Category Archives: Travel

August Schell Brewing – The Meaning of Craft & Tradition


This post is related to the recent controversy surrounding the “Definition of Craft Brewing” as defined by the Brewer’s Association as it relates to August Schell Brewing.  People are pretty steamed about the publishing of a [for lack of a better term] “Black List” of non-craft breweries in the US.   I am saddened by the whole mess.

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
George Orwell, Animal Farm

It’s 1860 and you want to start a brewery in the United States.  How easy do you think that was?  Probably not very…  I can’t even fathom what life must have been like in those days much less how hard it must have been to build a brewery.  Yet August Schell did just that.  Even more amazing is that Schell’s Brewing is still alive and brewing 152 years later and this timeline includes some pretty trying times.

Thanks to friend and fellow beer lover, Brett Glenna, I finally got an opportunity to visit New Ulm, Minnesota in October for a brewery tour and a slice of Schell history.  To say it changed my perspective on brewing traditions would be an understatement.


Brett Glenna & David Berg

Dave Berg [@schellbrewer] has been brewing at Schell since 2006.  He is walking encyclopedia of the history of the brewery and to say the least, he is intensely passionate about the beer he brews and about the brewery.  We were there during Oktoberfest and there were hundreds of adoring fans lined up waiting for the brewery tours but Brett & I got VIP treatment from Dave.  August Schell started the brewery in 1860 and times were pretty sketchy in that area.  The brewery was one of the only buildings in town that was not burned to the ground during the famous “Sioux Uprising” aka  the “Dakota Conflict” and all because of the kindness of the Schell family toward the Sioux people.  There were 1900 breweries before Prohibition began in 1919 and Schell’s Brewing Co.  was one of only 600 that remained when it was repealed 14 years later.  They survived by brewing soda and non-alcoholic beer but rumor has it their was a little moonshine action as well.  They almost lost their license for allowing a batch of beer to go out at .75 % ABV when .50 was all that was allowed by law.  Hard to fathom in this day and age.  Go to the Schell website and follow the timeline to learn in detail about these things.  It’s fascinating to read.

In 1885 August Schell built the mansion that exists on the property today for $5k which was no doubt a huge sum of money at the time.  Not long after that he spent $25k importing the copper kettle you see below.  Talk about having your priorities straight!  Clearly August was passionate about brewing beer from the very beginning and I would say this brewery has managed to keep that passion alive in the business over all 152 years of its existence.


The Marti family was involved early on in the Schell brewing tradition when George Marti married one of the Schell daughters.  The Marti family carries on the Schell tradition to this very day.  You can find the well-written response to the BA list from Jace Marti in the link at the  bottom of this post.  One of my very favorite stories told by Dave IMG_5995Berg during my visit to New Ulm was about the tiny, wee tap room in the brewery where the locals could go to drink beer and play cards.  The room was very small and located at the back of the cave in the brewery.  Warren Marti had his office directly above the “tasting” room.  When the boys got too rowdy,  which was often the case, Warren would simply turn off the tap from a shut-off valve in his office, signaling the night was over!   There was an “open ticket” program that started in the brewery after prohibition and lasted into the 80’s.  When locals came to the brewery to pickup beer, it was added to a tab which I think was settled up at the end of the month.  Sounds pretty dangerous to this beer girl.   I would probably have to turn over my entire paycheck every month!  Another great story that really touched my heart relates to business survival.  In the 70’s, Schell was struggling to make it’s payroll and times were very tough.  There was a 100 year old, extremely rare black walnut tree on the property that had been imported from Europe and it was worth a considerable amount of money.  The tree was sold to make payroll for the employees of the brewery.  That speaks volumes to the integrity of the Marti family.  There were no government bail outs in those days — imagine that!

beer_pilsI am not ashamed to say that I appreciate a finely crafted lager and Schell’s Pils tops my list.  Anyone that says this beer is not well made is woefully lacking in both taste and beer knowledge in my humble opinion.  There is much controversy surrounding the use of adjuncts in beer right now, but as is the case with Schell and many other reputable independent breweries, the use of adjuncts have their place in the brewing process.  Schell has been brewing beer styles that have weathered 150 years of history.  How dare anyone call them out for using local corn when it is clear the ingredient has been a part of their recipe since the very beginning.  This is not a macro-brewed beer using adjuncts to cheapen and lighten the product.  We know full well that adjuncts are used discreetly to enhance flavor in a myriad of “craft” beers and it is hypocritical to point out adjunct use for this very purpose at some breweries and not others.  Schell’s Pils has won many awards, including medals from the prestigious Great American Beer Festival and you can read a quote below from a craft beer legend that has likely turned in his grave over the publishing of this list.

