Raven is constantly moving these days... apparently even as she is falling asleep... she is turned 90 degrees in her bed with her legs up against the bars and her feet stuck in... too funny! And she is fast asleep! Daddy had to pry her feet out and straighten her up. Hee, hee!
Sunday, May 22, 2011
The girls have a pajama day as part of their summer fun, but this last week Raven’s class had their own pajama day.
It was cold and rainy this last week, so I picked out Raven’s fabulous flannel owl jammies for her Pajama Day. Daddy added to the Cute Factor by putting her hair in two pig tails – too cute!
Raven’s pajamas were the hit of her class that day. As her teachers wrote on her sheet, “Cutest PJs ever!”
Friday, May 20, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
So my friend, Jeff, told me I should check out Windows Live Writer as an alternative blog posting tool, and here I am, testing it out. My main wonderment… do pictures work? Obviously earlier today I found that they don’t in the Microsoft Word Blog document… so we’ll see what happens here.
(The girls having fun at our house in Pella.)
Have a good night! Sleep tight!
I realize I haven't posted about life recently and that is mostly because we are all in a mode I like to call Adjusting.
But, we've been Adjusting for a few weeks now (the girls and I have, at least), and it is probably worth taking a few minutes to clue you in on the Happenings here.
So… to start, I'll give you a typical Day in the Life.
5:00 AM – Erin gets up; gets ready for work. Tries to remember to pack her lunch.
6:00 AM – Erin leaves for work.
6:01 AM – Girls wake up; wake Adam up.*
* Herein lies the description of the last week. I say "6:01 AM" because generally the girls have woken after I've left for work, but one day Julia was up before I left, another day Raven was up before I left, and at least one day, they slept in until about 7 AM. So, who really knows, other than that generally the girls wake up soon after I leave. And that maybe Adam should be writing this post instead of me. Ha!
And now I will break off into a tangent about how awesome blackout curtains really are. THEY ARE AWESOME. The one day the girls slept in was the day that it was severely overcast and thus their room stayed darker longer. We had blackout curtains in our last home and the girls slept until 7:30 AM routinely. Based on the crabbiness of our children in the evening, I believe that they would in fact sleep longer if their room stayed darker longer. And that they truly do need that extra bit of sleep.. Putting them to bed earlier is not an option because, again, their room isn't dark very early. That, and I wouldn't see them in the evening much. And we really don't want them getting up at 6:01 AM. Especially on Saturday and Sunday.
6:30 AM – 4:00 PM – Erin works. This, of course, is dependent on project work, etc., but these are my standard hours.
5:00 PM – Erin gets home.
So that is me. In that same timeframe, Adam is responsible for readying the children for daycare, taking them to daycare, taking care of various things at home and for himself throughout the day, etc. He has also been picking up the kids and we generally all descend on our apartment around 5 PM.
Usually we're eating dinner by 6 PM, we are done and cleaned up around 6:30 – 6:45 PM, and then dependent on the tasks to be done yet that night, we might wash dishes (all plastics need to be washed by hand because our dishwasher is demonic), give baths, watch a show/movie, etc. Mainly, we cuddle and snuggle with the kids as much as we can until bedtime. Especially Mommy. 'Cause at 5 PM it has been 21 hours since I have last seen the children awake.
After the girls go to bed, we finish whatever might have yet to be finished be it laundry or picking up the kitchen, etc., and we might talk or peruse realty online or watch a show. By about 9:15 PM I am complete toast and I might read my book for 15 – 30 minutes before falling asleep, only to wake up numerous times during the night because we are still adjusting to sharing a double bed after 9 years of king-sized bed.
Not a lot of time for hobbies or… much of anything else, really. Somehow in the next few days I need to talk myself into getting up earlier yet to get in a short workout before the day begins … we'll see how that goes. At this point I'm not really sure why buying a house larger than our apartment is even necessary as I don't see how I'll have time to do anything other than what I'm already doing, but I know that with time I'll (we'll) adjust to our new way of life and things will start to "fit" in again.
