Breckenridge Avalanche Ale: A Springtime BBQ Amber

Breckenridge Avalanche Ale

Breckenridge Avalanche Ale

My husband Max continues his beer reviews for you with a fast rundown on Breckenridge Avalanche Ale:

Last time I talked to you about my baseline, “go-to,” anytime beer, a basic amber ale from Fat Tire. This week, I’m getting a little more “crafty” and going with Breckenridge’s Avalanche Ale. It’s another amber ale, but a little more crafted–meaning a little more thought and trial-and-error went into this one.

It’s still an amber, meaning it’s not an acquired taste–you could set down your nephew on his 21st birthday for his very first beer ever, and if it was an amber like the Breckenridge Avalanche, he’d probably like it.

What makes the Avalanche special, however, is it’s less fruity, more chocolate and caramel than other ambers; it tastes very malty, but the hops cleanser at the finish has a more shaped bitterness, like a fine dark chocolate.

The 3.52% alcohol level means it’s rather light for a craft beer (you should see the alcohol content on some beers–the Brewmeister Armageddon is at a whopping 65%!), but the Colorado water used to make the Avalanche is exceptionally clean (I’m no Coors fan, but they’re right that the water is good in Colorado), so this is a remarkably refreshing beer–which is dangerous in itself–you could easily polish off a dozen without getting a skunky, cloying or intense one in the batch. I think your kidneys would explode before you could drink enough of them to find a bad one, if you follow me.

Breckenridge Avalanche Ale won’t necessarily win over your craft beer snob friends, but that’s only because the flavor is relatively light. What this ale does absolutely perfectly, though, is pair well with classic American grilled foods like burgers, hot dogs, and chicken breasts, so you’ll probably have better luck trying this one out with your buddies on game day. And, yes, friends, that makes for a great beer, too. Serve it icy cold on a hot day, such as in place of your usual Corona, and I bet you’ll be wholly satisfied.

Where I got my ale: Ye Old Spirit Shop, Frederick MD

Where you can get your ale: Where most craft beers are sold; use the Breckenridge link at the top of this post to check for locations near you.

Chocolate Covered Maple Smoked Bacon Soda: Amazing or Abominable?

Chocolate Covered Maple Smoked Bacon Soda

Chocolate Covered Maple Smoked Bacon Soda

Wow. I still cannot get over the fact that Chocolate Covered Maple Smoked Bacon Soda by Real Soda actually exists…

Anyway…currently the top-selling flavor at the North Market Pop Shop in Frederick, Maryland (my local soda purveyor), Chocolate Covered Maple Smoked Bacon soda calls itself “breakfast in a bottle.”

I have to admit I was slightly intimidated by this product at first, but I can confirm for you that you can definitely taste the smoke and you can definitely detect the bacon. They stand out as two distinct notes in this sugary brew.

Others have remarked that they can only taste the chocolate element, which is funny to me because I taste more of the smokey bacon than the chocolate.

Real Soda makes “real soda in real bottles,” and this particular offering uses real, all natural cane sugar instead of that nasty corn syrup stuff. (Bubbles and Foam is firmly against corn syrup, ugh.)

If I’m going to make myself fat reviewing sodas, then by golly it had better be real cane sugar making me blimp out.

Anyway, this soda is definitely tasty and closer to the “amazing” end of the spectrum,  but in the end I prefer to ingest my bacon the old-fashioned way. The soda is a little too far on the sweet side for me, and I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with the notion of bacon as a liquid.

But if you want to be adventurous and delve deep into the world of sodas for an unusual flavor combination, this drink is the perfect place to start your explorations of the quirkier parts of the soda universe.

Where I got my soda: North Market Pop Shop 

Where you can get your soda: Chocolate Covered Maple Smoked Bacon Soda (Amazon)

Gentle Exfoliation with bareMinerals Exfoliating Treatment Cleanser

bareMinerals Exfoliating Treatment Cleanser

bareMinerals Exfoliating Treatment Cleanser

My local Bare Escentuals aesthetician alerted me to the existence of bareMinerals Exfoliating Treatment Cleanser when I went into the shop for a mini makeover a few months ago. The cleanser comes in powder form, and when mixed with water it becomes a soft, gentle exfoliation treatment, perfect for sensitive skin types or for days when you don’t want to use a more granular scrub but you still want a thoroughly clean face.

This cleanser contains the slightly mysterious Active Soil Complex, but trust me, this product smells nothing like dirt or earth. In fact, to me it smells like a delicate and comforting mix of almond and rice, and it feels great going on, like I’m really getting my face clean without stripping the natural moisture from my face.

Although the price of the bottle might seem high at first, it’s really not–the powder lasts and lasts. On normal days I only need a few shakes of it to get the job done. After warmer days that make me perspire during exercise, I add more powder and less water to make a rougher paste that really absorbs and eliminate excess oils from my face. It’s nice to be able to control the texture of the product and change it up to meet each day’s needs. It always rinses clean, leaving my face feeling soft but fresh.

