cold off the press: old hill hard cider.

burgIMG_8204 by BlakeI can’t think of any fruit, or food even, with the cultural and historical significance of the apple. Think about it: Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge… three apples supposedly caused the series of events that led to the Trojan War… William Tell terrorized his poor child with an apple and a crossbow… Snow White was poisoned by an apple. Apples are everywhere in the story of humanity! And no one on the planet would be eating them if some other stories had not risen up to challenge all these nightmarish myths. For example, Newton allegedly discovered gravity when he saw an apple fall, and where would we be without that discovery, huh? And Johnny Appleseed — what an environmentalist, planting all those apple trees! If you’re breathing oxygen right now, you can thank him for that! And the Big Apple — everyone loves New York! Even the laptop on which I’m typing this right now has a big, white apple on it. Kids love to give apples to their teachers (maybe a few poisoned ones here and there), and we’ve all heard that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” So our recent trip to Showalter’s Orchard in Timberville did not conjure thoughts of starting a war or causing the demise of the entire human race. No. Instead, I arrived at this very carefully and logically crafted conclusion: Since apples keep the doctor away, they must be meant for teachers because making a sub plan when you’re sick is such a dang pain; therefore, drinking hard cider every day is necessary to the health of teachers everywhere, including Brandy and me! And the fact that Sarah Showalter taught school for many years only solidifies this theory.

burgIMG_8274 by BlakeburgIMG_8304We arrived at Showalter’s Orchard, home of Old Hill Hard Cider, on a warm summer evening, accompanied by our friends Danielle, Jess, and Jennica, and a small army of children. When I was a child, I wandered and explored. I’d ride my bike up and down these dirt hills surrounding my neighborhood, I’d build dams in the creek, I’d make forts in the woods and play “house.” Walking the grounds of the orchard made me think of those joyous times, staying outside all day long until the bottoms of my feet turned absolutely black and my mom’s far-away voice called me in for the night, my sprint back home lit by fireflies. Ah, to be a child again and run through the orchard rows, picking up too-ripe apples and pitching them into the sunset! Or this:

burgIMG_8296 by BlakeThe tables on the cool, shady patio were nearly full as we made our way to the tasting room. Inside we sidled up to the bar for a tasting. The tasting included six varieties of cider:
1. The Yesteryear — an echo of our forefathers, created with ingredients used ages ago at Monticello, it’s a clean, tart cider you could pair with nearly everything and would make a great mimosa.
2. The Heritage — this one was my favorite that day. A fair amount of tannins makes it dry, but it’s still smooth and creamy.
3. The Farmhand — this is a special batch variety, where no two batches ever taste exactly the same. It was such a big hit at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival that the Showalters sold out and had to return to the cidery to get more!
4. Cidermaker’s Barrel — Shannon Showalter calls this his “rebel of the group” with its vanilla-meets-charred-oak flavor, and it’s their number two seller.
5. Betwixt — True to its name, this one is halfway between a micro and a wine style cider. It’s their most popular variety.
6. Season’s Finish — the dessert cider for all you sweet-teeth out there. It goes great with a cinnamon liquor.

burgIMG_8189 burgIMG_8186Having tried them all, we settled on a couple bottles of Betwixt, Yesteryear, and Heritage and headed outside. Nestled in to our table, sipping cider, eating Gaudi chicken sandwiches from Belen’s Thrill of the Grill, listening to tunes by The Mash, hearing the laughter of the kids in the distance (Jess’ daughter sounds just like Boo when she giggles), we were happier than Slinkies on an escalator. Happier than kittens under a leaky cow. Happier than teachers on summer vacation. Oh, wait.
burgIMG_8237

burgIMG_8220burgIMG_8231 burgIMG_8233 burgIMG_8235burgIMG_8241You may or may not know that the orchard has been in business since 1965. 1965! They grow 26 varieties of apples that you can pick and purchase — harvest usually begins in August and goes through November. You can also buy plants from their Greenhouse in the spring and fall. They offer gardening classes from time to time, and there are always events going on: greenhouse tours, charity fundraisers, festivals, growler night most Thursdays, and Thirsty Third Thursday with Mama’s Caboose gourmet food truck and live local music.
The best news: Showalter’s Orchard will celebrate their FIFTIETH anniversary this month, on August 22 to be exact. There will be apple and peach picking, food trucks, live music, and activities for the kiddos! If you’ve never been to the orchard, mark your calendars now because that will be the day to visit. If you have been there, take some time to celebrate this milestone with them! See y’all there!

burgIMG_8256 by BlakeburgIMG_8212Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

take me to cask: casks for a cause at three brothers.

burgIMG_5408bwI love genius combinations.