As Adam mentioned in his guest post, he arrived on May 7th only for me to wake up at 4:30 AM on May 8th with the flu. That was a fantastic (SARCASM) day of laying around and being sick wishing we were doing the things I had planned for the day instead. Thankfully this last weekend we were able to get out and on Saturday we tooled around Denver Metro looking at homes. We did this again on Sunday after attending church. Let me just say that our kids are angels for sitting in the car for that long. We left at 9 AM on Saturday and got home ~6PM and on Sunday we left home at 9 AM and got home ~5 PM.
All in all, though, we still feel like we're in the right place and now that Adam is home with us, my anxiety level has decreased significantly as I'm no longer the only parent around making decisions, changing diapers, running baths, making breakfast/lunches/dinners, picking up sick kids, etc. In fact, today is yet another day that I feel extremely blessed to have Adam home with us because Little Miss Raven was sent home about an hour ago with a fever. Thank God for Dad being there to be able to pick her up! (Only so that Mommy doesn't have to use PTO – not because I don't want to be there!)
My hope for this post is for it to come full circle by the end…
… so for a little back story, I have been reading a lot of Christian fiction lately, most notably Ted Dekker. Ted Dekker writes the Circle Series which was suggested to me by a friend who had received the suggestion from our chiropractor. (From what I've read online, this series was meant to be a trilogy and the trilogy is years old, but at the bequest of many fans, the series now contains a FOURTH book in it called "Green". I've read the first three but haven't read the fourth as yet.)
It's been a long time since I've written a book review, and that isn't the intent of this post, but I feel I need to provide a few key points about this series to tie it to the overall intent of this post. The Circle Series centers around Tom Hunter/Thomas of Hunter, the main character of the novels. After a series of events, he finds that he is living in two different realities which exist when he dreams – in other words, when he dreams here, he is living there, and vice versa. One of the realities is "the future" and the other is "history". In one reality, he is a washed up kid in need of a purpose and without God, and in another reality, his purpose IS God (who is called Elyon in the books).
One of the key takeaways from these books is The Great Romance, as it is called in the books. One would be a fool not to realize the parallels between the story of this series and the actual expectation we have as Christians to be in a relationship with Jesus. A relationship… yes, but also to realize God is Love, God loves us, and we are his people, his church, his bride. He loves us that much; He loved us so much that he died for us; He wants us to love Him in return and to love others as well.
Another key point is that we have to be vigilant in maintaining this relationship – it requires prayer, being in His word, being with His people. We cannot simply say that we know and believe and live according to that without maintenance. Plainly in this book when His people began to rely on their knowledge of the Great Romance, but not relying on Elyon/God Himself, their reality of the Great Romance and Elyon began to skew. They began to doubt, they began to twist the purpose and meaning behind His love, and they began to live according to their own means and beliefs instead of resting in the wisdom and faithfulness of God.
I'll confess that when I read these books, these ideas all swirled in my mind, but they didn't take root. I knew this already… it wasn't anything new to me. I took it with a grain of salt, but I didn't really see the awesomeness of it at the time. It was a beautiful story that paralleled the love that Christ has for us and how the world has come to treat that love, but outside of that, because it was "just a book", I wasn't applying the ideas to my own life.
Yesterday my family and I went to church, one that was local to us and held in a high school auditorium (Colorado Ridge Church, www.coloradoridge.com). I haven't been to church in some time – I think it was late March or early April? – due to moving and traveling and everything else going on around us (add to that, being sick a few Sundays – yuck). I was looking forward to attending and finding a church again as a family, but at the same time there is hesitation because it can take time and now that we are a Family of Four, there is so much more involved than simply finding a good place for Adam and me as a couple. So, you have to love when you pick a church for proximity's sake and it turns out to be a "good" one. While we plan to check out other churches in the area, it's a good feeling to want to repeat attendance.