And as someone pointed out to me recently, a powder cleanser like this one is TSA approved for travel! There’s no need to cart around a heavy bottle of liquid cleanser when you’re on vacation or trying to pack everything into a little carry-on bag–just bring along a small quantity of dry cleanser and you are good to go without excess weight.

All in all, this is a handy cleansing product that is perfect for light daily exfoliation.

Where I got my cleanser: Bare Escentuals Hagerstown Maryland

Where you can get your cleanser: Your Local Bare Escentuals Shop

A Peach of a Soda: Peach Nehi

Peach Nehi Soda

Peach Nehi Soda

Established in 1924, the Nehi Soda brand (now part of the Dr Pepper Snapple Groupis famous for a bevy of fruity sodas, including past flavors like grapefruit, watermelon and “Sangria.”

Grape Nehi typically gets all of the attention; the character Radar O’Reilly in the popular TV series M*A*S*H chugged it in lieu of alcohol, for example. Although grape might be the star, my favorite Nehi flavor by far (of the limited options still available) is peach.

The coral color is cheerful, the vintage long-necked bottle is stylish, and the peachy flavor makes me think nostalgically of humid summer picnics and runny, sticky popsicles and Atlanta, with all its peach themed streets, a place that renowned for being hot.

Sadly, some of the most amazing Nehi flavors no longer exist, like the Nehi “Upper 10” Lemon flavor with lithium, advertised as a “jolly good mixer” in 1934, and touted as a great substitute for coffee. I bet it was!

Where I got my soda: North Market Pop Shop

Where you can get your soda: Beverages Direct

Sidral Mundet Apple Soda, A Mexican Favorite for More Than 100 Years

Sidral Mundet Apple Soda

Sidral Mundet Apple Soda

This weekend I stumbled across a bottle of Sidral Mundet apple soda, a Mexican and Mexican American favorite beverage since 1902. After sampling it today, I can see why Sidral Mundet has been bottled and consumed for so long!

The first three ingredients are carbonated water, natural sugar (which can be hard to find these days, at least on the American market) and apple juice, so this is not one of those fake apple sodas (although if you read through Bubbles and Foam, you will see that I like some of those fake apple sodas too.) To me there was less of an apple taste and more like a hint of natural grape to it, but it was a light soda, not too syrupy or overwhelming.

The drink continued to fizz in my mouth with every sip, a fun effect that made me feel like I was drinking Pop Rocks (albeit naturally flavored Pop Rocks.)

I also like the classic long-necked glass bottle; I might repurpose it as a casual vase to hold a long-stemmed red or white rose later on.

Where I got my soda: North Market Pop Shop

Where you can get your soda: Locations where the product is available are listed on the Sidral Mundet website.

Natural Shampoo That Delivers Real Moisture: Desert Essence Coconut Shampoo

Desert Essence Coconut Shampoo

Desert Essence Coconut Shampoo

Craving something scented like coconut, I gave Desert Essence Coconut Shampoo a try, thinking it would deliver a pleasant beachy scent and nothing more. Like many people, I was skeptical and thought “natural” shampoo meant it might be weak or ineffective. But I was so, so wrong! (hangs head in shame)

Dessert Essence Coconut Shampoo touts itself as moisturizing, and it really, truly works. My hair was pretty unhappy when I started using it. My ends were fried from a bad dye job and my scalp was itchy due to lack of humidity in the air. Not only did this coconut shampoo smell heavenly, but it truly did what it promised: it delivered real moisture to my ends, added shine, and healed my dry, itchy scalp.

Now I am a believer in the power of coconut oil. No more skepticism, I promise. I will also be more open-minded about today’s natural and organic bath and body products, which have come a long way in recent years in terms of power and effectiveness.

Where I got my shampoo: Amazon

Where you can get your shampoo: Your local food co-op or Amazon

Ramune Japanese Plum Soda

Ramune Plum Soda from Japan

Ramune Plum Soda from Japan

You’ve got to admire a soda that comes with special instructions on how to open and drink it properly!

I recently enjoyed some refreshing Ramune Plum Soda imported by Sangaria, a type of Japanese “marble soda” that must be popped open by dislodging the glass marble from the throat of the bottle. When you drink Ramune, you have to tilt the bottle so the glass marble will drop into an indentation, otherwise it will block your flow of soda.

The bottle comes with a special plastic top that you snap in two. One part serves as the instrument to dislodge the marble. Beware, you should do this on a flat, steady surface so you can apply as much pressure as needed to pop the marble. When it pops, the soda releases a loud cloud of fizz. Kids will love it (although you might have to pop the marble for them).

Ramune in Japan comes in so many wonderful flavors–we cannot get them all here in the United States. Some flavors available in Japan in the past included lychee, bubble gum, yuzu, pineapple, curry, wasabi and octopus!

Having been to Japan once, I can solemnly swear and attest the Japanese make some of the best sodas and snack foods on earth, if not the absolute #1 best snacks and beverages on earth. The flavors are so daring and imaginative! The packaging is always so cheerful and beautifully designed. I can’t get enough.

