event and build the guild. She has been a de facto member of the team and truly a mentor in the industry. Kendra, the ABA, and our local brew homies are not just allies, but co-conspirators as we seek to transform communities by producing great beers. 
Also, our attorney Derek Allen and his firm have been critically imperative to our operations. Derek has been super responsive and helped us navigate various challenges, manage our risk, and truly focus so that we can produce the best beer. Being in Hendersonville allows us to have that type of accessibility, hands-on mentoring and support. When traveling across the Northeast to find and settle home, we certainly made a conscious decision to do it where we have family. Kendra, the ABA, Derek, the crew at Mountain BizWorks, and other brew homies—Hillman Beer, Triskelion, Habitat and so many others—have welcomed us to the family and are the reason we settled here in these mountains. 

That’s dope.
It has been the community and fellowship of those in our craft brewing family that has kept us going. They have given us hope when we were hopeless, encouragement when we were down, hugs when we felt lonely, and truly filled our wells with love. Thank you, y'all. 

I think that this is really cool to let the world know how there are also good people to combat the ignorance that unfortunately still exists.
When we think about those who have provided support and have been on the front lines with us from day one and through the recent events, the list is fortunately extensive. 
Kendra Penland of the ABA was with us every step of the way from day one. She was the one who reminded the crew and I to center our selfcare and really help us live into our mission of practicing collective healing and liberation. Internally, we consider her as our ‘older sister’ in the brewing industry who really provides a critical role as our mentor. Kendra immediately rallied the troops to support us, connect with us, and opened her entire network to us to make sure we felt held, valued, and affirmed in the community. In fact, we still have folks to follow up with! Thank you, ‘Auntie’ and ‘Big Sistah’ K!
Derek [Allen] has been absolutely essential and always just a text away. He always has our best interests at heart and has been our rock throughout all of the challenges, including our recent threats. He welcomed us into the brewing industry without hesitation. Recently, he has kept us grounded, focused, and steadily advancing towards our mission. 
Karmen Olson from the Craft Brew Alliance has continued to provide support from across the country as we look to refine our branding and marketing. Most importantly, she has connected us with others in the industry who see our value, our mission, and what we are attempting to accomplish. 
Tiffany and Patrick Wood have been new local best friends who have supported us every day with food, drinks, laughter, conversations, emotional support, and encouragement.
The folks in the city of Hendersonville have blessed us beyond belief with cards, words of encouragement, hugs, hand-written letters, and affirmations. Truly, the community has surfaced to show that racism, bigotry, and bias will not be tolerated. Local businesses sported the hashtags #WeAreBlackStarLine and #StandwithBlackStarLine and hosted conversations about community transformation, justice, and our social mission. 
Community organizations in the Greater Asheville area such as Bountiful Cities and Nuestro Centro have offered to collaborate with us so that we can reach more people, draw the circle wider, and leverage their resources to support us during these difficult times. The Progressive Women of Hendersonville (PWH) have consistently shown up to support with their bodies, dollars, laughs, and hugs. Organizations such as the Highlander Center, Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD), and Charlotte Uprising have continued to hold us in their thoughts and prayers and simply held space for us in a way that is inexpressible in words. Thank you. 
Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Highland, Preyer, Birdsong, Wedge, Gizmo Brewing, and so many others in the local brewing community have offered their time, talents, and treasures to bring light to diversity and inclusion in the craft brewing industry. It feels like our family grew beyond our wildest imaginations.
Without a doubt, there have been front line warriors who continue to be advocates, allies, co-conspirators and friends. For them, the Kendras, Dereks, Joes, Lisas, etc., we are forever grateful. 

Any last mentions? What would you like to see happen now?
We would love to lift the work of the Asheville Brewers Alliance because truly, without them and their steady mentoring and programming, we would not be here today. As it is the end of the year, we encourage folks to check out the ABA website [avlbrewers.com] and consider making a donation. The team at Sanctuary [Brewing], the ABA, Kendra, and Derek can certainly be cited for incubating our business and holding us with the care of a newborn baby as we mature in the industry and deal with challenges such as those we endured in this last week. 
Without a doubt, the frontline folks—through this experience and since the beginnings of Black Star Line Brewing Co.—have been essential to our success. Not only do they continue to provide support and mentoring, they are more than friends; they are family.
Thank you. 

