Believe it or not, running this blog is an actual expense for Mike and I.  Contextually speaking, however, “expense” is pretty much an arbitrary term.  Monetarily, it costs us time and money to maintain this site, BUT the relationships we’ve built make it a virtual gold mine.  That being said, it’s pretty cool when you find out somebody reads, enjoys, and has learned from your writing…which happened recently.

This past Easter my dad, Bob Watson, drove from Toledo, Ohio to bring some furniture (family heirlooms)  for us to use in our daughters’ room.  Ok, that’s his excuse…we all know he just wanted to see us.  Anyway, he not only brought himself and some cool retro furniture, he also brought a case of 20+ homebrewed beers and Mead that had been created by his his supervisor.  I’ve  never met this benevolent donor of fermented beverages, James Shruga, but from what my dad says, he brews more than the average guy, having fallen in love with the magic of brewing.  I know James is about my age, has three kids, is a regular reader of the world’s greatest beer blog that offers a plethora of  great tips on homebrewing, works as a sub-contractor for Chrysler, and…makes a hell of a good homebrew.

Seriously, I was pleasantly surprised by James’ brews, particularly in light of the fact that he hasn’t been brewing for years upon years.  In fact, he even threw in a mead (fyi…I’ve never brewed a mead) that was the best homemade mead (and I’ve had several) I’ve ever tasted…lightly sweet, very dry, with nuanced honey notes.  I hate mead that is a sticky sweet honey bombs that comes from stuck/incomplete fermentation due to lack of oxygen or nutrients.  We had a few folks over to try Mr. Shruga’s brews, and while they all enjoyed each creation, the ladies couldn’t keep their hands off the mead.  Here are a few pics of “the transaction” which began in a factory parking lot in Ohio and ended in a residential driveway in Missouri:

James in Ohio

"Burlesque" - a great Belgian Pale Ale

Saison Du Sophie - Well Balanced Saison

Nate - Ohio

There wasn’t a bad brew in the bunch, but I’d have to say I was surprised (pleasantly) by two. First was his Double IPA, “Valkyrie.” If you followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that while I enjoy IPAs and DIPAs, I am not a hophead and don’t seek them out, nor am I wowed by them. James’ Valkyrie blew me away. It was well balanced, and very rich and malty. It wasn’t a pure citrus bomb, being nuanced by peppery and spiced qualities. You could have blindfolded me, lined up this brew along side a bunch of GOOD brews by pro brewers, and I wouldn’t be able to pick out the homebrew.

Also notable was the “Starry Night.” This was one of the first I tried, simply because I was skeptical (sorry James). I am not a huge licorice fan, and Anise stars–a Chinese/Japanese spice that comes from unique evergreen seeds–tastes like licorice, a flavor I usually find a little overwhelming. In fact, way back in the day when I was less discriminating in what I drank, I tried a Manhattan Car Bomb (Guinness with a shot of Jager) and nearly hurled. But James Starry night, A stout brewed with Anise, was great. The licorice flavor was nuanced enough to not distract from the dark malty flavors.

I’ll be honest…I still have several of James’ brews left. I am letting some of them age (like the imperial wit…I’m waiting for some subtle sour notes to develop). James, if you are reading this, Thank YOU! It was a real treat, and I was honored to sample our brew. Keep brewing, because in brewing–just like playing the guitar or singing Karaoke–you’ve either got it or you don’t, and you do. I plan on sending some of mine your way. Due to the extreme brevity of my dad’s trip, at the last minute I forgot to send some Watson brew with you, but I will in the future.