” One of the best American examples of the Pilsner style.”
—The late Michael Jackson, world-renowned beer aficionado and writer.

DSC_0240August Schell Brewing Company has contract brewed for many well known “craft” brands including Schafly and 3 Floyds over the years.  Schell brews with pride and they stand by their product.  We should not marginalize their place in the world of craft beer based on loosely worded and frequently edited definitions of “craft” that seem to serve some type of agenda.  There are many breweries not on this list that use adjuncts with much less transparency in their beers.  Naming them serves no purpose but I will say that many of these beers are great tasting, well made and well respected.

At the end of the day, we decide which beers we spend our hard earned dollars on.  If I lived in a state that sold Schell beers, suffice it to say I would buy them.  If you have an opportunity to visit New Ulm, Minnesota in the future, by all means plan a brewery tour at Schell’s Brewing Co.  Of all the places I have visited in my beer travels, the day I spent in New Ulm stands out as a favorite for many reasons.  I consider this brewery to be “craft” and I wouldn’t let any list tell me otherwise.    Smart people don’t need lists – I’m just saying!   It is my sincerest hope that you will do the same.


Thanks for listening…

PS – People in Minnesota rock!  Especially the Glenna family who graciously took me into their home for the weekend and treated me like family.  I also had the pleasure of sharing beers with Mr & Mrs @13Mikey [Their real names I swear!]  The state has many things to be proud of.  #thatisall

Climb Mount Kilimanjaro with TheArtofBeer 2015

Plans are taking shape for the mother of all Craft Beer Team Expeditions to summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in September 2015!  My goal is to get 10 fellow craft beer evangelists on my team.  These people must be committed and dedicated.  I would like also like to make this a fundraiser for a Craft Beer charity.  Kili is not a big technical climb – it is a trek with the most technical part being the summit day.

This will be a professionally managed climb using a professional and respected operator like the one found in the link below.  The company must respect and properly compensate the native porters for their hard work and must also respect and protect the fragile ecosystem.  There are several companies that I have researched.  This is one possibility.

Climb Mount Kilimanjaro with The African Walking Company | the Best Guides on the Best Routes.

For budget purposes plan on about $3k for the actual expedition.  We will research airfare deals for best options but use $1k for a budget number.  It will be best to have a day or two there to get over jet lag before expedition begins.  It would also be great to spend a few days after to relax and explore Tanzania before returning home.  All told I will say that $5k is the budget figure to shoot for with savings goal.  If you start putting aside $40 per week you will save $5200 in 130 weeks – put it in a savings account and you will gain a bit of intrest as well.  You can also start your own fundraising efforts to help supplement your expenses.  Think of cheerleading camp fundraising in high school LOL!  Get your friends behind you so that you have support and a source of shame if you get lazy and quit!

While I am calling this TeamCraftBeerKiliClimb2015 — please know that during the climb, it is ill advised to drink alcohol because of altitude sickness and dehydration risk.  In other words, we are not doing this to drink beer every night.  We will however toast with a few sips of some highly “overrated” but highly loved CRAFT beer at the summit.  When we get back to lower ground, that’s when we will cut loose & CELEBRATE!!!!!

If you are truly interested in doing this then follow this blog and email me with you contact info and details about why you want to go.

More info soon my adventuresome friends!

Love and Respect


“The World is run by those who show up!”

