Thursday, July 11, 2013

Weekend in WNC - the second highlight of my summer

Two blog posts in one day; crazy, I know. But it's pretty eventful around here lately. July 5-9 was spent in Mills River with my old buddy Glenn Bailey and his family. I had not seen Glenn or anyone else in his family in at least eight years. We had planned a weekend of hiking and visiting as many of western North Carolina's craft breweries as possible. We hiked to waterfalls in South Mountains State Park near Morganton and Dupont State Forest near Brevard. We also took a drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.

The more impressive part of our weekend was the fact that we managed to visit 15 breweries in 4 days time, including seven on Saturday and five on Monday. What follows is a brief review of each brewery.

1. Catawba Valley Brewing (Morganton) - Our first brewery was a good one. Though the folks were having some technical difficulties with their cash register system and didn't seem to have their mess together, they had plenty of good beer. I sampled their Mother Trucker Pale Ale and their Scottish ale, both of which were very good. The pale ale was actually excellent. Glenn really enjoyed their red ale. The place seemed to be a local gathering place, with many people coming in and bringing pizzas for dinner. The pool tables were a nice touch. Like many of the breweries we visited, this place was set up in an old warehouse type building, but it was cool.

2. Lookout Brewing (Black Mountain) - One of the newest places we went to, it was located in a nondescript office plaza behind an Asian restaurant. The place was very small, but had a cool vibe going on with some art on the walls and Grateful Dead playing on the stereo. There was also a small outdoor seating area. All of the beers on tap were good, but nothing stood out to me as particularly outstanding. The people were super friendly and it was a nice, laid back place to hang out. Glenn really enjoyed their smoked ale.

3. Pisgah Brewing (Black Mountain) - Another warehouse location with a large outdoor seating area, this is a well established brewery. Cool music helped make the atmosphere. The Toubab International Pale Ale was excellent. I had previously tried their signature Pisgah Pale, which is a very good beer, but the Toubab was even better.

4. Lexington Avenue Brewery, aka Lab (Asheville) - Though they make their own beer, this place was much more of a restaurant in my opinion. I did not try any of their beers (trying to pace myself) but the food was excellent. I had the Cuban pulled pork nachos, which turned out to be a whole lot more food than I had planned on and it was really good. The atmosphere was much different than the other places we visited and I have to say that this is one of those places that just didn't make much of an impression on me (other than the great food).

5. Highland Brewing (Asheville) - Probably the best established of all the breweries on our tour, this was my Mecca prior to arriving. I have loved Highland's beers for a long time and was stoked to finally visit the home of those wonderful brews. Rather than trying one or two beers, I decided to get a flight of six tasters. It was nice just to have a little bit of everything. Unfortunately our visit was cut short as they were preparing for a concert and cleared everyone out. As an aside, we were able to take a tour next door at Asheville Distilling, where Troy & Sons Whiskey is produced. That was pretty cool.

6. Burial Beer (Asheville) - I think this was the newest place we went. It is a small brewery in an old industrial building. The ambiance was much different hear with hard rock/heavy metal music playing, lots of old tools displayed on the walls, and even the tap handles were made out of old tools like a pitchfork, hammer, scythe, etc. The owners were super nice and eager to talk with the customers; they were certainly enthusiastic. All of their beers are high gravity varieties, with nothing coming in under 7% ABV and most above 8.5%. I tried their farmhouse ale, which was nice.

7. Green Man Brewery (Asheville) - After leaving Burial, we walked right around the corner to the well-established Green Man. I had previously tried their pale ale and their ESB, both of which are very good. Green Man featured one of the more unique environments we visited with all kinds of random stuff hanging in the rafters and a ton of interesting stickers on the tap wall. There were also lots of choices, most with unique names. I tried the Ironic Mustache Red IPA, which was excellent. Glenn had the Hops for Teacher IPA and said it was very, very good. One of their specials was an imperial IPA called Imperial Stormtrooper (10.5% ABV). As I heard one customer exclaim, "I can't drink that; I'm a mere mortal!" Our friendly bartender at this location also gave us a few suggestions for other places we might want to try.