Where I got my marble soda: Wegmans

Where you can get your marble soda: Wegmans

Fat Tire Amber Ale for the Classic Beer Repertoire

Fat Tire Amber Ale

Fat Tire Amber Ale

I have recruited my husband Max to review beer for you, and he begins today by telling you about a popular modern classic, Fat Tire Amber Ale by New Belgium Brewing Company:

I like beer. Well, that’s certainly not unusual–a forty something guy who enjoys beer. I don’t think I fall into either of the two typical categories of middle aged, middle class beer drinkers, however; I’m not a “whatever ya got” domestic lager and pilsner guy who drinks beer simply to drink beer. I actually enjoy beer, in the same way that I might enjoy a good burger, a savory snack, or a nice cup of juice or tea. But, on the other hand, I’m not one of those micro-brew snobs you see spending forty bucks on some IPA that I’ve traveled 200 miles to pick up, either. I’m not above a lager, but I really prefer a decent amber. Sometimes in winter, a stout is great, and a decent Hefeweizen in late spring is very tasty, but my go-to most of the year is an amber.

So, if I’m going to talk to you about beer, I’m going to start with a classic amber, Fat Tire. Ambers are technically dark ales, with an emphasis on the malt flavors with some added fruitiness, as opposed to a pale ale’s emphasis on the hops. That means ambers are really smooth, with a kind of substance to them. These qualities mean ambers are seen as a kind of “training wheels” beer by the beer snobs. Like I said–I’m unusual in that I’m fine with the beer snobs thinking of me as having an unrefined palate–I just want a tasty beer.
New Belgium’s Fat Tire is a rather easily obtained amber that’s not made by a giant beer conglomerate; hence, of my go-to type of beer, Fat Tire is the most readily available type. That doesn’t mean it’s a second choice, though. This stuff is so popular for a reason–it’s a beer your average Budweiser drinker can recognize as a tasty beer, yet a beer snob can taste some complexity in it (hence the “training wheels” tag). My point is that 4 out of 5 beer drinkers will like this amber, and–much like with Elvis–50 million fans can’t wrong, right?
Fat Tire has a lightly malty taste with faint aromas of biscuits and jam plus a slightly bitter finish, so it cleanses the palate as you drink it, unlike a soda or a stout, where the flavors linger until they becomes overwhelming. Fat Tire has some caramel notes and some apple flavors, too, so pair it with anything you think would go with biscuits, berry jam, apples or caramel. Chicken, pork, and seafood work especially well–like a good club sandwich, or a nice cashew chicken with fried rice. Overall, if I had to introduce aliens to beer–Fat Tire Amber Ale is where I’d start.  –Max
Where I got my beer: Frederick Wine House
Where you can find this beer: Most liquor stores.

Finally Found My Favorite Green Apple Soda!

Capone Family Secret Green Apple Soda

Capone Family Secret Green Apple Soda

Green apple is by its very nature a tart flavor, which I fully understand; however, most green apple sodas on the market today are way too acidic and therefore too physically painful for me to actually drink. Despite many past disappointments, I valiantly forged ahead, trying each and every green apple soda that crossed my path, hoping to one day find a winner that I could actually enjoy. I wanted a green apple soda that was slightly tart, but not overwhelmingly so.

At long last I have found the green apple soda that seems specially crafted just for me; there is just enough of a sour kick, but not so much acidity that I feel like I’m eroding the skin off my esophagus: Capone Family Secret Green Apple Soda.

Made in Illinois (of course!), this green apple soda is refreshing and bright without any burning sensations. It’s sugary as all sodas are, but within reason. It’s the perfect balance of sweet and sour. Plus, who doesn’t love a product that evokes the gangster elan of Al Capone? It’s irresistible, really.

Where I got my soda: North Market Pop Shop in Frederick MD

Where you can get your soda: Your favorite soda retailer, or send a query to the company at the website listed above

An Oldie But a Goodie: St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub

St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub

St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub

An affordable drugstore classic you can always count on to perform as designed is St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub, ideal for normal to oily skin.

The scrub contains crushed apricot and walnut pits, so all the scrubby bits are 100% natural, but folks with sensitive skin might possibly find the scrub to be a bit too abrasive for them. The scrub is sulfate and paraben free plus hypoallergenic.

I often use St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub after working and sweating in the garden; it helps get all of the pollen and soil out of my pores and helps me feel amazingly fresh and clean after hours of pulling weeds and hauling bags of gravel.

The androgynous packaging means guys and gals alike can display this scrub in the bathroom without feeling awkward. I totally recommend it for guys to exfoliate with before shaving.

St. Ives claims Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub is America’s #1 scrub based on sales volume, and I don’t doubt it. It’s inexpensive, effective and available almost anywhere bath and body products are sold. This is definitely a “bath and body hall of fame” product.

Where I got my scrub: CVS

Where you can get your scrub: CVS, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.