laughing matters: cards against humanity at pale fire brewing.

burgIMG_0871Things That Make Me Laugh Until I’m Snorting and Wiping Mascara Off My Chin
1. The episode of Friends where Ross wears leather pants
2. “Celebrity Jeopardy” with Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond on Saturday Night Live
3. The entire Cake Wrecks web site
4. Any instance of a person (or animal) falling down, even if it’s my own child
5. And now, Cards Against Humanity at Pale Fire Brewing!

We all love to laugh. Whether you’re hanging out with goofy little kids (nature’s clowns, as my mom would say), or watching stand-up on Comedy Central, or bingeing on You Tube blooper videos, it just feels good to come home from a long day at work and unwind with humor. In fact, just this week, my first week back at school, one of my colleagues gave a speech of sorts that had us all howling with laughter one minute and stifling tears the next… his words were inspiring and moving, laced with humor and raw sentiment. And I left that meeting feeling relaxed and renewed and emotionally massaged. Sometimes we forget — we NEED to laugh, every single day. There’s science behind this. You probably know that exercise causes your brain to release endorphins (endogenous morphine) which are actually your body’s naturally occurring pain relievers. But guess what? Laughing does the same thing! Laughter also helps you learn new skills or material, deepens social bonds, and boosts your immune system. So I think it’s time to add laughter to your wellness routine, right up there with exercise, drinking water, and all that jazz. Our Friendly City has lots of ways to help you achieve that goal, and you can start on Monday nights at Pale Fire Brewing.

burgIMG_0884Brandy and I were so excited when the Cards Against Humanity host (and owner of Midtowne Market and Midtowne Bottle Shop) Lauren Penrod asked us to serve as judges last Monday. Having never played the game before, I looked forward to seeing how it worked. I really wasn’t prepared for how funny it would be. If I’d known, I would’ve dug out the waterproof mascara and brought some tissues.

We arrived and got the scoop from Lauren: The game is like Apples to Apples, but for adults. And I mean, ADULTS. If it were a movie, it would be rated R. For that reason, you might want to consider not bringing impressionable youngsters. And for that same reason, I simply can’t include all the answers we judged that night!

So. People who want to play arrive at Pale Fire by 8pm. You can arrive with a team, you can play solo, you can try to join a team after you arrive… there’s no limit to the number of teams or the number of people on a team. Easy peasy. Then you decide a team name. The teams we judged were called The Wookie Squad, Plain Old Scorcerers, Monday Night Book Club, Spiteful Lady in the Hat, and Last Call. And of course every time we said the name of that team, Jared had to yell from behind the bar, “It’s not actually last call!”, which was funny, too.

burgIMG_0867After you’ve established your team and name, you come get ten cards and a sticky note. You write your team name on the sticky note so we (the judges) know who gave which answer. Then Lauren reads a prompt and teams choose one card from the ten in their hand that they think is the best/most clever/dirtiest/funniest/most bizarre/etc. and turn it in to us. We select what we feel is the winning answer, then see who the team is that supplied it and announce the winner. This goes on for several prompts; then there’s a break, followed by a second round. At the very end, Lauren adds up the points and announces the winner. Lots of great prizes are awarded, including rounds of beers, gift cards, and the right to create your own card to be used in the next week’s competition!

burgIMG_0877 burgIMG_0874For example, Lauren read the prompt, “The healing process began when I joined a support group for victims of __________.” Teams filled in that blank with answers like “Shaquille O’Neal’s acting career,” “my ex-wife,” and “yeast” (incidentally, that card had a little fleck of dirt on it, and SOMEONE at the judge’s table asked if it was a hyphen. Bahahaha!). Here’s another one:

“Puberty is a time of change. You might notice hair growing in new places. You might develop an interest in _____________. This is normal.”

I must censor all the answers we received to this one, but let me just say that it involved poop in a bucket, hair removal, and “jobs” for everyone. Then there’s this one:

“Don’t worry, kid. It gets better. I’ve been living with ____________ for 20 years.”

We received “waiting till marriage,” “women’s suffrage,” “an inability to form meaningful relationships,” and “special musical guest, Cher.”