The pastor we heard preach yesterday was Craig Kubiszewski (say that fast 10 times, if you can say it at all). He is a student pastor, and as Adam put it, he is younger than the two of us combined (ha, ha, ha, I told Adam he couldn't be negative years old). However, he was full of passion and vigor and very obviously, love, for His Lord. It was awesome to hear him speak.
He preached on Daniel 2, and the takeaway from the sermon was the following points:
- All wisdom comes from God. (Proverbs 2:6 – 8; James 1:5)
- God will never leave or forsake His faithful.
- Daniel 2 (the story of Daniel's interpretation of the king's dream) is a story about God's greatness and faithfulness.
All wisdom comes from God – Daniel didn't have the answers that the king desired, but Daniel knew that God had the answers. Often when we are looking for answers or direction, we might pray and ask God for them, but if we don't hear a response from him right this instance (which is a direct result of our culture of instant gratification), we look elsewhere. We look to the world for answers. But all wisdom comes from God, and He will provide us with directions and answers in His perfect time.
We can tie the second point into that as well. God will never leave or forsake His faithful. So while it may seem at times that God has forsaken us, really we should wonder if we have forsaken God and therefore we aren't really listening… we aren't really following… we aren't really seeking His direction. We shouldn't leave behind our values, morality, and character just to "fit into" the world. God is looking for those who are faithful and blameless so that He can bless them. So while it may be hard to walk in Christ in this world, it is expected of us and we will be blessed for it.
At the beginning of the service, we sang Lead Me to the Cross by Hillsong United. At the opening of the service and then again to close it, we sang Your Love Never Fails by Chris Quilala.
It was while we were singing this second song a second time that I recalled the lyrics from Lead Me to the Cross… where your love poured out. Note what it says… where your LOVE poured out (so many people sing this song incorrectly and sign "where your blood poured out")… and suddenly I was hit with this overwhelming feeling…
God is faithful. God will never leave us or forsake us. God was faithful and didn't forsake Daniel because He loves us. It is so simple, isn't it? And yet, I think so often we forget that very simple thing – how awesome and great His love is. For us. For us. His creation. And it was then that I remembered the Circle Series. It was then that I remembered this fluffy, cute thing in the books called The Great Romance, which was really about Elyon/God wanting a relationship with His people… God wants a relationship with us… being faithful and never forsaking His people… loving His people to the point of death…
How can we not say that along with God's faithfulness never failing, truly His love never fails. How does it feel to know you are loved that way? Loved that much? That no matter what, He loves us? He can't stop loving us. To know that there is a being that loves you that way and longs for you to accept His love and to love Him in return? There is no one who can offer us the kind of love that Christ offers us. He poured out his love for us on the cross. He showed Daniel His love by offering Daniel wisdom, by staying with Daniel, by proving His faithfulness.
How else to tie this to the books I read… as I stated above, I treated it as a story and not as truth, because it was a fiction book. It is hard to fully explain how this all relates without telling you the entirety of the books, but upon hearing the Scripture, the words of the pastor, and the words of the songs, I was overwhelmed with the truth in the books, the realization that God IS Love, and how awesome that love is. I suddenly remembered parts of the book that I had skimmed and they had new meaning to me; so much of the story in Daniel and in the words of the sermon was reflected back to me.
Ironically, both the Circle Series and Daniel 2 had to do with dreams as well, and I didn't even think about that part of it until well after I had decided that I needed to write about this. Heh.
Mainly, how awesome that when I try to infuse Christ into all aspects of my life – whether at work or at play (reading Christian fiction) – it all comes full circle and ties together so beautifully – inviting God into EVERY part of my life makes all of the parts singularly that much better.