8. Wicked Weed Brewing (Asheville) - We wrapped up Saturday at Wicked Weed, which has a great restaurant (the food was really good) as well as a nice tap room and outdoor seating area downstairs. The beer selection here was huge and it would take many trips to try them all. I only had one, but it was a great choice. While I normally don't drink fruity beers I tried their watermelon saison and it was wonderful. A wedge of watermelon was placed on the rim of the glass and the aroma of watermelon was apparent from start to finish. The flavor of watermelon came through better the warmer the beer got. An excellent summer brew!

9. Brevard Brewing (Brevard) - This is a small brewery in downtown Brevard. The bartender was very friendly and most of their beers are of the lighter variety. I tried a flight so I could get a good sample of their beers. Glenn had looked all day Saturday for a lager with no luck, so he jumped all over the lager at Brevard Brewing and he was not disappointed. The pilsner was also very good, possibly the best I had on the entire trip.

10. Oskar Blues (Brevard) - A large warehouse operation, with a tap room named The Tasty Weasel upstairs and ample outdoor seating, this was one of the largest places we visited. My only previous experience with this brewery was Dale's Pale Ale, which I'm not a huge fan of. However, I had two of the best beers I tasted all weekend at this place. Their pilsner, Mama's Little Yella Pils, is really good. However, what may be the best beer I had all weekend was their imperial red ale named G'Knight. I can't even begin to describe how good this beer is and I ended up bringing some of them home with me.

11. Wedge Brewing (Asheville) - Located in the River Arts district of Asheville, I can only describe the atmosphere of this place as "junkyard." It is in a huge old warehouse/industrial building near the railroad tracks, river, and highway. It looks like an abandoned industrial site, but the beer is great. I tried their pale ale and their pilsner (noticing a trend here?) both of which were very good. Glenn had been itching to try their Belgian double, called Golem. It's a big beer at 10.5% ABV, but very smooth - a dangerous combination. It lived up to all the hype and Glenn was very happy it did.

12. Altamont Brewing (Asheville) - This place was recommended by our bartender at Green Man and when we arrived she was actually there, having drinks with friends. Located in West Asheville, this is sort of out of the way, but in an area that is probably about ready to take off growth-wise. The beer selection was extensive, but we wanted to try Altamont's own brews. Glenn got the ESB and said it was very good. I don't even remember what I had, but it was OK. Altamont seemed to cater to a crowd of mostly regulars, but certainly is a brewery worth checking out.

13. Oyster House Brewing (Asheville) - Located inside a pricey downtown restaurant, which I'm sure is very good just by the looks of the food I saw, their beer did not particularly impress. We can say we went there, but I doubt I'll ever go back. Nothing against the place, but I had better beer almost everywhere else.

14. Hi-Wire Brewing (Asheville) - I again tried a flight in order to get a broad perspective on their beers. The Acrobat Spring Ale was excellent and the Prime Time Pale Ale and Hi-Wire Lager were both very good too. I think the spring ale was on par with Highland's famous Little Hump. Everything here was good, but these three really stood out.

15. Asheville Brewing (Asheville) - The tour ended here with dinner. At this point I could only really have one beer and I chose their Rocket Girl Lager. This beer was good enough that I brought a six pack home with me. The food at this place was excellent too.

All of these places had their own unique niche. I have to say I didn't have a bad beer the whole time, but there were a few that stood out as being better than the rest. I'd love to return in the fall when all these places have their fall seasonals on tap. It really would be Oktoberfest!

ALHFAM - The first highlight of my summer

In mid-June I embarked on my first major road trip in my new car. I dropped my mother off in western PA to spend time with her family and I continued on to Akron, Ohio to attend the first three days of the ALHFAM annual meeting. For those of you who are uninitiated, ALHFAM is the Association of Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums. It is a national organization with regional subsets and the annual meeting moves around to diverse locations in the US and Canada every year. Each region also holds smaller regional conferences throughout the year as well. The last time I had attended an annual meeting was in 2009 when the organization convened in Winston-Salem, so I was very excited to return.

ALHFAM annual meetings consist of not only conference sessions, but also field trips, hands-on workshops, and all kinds of unique activities that you just have to present to witness yourself to understand. Generally, I think ALHFAM conferences are the best I've ever attended and certainly the most fun. The atmosphere is always super friendly, laid back and relaxed, but professional. For field trip day I signed up for a trip to Cleveland where our group got to tour the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Cuyahoga Valley Soldier's and Sailor's Monument, with a stop for lunch at Great Lakes Brewing. Most of the conference sessions I attended dealt with interpretation, particularly first-person interpretation and the role of historic sites in the ever changing field of 21st century learning. The entire group also took a field trip to two Mormon history sites and a working living history farm. All in all, it's hard to beat the experiences you have at an ALHFAM conference.