The music was playing, the beer was pouring, the whole room was laughing in what was like a huge communal improv exercise, and the three of us were pretty much LOSING IT every two seconds. Plus we were all trying to use different accents while reading all of it out loud, and at one point Lauren mixed up “sushi burps” and said “surshi boops” instead, and I just didn’t think I’d be able to breathe again.

burgIMG_0843 burgIMG_0836 burgIMG_0831Then things got real because there was a tie. That means a sudden death situation. The two tied teams came to the table, chose two answer cards, and had to quickly apply only one of them to the tie breaking prompt. In the end we had a winner: Monday Night Book Club!

burgIMG_0881 burgIMG_0883I can’t think of a better way to end a crappy Monday than to go laugh my butt off with some buddies at Pale Fire. Go check your calendars, move a couple things around, make other plans for your children, and go get a healthy dose of funny! See you there!

burgIMG_0858 burgIMG_0861Copyright © 2012-16 · 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.

we new it: ride along.

When I sit down to write my list of New Year’s resolutions, it usually goes like this:

Things I Should Do in the New Year:
1. Exercise more.
2. uuuuuuuuuggggghhh.

Things I Want To Do in the New Year:
1. Read.
2. Learn an instrument.
3. Be more creative.
4. Make my own sushi.
5. Do a better job of keeping in touch with people.

Things I’ll Most Likely Actually Do in the New Year:
1. Netflix.
2. Fish tacos.
3. Funny cat videos on YouTube.

I guess the three lists show a trend… that I don’t like to resolve to do things I’m simply not interested in, and that sometimes I feel I’ve accomplished NOTHING, that I’ve wasted yet another year not doing what I want, doing more working than playing, more frowning than smiling, more scrolling than learning, more spending than saving, blah blah blah. But, when I truly look back over 2015 as a whole, I see it was not a waste at all. Not a minute. Indeed, 2015 was marked by unprecedented newness and adventure, for both Brandy and for me. She and I both traveled to new destinations — she to Alaska and Oregon, and I to several national parks as far west as Yosemite. We also started an awards program called Harrisonburg Action Figures and presented the first one back in September. We were interviewed for a podcast — another totally new experience — by Kai Degner (Hello Harrisonburg), and because of that experience, we offered our first I Love My Burg prize to listeners who shared that podcast– a ride along with us, wherever he or she wanted to go, our treat! We covered the opening of two new breweries and a restaurant (Pale Fire, Wolfe Street, and Jalapeño), we attended Megan Tiller’s first ever pop up show featuring Bradford Lee Folk, and we finally tried some lavender ice cream. I’m teaching a class I’ve never taught in my seventeen years of teaching, and Brandy documented nearly twenty hikes all over Virginia and the US in her Took a Hike, Took a Camera series. Our lives are full of new things, not necessarily previously written down on a list of resolutions, but things that arise organically because we’re friends. So I think my “list” this year will simply be this: Continue doing new stuff.

This post is about a whole night of new things! Our ride along winner, Sharon Skates, wanted to try out Harrisonburg’s newest brewery, Wolfe Street Brewing. The brewery is located on Wolfe Street (duh) between Liberty and 42 and adjoins the Rock’n Wolfe Food Truck Park, which is super handy. The building was, at one time long ago, a chicken slaughterhouse, then a mechanic’s shop, and then it sat empty for a bit before the owner of the property decided to convert it to a brewery. Inside it’s a cozy space. The dropped ceiling directly over the bar holds Wolfe St. growlers re-purposed as lights. A split-level seating area leads to a homey and sizable yard out back. On the left side of the space, nine thousand pounds of malted grain in neatly stacked sacks is all that separates the general public from the brewing area. The entire brewery is cloaked in gorgeous woodwork by Benevolent Design, lending a Scandinavian cabin feel to the whole place.

burgIMG_7098 burgIMG_7105burgIMG_8258 burgIMG_8261We sampled four beers that evening. The Winter Lager is their seasonal brew, and Hop Pocket has a crisp, piney flavor. The Scotch Ale is a full-bodied, smokey beer, and the Nut Quacker is spicy and refreshing.