Craft Beer in Oakland…

Oakland Amtrak Station     Jack London Square

Looking for a weekend getaway on the “left coast”?  I suggest Oakland.  That’s right — the place that often gets a bad rap for being thug central because of the Raider Nation.  The truth is that Oakland is a pretty cool place to visit if you like Craft Beer, Farm-to-Table Restaurants and an Urban Adventure.  If you live on the West Coast,  you can take Amtrak right into Jack London Square.  Otherwise fly into SFO or OAK and take BART (BayAreaRapidTransit) to the downtown Oakland City Center stop.  This post will highlight just a few places in Oakland that I frequent but there are several other great spots really close by.  The people here are friendly and fun.

I like to stay at the Waterfront Hotel at Jack London Square.  The Waterfront is part of the Joie de Vivre boutique, hotel chain which offers a different experience than the standard chain hotel and at affordable rates.
The Waterfront is a quirky little hotel right on the channel between Oakland and Alameda.  Some of the rooms have great views and there is a small, heated swimming pool and patio where you can chill out and soak up the sun on a nice day.  Miss Pearl’s Jam House is the on site restaurant that has a good selection of beer and a Slow Food approach to food.  Friend and Bison Brewing owner, Daniel DelGrande clued me into this place after my repeated gripes about the natty Courtyard Marriott in downtown Oakland.  Unlike the Courtyard, the Waterfront is clean, friendly and best of all; is just two blocks from Beer Revolution, my favorite place to enjoy beer in Oakland!

Beer Revolution is my kinda place.  Fraggle & Rebecca, the owners, are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. They have 47 rotating taps and they take pride in the fact that keep the lines meticulously clean.  Beer Rev has access to a lot of new releases and limited edition craft beers.  I savored a glass of Drake’s Brewing special barrel-aged  “Passionate Monkey” during a Tap Takeover event last year.  Last week, High Water Brewing (one of the newest breweries in the Bay Area)  “Aphotic Barrel Aged Baltic Porter” went on tap for the very first time and WOW was that a treat.  You get the picture…There are hundreds of bottles to choose from in the Beer Rev coolers as well.   It is not difficult to find something super special here and I always make it a point to ask the bartenders what the rare options are.  They do not serve food (yet) at Beer Rev but they do allow food from neighboring spots to be enjoyed on premise.  The Vegetarian spot on the corner is really good.  An expansion project is planned for Beer Rev later this year and it appears food will be part of it!
464 3rd Street
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 452-BEER (2337)

High Water Brewing

I fell in love the very first time I had dinner with friend Dan from Bison and Rock Star Chick Brewer, Alex from Drake’s Brewing in nearby San Leandro.  Chop Bar features seasonal, local ingredients when possible and they serve up some good craft beer and cocktails!  They have some great small plates that are perfect for sharing and I recommend doing just that when you visit Chop Bar.  One of the best things about restaurants committed to Slow Food concepts is a constantly changing menu.  You will never get bored because there is always something new to try.  Fresh ingredients that are in season and sustainably grow taste better.  That’s a fact!
Chop Bar
247 4th St Ste 111
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 834-2467

Drake's Barrel House

Drake’s Brewing Company (same ownership as Jupiter & Triple Rock in Berkeley) is about 10 miles from Jack London Square in Oakland and well worth the trip.  I am guessing a cab ride is about $20 but it is completely possible to take BART to the San Leandro Station and walk 1.25 miles to the brewery.
Visit the Beer By Bart website for details:
The Drake’s Barrel House opened last summer with 24 taps featuring the regular Drake’s line-up as well as seasonal choices and the incredible barrel-aged beers that they are now famous for.  You cannot get these special beers outside of the Bay Area “yet”, so this is your chance to see what all the buzz is about.  The Quaid’s Dream– Imperial Stout aged in Port Barrels with blackberries I sampled last week was brilliant but I must confess that I am still longing for another sample of Passionate Monkey!  Owners , John & Reid Martin, have the formula for success in brewing ventures as well as brew pubs.  Triple Rock & Jupiter are both Bay Area favorites within the Craft Beer Community.