But it's not just the quality of the conferences and the excellent learning experiences that make ALHFAM a great organization. What is really special about ALHFAM is the relationships that are created and nurtured through the organization. It really is like a big family (hence the organizational moniker ALHFAMily). Though I hadn't been to an annual meeting in four years, it was as if I had never left. I saw plenty of familiar faces, many of whom I've stayed in touch with through the wonders of Facebook and Linked-In, and it was like we'd only just seen each other last week. I also met lots of new folks who I will look forward to seeing at future conferences. The people of ALHFAM are what makes ALHFAM special. It is a truly warm, caring, friendly, and professional group of folks. When someone asks me what an ALHFAM conference is like, I often say it's like summer camp for adults. The feeling I get at ALHFAM conferences is much the same as when I was attending youth conferences at Montreat Conference Center in the North Carolina mountains as a teenager. By the end of the week you feel like you want to stay forever and never let the moment end. But in the end you know that the feeling can't possibly last forever. The real world awaits, just beyond the conference reach, and you must return to that world with all it's responsibilities. You will take things that you learned and apply them in that real world. And you will eagerly anticipate the next time you are able to be with this special group of people, even if it's four years away. And when you return, you know that you will find the friendship, acceptance, and fun that always attends a gathering of the ALHFAMily. So to all of my friends in ALHFAM, I miss you and I can't wait to see you somewhere/sometime down the road!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Blog Updates

Realizing that it's been three months since my last post, I have decided it's time to stop making promises about how often I want/intend to post on the blog. I've found that most things I might have previously posted here end up on Facebook or don't get posted at all. That being said, I intend to keep the blog up, and will post things as I feel led to do so. I obviously can't promise any sort of regular posting these days so this blog will become more of an occasional thing than a regular one.

So just what the hell have I been up to lately? Lots of stuff. I have started referring to last month as "Around the State in the Month of May" due to all the traveling I was doing. There was a ten-day stretch that saw me on the road for seven of the ten. That trip took me from Kinston to Raleigh-Greensboro-Asheville-Concord-Spencer-back to Kinston-Alamance-Kinston-Southport, before finally coming home for good. Most of my travel for the past four months has been work related. I've conducted seven workshops statewide since mid-February and have assisted numerous sites with events. Of course, I have also found time to work in a couple of concerts along the way (information which has certainly been posted on Facebook).

I'll be on the road in June and July as well, so stay tuned both to this venue and Facebook if you want to know where I'm going to be and why. Thanks for continuing to check in, even if I don't!

Monday, February 11, 2013

What I'm Currently Reading

I came across a review on another blog today of the book I'm currently reading. I'm stepping out of my usual area of interest to read Eric Hobsbawm's Age of Revolution. I purchased all four books in Hobsbawm's series (Revolution, Capital, Empire, and Extremes) while I was in college and grad school, back when I was seriously thinking about focusing on 20th century European history (a very fleeting moment, for sure). However, I've always thought that one day I'd return to the series and read all four books. I started reading Age of Revolution last month and have been reading a chapter here, a chapter there as time allows. Seeing this review this morning was very interesting and sort of spurs me to speed things up a bit and get moving on this book and the series.

If you haven't checked out the blog, The Junto, you really should do so, especially if you are interested in early American history. It is most definitely an academic blog, but there's a whole lot to like about the stuff they are posting. It's well worth monitoring for little nuggets like today's book review.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review - 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism

I can't believe it has been two months since my last blog post. However, considering how busy the last two months have been, I shouldn't be so surprised. My apologies for the long absence. So to start off the new year, I'd like to offer a book review.