Some of you might remember the old commercials for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: “Hey! You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” “You got peanut butter on my chocolate!” And while the actual invention of the super-popular candy didn’t happen in the ’80s as the commercial suggests (nor was it nearly as sexy [hello, wah-wah pedal] — it was merely created by a guy named Reese in the 1920s who was just experimenting with candy recipes), it certainly is one of the greatest genius combinations of all time. There have been others. Like putting Velcro on children’s shoes. And the most recent pair of sneakers I purchased have memory foam in them. MEMORY FOAM! Or, for example, my son’s eggheaded idea to make a chess board out of LEGO. Even if you have to get up and move the board mid game, the pieces stay put. And Instagram would never have happened if someone hadn’t come up with the camera phone.

So recently I discovered another mind-blowing combination. As counter-intuitive as it might sound, you CAN be good to yourself and good to others simultaneously. It’s called Casks for a Cause, a monthly event at Three Brothers Brewing that benefits a local charity or initiative. The brothers design a specialty beer and donate a whole keg to the cause, and all the money from the sales of drafts from that keg go to the lucky organization.

burgIMG_5405This particular Cask for a Cause featured lots of genius combinations. First of all, the “cause” was Spitzer Art Center, and we all know that art and beer is a winning combo. The special cask of the night was Three Brothers Slide infused with honey and cayenne, a concoction that was smoooooth going down and then slapped you in the throat. And Mama’s Caboose was there serving up cayenne-chocolate brownies. THAT combo was ridickers yummy. And don’t forget the music: Jason Summer (DJ Real Gone) followed by Jeff Gorman is a combination I hope to hear again in the near future.

burg3bros4 burgIMG_5418Spitzer Art Center provides workshops and classes to the general public, such as oil and pastel painting, silk painting, and metal making. The center hosts a variety of art shows and speakers and provides studio space for seven local artists. This Friday, January 16, Spitzer Art Center will honor Barb Gautcher, featuring works by her and by many of her former students, including Todd Yoder, Molly Whitmore of Molly Whitmore Photography, Zachary Nafziger of ZN Stained Glass, Steven Stauffer, Bomb Proof, Ashley Miller of Ashley Sauder Miller Art, Elizabeth Frey Davis , and Kimberly Juda Souder. Barb is the recent winner of the Shenandoah Valley High School Art Teacher of the Year award AND the High School Art Teacher of Virginia Award. And on February 6, you can see ANOTHER genius combination called WORD: A Juried Show Uniting Writing and Visual Art, in which artists “write an original poem or short prose piece in any style, about any subject, and then use any medium to display/frame/decorate the words and/or the space around them.”

With the sale of the cask, the Spitzer membership drive, brownie sales, and generous donations, Spitzer far exceeded their fundraising goal. Three Brothers have supported numerous organizations in this way, like the Wounded Warrior Project, RISE, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. If your desire to be charitable and your desire to drink a beer happens on the third Friday of the month, save yourself one trip and just go to Casks for a Cause at Three Brothers.

burgIMG_5406Three Brothers Brewing is located at 800 North Main Street, just north of and across the street from The Little Grill. Spitzer Art Center is located at 486 West Market Street, a couple blocks west of Court Square.

Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

hearts and crafts: from grain to growler, court square theater.

burgIMG_2359Beer entered the realm of human existence around the 5th century BC, roughly the same time as the invention/discovery of bread. One can only imagine it was some kind of heaven-sent happy accident. And we’ve been lucky to enjoy the beverage ever since. Several hundred years later, big corporations figured out how to manufacture huge quantities of beer very quickly, but the selection of beer – the types – remained relatively skimpy. I remember, for example, when Guinness was a luxury beer. And when, if the bar also had Bass on tap, you could get a Black and Tan. Guinness – and I still like it, don’t get me wrong – was this exotic, dark, mysterious, fancy beer consumed by college philosophy majors and poets. It wasn’t Keystone or Natty Light – the beer for everyone else.

