Another Blogiversary: A Little Spring Cleaning

Anyone who has read this blog through its three years of existence will know
that there is no need to feel sad about ice cream at anytime
(image from one of my childhood favorites: ABC TV's Schoolhouse Rock)
Last year when I wrote up my second "Blogiversary" post, I received a nice comment from one of the deans of local blogger-types in the CMH Gourmand, noting that on average a "sustained" blog generally lasts on average about 33 months and that I was just about there.

Well, I guess its time to celebrate a little bit then with this third "Blogiversary" post. After putting up a initial statement post back in late May of 2014, three has proven to be a magic number indeed. While this venture was meant as more of a fun lark and a way to keep mentally sharp when I started, I have noticed the traffic to this blog grow surely but steadily over time. For those of you who poke their heads here on a regular (or even semi-regular) basis, I thank you for your time and I hope you have been entertained by the ventures of my spouse and I over this span.

Post number wise, things have remained pretty steady: after a blazing (and unsustainable) three posts a week during my first year of blogging, I have striven for and pretty much have reached the two posts per week mark these last couple years. As Goldilocks might say, that number seems to be just right, and no changes will be made on that front for the time being.

Big Craft Beer in a Small City: Small City Taphouse (Sandusky, OH)

Access to Lake Erie is just one of the reasons why locals and tourists
alike flock to Sandusky, the county seat of Erie County
The northern Ohio tourist destination that is Sandusky, best known for the world-famous roller coaster mecca Cedar Point Amusement Park, is not the first place I would expect a craft beer destination to reside. Not to say that this town of roughly 26,000 hasn't seen the effects of the state's craft beer boom - two nanobreweries in the forms of Ferndock Brewing and Amusement Ales and Brewing are currently cranking up their operations within the city limits.

Nor would I pick Sandusky as having certifiably solid restaurant specializing in Asian dishes. Heck, even a big city like Columbus still has its own issues in that department, considering a chain like P.F. Chang's can win (614)'s "ColumBest 2017" nomination for "Best Asian Restaurant."

But as the saying goes, appearances can be deceiving. Small City Taphouse, comfortably embedded within Sandusky's downtown, proved to be a winning enterprise on both those points to my spouse and I during a recent visit to their location with family.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Yr. 4): Head North of the Kosciuszko Lands and Hang a Left

Revolutionary War patriot Thaddeus Kosciuszko sports ties to lands
in and around Dublin, Ohio (image from The Kosciuszko Foundation)
Driving northbound on State Route 257 through the northern portions of Dublin, Ohio, one might spot one of those numerous state historical markers along the roadside (according to the Ohio History Connection, 1,500 such plaques dot the state.)  As you're generally driving at a fairly fast rate of speed by the time you reach this marker, the thing the might catch your eye is the lack of anything remarkable as you zip by.

If you do stop and take a look, you will learn that the lands you're traveling through once belonged to a Revolutionary War patriot with Polish roots, General Thaddeus Kosciuszko. As written on the marker, the site you are standing on "marks the northern boundary of the "Kosciuszko Lands"", which was given to him by the government of the United States as payment for his work in constructing the defenses for the Delaware River. Interestingly, what is considered Koscuiszko's most important contributions to the country happened years after the war when he designed the fortifications for West Point.

Of course, many people in the area also this road as one of the main roads leading to one of the top attractions in the area in the Columbus Zoo. Not that I have proof, but I suspect only a select number of folks veer left on Glick Road before the road curves toward the zoo, and even fewer folks veer right onto State Route 745 after Glick crosses the Scioto River to head into the sleepy little village of Shawnee Hills. It is here where the relatively obscure ice cream shop named Dell's resides.

The Science of Good Taste: CoSi + C-B-C + Ac(tual) BeEr

Before and After: 20 years and still going strong for CBC Restaurant
Reliability can be considered a boring concept in the food and drink world, but frankly I'm good with that, especially if that reliability ventures onto the positive side of the ledger.

Let's start with long time Brewery District mainstay CBC Restaurant. Formerly associated with Columbus Brewing Company via area restaurant maven Cameron Mitchell, CBC has pretty much kept the slightly more upscale than typical brewpub theme, crowd-friendly hangout (plenty of parking as well as an outdoor patio) atmosphere going for 20 years now, long after Mitchell sold the brewpub to its current owners and Columbus Brewing left the space for its current west side climes (Lenny Kolada's Commonhouse Ales now occupies the brewery area in the back of the space.)

Return to the Trails (Pt. 4): Go (North)west, Young Craft Beer Seeker

Earlier posts from this current "Return to the Ale Trails" series:
Part 1: Jumping Onboard The Trail Train - Newcomers to the Scene
Part 2: Ales for what Ails You - A Closer Look at Fresno, California's Ale Trail promotion
Part 3: The Columbus Ale Trail (Year 3) - Bigger and Better Than Ever

Part 1 of my original 4-part Ale Trails series (written in November 2016) can be found here.

This final part of my current Ale Trail series proved to be one that piqued my curiosity the most, as it delved into a scene that I knew existed but did not have many real details about.

While it doesn't make up the entire equation of what gets an area's craft beer scene noticed on a larger scale, overall exposure plays a huge role. In some ways, that's what Fresno (Part 2 of this series) and Columbus (Part 3 of this series) are seeking, albeit at different stages of the process.

In recent months, my spouse and I have noticed the appearance of Canadian craft beer on the shelves of our local stores, and the few bottles that we tried were a far cry from anything produced by a couple of big time north-of-the-border beer producers that happen to rhyme with Cabatt and Polson.