Do you know what Daniel does after God imparts wisdom on Him? He doesn't immediately run to the king and tell him that he knows his dream and has interpreted it. No, first, he thanks and praises God. (Did you read Daniel 2?) So, between the songs and the sermon, and then suddenly remembering the Circle Series, I was overwhelmed with the need to thank and praise Him for His love. I immediately began thanking and praising Him for bringing our family through the last six months of "unknown" and for bringing us back together. It was a nice idea to think that God would quickly answer our prayers last November of "where", "when", "what" the day that Adam turned in His resignation, but He didn't. It would have been nice for God to answer us in our time, but He didn't. He answered us in His time. And in doing so, He showed us His faithfulness and greatness and love. Each step of the last six months has forced us to rely on Him. Had we chosen to rely on ourselves or force anything to happen in the world's time and ways, we would be a hurting family unit.
Instead, we are strong in Him. Instead, we have seen what God can do and hopefully others have seen the awesomeness of God through what He has done for us. He has shown us His greatness by following His path, albeit different than what the world expected. How else could we have gotten to where we are without Him being behind it all? How else will we continue to move forward?
All of this time, we have been praying and asking that He show us, help us, guide us. And finally my eyes were opened to the Greatness that is God and all that He has done for our family… to the Love that He showed us, and I've never felt a stronger need to fall prostrate.
I wish I would have written this yesterday. Like a dream, so much of what I was hoping to convey in this post was stored in my short term memory, so I hope that you understand my meaning and direction. Mostly, I hope that you know how much God loves you. How faithful He is. How great. I hope you know that He will never forsake you. I hope if you are struggling right now that you know Him and that you can go to Him and know that he will never leave you. And, I hope that no matter where you are in your life, you feel that need to praise and thank Him for all that He is and all that He has done and all He has yet to do in your life. How great is our God, how great is His love. Truly.
Do you hear that, Blogger? I am considering moving to Wordpress.
Well I thought I'd report back in about my transition to Colorado.
My time in Pella went fast and I had a honey-do list of things to do around the house as well as things to pack for our apartment in CO. I did take two days to do some last minute job-shadowing of some of the brewers in Des Moines, which will be beneficial from a job hunting standpoint. It was also the annual Tulip Time festival in Pella and I got one last chance to eat the famous treats from the food stands and say goodbye to some friends that I bumped into around town.
On Friday night I also had a chance to say goodbye to my CSP home brewing compadres at a good friend's 40th birthday party. Gonna miss that bunch a bunch.
On Saturday morning I got up at 5AM (10PM Munich time...I didn't sleep much that night and am guessing I got between 2-3 hours of sleep due to insomnia/jetlag). So on little sleep I began my 11 hour drive out to Denver, CO. I had pre-arranged to meet one of my Siebel classmates out in Elk Horn, IA, at 8 AM who is opening a brewpub. Elk Horn has another large European windmill and his brewpub will be located directly across the parking lot from this town's tourist attraction (see pic).
He had very little to show since it was just a hollow building at this point, but he walked me through the layout and future plans...I'm really excited for him and his business since he has a lot of great things going forward.
The rest of the trip was quite uneventful except that I needed a 1/2 hour nap after lunch due to drowsiness. I did stop at the welcome center and snapped this pic to prove that I actually did make it to CO.
The last 3 hours of driving was really testing my wakefulness but I was so excited to be back with my family that I just pushed through. I think I got to the apartment around 6:30PM mountain time. The rest of the night was a blur and I don't think I was speaking sensibly, but my head was clear the next morning at least. Erin unfortunately got hit with a 24 hour flu the next morning (Mother's Day) so that sucked for everybody here as well.
Monday was reserved for standing in 4 different lines at 3 different places in order to get my CO license and plates. It only took me 5.5 hours, but dang, that truck looks sexy with the CO plates, don't you think?
The remainder of my week was learning my kids' daycare routine, orientating myself and brushing up on my resume, cover letter and business cards. I acknowledge that most craft brewery types don't follow the white collar traditions of business cards, but I still wanted to get my name and contact info out there, so I created a networking tool that is universal in the the beer biz--a coaster! (see pic of homemade coasters from blank coasters and custom rubberstamps)
Hopefully this baby has enough info and enough playfulness that I will be remembered and contacted. A big thanks to Dan from Schillermedia.com who helped me layout the custom stamp and to my wife who came up with the catchy slogan "Will brew for work."