I traveled overseas a lot during college, and I remember a youth hostel I stayed in that had a 24-hour bar downstairs. They served Guinness on tap and the most awesome grilled cheese sandwiches. I remember waking up at like two in the morning with a hankering, throwing on my bathrobe and slippers, and playing Rummy with a bunch of other Guinness-swilling cheese-munching revelers. I was in hog heaven. To this day, I want that. I want access to good beer, good food, and good people at any given time. I doubt with Virginia’s ABC laws that I’ll ever find such a paradise in this state, but who knows? Virginia’s been at the forefront of beer evolution, in case you didn’t know.

I learned this and other fascinating information about the craft beer movement when Brandy and I saw From Grain to Growler, a short-film documentary by Aaron Stanley and Megan Troy about independent beer brewers in the Old Dominion. Sometimes things come full circle: the whole craft beer phenomenon hearkens back to traditional breweries of yesteryear, with a modern technological sophistication. In other words, the “little beer guy” now has access to what the big beer companies have had for a long time: technology, equipment, reach, and ease of distribution. This is all due to a few passionate brewers who pushed for legislation that would open doors for the little guy.

I was so excited to see a movie about beer that I nailed down a babysitter like two weeks in advance. I made the kids do calisthenics and take extra vitamins to make sure they wouldn’t get sick that day. Okay, just kidding about that. But I did hound Brandy (“Can you go? can you go? can you go?”) about it til she was near the point of slapping me.

And so we went. Of course we had to swing by Capital Ale House first. Brandy’s got this new camera lens that doesn’t zoom, so she has to physically lean forward and back to get the right shot, and wouldntchaknowit, she knocked over her beer. I predict about twenty more spilled beers before she gets used to that thing.

burgIMG_2356 burgIMG_2347Then on the way into the theater, she banged her flash on the door frame, which is pretty much like banging YOUR CHILD’S HEAD. Thankfully we made it to the front row without injuring ourselves or anyone else and plopped down. The film started and I was taking notes like crazy: that short little thing contained TONS of information shared by TONS of beer experts. Following the film was a lively panel discussion that included representatives from Three Brothers, Midtowne Bottle Shop, Pale Fire Brewing, Champion Brewing, and Lickinghole Creek. Here’s what we learned during the film and the awesome panel discussion that followed:

burgIMG_2377Currently, Virginia is 4th in craft beer production. In 2010, there were about 40 brewpubs in Virginia. These were places that brewed their own beer but also sold food. They operated like a restaurant but sold their own beer. Everyone loves a brewpub, yes, but staffing and operating a full-on restaurant just to get to sell your craft beer is kinda expensive. So in 2012, the Virginia Senate passed SB 604, which essentially granted “vineyard rules” to breweries: brewers could sell their beer on site, but without having to provide a full food menu. Like at a vineyard, customers can buy snacks or bring in outside food, then enjoy freshly-brewed beer. With Harrisonburg’s outrageous food truck presence, we have a nice little set up: food trucks roll up to breweries like Three Brothers or Three Notch’d or (coming soon!!) Pale Fire, hungry patrons buy some grub to go with their suds, and everyone’s happy. So Yay! to everyone who lobbied for that bill. Because of it, it’s much easier for brewers to stay in business, hone their skills, and enjoy their passion.

During the panel discussion, several questions were answered. One was, “Who is your beer hero?” Answers ranged from craft beer pioneer Sierra Nevada to Russian River and something called Toad Spit. Panelists were asked what beer logo they’d have tattooed on themselves: Big Sky, Firestone Walker, anything by Flying Dog, and Tim chimed in with the original Calhoun’s logo. And when they’ve had a really rough day, which beer do they want the most? One panelist answered, “The one I can get in my mouth the fastest.” Amen, brother.

burgIMG_2375We learned a great deal about farming and beer, too. Apparently hops is very hard to grow in Virginia; still, our craft brewers try to use as many ingredients from local farmers as they can, which has led to some interesting collaborations. I have a sneaking suspicion that beer fanatics are just trying to get their daily fruit and veggie servings through their beer, what with blueberry beer and pumpkin beer and such… I don’t know… call me paranoid. But farmers have certainly inspired brewers. Which brings me to what I affectionately call Beer Porn. Get ready for these stimulating facts!