burgIMG_8264 burgIMG_8281Our next stop was the grand re-opening of The Mark-It in its new location at 125 West Water Street, right in front of the wooden bridge. You might be surprised to know that the business has been around for about 20 years — starting as a little kiosk in the mall, moving to several locations, and finally being operated by its current owners, Susie Diehl and Jeff Guinn. The walls of the store are filled with the work they’ve done over the years, for people and companies ranging from the Super Gr8 Film Festival and Pale Fire Brewing to Uncle Bengine and the Restraining Orders. The store looks great, the location is awesome, and we wish them happiness and prosperity in their new location!

burgIMG_7122 burgIMG_7125 burgIMG_7128 burgIMG_7132 burgIMG_7136 burgIMG_7144 burgIMG_7149Brandy and I had been to Food Bar Food several times, but for Sharon it was a new experience and we were so happy to take her there. Seriously. The food is absolutely exquisite, and the prices are so reasonable. Plus the bloody Mary menu — sheesh! I might have to update my resolutions to include “try every singe item on the Food Bar Food menu.” For now, I ordered the haddock burger with a fried egg on top (omg, I’m drooling as I type that); Sharon got the duck leg, and Brandy got the Thai curry noodles. We talked about all sorts of girly topics that I can’t really share here, but we did discover something we have in common: we’re all old enough to know what a “pager number” is. If you don’t, you could always add “learn about obsolete technology” to your list of resolutions.

burgIMG_7152 burgIMG_7163It’s a new year in our beautiful city and there’s so much to look forward to. This city is FILLED with people who “do new stuff” all the time, and that’s why Harrisonburg is so rich in art and music, gourmet food and top notch beer, unique shops and excellent, efficient service. So, thanks for helping me keep my resolution, Friendly City. I couldn’t do it without you.

If you’re looking for something new to do this year, here are the highlights of our 2015:
Hot Ticket: Jalapeño Southwest Grill
All In: unJURIED Exhibition
Freezer Burn: Pale Fire Brewing
Take Your Pick: Bradford Lee Folk and the Bluegrass Playboys
Follow Your Hearts: Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts
Here’s the Deal: Harrisonburg Pokemon League
Tap Dance: Brothers Craft Brewing Music Festival
Grass Roots: Our Community Place Annual Lawn Jam
Cold Off the Press: Old Hill Hard Cider
Field Day: White Oak Lavender Farm
Full Alert: Edible Fest
Be In the Running: VA Momentum
Royal Treatment: 2015 Progressive Party

burgIMG_7166Copyright © 2012-16 · 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.

thank you: eddie bumbaugh.

burgIMG_6608Some debts are simply too large to repay. Sometimes, “thank you” falls impossibly short. Sometimes, a person’s influence, impact, and value are too large to accurately measure.

By now you’ve likely heard the news: our beloved Eddie Bumbaugh, the 12-year Executive Director of the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, will retire from the position as 2015 draws to a close. However, and thankfully for all of us, from the sounds of it, he’s not retiring all the way. In hopes of getting all the juicy details, Brandy and I decided to take his wife, Jane, and him out for dinner recently.

Alas, even after a belly full of delicious Food Bar Food dinner and a cocktail, he wouldn’t expound specifically on his next step, stating only that he’ll “remain involved in the Harrisonburg community.” Brandy and I, happy to simply be breathing again, decided to be satisfied with this answer and just enjoy our evening with them.

burgIMG_6595 burgIMG_6598I did come prepared with a few additional questions. When I asked Eddie what he’ll miss the most about HDR, he replied immediately with “the staff.” He delivered several heart-warming compliments about his co-workers (not his underlings or subordinates or minions, but his co-workers) and their commitment and passion and enthusiasm that have made reporting to work each day joyful. He also revealed a real fondness for the excitement of new ideas and the planning of events – indeed, his eyes twinkled a bit when he spoke of these things.