It’s a bit hard to find Drake’s the first time. Look for the driveway to the right of Wal-Mart and the left of Sport’s Authority.  Drake’s is tucked back in the corner as you drive between the two buildings.
1933 Davis Street
San Leandro, CA 94577
(510) 568-BREW (2739)

Here are the links for a few other places in Oakland that deserve some props:

The Trappist
25 Taps & 100 Specialty Bottles
460 8th Street
Oakland, California

Luka’s Tap Room & Lounge
16 Taps & Specialty Bottles
Excellent Mussels!
2221 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94612

Linden Street Brewery
95 Linden St
Oakland, CA

The Inn at Jack London Square is not a bad alternative

Do "NOT" stay at the Jack London Inn! Very Scary Place

Enjoy Oakland and let me know how you liked it!


The Hopocalypse Approaches… « DrakesBrewing

When times get a bit tough, I measure my life in segments of  “things to look forward to”, aka small adventures that make me smile and forget the hard parts of life.   The event below @DrakesBrewery is one of those things.  It is not a secret that I am a fan and friend of talented young brewer @brewsugar (#girlpower) and that I am also a huge fan-girl of Drakes!  If you happen to be in the Bay Area on the weekend of the February 4th — check out this “not to be missed” event. I’ll buy you a beer if you show up!

Maybe we can play “Pin the Tail on the Beer Advocate Douchebag” and I will donate rare beers as prizes for winners!!!

Be sure to make public transportation arrangements or have a designated driver.

The Hopocalypse Approaches… « DrakesBrewing




Gastronomy: the art or science of good eating…

gastro mk – maison mk – marrakech – morocco

Few words are needed to describe the 5 course tasting menu I experienced dining at gastro mk on December 27th, 2011.  This was my last night in the vibrant city of Marrakech and it was my plan to end with the best.  Prior to my trip to Morocco, I found maison mk listed as one of, if not the best Riad in Marrakech.

The restaurant, gastro mk, offers a 5 course tasting menu nightly (closed Wednesday) and opens its doors to only 10 lucky people from outside the guests of the Riad.  I was fortunate to receive a booking and gastro mk certainly lived up to my expectations.

Head chef, Omar El Ouahssoussi combines the traditional, yet exotic Moroccan style of cooking with the brilliance of modern french cuisine.  The result is brilliant and gastro mk wins TheArtofBeer 2011 Culinary Excellence Award!

canapés on the terrace

carrot and leek velouté with honey

pumpkin and parmesan raviloi, with pastilla, sauteed vegetables and artichoke puré

leg of lamb confit, carrot and potato purée couscous with crunchy vegetables , moroccan t’faya and red wine jus

other selections offered:

**Or Grilled filet of john dory with Moroccan spiced lentils, beetroot purée, lychee and caramelised mango spaghetti
**Or mushroom tart with tomato concassé, broadbead purée, green asparagus and sautéed broccoli

marcascapone cream with dates, chocolate and banana cigars and mint tea jelly

**Have you ever scoffed down your photo subject before you took the photo? – Well that’s what I did here!!! For those that know me, the shadow of my hand taking the picture post 3 bites of goodness, has an eery resemblance to a “Wide-Billed Duck” shadow puppet — coincidence? I think not :)**

chocolate and caramel fondant, vanilla ice cream, ginger tuile

I rarely eat dessert but this was so enticing I could not stop myself!

The last piece of perfection I need to touch on at bistro mk is the service.  From the moment I walked in the door I felt welcome and comfortable.  The dinner, from start to finish, was nothing short of extraordinaire.  From my experience, this does not happen without a culture that teaches the importance of true service and hospitality.  Cheers to owners Paul & Aoibheann Hopkins along with outstanding manager Mary Teare!  I sincerely hope I will return soon and I will plan to stay at maison mk!

Best Wishes for a peaceful and prosperous 2012

xoxo TheArtofBeer

handcrafted metal lanterns cast gorgeous shadows on the walls & ceiling in the center patio and chill space of the decadent maison mk

maison mk plunge pool in the center patio this decadent space is sheltered in winter and offers fabulous little areas in which to chill


The Best of Morocco 2011

This gallery contains 38 photos.

My Favorite Images of Morocco… Continue reading


Welcome to Marrakech!

This gallery contains 10 photos.

