Saturday, April 16, 2016

A potpourri of topics ... from N. Carolina

CARY, N.C. -- Mobility is a major reason to have a high-performance laptop, but I've come to appreciate a related reason for having one, and it's something people who do extensive traveling discovered long ago: I can turn around a blog post while on the road in short order if I use photos taken with my iPhone.

I bought my first laptop five years ago, but it suffered from speed deprivation. Adding RAM to the device made very little difference. So I invested in another recently, and this time I didn't short myself when it came to quality. I went solid state on the hard drive, got an Intel i7 processor, and 16GB of RAM. It really flies, so with this post, I took the bold of filing my first-ever post while on the road. I'm in North Carolina again, visiting family ... and just getting away from Indiana.

The subject of this post is kind of a potpourri, and isn't that appropriate given the name of this blog? I lead off with a handful of photos I took this morning at the West Wake Farmers Market, which is in western Wake County, N.C., very near to the common border of Cary and Morrisville. This part of the country has a climate that allows for outdoor farmers markets year-round. Today here was a wonderfully pleasant day; temperatures were in the mid- to upper 50s in the morning and peaked at 68 in the late afternoon.

The photos below highlight baking goods displayed by La Farm Bakery in Cary, including a loaf of multigrain Scandinavian rye bread, of which I purchase a half-loaf. I'm eating a slice with my dinner tonight; the jury is still out. Also on hand at the market was a representative of Great Harvest Bread Co., and we sampled other breads and scones there. I managed a quick photo of a trio of musicians who had performed most of the morning before I arrived; they finished their last song as we entered the grounds.

From other vendors, we picked up some asparagus, smoked pork chops, sausage, kettle popcorn and coffee, and at the very end of the vendors lane, I noticed a booth for Brueprint Brewing Co., of nearby Apex. That made me smile on two counts -- one, because I had just dropped in on the brewery for the first time the night before; and two, the company names all of its beers with "Brue" as part of the name, often creating a pun in the pocess.

In fact, Brueprint was the first North Carolina craft brewery I'd dropped in on, and I ordered a flight (four samples) of their beers from the menu last night -- two year-round products, the crisp Pale Brue Eyes pale ale, and Brue Scarlet, which the brewery describes as a "sultry amber ale" ... and two seasonals, the Zambrueni craft lager and the Brue Diamond IPA (India Pale Ale).

I'm very pleased to report that I was not disappointed in any of the four brews. The lager went down quickly; it was refreshing and easy on the palate. Pale Brue Eyes was equally refreshing, but it had more flavor and slightly more heft. Brue Scarlet was a bit heftier yet and also darker than the two others, and the IPA was the most flavorful, its hops about as strong as I like in my IPAs before it gets too bitter. Before leaving the brewery,  I bought a six-pack of the Pale Brue Eyes to take home.

At Brueprint, I sat next to a young man, Steve, who said he'd moved to the area six months ago and had quickly warmed to it. Before that, he aid, he'd been a lifelong resident of St. Louis. I told Steve about Indy's booming craft brew community, and he said St. Louis was nothing like that -- no doubt, he surmised, because of the heavy presence and influence in the community of mainstream beer titan Anheuser-Busch.

We talked about about another local craft brewery, Fortnight Brewing, in Cary, which I'd thought about visiting last night; I opted for Brueprint because I happened to be closer to it at the time. Steve also suggested checking out a couple local establishments that offer good selections of craft brews and highly recommended the Raleigh Beer Garden, which opened last year quite auspiciously -- by setting the Guinness World Record for having the most draft beer taps -- 366, including 12 dozen (that would be 144, if you do the math) just from North Carolina breweries.

Indeed, as the story with the Guinness record link indicates, Raleigh is growing its craft beer industry. When I pulled up a map of craft breweries in this area, the majority are sprinkled in and near Raleigh. Nearby Chapel Hill (home to the University of North Carolina) and Durham (Duke University) also have a fair share of them.

While shopping at a Fresh Market store in Cary today, I bought a six-pack of a Kolsch made by White Street Brewing Company of Wake Forest, N.C. I'm enjoying it with my dinner tonight (it's good!). That explains the photos of the White Street bottle and package below. The community of Wake Forest, incidentally, is not where the university of the same name is located. The town is a northeast suburb of Raleigh; the university is in the much larger metropolitan area of Winston-Salem, which is quite a ways west of Raleigh.

Lunch this afternoon was at Char-Grill, a burgers place that reminded me of Five Guys Burgers and Fries ... but without the barrel of peanuts and with fries that are not seasoned. It's practically next door to the Fresh Market, so it seemed logical to stop there for sustenance ... and pictures. Thumbs up on the burgers; jury is out on the fries.