He counts the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, a 100+ mile bicycle group ride, race, and festival that runs through and around the Burg, among his favorite Harrisonburg events because it allows him to experience our community through the eyes of people who aren’t from here. The race draws cyclists from all over the United States – many have never seen, Eddie says, “Old Order Mennonites or our beautiful skyline.” He likes the event because he likes to meet new people, and he likes anything that will encourage people to visit the Friendly City. Oh, and he likes to bicycle, too.

From there, most of our dinner conversation centered around travel and nature. You may or may not have known that Eddie is an avid cyclist and runner, a lot of which he does right here in the Shenandoah Valley because of its natural eye candy. He and Jane have hiked a hefty portion of the Appalachian Trail. The four of us had a lot of fun sharing hiking and road trip stories. Jane, too, is quite adventurous.

Jane took a trip to Iceland with a bunch of seventh-graders, prompting Brandy and me to shout things like, “What?!” “Are you crazy??” “Are you OKAY??” at her. They were there about a week, which seemed to me to be a very short amount of time to visit a foreign country, given all the travel time involved. But guess what? It’s only like a five-hour flight! Anyway, what an amazing experience for those youngsters!! Thank goodness for people like Jane! So brave and generous, even though she will tell you it’s not all that hard and anyone can do it. These two seem to be a match made in heaven with their incredible kindness, their willingness to try new and even risky ventures, and their ability to listen and compromise. Even in our relatively short conversation with the couple, Brandy and I could see those traits, shining clear as the candles on the table.

burgIMG_6624So now I’m finally getting to what I’ve wanted to do since I heard the news about Eddie’s impending departure: say Thank You.

Dear Eddie,
Harrisonburg and its citizens will never be able to repay you for the transformation that occurred under your leadership. I remember Harrisonburg twelve years ago, before you took the job. I remember seeing Dokken at a downtown establishment that was trying, really trying, to get on its feet. I remember when the Dodger, Joker’s, and The Little Grill were the only nightlife downtown, and no one walked to those places, at least not leisurely. I remember it felt like a lost cause. Thank you for ignoring all those who told you that the armpit of the city would never be the heart. They told you, “Don’t bother getting involved. We’ve tried it before. It’ll just be a waste of time, a disappointment.” Thank you for being the type of person to take those comments as a challenge. Thank you for also being the kind of person to listen, to contemplate and reflect, to consider the opinions and needs of others, and to bring everyone together with open communication and constructive conversations.

The evidence of your hard work shines for all to see now, twelve years later. Today when I go downtown, the streets are lit up. Delicious aromas waft out of dozens of restaurants. I can hear live music around every corner. There’s a good beer waiting for me about every five steps. And I am perfectly comfortable letting my kids wander around on their own – watching the ducks behind Clementine and SBC, walking to the library for new books, swinging into Bella Gelato for a treat, buying blueberries at the Farmers Market, and finding old Mom reading a book at Pale Fire when they’re all done with their adventure. :) Thank you for making my city safe for my children. If it weren’t, we would have left long ago.

I haven’t even touched upon the many events and activities we all enjoy now. Beer and music festivals, art markets, First Fridays, costume bike parades, Valley Fourth… too many to name. Not to mention the local retail options we now have, so we don’t have to shop at those “big stores.”

I don’t know what’s harder when taking a new job: inheriting a mess that you have to clean up, or inheriting something beautiful that you have to maintain and somehow improve upon. We know your successor cannot replace you, and we would not expect that. I imagine we’ll all expect more good things, because that’s what you’ve shown us. But we do not expect the accomplishment of “more good things” to happen in a vacuum. Those of us who live, work, and enjoy our downtown know that community growth happens through community involvement. We’ll stay involved, we’ll support local businesses, we’ll remember all that you’ve done to get us to this place, and we won’t let you down. We might not be able to pay you back, but we’ll pay it forward. We promise.

Cheers to you! Wishing you and Jane all the best, all the time! And don’t be a stranger.