For more information, visit their blackstarlinebrewing.com website, on Facebook, and follow them on their fun Instagram handle at @blackstarlinebrewing.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Don’t miss Creature Comforts’ triple bottle release on 11/24!

This stellar brewery is releasing Booger Hill, DaySpring, and Golden Door limited 750-mL bottles on the 24th!

Cheers Y’all!
As many of you know, I am a huge fan of Creature Comforts out of Athens, GA, because they are not only one of the best breweries in the state or even the South, but in the nation. It doesn’t hurt that they have some really good people working for them. Well for those who are also CC believers, I am happy to announce that they have a major bottle release to the third power on Friday, November 24th directly at the brewery’s Tasting Room along with the launch of their Bottle Service. It’s going to be their Booger Hill barrel-aged biere de garde at 7.8%; the DaySpring grisette (5.3%); and Golden Door oak barrel-aged, mixed fermentation saison at 6.7% in limited 750-mL bottles. This whole trio should be dope. Go pop ‘em and find out!
The official release and descriptions are here and below straight from Creature.

Bottle Release Day 2017
We hope you will join us in our Tasting Room for our Bottle Release Day on November 24th, 2017. We will be releasing several bottles to-go as well as for onsite consumption. We are looking forward to sharing these special projects with you. For more information about the beers, check below.

Booger Hill is a barrel-aged biere de garde (7.8%) made with local honey from Booger Hill Bee Company. Booger Hill will serve as the second release from our Locally Grown Series, a series we use to showcase local ingredients sourced from farms in and surrounding Athens, GA. This beer was made over the course of 2.5 years and incorporated the disgorging process – a technique commonly used when making sparkling wine.

DaySpring is a grisette (5.3%) made with local wheat from DaySpring Farms. We first released DaySpring (2015) just a year after opening the brewery, and it was the first release from our Locally Grown Series. The 2015 release was the first time we sourced wheat from our friends at DaySpring Farms and we’ve now sourced their grains for several of our beers.

Golden Door is an oak barrel-aged, mixed fermentation saison (6.7%). Golden door is an expression of our house-mixed culture of yeast and bacteria – the backbone of our barrel program – and time. The flavor of this beer is driven by its time aging in wood.
 These three limited offerings will be available at the brewery starting on November 24. In addition, we will also launch our bottle service on the 24th for onsite consumption of limited and vintage bottle offerings.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Belgium is coming hard for the cold months!

New Belgium is making sure the holidays are extra cozy with numerous new releases!

I was blown away when I hit up New Belgium’s new Asheville headquarters last month thanks to the awesome tour and love they showed me while there. I honestly can’t wait to go back! Well to show how busy they have been, here are some dope releases they have coming out to combat the winter months including the Imperial Frambozen (right), the debut of the Blend Like a Brewer variety pack featuring a Cellar Blender Limited Release Sour Ale, the Belgian Reserve Honey Orange Tripel, and the latest Voodoo Ranger Special Release as a Red IPA!

The write up below is straight from the source.  Get your sippin’ on!
Your homie,

New Belgium has several releases out this month including the return of holiday favorite, Imperial Frambozen.

The brewery is also debuting a Blend Like a Brewer variety pack that encourages beer connoisseurs to get creative and mix beers together for a new take on old favorites like 1554. Plus, the pack includes a Cellar Blender Limited Release Sour Ale–something you can’t find anywhere else.

New Belgium Brewing’s Imperial Frambozen Returns with a Cocoa Twist
Additional releases out this month include a special Blend Like a Brewer Variety Pack, Honey Orange Tripel and Voodoo Ranger Red IPA

New Belgium Brewing’s Imperial Frambozen makes its return, just in time for the holidays. Also debuting this month is a Blend Like a Brewer variety pack that encourages beer connoisseurs to mix New Belgium favorites together in creative ways; Belgian Reserve Honey Orange Tripel, a Golden Strong Ale; and the latest Voodoo Ranger Special Release, Red IPA.