On Saturday the fam got in the car and armed with an iPhone, GPS, and printout from Realtor.com started doing drive-by's of houses and neighborhoods. Even though our house in Pella hasn't sold yet, we need to stay proactive in case it does....it is a large time investment for house-hunting, but it is fun for we A-types like Erin and me. The kids held up pretty well considering we covered 180 miles and were in the car nearly all day with just a few stops to get out and eat and break for the bathroom. We found a lot we didn't like, but a few that we really did. On Sunday we attended a church about 3 blocks away and afterwards drove around and looked at houses in 3 different 'burbs. Only spent 3 hours driving around this time (but we were gone from 9 AM – 5 PM).
This week I will venture out and hand out "coasters" and start networking with breweries, hopefully I can land a job, but even if there aren't any openings immediately I'm prepared to do some job-shadowing and interning in the meantime.
Oh and as an added bonus, I found these pictures of some trees in the Hofgarten in downtown Munich. I randomly took the first picture and then 2 weeks later I was back in the same spot with some friends and remembered taking a picture there, so I scrolled back through and tried to recreate the same picture/angle as close as possible. These were taken about 15 days apart....look at how fast the leaves emerged!
Thursday, May 12, 2011
I have Windows 7 now. Both at home and at work. How fun!
Today I was working on a Word doc, and noticed when I clicked "new" that "New Blog post" was one of the options. Color me intrigued. I clicked the button and am seeing what happens. Possibly this will make my blog writing more enjoyable especially in terms of pictures. I have a load of them at home that I want to share, but I am struggling with the email upload format (quick and easy but which isn't very pretty) vs. opening Blogger to compose and upload pictures (TIME CONSUMING at best, and not at all fun otherwise). I haven't made the jump to WordPress yet, so maybe this is the interim "fix" to my "problem"? We'll see.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
top 10 Germany and USA differences
10. Munich trains vs chicago trains - sound proof and smooth trains in Munich, I had actually thought the CTA trains in Chicago were nice until coming back and riding them after riding the Munich trains, I think tractors driving across a field are smoother....and quieter.
9. free open wifi - Chicago has free wifi everywhere, well, about 50% of the connections are open to the public but they are easy to find. Munich has one open wifi, at Burger King in Munich, otherwise they are ALL password protected, frustrating when you don't have real phone service and only a wifi device and you could really use google maps at that very second.
8. water - water isn't water in Germany (or should I say "wasser"?). The first few times that many of us ordered a "wasser" we got CO2 sparkling water. Even when we tried to order it "on tap" we would get it with CO2. We finally broke down and asked how we were supposed to order plain tap water. Naturale = CO2, medium = less CO2 and Stille = plain tap water. Whereas in the US, you can't find sparkling water even if you have a wifi device handy.
7. credit cards - Probably only used it 3 times in Germany because nobody accepted it, some places did but the minimum purchase was usually around 35euro. Cash only for everything, whereas in the US I'll buy a stick of gum with my plastic and go for weeks with only carrying a $10 bill in my pocket. Ah, back to the world of charging everything...
6. trees - So when I got back to Chicago I was expecting the leaves to be the same size as in Germany. nope. Summer leaves in full swing in Germany and just starting to grow and fill out in US, yeah, I get to experience two springs this year!
5. bum's street clothes - We bumped into a few street bums in Germany and Belgium that actually dressed up in a dress or suit in order to look presentable before begging. Whereas when I got to Chicago I saw people wearing dirty shirts, messed hair, untied shoes (these weren't the bums, but just some typical Chicago people) I find it perplexing how we in a our "rich" country can decide to keep ourselves so unclean and the bums from Europe actually take the effort to dress up a little.