I touched down in Marrakech last Friday after a trek down the coast from Fes to Casablanca.  When I walked into the main terminal through Customs, there were at least 100 men with signs for Riad’s and Hotels.  Chaos is … Continue reading

The High Atlas Mountains

Today (December 26) I hit the road to the Atlas Mountains about an hour outside of Marrakech.  On the way there we drove through the suburbs and there is construction everywhere; everything from hotels to shanty towns.  Much of it stopped midway because funding dried up and demand dropped as economies around the world fell apart.  Climbing into the hills, small villages pop up.

The High Atlas is home to the Berber People.  Farmers and craftsmen, they are amazingly gracious hosts.  I got to share Mint Tea in the home of a Berber Family.  It was a remarkable experience to say the least…

The Donkey's Bedroom! All the animals have a space in the lower level of the home.

The Hammam

Summer Living Room

In the Berber Kitchen

The Toilet

The Berber Home as viewed from the living room looking out to the outdoor living space.

The typical Berber house can best be described as “spartan” and there is little in the United States that can compare to this level of poverty.  The people here are poor but their homes show pride, importance of family and a total respect for order.  This is more than I can say for many middle class American homes, much less those of our poor people  in the United States.

Homes are usually passed down through families and it is not unusual to find multiple generations living under one roof.  The structures are simple and lack modern conveniences like plumbing, heating and weather protection.  Seasonal rains can bring misery to the families living in these homes.  They must climb the roof during the rains to patch the holes

Moving further up the mountain I visited a women’s coop where they process the Argon nut to make various Moroccan-Exclusive products.  The women working here are divorced, widowed or without financial support.  Moroccan culture does not lend many rights to women and many of them are left with no means of support after marriages fail or spouses die unexpectedly.

Processing the Argon Nut is cold and difficult work.  The women sit for hours in a cold damp room shelling and grinding the seed of the nut to produce the precious oil and paste.  Arthritis is a common ailment here. Co-ops such as the one seen to the left give women shelter, income and value.  The proceeds of products sold go to the cost of operation and the wages for the women working there.  Compared to our standards in the US; this is a very hard life.  But keeping things in perspective; these co-ops present a path for women to achieve independence and security.  There was little pressure to buy the products produced here but you would need to be devoid of compassion to not to want to support this very important community.  As a business person, it was hard not to think of ways to increase sales and productivity.  Resources are very limited here.  There are no phone lines to run credit card machines that would allow for higher sales volume.  The cost of wood and fuel is very high.

No matter where you turn in Morocco you will find people selling local (and sometimes not so local) wares to tourists.  With 1 in 3 people unemployed; it is hard not to appreciate the survival instincts of these people.  the Berber people farm,  herd sheep and raise some cattle.  They also make rugs that range in price from $10 to thousands of dollars based on the process used for making them.

Berber rugs

In the hot summer months, people from Marrakech flock to the Atlas Mountains, seeking relief from temperatures as high as 120 degrees.  There are outdoor cafe’s lining the banks of the mountain river along the road.  I could easily pictures hundreds of families enjoying the cool water, shade and a delicious tagine.

Riverside Restaurant

20-30 degrees cooler in the summer

Berber Village

Another Village nestled against the mountains

Snow Capped Peaks of the High Atlas

I hope that I can make it back to the Atlas Mountains on a future trip to Morocco.   I would like do some trekking through this region and  experience the culture in a more personal way.  There is a big difference between staying in the luxury Riad’s of Marrakech and staying in some of the modest hotels lining the Atlas Mountains.  One thing I am however certain of, is that hospitality level of the hosts will be equal, regardless of the place I stay there.  The Moroccan people are the most gracious hosts imaginable  and they want visitors to feel welcome and safe.  My deepest respect goes to the people here.

My journey continues but part of my heart remains…

Riad Laaroussa – Great People!


The best part of travel for me, is to get to know the locals and listen to what they have to say about their city.  The folks at Riad Laaroussa are probably some of the nicest people I have ever encountered in my travels. I was treated like family and the education I received was priceless.  Badĕa (left) has worked at Riad Laaroussa for two years in both the kitchen and the Hammam!  She is a single mother of one adorable little girl and she is one of the most genuine people I have ever met.  She patiently taught me how to prepare the great Moroccan meal that I

Eggplant with Garlic & Tomato

later enjoyed eating with her and Yahya (pictured further below) in the fabulous Riad kitchen.  Helping to prepare and eating this meal was a highlight of my visit to Fes.  The best part about travel is learning from and about the local people.