This is why a couple of Canadian newcomers to this compendium of ale trails particularly intrigued me. We had mentioned the Niagara Ale Trail in the first part of this series, and it is nice to know it's not that hard to grab a craft beer after coming up close and personal with one of the most spectacular natural wonders in North America.

However, it was the existence of the British Columbia Ale Trail, an area that I had known mainly for other things (the best Chinese food outside of China, numerous natural wonders, and one of the most popular movie filming substitute locations for various other world cities) that inspired me to dig deeper into the world of craft beer both in our neighbor to the north and British Columbia.

Return to the Trails (Pt. 3): Seeking The Paddle-Tested - Year 3 of the Columbus Ale Trail

Earlier posts from this current "Return to the Ale Trails" series:
Part 1: Jumping Onboard The Trail Train - Newcomers to the Scene
Part 2: Ales for what Ails You - A Closer Look at Fresno, California's Ale Trail promotion

Part 1 of my original 4-part Ale Trails series (written in November 2016) can be found here.

A strong finish was in the cards for Year Two participants in what's turned
out to be a very popular and successful Columbus Ale Trail promotion
As it turned out, Columbus area craft beer seekers proved they know how to pace themselves, at least in regard to the second year of the Columbus Ale Trail promotion.

According to Jim Ellison, owner of Columbus Brew Adventures and co-organizer of the Ale Trail, April saw a huge surge in those completing the entire trail of 28 breweries for the ultimate prize of a specially-designed card deck, with many cards featuring logos of the participating breweries and trail partners. Starting with just over 300 redemptions at the beginning of the month, participants turned in enough completed passports to push the number to over by April 30th, the last day of Volume 2 promotion.  In addition, Ellison added that over 1,700 pint glasses were awarded to people who visited at least four of the participating breweries.

My spouse and I were one of those who finished strongly and claimed both the card deck and pint glass. When the card deck had been initially announced as the ultimate prize for completing the Volume 2 Ale Trail, I personally thought it was one more unique (and coolest, IMHO) offered by any ale trail. That feeling seemed to be validated by my research revealed in a series of posts last November which looked at ale trail promotions across the country.

I also wondered what could Columbus Ale Trail promoters could do the top themselves. As it turns out, the third edition of the trail I believe is the most fun yet.

Return to the Trails (Pt. 2): Ales for What Ails You (The Downtown Fresno Ale Trail)

Earlier posts from this current "Return to the Ale Trails" series:
Part 1: Jumping Onboard The Trail Train - Newcomers to the Scene

Part 1 of my original 4-part Ale Trails series (written in November 2016) can be found here.

What if I told you that an ale trail was the key to relieving the economic ails of a downtown?

As written, that question is a bit overstated. But come fall of this year, a prominent California city is poised to see just how far beer can them in their continuing downtown revitalizing efforts.

The skyline of Downtown Fresno, California (photo credit to The Fresno Bee)
While I have said in the past that, for me, the capital of California, Sacramento, shares the most similarities to my new Columbus home, its neighbor to the south, Fresno, sports its own interesting parallels. For instance, the general sports landscape in both cities centers around its college football team; in fact, Fresno and its love of its Bulldogs may be the closest thing you get in California to the college football game day hoopla in cities like Columbus and similar big college football towns more commonly found east of the Rocky Mountains.

In addition to sporting professional Triple-A level Minor League Baseball teams (the Clippers and the Grizzlies), both cities find themselves as pro sports loyalty battlegrounds due to their central locations within their respective states. Cleveland and Cincinnati pro teams battle for attention in Columbus, while Fresno residents are mainly divided between San Francisco and Oakland to the north and Los Angeles and soon, Las Vegas (with the impending move of the Raiders) to the south.

Other interesting parallels include their unique ethnic concentrations in Columbus' Somalis and the Fresno-based Hmong (interestingly, both cities share their distinction with the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in Minnesota) as well their "flyover country" status. In Fresno's case, though, I have a feeling it's more a case of lying in "drive by country" - most travelers going through the area stay on the main north-south artery, Interstate 5, which lies an hour or so to the west of Fresno.

Return to the Trails (Pt. 1): Jumping Onboard the Ale Trail Train

The Summit Brew Path, Ohio's second ale trail promotion behind
the Columbus Ale Trail, has happily exceeded all expectations
In November, I wrote a series of posts sampling some of the ale trails of the country, starting with what has been a very successful such promotion here in the Columbus, Ohio area. I also then compared some of the other similar promotions in relation to metro areas similar to Columbus on a population basis as well as both a general and specific look at some of the other more interesting promotions that I found across the country.

Six months later, I thought it would be fun to update this series with a look at some of the mostly newer promotions that have appeared for craft beer aficionados to tackle, as well as take a look at what awaits those who undertake this year's version of the Columbus Ale Trail as well as the associated Columbus Craft Beer Week.

A Family Affair: Meshikou Ramen

For awhile, the ramen-focused eatery was one of the hottest food concepts to waft up within Columbus' culinary bowl.  Places like Jobu/Mashita, Fukuryu and Menya; and food trucks like Tokyo Go Go and Capital Ramen, joined old-time brick-and-mortars like Tensuke Express and other Japanese eateries within the metro to give locals many more choices than ever before. Toss in the speculation of a possible local branch of a Cleveland institution in Jonathon Sawyer's Noodlecat, and the enthusiasm might have been seen as scalding at times.

The talk of the latter has pretty much descended to nothingness, and with an occasional rogue wave (Tensuke's expansion and the relocation of Menya from Powell to Dublin), the ramen scene here has settled into a steady lapping of broth upon the side of the bowl. That seems to have suited the city's current collection of ramen purveyors, including the Northwest neighborhood's Meshikou.