4. house construction - I looked at a lot of houses when I was in Germany and Austria and I like the construction. They are typically red tile "cinder" block walls coated with stucco plaster and then red tile shingles. There also was a lot of authentic wood window shutters and really cool balconies that give that Bavarian-house look. As a result these houses stay pretty cool and rarely need to use air conditioning. In comparison US houses have cheap stud walls with cheap vinyl siding and cheap asphalt shingles filled with cheap Chinese made stuff from Walmart. (Germans try to buy eveything made locally or at least from the EU) Well at least we aren't in a housing crisis or anything....
3. beer/smoking - Yes you can drink beer on the streets, as well as the trains in Germany. Nobody looks at you funny or condemns you. I think commuting and drinking responsibly is a good reward for not adding on more greenhouse gas-emitting vehicle to the roads (the trains run by electricity) But for every good thing, it is balanced by bad. Way too many smokers for my comfort, and even though Germany recently passed a law saying you can't smoke in restaurants, you still saw it happen a lot and the bier gartens were sometimes a large outdoor ashtray. I appreciate the smokefree areas that we have in the States...
2. world news, especially US news - after talking with the Perssons, I realized how arrogant we Americans can be. They told me about the tornados in AL and news about the Obama staff personnel changes. Apparently the US impacts the rest of the business world so much that most Germans closely follow the US elections, US politics and US news more closely than Americans do, most notably myself.
1. Pork - I don't want to eat pork for awhile (with the exception of maybe bacon, of course) Germans will occasionaly offer chicken or beef, but that is like finding veal and duck on American menus, you have to look a little harder for it. I would venture to say 90% of the meat I ate in Germany was pork whereas 10% of the meat I eat in the US is pork. But at least I can order about 10 different pork dishes in German now!
And I thought I'd share a few brain farts with you since I've been back...
1. I keep thinking that I can't call anybody that I know until after 2PM (7AM central time if I was still in Munich)
2. I keep looking for my European adapter every time I want to plug something into the standard electrical receptacle.
3. I couldn't find a recycling bin next to the trash bin in Chicago and resorted to throwing out a plastic bottle in the trash (about US$0.38 deposit if in Germany, ouch!)
4. I keep telling people "danke" instead of "thanks" even though I don't have to anymore
5. I woke up in my old Pella bed and was wondering what town in Germany/Austria I was in. (at least I have appeared to beat the jetlag finally!)
Also, I guess if you spend too much time in Munich and drinking Paulaner beer you begin to assimulate... ;)
Thursday, May 5, 2011
It is too bad that the bus didn't stop at least once for pictures on the way to Austria because the views were beautiful. Lakes, trees and the Alps speckled with country homes on the hillsides, never got a picture except in my mind.
The Austrian portion of the study tour began in Salzburg at a large brewery called Stiegl. 350hl batches probably is as big as any of the AB or Miller plants in the US. This brewery was only a few years old from being updated and looked great! They also had a very large gift shop and biergarten which we all thoroghly enjoyed. Stiegl also claimed to have a brewery inside a brewery, because they had about a 5hl working pilot brewery that was located inside their museum. We couldn't spend much time in the musuem becuase of the schedule, but it was really well put together like the Field Museum in Chicago for instance. (see pic of mural with hops) Lunch and biers in the biergarten, of course.
We then headed across town to the Austrian Augustiner brewery (not be confused with the one in Munich). This is still owned by the monks from a different monestary and will 100 years old next year. They are still using the same equipment that they used 100 years ago, and plan to completely update and renovate for their centennial celebration. They gave us each a stein to take home and even though their beer was direct-fired and still cooled in coolships (see pic), I loved their maerzen, simply fantastic! What also was amazing was that they still use primarly wood barrels for serving their beers (an empty barrel weighs around 100lbs). Their biergarten was very old and had huge Chestnut trees (which I found out is the traditional biergarten tree) and was setup with food vendors along the perimeter where you had to pay separately at each place to get your food/beer. We had free beer but the food wasn't. A few of the guys bought and shared a steckerlfisch (grilled whole fish on a stick) they said it tasted awesome.