I just finished reading Nicole Eustace's 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism. This book offers a fresh take on the War of 1812 and approaches the war from a number of perspectives. This is not a military history; far from it, this book explores early 19th century American ideas about patriotism, duty, and love (love of family, country, etc.). Eustace points out how romantic and familial love were equated with patriotism and love of country. Prowar forces within the United States attempted in various ways to juxtapose their righteous view of America's war aims with the less-than-virtuous British and their Native American (and in some cases, black) allies.
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In the end, Americans had to face many contradictions, such as how a nation that espoused liberty still endorsed the institution of slavery, and how their claims to defending their rights to life, liberty, and property rang hollow against their real war aims of territorial expansion and denying the Native American population those same rights. While this book is not necessarily pro-British, it certainly points out weaknesses in American arguments and claims as to what their war aims really were. In the end, Eustace sums up the importance, usually forgotten or swept aside, of this war in real terms. She points out that the legacy of this war is one of vast territorial expansion and Indian removal that persisted until well after the next three American Wars (the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War).

If you want to read a solid social and intellectual history of the War of 1812 without getting bogged down in the military intricacies of the conflict this is the book for you. It is very well written and well argued, and will make you think of the War of 1812 in a different light

Friday, October 26, 2012

These Monthly Posts Are Becoming Habit

It seems that I've gotten into a groove of posting about once a month here lately. Much of this is the result of just being extremely busy, all the time. I have already started planning to write one of those "year in review" type letters that some folks write during the holidays and send out to all their friends and relatives. However, I won't be sending it out with my Christmas cards or anything like that. I'm still on the fence about whether or not to put it here on the blog because some of it is going to be very personal in nature. I may post it as a "Note" on Facebook (if that function still in fact exists on Facebook). At any rate, I just think it will help me to clear my head of everything that has happened this year, which has been quite a lot.

For the short term, please take a look at the blog page. I have updated my profile a wee bit and changed the "What I'm Currently Reading" so it is now accurate and up to date. I will be conducting a historic weapons certification class Monday-Wednesday and will try to post some photos and commentary at some point. Of course, immediately after the class I will be heading to Fort Macon for our War of 1812 garrison weekend, followed by moving! Yes, it should be an exciting two weeks around here. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I'm Still Here, Part Deux

Once again, I come to you after a month of not posting. Let's just say that September has pretty well kicked my butt and leave it at that. October looks to be even crazier, but hopefully in a better, more positive way. Here's the wrap up:

Good - got a promotion on August 15 (same job, plus added duties for a 10% raise)

Neutral - lots of projects coming due at the same time equals very busy me

Not so good - maternal grandmother and father passed away within four days of one another, leading to multiple funerals and all the stuff that goes along with those kinds of life altering events.

Also lost in all this were two trips to Pennsylvania (one for obvious reasons). I know most of you were already aware of all the things listed above and I hope you'll forgive the redundancy.

Alas, I have not forgotten the blog, but have not had time to really write much at all that isn't required by work. There will be plenty of material to blog about in October and I hope to be able to keep up with all of it.

Finally, for anyone who might be interested, I am now on Twitter (@ADuppstadt). Not sure how much of the blog I'll be posting there as it is already posted to Facebook whenever Networked Blogs is working properly. And, for what its worth, I'm also on LinkedIn. You can find me in any of those locales even when I'm not blogging about something!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I'm Still Here

Honestly, I've been extremely busy, but not with anything that's particularly blog worthy. Since my last post over a month ago I have been working on numerous projects at work, finished up my summer session classes, and started fall semester. This semester, aside from my usual community college courses, I am teaching one online section of American History I for UNC-Pembroke. I am excited about the opportunity; I have taught at the university level before, but it was almost ten years ago and it was a brief stint. I am only one week into fall semester and the good folks at Pembroke have already scheduled me for the same class in the spring. I certainly have to thank my good buddy Ryan Anderson, coordinator of Pembroke's American Studies program for hooking me up with the department and setting me on the path to this opportunity. And, as with most situations in life, I've found that the administrative assistant in the department is one of the most important people to know as she has helped me deal with a lot of situations already, which has kept me from having to make a three hour drive to the campus. I'd like to visit one of these days, but it would have been just a bit inconvenient to do so anytime over the past couple of weeks. So, here's looking forward to a new semester while trying to keep up with all the other plates that are spinning. You know, I'd be bored if it were any easier (or at least that's what I keep telling myself).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Bicentennial has Really Begun

I've been meaning to write a post summarizing the various War of 1812 Bicentennial activities I've taken part in since OpSail in Norfolk. Things have been hectic to say the least. Aside from many work-related projects, I've had lots of work to do surrounding my classes and some professional development, which I may get into later. I was talking with Mike Hill from the Office of Archives and History Research Branch earlier this week and was reminded that I really needed to write this post, so this one's for Mike.