From the minute I walked through the door of Riad Laaroussa, I knew FZ would become my friend.  FZ is an abbreviation for her real name, Fatima(h) Zahra.  It is common in the Muslim faith to name the first-born girl Fatimah after the daughter of the Islamic prophet,  Muhammad which the first boy is usually named after.  It must be really confusing at family gatherings!

The Amazing FZ

Riad Laaroussa is paying for FZ to go to English school so she was very excited to be able to practice with me.  In turn, she patiently helped me with my feeble attempts at Arabic.    Listening to her talk about her life while married to a man selected for her was so interesting and very difficult for this independent, western woman to understand.  She is now divorced and finding her way in a more modern Muslim society and her aspirations are remarkable.  I have a very funny photo of FZ holding a bottle of wine and a glass (which she was pouring for me) but I will not publish her to protect her from people not realizing it is a joke.  Drinking alcohol is not allowed for Muslims.

FZ, & Sabah (right) with her daughter Rim

Sabah takes care of the office at Riad Laaroussa Guest House and does an amazing job of seeing to the needs of the guests there.  She is the single mother of 5 children and I am inspired by her hard work and dedication.  She loves her job and she takes it very seriously.  I see her as the glue that holds the team together.  There is such a strong feeling of family among the staff there and I think she is a great reason for this spirit.   Riad Laaroussa is very lucky to have her there.


I also spent some great quality time talking with Yahya while there.  He speaks verygood English and has a BA in English studies.  Like so many places in the World, times are tough in Morocco and professional jobs are not easy to come by.  Yahva aspires to a career translating for a corporation doing business in Morocco and he will be darn good at it.  He is well versed on the culture and traditions.  He will have to complete another course to receive the proper certification to work in this field.  We had some very deep philosophical conversation about religion, tolerance and human nature.  I learned a lot about Islam from him and I pleased to have a better understanding of the meaning in some of the practices that were confusing to me before.  He is devout and makes an excellent spokesperson for the Muslim faith.  He is a very proud Moroccan and wish for him, a life of happiness.


Riad Laaroussa is a quite a distance from where a car can access so when visiting here, you will be dropped off by one of the gates into the Medina.  I was met by the gracious Larbi who schlepped my suitcase and through the maze of tiny streets in the Medina to the front door of Riad Laaroussa.  Three flights of very narrow and steep stairs later,  the bags were safe and sound in my lovely room.  Larbi also escorts guests at the Riad to and from various dinner reservation so they don’t get lost!

Last but not least are the blessed animals of Riad Laaroussa.  Le chat du palais, Mimi and the adorable Labrador’s; Lou & Ben!  Staying in a Riad with animals in residence made me very happy!

Next stop and post will be from the bustling city of  Marrakech!

Joyeux Noël!


Morocco just might be the Satellite Dish Capitol of the World…

Check out the Satellite Dishes

This is a strange observation and I goodness knows I am famous for noticing strange things!  Morocco has more satellite dishes than any place I have ever traveled to.  I saw what amounted to wood and grass huts on the way from Fes to Casablanca that had more satellite dishes per square foot of roof than it seemed possible.  There is no way these homes had plumbing and  it is unimaginable how electricity was being accessed.  The photo above is not one of the extremely poor housing areas.  I tried my hardest to snap a photo but the one below is the only one I could capture. This is still not representative of the shanty towns I witnessed.

Somewhere on the road between Rabat and Casablanca

My cultural paradigm had me thinking about how they could choose television over a better home or possibly even food.  My Moroccan driver painted an entirely different picture when he heard my dismay.  He said that the poor people in Morocco sit glued to the television because it is the only way they will ever see a better life.  I had a huge lump in my throat and my eyes teared up.  I had never thought of it that way.

Lesson learned…

Until tomorrow — TheArtofBeer