After checking into our hotel, we got back on the bus and headed to Gusswerks brewpub north of Salzburg....a little taste of American Brewpubbery. (I should point out that our first brewery that we visited this day was over 500 years old, the 2nd was 100 years old and this brewpub was exactly 5 years old....nifty) An entreprenuer, from Austria but studied in Ireland, started this brewpub using borrowed money from friends and built it from the ground up. He had several lagers but also some ales including.....a stout! They served us pizza appetizers and some amazing bbq ribs and semmelknodel (bread dumplings). Not surprisingly, we craftbrewer-types had 5-10 times more questions for our host compared to the big breweries that we visited, this hit close to home. Afterwards, Michael arranged for 5 cabs to bring us all home. As we were waiting I wandered around the grounds and found an art gallery that was still open at 11:30PM and looked around. The art didn't impress me as much as this motion-sensing projector that was mounted on the ceiling and pointed to the ground. I saw very realistic koi fish swimming around, when I walked onto the projection, I heard water noises and noticed the waves in front of my feed....the fish also reacted to me by swimming in the opposite direction. COOL! there was also popcorn popping and coffeebeans as well, but the fish were my fav. (This video shows something similar, but my fish were more responsive.)
The next morning we visited another very old brewery called Eggenberg...the brewery/castle burned down in the 1800's and was rebuilt again. This brewery is famous for one of the highest alcohol lagers called Samichlaus. The buildings were very cool and we ended in the upper room full of deer antlers as well as boar tusks and ram horns (see pic), also the best freshmade brezen I have ever had served alongside their beers. I didn't care for their other biers that much, but the 14% Samichlaus tasted great, as always (very dangerous beer because you can hardly taste the alcohol, too smooth).
We then traveled to Hopstetten brewery that was quite old, but has thwarted tradition in exchange for innovation and creative beers (still mostly lagers...give them a break for trying) They still used a huge leatherbelt driven grainmill and used the old copper kettles (as did most of the old breweries in Austria). Their main claim to fame is their steinbier. Since they are located in a region that mines a lot of granite, they have open fermentors and a lot of other things around the brewery made from huge blocks of granite. (see pic of me in garden watering tank, the fermentors were taller and wider than this, but not as long) In addition to primary fermenting their beers in stone, they also would heat up smaller stones on the fire and put them in the fermenting beer so that caramel flavors and colors would be imparted, these rocks sat on the bottom during the whole fermentation. Most Austrian breweries served an unfiltered lager called a zwickelbier and Hopstetten called theirs kubelbier ("bucket beer" because the owner's dad used to serve guests at parties by running down in the cellar and pull a bucket of beer from the zwickel tap for immediate consumption.) We tried the same. We also tried their maerzen (called "wedding beer" for the American market), a honey lager made with 25% honey (there is a large honey maker in the area), a honey bock and a barleywine. These all tasted fantastic.
We then headed to a town called Schlagl where there is also a large monestary that brews beer (the only brewing monestary still left in Austria). Half of us stayed at the monestary that night and I stayed with the other half in Schiffner's Gasthaus. This guy named Schiffner opened a bed, breakfast, restaurant and beer bar and employs his whole family. He is a professional beer sommelier (or "cicerone" in the US). They prepared a five-course dinner (each course is served with a different beer, see pic of menu) for us which was followed by a rare treat. There was a lot of "weird" stuff on my plate, but I tried everything and actually loved everything, it was so amazing. I have done two other 3-course beer dinners before, but these were served for 1000 guests and didn't have the extra care that was provided for our 40 person meal. I enjoyed all the food and the beers by themselves, but wasn't convinced that each pairing was better than the parts, not that I cared. After dinner the owner from Eggenberg brought us a 3liter bottle of 3 year old oak-aged Samichlaus. The beer held up wonderfully. Many people stayed up until dawn partying with the Eggenberg guy since he was bringing out more bottles of crazy beers like Brewdog's Sink the Bismark. I was still recovering from a bad cough and went straight to bed. If I was feeling a little better, I would have endulged in some of Schniffner's 150 beer selection from around the world.