* One brewer named his new brew after Jerry Garcia because when he tasted it, “smoke came to mind.”
* Three Notch’d and Adroit collaborated on a Bloody Mary beer called Bloody Roots. Yes. A Sunday morning beer.
* Three Brothers’ Rum Barrel Aged Belgian Dubbel will remind you of Bananas Foster. And it’s won awards, people.
Port City Revival Stout contains oysters.
* The panel agreed that the weirdest name they’ve ever heard is the Woodbooger Belgian-style Brown Ale by Strangeways.
* Many of these ideas came to the brewers because they couldn’t sleep one night, or they dreamed it. So, no, you’re not the only one who wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about beer.

burgIMG_2384In short, it’s hard to brew a beer from start to finish with ingredients all from Virginia, but thanks to dedication, the willingness to sweat and lose sleep, hard-fought legislation, cooperative farmers, and just plain inspiration, we’re getting there. Let’s celebrate those victories, and all victories, and heck, let’s celebrate our troubles, too, at one of our local breweries: Three Brothers, Three Notch’d, and coming soon, Pale Fire and (rumor has it) Back Bay Brewing from Virginia Beach. Let’s face it: Harrisonburg loves beer. We have at least three big beer festivals each year, we were voted Best Beer Town by Blue Ridge Magazine for Pete’s sake, and we have beer-related events constantly, like this Tour and Taste one this Saturday, and now this Beer and Book Share (OMG I AM GOING TO FAINT)  on October 19. Thank you to Megan and Aaron for so eloquently conveying the evolution of craft beer in our state, and thank you to all our local craft brewers for being a HUGE part of that, and thank you, Beer, for ALWAYS BEING YOU, and always being there.

burgIMG_2388Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

that’ll leave a mark: three notch’d brewing company.

three notchd signThere’s something about sitting at a rough-hewn wooden slab in front of a tray of Three Notch’d beer samples that makes you want to spill your guts. Perhaps it hearkens back to the days of my beer-swilling ancestors in Ireland and Germany, when men would fill their steins to the brim and vent about a crazy day on the battlefield. It’s in my blood. And so after the casual chit chat that marks the beginning of every visit, Brandy and I delved into a deep discussion of religion as a human construct, what it means to believe, the illusion of time, and all sorts of other topics like life on other planets, photon torpedoes, and David Blaine. Our musings were accompanied by the acoustic stylings of Jeff Gorman and decorated by the works of Erin Murray hanging throughout the rustic taproom.

three notchd lounge three notchd musicNamed as a tribute to the historic Three Notch’d Road in Central Virginia, Three Notch’d Brewery offers a simple yet warm and beautiful tasting room with ample room for beer fans. Sometimes one of Harrisonburg’s awesome food trucks will make an appearance and fill everyone’s bellies. And even though they’re new to town, they’ve already shown their support of the arts by sponsoring this year’s Art Lotto!

three notchd bw three notchd collageThe six beers before us carefully paced out our thoughts and sentences. We leisurely made our way through the Hydraulion Irish Red, the No Veto English Brown, the Oats McGoats Oatmeal Stout, The Trader Crystal-Hopped Saison, the Gray Ghost Pale Ale, and my favorite, the 40 Mile IPA. They also have, from time to time, the Bloody Roots Brown Ale, the Citra Wheat Ale, Jack’s Java Stout, the Rauchig Fuchs Smoked (gesundheit!), the Scot Notch’d Scotch Ale, and debuting this week, the Raucous Honey Double IPA! Just imagine all the philosophical conversations you can have with that selection!

three notchd islandthree notchd tapsSomehow our conversation digressed to the documentary Mortified Nation,which I haven’t seen. It’s about adults who share things they wrote as kids… really embarrassing, humiliating things that happened to them and left a mark. It sounds more cringe-worthy than an episode of the BBC’s version of The Office. Eeek. I made a mental note to soon fill my growler with Three Notch’d IPA and white-knuckle my way through that documentary.

three notchd nuts three notchd samplesAnd then we somehow aged about 25 years and started swapping medical stories. I told her about the first time I ever had an eye exam. Prior to the appointment, they told me on the phone that my eyes would be dilated. “Sound great!” I said.

I had no idea what that meant.

I drove myself there, alone. It had recently snowed, and it was a beautiful, BRIGHT, sunny day. Long story short, I tried wrapping my head in my scarf, ninja-style, so I was peeking through a tiny slit while driving the slippery roads home. But I ended up skidding into the Kroger parking lot and calling my then-husband to come get me. I was convinced my eyes were bleeding. Brandy had a similar story except no one could come get her. She sat in her car for an hour waiting for her eyes to “sober up.”