Imperial Frambozen with Cocoa
Frambozen, Flemish for “raspberry,” is the brewery’s celebration of the ruby red fruit found in Belgium’s Framboise ales. The raspberry ale is fermented with real northwestern berries and incorporates a touch of vanilla. This year, the seasonal favorite features an irresistible update – the addition of single origin, 70 percent pure dark Ghana cocoa husks, locally roasted and ground by Nuance Chocolate in Fort Collins. The beer is 8.5% ABV and available in 22oz. bottles in limited quantities.

Blend Like a Brewer Variety Pack 
This variety pack is ideal for adventurous beer drinkers looking for creative new takes on New Belgium favorites. Fat Tire Belgian White,1554Citradelic Tangerine IPAAbbeyTrippel and Cellar Blender – a dark, wood-aged sour ale fermented with fruit – are included in this mix, along with a recipe recommendations for blending the beers together from New Belgium brewers. For example, ½ Abbey blended with ½ 1554 will yield a Monk’s Pajamas, as dubbed by Brewer, Geoff Wenzel. The variety pack is on shelves now and would make a perfect gift for craft lovers (hint, hint).

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Second Self throws down for BDay #3!

ATL's Second Self Brewing turns three!
This is how far we go back. I took this when they were still building the brewery. 

Guest writer Alan Fowler shares his experience with Second Self’s third birthday.

(Okay, I have been all over the place and October was simply bananas! It's to the point where I didn't even notice this cool write up never got posted. Well fittingly, it's #ThrowbackThursday so why not make sure this gets love and recognize Second Self hitting year three? Well boom! Here ya go.)

Whaddup Y'all?!
I can’t cover everything and this time around I was unable to make Second Self’s birthday celebration at their brewery in Atlanta on October 7th. I am so happy for them and I go back to when I tasted co-founder Jason Samtaria’s homebrew four years prior. Well I am all about opportunities, so aspiring writer and photographer Alan Fowler was more than happy to cover this event. Show him some love! (Insert applause here.)
Anyway, happy birthday Second Self. I wish you many more! Take it away Alan!

Atlanta celebrates Second Self Brewing turning three!
Photo by Alan Fowler

Thanks Ale!
Second Self turned three years old over the weekend, adjusted into beer years that means they turned…well, three years old.
To mark the occasion, Second Self put out a specialty menu that was diverse and plentiful featuring all of the beers from the standard lineup as well as a handful of small batch beers only available for a limited time. Jovial beer drinkers were allowed to meander throughout the brewery where specialty bars were set up in addition to the main taproom. Of these specialty bars, “Barrel Island” was a beer lover’s paradise featuring an array of limited barrel aged releases that are as rare as seeing a Sasquatch riding a unicorn. Of these rarities, “Manic Pixie Dream Beer #1” was one that really stood out in terms of flavor and potency; it’s a Russian Imperial Stout with a well-hidden 13.9% ABV that was aged in “BLiS” bourbon barrels. This beer had a dynamic mocha flavor from start to finish and notes of maple and bourbon provided by the barrel tenure. The name suggests that another run of this beer may be on the horizon, and we can only hope so.
In addition to the specialty gems, the main lineup never disappoints and provides some stability in life. It wasn’t a bad idea to pick up a pint of the “ATale” and the clement weather was still warm enough to warrant the refreshment of “Maverick & Gose.” However, history tells us that it will get cold at some point, which means it will be porter season. Second Self has carved out a very impressive selection of porters that serve as wonderful companions to the crispness of fall and the approaching chill of winter. Their “Mole Porter” is a great place to start and the more adventurous will certainly find satisfaction with the “Funky Mole” or “Liquid Mexican Breakfast.”
Second Self has never been afraid to step out into the unknown in search of flavor—a testament to the bold spirit of their founders and team. The last three years have been marked by this spirit and the future is sure to continue in the same manner. Second Self’s taproom is always buzzing with fun events and specialty taps so be sure and check their events page for an overview of upcoming fun and beer releases. It is a great place to catch Atlanta United, or a football game, or to do some yoga; dogs are also welcome to tag along if they are of age (I kid).
Congrats to Second Self on a solid three years, and let’s raise a glass to many more to come!