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As my regular visitors know by now, I keep photos from what I consider my valuable and/or important shoots at I'm chagrined to admit that it wasn't until last week that I learned I had control of determining the featured photo in each of my galleries. The featured photo is the image visitors see representing a gallery when they arrive at my site. So I've been spending a lot of time going through the galleries these past few days updating the featured photo so that it not only is of higher quality than SmugMug's default choices, but also -- in most instances -- more representative of what's inside the full gallery. The new lineup of featured photos can be seen in the last photo of this post, a screen grab of my home page at SmugMug.

As always, you can click on any photo in this post to see a larger, and hopefully sharper version of the photo (which is especially important if you access this blog on a mobile device).

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Metazoa Brewing Co. joins Indy's
growing craft brewery community

After putting together Monday's extensive post about craft breweries in Indianapolis, I felt compelled to do a photo follow-up and drop in on Friday's grand opening of the newest brewery in town -- Metazoa Brewing Co. at 140 S. College Ave.

Not only is Metazoa somewhat close to where I live (well, at least it's on the right side of town), it's also just a block away from my one of my favorite Indy dining spots, the Milano Inn. It just seemed like the stars were lining up for me to check it out on opening day.

I expected there to be a good amount of people there, but since I'd never attended a brewery's grand opening before, I wasn't sure just how big of a crowd there'd be. What I witnessed told me just how huge the local craft brewing industry has become in Indianapolis.

Against my better instincts -- which were to get there before the end of the work day (Metazoa opened at 11 a.m.), I got there around 5:30 p.m. And that was a good half-hour before the official opening "party" was scheduled to begin. It was packed already, as these photos should affirm.

I like the layout of Metazoa -- on a normal business day, I'm sure there will be ample room to accommodate visitors indoors in the open industrial type facility ... as well as generous outdoor seating space. There also appears to be ample parking space to handle traffic on a normal business day in a lot just north of the building. On this day, however, overflow visitors were parking along Georgia Street at least two blocks east of the brewery. I was one of those.

The crowd around the bar, which appear to be the only way to get beverages, was always at least three people deep, and I decided to file in a line on one end of the bar where -- because it was a formed line -- I presumed it was intended for folks simply wishing to pick up brews and head back to a table or to exit.

I stood in that line for at least 20 minutes and barely moved. While there, a staffer carrying a tray with tiny samples of Metazoa's Kinkajou honey weiss beer stopped by, and I grabbed one. I first "discovered" honey beer in the mid-1990s. Honey Brown was on tap at an Applebee's on the Westside of Indy where I had stopped one very hot and humid July early evening. I thought that first Honey Brown was divine, and I'm sure I had a second that day.

Oddly, I haven't drunk honey brews very much since, but I have sampled honey weiss drafts at a couple local craft breweries and recently drank a bottled honey weiss import -- none of which I really liked. Unfortunately, I didn't care much for the Kinkajou, either.

Perhaps my taste buds truly have evolved. As I mentioned in Monday's post, I've really developed a liking for the local microbrew offerings to the point that, for the past couple years, I have rarely imbibed mainstream brews. Hence, I was eager to try Metazoa's other house brews Friday. Alas, that'll have to wait for another day. Fortunately, at least for now, Metazoa has hours of operation that are easy to remember -- 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.

Not long after sampling the Kinkajou, and having not advanced another step in the aforementioned line, I left and returned home, first stopping at Fountain Square Brewery to fill my growler, which I had hoped to do at Metazoa.

A sidebar note about the brewery: Metazoa is a word with Latin and Greek origins that describes a classification of animals that have tissues and organs. As reported in an article in the weekly Nuvo publication in Indianapolis, Metazoa President Dave Worthington has supported various charitable wildlife endeavors through the years, but he didn't have the financial means to give as much as he'd like ... until now. Metazoa plans to donate 5 percent of all profits to animal and wildlife organizations, including the Indianapolis Humane Society. For the full list of organizations that will receive Metazoa's support, check out this link.

You can find Metazoa on FacebookTwitter (@MetazoaBrewing) and Instagram (@metazoabrewing).

Photo geek stuff: Everything was shot with my iPhone 6s Plus in normal photo mode. I did crops and addressed minor exposure and shadow issues in Photoshop Elements 13.

The bar area at Metazoa (above) and its multiple taps positioned below the brew menu. Next two below, a closeup of the menu in the photo above and a photo of the growler lineup, which appears above one of two end sections of the bar. 

The line I would eventually stand in appears above at the end of the bar farthest from the door. The guy in the orange and gray shirt appears to be at the front of that line. A view toward the bar from the actual line, once I got it in, appears below. The line was alongside a fence that closed in the brewery's fermentation tanks, shown in the two photos after the one below.  

One of the outdoor seating areas, near the main entrance on the north side of the building, gives visitors a nice view of downtown and of a portion of the parking lot (above). The view looks northwest.  Below is another shot of the same seating area, where you see more of the parking lot as well as a barbecue food truck.

Above: Another, smaller fenced-in outdoor seating area faces College Avenue. At right is one the Pierogi food truck on hand for the opening.