The music continued and by now we were crying (from laughing) over our twelve empty sample glasses. People were starting to stare and it was getting on time to go. Three Notch’d is located at 241 East Market St and is open Tuesday through Sunday. Visit them now!

three notchd staffCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

wheely good: trucks.

trucks signRecently Brandy and I had a sudden, unexpected opportunity to go out at dinner time, followed by a massive bout of indecisiveness because without all the kids to please, our options were overwhelming. Sushi? Barbeque? Burgers? Wings? Then we thought, why not go somewhere we can just get a little of everything and share? And that magical place is TRUCKS, Harrisonburg’s very own dedicated food truck lot — one of my most favorite ideas our city has ever cooked up. The last time we were there, only one truck occupied the large space. It was time to pay a visit and see what had changed. And stuff our faces.

trucks GCMDespite an impromptu rain storm that delayed our arrival, coupled with our general ineptitude that always delays our arrival anywhere, and despite the fact that it was like ten minutes before closing, all the trucks were still open and serving customers. Grilled Cheese Mania was the first truck on the lot. Brandy and I published a story about them last July, and now twelve months later, they still draw a sizable, hungry crowd (one girl said, upon receiving her grilled cheese, “Thank the Lord!”). And now they’ve cozied up to their friendly neighbors: Lobsta Rollin’, La Taurina II, and Taste of Soul.

trucks GCM tentCan I just pause here for a second and direct your attention to the awesome VARIETY provided by these four little trucks? Next time you and your friends, or coworkers, or family members, or heck, even your whiny kids can’t agree where to eat, just come here. If you’re still whiny when you get your plate, which I doubt you’ll be, you can even eat at separate tables, grouchy-pants! But I predict that, inspired by the fellowship and solidarity of these trucks and their staffs, you’ll get a case of the warm fuzzies and chow down peacefully.

Anyhoo. Lobsta Rollin’ most always offers Lobsta Tacos (which we ordered), the Lobsta Roll (the dish that started this whole thing rollin’, ha), and a Lobsta Wrap. They’ve also served Lobsta Quesadillas, Lobsta Mac and Cheese, Lobsta Bisque, Lobsta Poppas, and Clam Chowdah. Oh, and they sometimes get truffles from Truffelicious!

trucks lobster tacosOriginally from Miami, they brought the lobsta craze to Harrisonburg just a few months ago, have been wildly successful, and are already expanding (spoiler alert!) to a store front near Massanutten! They’ll also be expanding their catering and delivery services so you’ll never be far from your lobsta.

trucks lobsta2The ladies at Taste of Soul — Ebony, Angela, and Areyl — served us some side dishes that will make you miss your grandmother in a most visceral way. The homey look of their truck, the mason jars lining the counter, their smiles and laughter, and their time-honored family recipes elicit a giddy yearning for a world that seemed only to exist when I was a carefree child. We ate their collard greens, their mac and cheese, their potato salad, and even a cupcake. All that was missing was the succulent pork chop, a sell-out that particular day. Also on the menu are fried chicken wings, boneless tenders, and hush puppies, and THIS MONDAY, you can get breakfast! Chicken and waffles plus a coffee. The newest addition to the lot, they’ve accomplished all this in a very short time.

trucks soul food trucks taste soulRounding out the lot is La Taurina II — II, because you might have already visited the first one. It’s been on North Main for about five years, and I’m so excited they were able to expand to a second location. They serve flavorful, delicious, fresh food at bargain prices. You really get a lot of food. They make tortas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and sopes, with a variety of meats to choose from. We ordered Tacos Campechana (Mexican sausage with pork shoulder) and we pretty much licked the plate, and then, I admit, I continued eating the sauce with my finger.

trucks tacos trucks taurinaSo, yes, if you were keeping track, the two of us ate three large plates of food and didn’t feel bad about it for one second. TRUCKS is located at 1321 South High Street, next to Tangier Seafood. Each truck has similar but not identical hours of operation, so we created a page dedicated to ALL of Harrisonburg’s food trucks. It’s called Truck, Yeah! and it lists all the trucks alphabetically with their hours and locations. If you know of a truck not listed and can supply the details, please email katie@ilovemyburg.com and I’ll be happy to add it! See you out and about!

Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.