Love, 
All of Us. The Whole Dang Town. 

burgIMG_6612Copyright © 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.

royal treatment: 2015 progressive party.

burgProgressiveWEB01An hour before the event, I finished mowing the lawn for what I PRAY is the last time this year. Twenty miles away, Brandy was likely folding something, or mopping something, or editing something. Yet somehow, without the help of mice, bluebirds, or a magic wand, we managed to slink into our fancy duds, drape our skin in jewels, and apply a fine sheen of lip gloss in anticipation of a fairy tale evening — the Arts Council’s Annual Progressive Party! The purpose of the Progressive Party is simple — to celebrate the arts and raise funds so the Council can continue to provide art opportunities to the Harrisonburg community through Court Square TheaterAdvancing the Arts GrantsFirst Fridays Downtown, Smith House Gallery exhibitions, and community-based collaborations.

This year’s theme (Your Artistic Adventure: the Progressive Party with a Twist) sent guests on a two-destination journey: the dazzling home of Dan Newberry for the event launch party, and then one of seven host homes for more merrymaking.

burgProgressiveWEB31At Dan’s, we all converged to hear the music of Kelly May Brown, meet the evening’s featured artists, enjoy beverages from Pale Fire Brewing and Vintage Wines, and indulge in appetizers provided by A Little Something Special. Of particular note were the jelly “flight” and the butter “flight” — assortments of both spreads to be sampled on bread and crackers. One even tasted like bacon. Who knew this was a thing?

burgProgressiveWEB41 burgProgressiveWEB04 burgProgressiveWEB28burgProgressiveWEB47We Cinderellas were also excited about the raffle drawing for a diamond from James McHone and custom setting from Hugo Kohl. After a lovely cocktail hour on luxurious property, everyone loaded up in their chariots and proceeded to one of the seven host homes, each of which had live music and the work of a featured artist. Brandy and I got the royal treatment when we were permitted to go to TWO homes! We ate like Queens!

We were so excited when we arrived at our first home, owned by the charming Randy Harman, to see our smiling friend, Praserth Saesow of Beyond Restaurant and Lounge, who had prepared this incredible feast. Floral decorations by Teri Dean of The Wishing Well accentuated the beautiful art work of Wendy Lam. Live music by Moon (based in Staunton) floated toward the vaulted ceilings and filled the space, while conversations flourished.

burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4385 burgProgressiveWEB58burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4371 burgProgressiveWEB62 ProgressiveWEB56-2burgProgressiveWEB57 burgProgressiveWEB63With one eye on the clock, we wolfed down a second plate of Praserth’s food and headed to our next, and final, destination: the home of Rob and Peggy McKearney, where we were completely spoiled with beef and pork tenderloin, salmon, and bacon-wrapped shrimp. At one point, Brandy was double fisting with macaroons. Erin Murray’s vivid and too-real-to-be-real paintings spoke to us all, and Chad Hanger crooned from the living room. I swear, his voice is somehow better every time I hear him. All of it at that house — so rich and alive!

burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4403 burgProgressiveParty_IMG_4423 burgProgressiveWEB68 burgProgressiveWEB73 burgProgressiveWEB74 burgProgressiveWEB82burgProgressiveWEB71Before we knew it, it was time to click our heels and get home before our babysitters turned into pumpkins (there might be a mix-up in there). And so we dashed out into the night, while the music and laughter receded in the rearview mirror.

We can’t say enough how much we enjoyed this enchanted evening. Everyone involved loves and actively supports the arts in our community, demonstrated by their selfless gifts of time, hospitality, talent, and dollars that will allow for continued growth of the Council’s initiatives. After all, beautiful things must be constantly sown and tended. Art, and the proliferation of it, takes diligence and commitment.

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.

heart attack: bryan elijah smith and the wild hearts.

More photos of Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts! Read the whole story here!