The next morning we actually just walked down to the Schlagl brewery at the monestary and had another tour. Most notable about Schlagl was that they used a kettle and lauter tun that were square and painted blue from the outside....I'm not sure what they were lined with on the inside, I sure hope it wasn't blue paint. Even though they weren't that big, they were the only brewery that we visited that had a CO2 recovery system (see pic of buffer balloon). Large places like Steigl might have had one, but it wasn't pointed out to us. Something else that was unique is that many of the breweries had water treatment before sending the treated water down the drain to the city, but in the US, we like to brag about our "green" efforts whereas the Germans/Austrians just do it as a way of life and try not to draw attention to the "waste" portions of the breweries. Afterwards we went into their restaurant cellar where they had about 10 large wooden fermentors that they cut open and put dining tables inside. (see fuzzy, poorly lit photo that shows about 6 of us in one)
The last stop of the tour we actually headed back to Germany and on our way to Munich we stopped at Flottweg where they make centrifuges another other "separation technology." This company was SOOO excited to have us visit, they were giving us things and food and taking our pictures and kept reminding us how honored they were to have us visit. This was very perplexing to me because I tried to explain to the sales rep (btw, I think Austrians know better English than the Germans do) that since all of their equipment will only provide a payback after the brewery is over 100 barrels/batch, that we probably wouldn't be purchasing their products, albeit them very cool. He didn't seem to mind and they just wanted us to know about them and what they could do.
Most of the group was heading to Fruehlingfest at the Theresienweise (Oktoberfest grounds) but I had arranged another stay and didn't really want to go out anyways. Stina's parents, Clary and Rolfe Persson, live south of Munich and a few towns north of Aying in Hohenkirchen. They were both so hospitable. Clary did a load of laundry for me, let me call my wife, made supper, gave me biers and then next day offered to drive me to the airport. After supper we sat around the dinner table for about 6 hours just sharing each others company, I really enjoyed learning more about Germany, they even taught me Str8ts (a number puzzle like Sudoku). They can also see the alps from their town and were trying to describe a strong wind that they experience called a fohn. I didn't quite understand until I wiki'd it and the American spelling helped jog my memory. I will actually be experiencing similar fohn in Denver but on the east side of the Rockys they are called Chinook winds instead. Two interesting things they told me about the Alps fohn is that (a) they will have red sand in the air that they have traced comes from the Sahara desert and (b) the effects of the wind will seemingly magnify the Alps so close you think you can touch them (about 60-100km away in reality). I wish I could experience that because they said it isn't wavy like heat on the road, but crystal clear. Temperature swings of 30C hotter and then 30C colder in the matter of hours commonly give people headaches too, apparently.
The next morning Clary suggested that we go for a bike ride to Aying, which is about 8km south. Beautiful day and good suggestion. We stopped at the Leibhards biergarten again for one last German lager, and it was fantastic like Ayinger beers tend to be when fresh. When we got back we loaded up the car and head to the airport. Uneventful car and plane ride on Saturday, and unevent train and bus ride (Chicago to DSM) on Sunday.
Well, that's my brewery school summed up in 13 (sometimes long) blog posts. I hope you enjoyed following along as much as enjoyed the emails and comments. Jay might have me check back with a guest post in the future, but I am intending to keep this up on my wife/family's blog for at least the short term. The only future plans that I have right at the moment is to move out to Denver to join the rest of my immediate family (who has already stormed 2 weeks without me.) I'll then begin my search for a brewery position...here's to successful job hunting and putting my diploma to use.
[raises glass] Prost!