On Friday, June 29 the NC Department of Cultural Resources War of 1812 Bicentennial Planning Committee hosted its Bicentennial kickoff symposium at the NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort. I had been very much looking forward to this symposium for a number of reasons. I knew it would give me a chance to see colleagues I don't often see like the aforementioned Mr. Hill, Josh Howard, LeRae Umfleet, Dr. David Brook, and others. I was also very interested in hearing a number of the speakers on the program, particularly Stephen Budiansky, author of the excellent book Perilous Fight. Mr. Budiansky did not disappoint; his keynote address was very good. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to his presentation. Tommy Sheppard's discussion of American sailors impressed into the British navy was unique and interesting. Most folks know that impressment was one of the causes of the war, but to hear stories of the sailors who suffered that fate was a nice change of pace. Thus ended the morning session and I was off to lunch at the Royal James Cafe with Josh and Dr. Larry Babits. The conversation was stimulating and the fellowship enjoyable.

Gerald Thomas was the first speaker of the afternoon. He has authored numerous works on the history of Bertie County, NC including a recently published work on the county during the War of 1812. My feelings on this presentation are decidedly mixed. I didn't agree with some of his conclusions and though his research seems pretty thorough it just seemed like there were some holes that were left unfilled. Next was a panel discussion featuring Dr. Wade Dudley, Dr. Lindley Butler, and William Thiessen. Each gave a short presentation on a particular "niche" of the war. All three were great, and could have easily done a full-length presentation if not for the time constraints of the program. The symposium wrapped up with Dr. Larry Babits' presentation about doing living history on the USS Niagara. It was a real treat listening to one of the foremost maritime and military historians in the state talk about a craft that many of us strive to be as good at as he is.

All in all, this was an excellent symposium and the committee should be proud of their efforts. The attendance was, I think, better than expected with about 75 folks in attendance throughout the day. The unveiling of the museum's new War of 1812 exhibit was icing on the cake. Friday evening there was a harbor cruise and dinner; I did not take part in that activity and I'm not certain how many did.

The following day, a living history encampment was held on the Beaufort Historical Association grounds, just a block or two from the museum. Reenactors representing the NC Militia, British 4th Regt. of Foot, and the privateer Snap Dragon were on hand to interpret the war for visitors. Musket demonstrations were conducted throughout the day, but visitation was somewhat light due to excessive heat. Still, the reenactors all had a good time and were well taken care of by the BHA staff who provided lunch and other amenities. Toward the end of the afternoon a number of us trekked the two blocks to the Old Burying Ground and visited the graves of many notables, including the privateer captain Otway Burns. I would definitely consider the weekend a success and think it was a quite commendable way to kick off the War of 1812 Bicentennial in North Carolina!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

War of 1812 Bicentennial Kicks Off in NC

This past weekend a group of dedicated War of 1812 reenactors gathered in Raleigh, NC on the grounds of the State Capitol and at the Mordecai Historic Park to reenact and commemorate the 200th anniversary of the United States' declaration of war against Great Britain in 1812. At the State Capitol the declaration was read and the Wake Volunteer Guards militia fired muskets and a cannon. Later that evening a ball was held at the Raleigh City Museum to cap off the day's activities. And with that, the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 officially began in North Carolina.

This weekend the NC Department of Cultural Resources War of 1812 Bicentennial Committee officially begins its commemoration of the little remembered and even less understood war that was pivotal in creating a sense of national pride and unity both here in the United States and in Canada. The Committee will kick off it's commemoration with a day-long symposium focusing on the naval war on Friday, June 29 at the NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Saturday the commemoration will continue with a living history program on the grounds of the Beaufort Historical Association featuring US Regulars, militia, British forces, and sailors.

There are also activities taking place in the colonial capital of New Bern, at Tryon Palace. "The War America Forgot" will include character based tours of the site's Federal era house, the Stanly House, as well as children's activities in the North Carolina History Center. Also, on Sunday afternoon, yours truly will be giving a lecture called North Carolina War of 1812 Personalities featuring brief character sketches of five North Carolinians of the period.

All in all, both weekends included, I think North Carolina has done quite a good job getting the Bicentennial commemoration started. Another symposium and living history program will be held in October, along with many other living history programs, lectures, etc. in between. I hope that you will find time to attend one or more of these great events!