Bryan_Elijah_Smith02 Bryan_Elijah_Smith04 Bryan_Elijah_Smith13 Bryan_Elijah_Smith40Bryan_Elijah_Smith49 Bryan_Elijah_Smith57 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater04 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater09 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater13 Bryan_Elijah_StateTheater17

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.

freezer burn: pale fire brewing.

burgPaleFire29After months and months of waiting, viewing mouthwatering photos of what’s to come, and receiving countless tantalizing updates, the day is finally here: today is the day that Pale Fire Brewing officially opens for all to patronize, covet, admire, and dream of, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. Anticipation is one of my favorite sensations: looking forward to a fun trip, the aroma of a simmering meal, excitement about a visit from an old friend, knowing a rare book I ordered is en route via UPS and will be on my doorstep soon. So I have thoroughly enjoyed savoring the delicious weeks leading up to today’s grand opening. But you know what else is a great feeling? My butt in a chair on a sunny patio, enjoying the company of a fresh, cold beer. That first sip is the exact moment when anticipation fuses with the present and everything is perfect.

burgPaleFire18So, wait no longer! Go today! Go tomorrow! And go every single chance you get – here’s what’s waiting for YOU, as Brandy and I discovered when we got a sneak peek earlier this week:

These beers, as described by the brewer himself:
Deadly Rhythm Pale Ale – 4.8% ABV – 45 IBU
~ American two row malt, Maris Otter, Munich, Crystal
~ Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook
Deadly Rhythm, by its very name, creates a graceful balance between Pacific Northwest hops and a blend of American and English malts. Floral and fruity hop aromas provide the introduction to the lightly toasted malt backbone of this beer. This American pale ale finishes dry with a smooth but lingering bitterness.

Salad Days American Saison – 7.0% ABV – 40 IBU
~ American two row malt, Rye, Wheat
~ Warrior, Cascade, Amarillo, Simcoe
American two row barley and malted rye provide the canvas for pungent Amarillo, Simcoe and Cascade hops to mingle with our house Saison yeast. Notes of grapefruit, peach, and bubblegum dance out of the glass and mellow into a refreshingly tart, dry finish.

Saving Grace Table Beer – 4.2% ABV – 26 IBU
~ Pilsner malt, Wheat, Carapils
~ Northern Brewer, Czech Saaz
Saving Grace is based on the Belgian “patersbier” which Trappist monks used to brew for sustenance that would allow them to continue to work during the day. This low-alcohol farmhouse beer is brewed with Pilsner malt, Czech Saaz hops and our house Saison yeast to provide a satisfying end to a long day of hard work.

Double India Pale Ale – 8.0% ABV – 100 IBU
~ Maris Otter, Crystal, Wheat
~ Warrior, Summit, Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra, CTZ
Double IPA is intensely hopped with six hop varieties that offer a cornucopia of aromas ranging from passion fruit, peach, and pineapple to grapefruit and lemon zest. We use English Maris Otter to balance the intense hop aromas producing a malt-balanced East Coast version of a Double IPA.

Smoking Scottish – 5.6% ABV – 20 IBU
~ Maris Otter, Victory, Roasted Barley, Crystal, Beech-smoked malt
~ Perle
Smoking Scottish is a legacy beer from Calhoun’s, Harrisonburg’s first modern brewpub. This Scottish ale features a complex blend of English Maris Otter, roasted and caramel malts for a rich malt backbone. German Perle hops add a clean bitterness to balance the toasted caramel flavors from the malt.

Get a tissue – you’re drooling.
burgPaleFire09 burgPaleFire28You can also anticipate a large, blonde, modern bar in the taproom with plenty of seats, in addition to several bar tables.

burgPaleFire16A spacious and inviting patio becomes one with the inside once the large, glass garage doors are raised.

burgPaleFire12 burgPaleFire11burgPaleFire06A cozy (and by that I mean comfortable, not small) lounge area centers around a functioning fireplace and a Little Free Library, AND a turn table and record collection for Album Night. (From what I understand there’s also a secret TV hidden behind a secret panel in some secret section of the bookshelves.) Seriously, it feels like home. I wonder if there’s a way I can make a little house in the secret compartment and hide in there.

burgPaleFire08 burgPaleFire07Expect to be astounded by the amazing view from the taproom into the gleaming brewery itself, with its perfectly polished vessels and pale fire floors. And a happy, relaxed staff waits ready to shake your hand, share a laugh, and pour something perfect.

burgIMG_8077And if you haven’t toured the rest of the Ice House yet, give yourself a little time to do that today, too. You can visit the Yellow Button at their new location, stop in at Black Sheep Coffee, browse vintage jewelry at Hugo A. Kohl’s shop, and check out Breathe and The Center which now share a space called Ice House Studios.

