home stretch: bend and brews at three notch’d.

burgIMG_3039Waaaaay back in like… April… Brandy and I went to Bend & Brews together at Three Notch’d. We loved it. I mean, you get an hour of yoga led by a fully trained and competent instructor, a delicious craft beer, a donut provided by Pure Eats, and coffee from Shenandoah Joe. There are some days I would gladly shell out a couple thousand bucks for that cure-all combination, but there’s no need. All you gotta bring is your yoga mat and ten dollars.

So, last April came and went, and unfortunately, I sat on this post too long. Summer arrived, and the popular hour-long + craft beer event went on hiatus. But guess what? Bend & Brews is BACK! Yep! This Saturday, September 3, Bend & Brews kicks off its fall season.

Here are step-by-step instructions for getting back into the swing:

1. Arrive a little early. There’s quite a bit of space, but it’s not infinite.

burgIMG_30302. Sign the waiver form. These are located at the bar.
3. Enjoy some coffee and mingle while you wait for class to start.

burgIMG_30254. Bend.

burgIMG_30455. Breathe.

burgIMG_30416. Relax.

burgIMG_30517. Breathe again.

burgIMG_30538. Grab a beer and a donut, have a seat, and stay a while!

burgIMG_3028 burgIMG_3061 burgIMG_3064 burgIMG_30949. Thank your lovely instructor :)  Thank you, Casye!

burgIMG_3074 burgIMG_307810. REPEAT. We’ll meet ya there!

burgIMG_3096
Copyright © 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.

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.

brush with greatness: art lotto 2014, private party.

photo“I think this year is the best year yet” was the most frequent comment of the evening.

You’d think after three years and 150-ish portraits, this town would run out of creativity. Nope. It just gets better and better. I’m talking, of course, about Harrisonburg’s annual portrait show, Art Lotto. The super-genius brain child of Brandy Somers and Denise Allen, Art Lotto challenges artists to create portraits — in any medium, really — of other artists. The judges, sponsors, artists, and other special guests get together for a private opening of the show, on the eve of its public reveal.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

On this evening, I arrived somewhat early to help an impressive crowd of volunteers/friends/artists convert Larkin Arts into a party space complete with DJ, catered food and beverages, and dance floor. In no time the shelves and counters were removed from the front of the store and replaced with cocktail tables, turntables, and speakers. Grilled Cheese Mania rolled up and prepared an unbelievable spread faster than you can say Classic Johnny, and Three Notch’d carried in two kegs of heaven like they were inflatable pool toys. Brandy, Denise, and Amanda of Sparrow’s Floral Design even made adorable table decorations.

art lotto food

food provided by Grilled Cheese Mania. Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

food provided by Grilled Cheese Mania. Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

art lotto amandaart lotto flowersThe distinguished guests began to arrive, mingle, eat, drink, and gaze at the dozens of portraits on the gallery walls. Mouths dropped open, shrieks and wows echoed through the space, hearts warmed, and any nervousness about the opening melted away like a warm grilled cheese.

portrait of Jay Herr by Zac Nafziger. Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

portrait of Jay Herr by Zac Nafziger. Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Portrait of Lynda Bostrom by Valerie Smith. Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Portrait of Lynda Bostrom by Valerie Smith, and of Denise Allen by Derek Niver. Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Portrait of Greg Sultan by Laura Thompson. Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Portrait of Greg Sultan by Laura Thompson. Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Portrait of Colleen East by Hannah Sions. Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Portrait of Colleen East by Hannah Sions. Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Before long, it was time for Brandy and Denise to announce winners and dole out awesome prizes. Here’s the low down:

Winner of Seeing Double — Valerie Smith’s portrait of Lynda Bostrom.
Winner of Most Creative Medium — Brandy Somers’ portrait of Avery Fary.
Winner of Originality Award — Laura Thompson’s portrait of Greg Sultan.
Winner of Master of Design — Ben Fraits’ portrait of Kyle Herr.
Winner of Kids’ Choice Award — Sharon Skates’ portrait of Laura Thompson.
Winner of Judges’ Choice Award — Zac Nafziger’s portrait of Jay Herr.
Winner of Artists’ Choice Award — Lynda Bostrom’s portrait of Derek Niver.

portrait of Avery Fary by Brandy Somers

portrait of Avery Fary by Brandy Somers

Portrait of Kyle  Herr by Ben Fraits. Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Portrait of Kyle Herr by Ben Fraits. Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

art lotto wall 4 bw art lotto wall 3bw art lotto wall 2 BW
art lotto prizes

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Here are some fun facts about the evening you might not have known:
1. On the way to Larkin Arts to set up, one of the trophies (created by Ben Fraits) fell over in Denise’s car and broke. She was pretty upset about it. However, it was made of glass, so Zac Nafziger fixed it. He took home that very trophy later that evening.
2. Brandy ate a grape for the first time.
3. Brandy spelled the word “valley” wrong in the booklet, and I missed it when I proofread it for her. (Yep, look in your booklet now.)
4. Valerie introduced us to coconut oil for dry skin as opposed to plain old lotion.
5. The media used in this year’s show included ink, paper, wood, acrylic paint, wax, yarn, photos, glue, recycled paperboard, ebony pencil, charcoal, conté, Sculpey, oil paint, raku fired clay, string, watercolors, found objects, wax, beads, glass, canvas, plexiglass, metal, graphite, plants, film, and cake. THAT’S CRAZY.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

Photo courtesy of Cara Walton.

art lotto merch art lotto glass1 bw

After a most enjoyable evening of stuffing ourselves with food, drink, and art, the only thing left was to reassemble the art store and see how the public would respond the next day, on First Friday. We’ll share more in a day or two, but suffice it to say it was a great response! You can see these portraits for yourself now until September 3rd at Larkin Arts, located downtown on Court Square.

art lotto brandy denise2Thanks to Cara Walton for sharing some photos with us. The hostess was unable to take photos of everything, lol.

Copyright © 2012 – 2014 · 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.