Winter’s finally over, a Pale Fire is smoldering, and the Ice House has permanently thawed. Grab a friend and go get warmed up today!

burgPaleFire17burgIMG_8066burgPaleFire24Copyright © 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.

grin and beer it: rocktown beer and music festival 2014.

rocktown beer fest wooAfter having attended the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival all four years, and having documented it on this site for three of those four, I’ve come to understand that the Beer Fest — now a beloved Harrisonburg tradition — is really just a large family reunion, minus the awkwardness. Beer is the ultimate social lubricant, after all.

You won’t run into eccentric relatives, like your Aunt Norma who always asks, “When are you ever going to have a baby?” Or your great Aunt Phyllis who’s determined to tell you about all twenty-three of her cats. Your teenage niece, who was so cute and fun at the last reunion but is now all brooding and angst-y and Snapchat-y. Or that relative you don’t know at all, who’s parked himself at the chips and dip. And Aunt Norma’s new hubby, who sneaks out to hide in his car until it’s all over.

You won’t run into that relative who constantly brags/complains about his all-important job, or the one who constantly brags/complains about his corns, bunions, sciatica, and that punk who moved in down the street. And the reunion ambles along a path that eventually arrives at the collective question: WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO??

Nope. You won’t find any of that at the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival. But here’s what you will find.

1. Your buddies. You’ll see people you haven’t seen since last year’s Fest, and people you just saw yesterday. I run into my old friend Melissa every single year. I worked with her ages ago at Clayborne’s, and I never, ever see her anywhere… except the Beer Fest.

rocktown beer fest group2. Music. This year, Rocktown Beer and Music Festival welcomed three bands: Harrisonburg favorites The Deadmen out of DC; the mood-elevating Bronze Radio Returnfrom Connecticut; and the versatile jam-band out of Baltimore, the Kelly Bell Band.

rocktown beer fest bronze radio rocktown beer fest deadmenrocktown beer fest dance3. Food. Patrons enjoyed delectables from ClementineJack Brown’s, the Local Chop and Grill House, and Union Station. This is some of the best food in the city, making the Beer Fest way classier than your family reunion at picnic shelter #4, no offense.

4. And finally, duh, the beer. More than thirty breweries to sample, including seven from Virginia: Blue Mountain BreweryBold Rock CiderChampion BrewingDevil’s Backbone Brewing Co.St. George Brewing Co., Three Notch’d Brewing Co. (who just opened at tap room here in Harrisonburg, in the Urban Exchange building!!), and our hometown heroesThree Brothers Brewing Co. I’ve been thinking about those small mugs the Beer Fest gives to its guests, and I’m just gonna put this suggestion out there for what it’s worth. Some people like a wide variety of beer and like having ten 4-oz samples. However, I’m an IPA fan, and I would appreciate being able to get an 8-oz mug filled five times, since I know I’m sticking to IPA. Maybe in the future, we can select our preferred mug size when we order tickets?

rocktown beer fest  couple1 rocktown beer fest couple2 rocktown beer fest couples rocktown beer fest crowd collage5. The staff. You get friends, music, food, beer, and people who will help you. The Beer Fest’s more than 150 volunteers keep the lines moving, the music playing, and the place clean and safe.

rocktown beer fest staff 1 rocktown beer fest staff2And now here is something exciting: Rocktown Beer and Music Festival Fall Edition!! Yep! September 20, 2014, come on down to the Turner Pavilion for another festival. So far they’ve lined up thirty breweries; the band lineup will be announced by June 1st, and tickets go on sale July 1st. And hey, maybe Harrisonburg’s newest brewery, Pale Fire Brewing, will ready by then! If you ask me, I think it would be wise to just go ahead and have your family reunion here. Everyone will get along much better, trust me.

rocktown beer fest crowd collage2 rocktown beer fest loungerocktown beer fest hugCopyright © 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.