Taste Test – Summer Seasonals

Spring and Summer! Hooray! Everyone rejoice. The season of gorgeous weather, fresh flowers and vegetables, time spent on the water and  happy hours a-plenty.

With the above said Happy Hours come choices. I always get a little bit of (fake) anxiety at a bar with an impressive beer menu. I am not ashamed to say it, I am a light beer kind of girl. I appreciate the idea of “cool” beers but I rarely want to order them, and when I do I don’t ever want a whole one… Mich Ultra, please!  I know cool beer people probably hate me now, it’s fine, I am trying here, people. My pride always takes a little stab when trying to navigate and decide upon what beer to order. So with the help of three others — It was really hard talking them into this— I set out to conduct a very scientific taste test and find my new go-to beer(s) of the summer.  

Contenders:

Brooklyn Summer Ale – “From beaches and barbecues to stoops and rooftops, summer in Brooklyn is all about following your impulses. Brooklyn Summer Ale is a refreshing, flavorful pale ale made for warm weather adventures. British 2-row barley adds breadiness while German and American hops bring a clean bitterness and bright floral aroma. It’s a sunny pale ale, Brooklyn style.”

SweetWater Blue – “SweetWater Blue is a unique light bodied wheat ale laced with natural blueberry flavor. This euphoric experience begins with a subtle blueberry aroma and finished surreptitiously clean – That’s right! Ain’t Just for Breakfast Anymore”

SweetWater SpinnerBait – “The flash of this spinnerbait stimulates the senses with its sweet malty currents and deep red hues. Our BA reels with fruity esters and spicy notes from the Ardennes yeast which swirl through the Belgian rock candy, casting the perfect presentation for the hops to set the hook on this big boy, Rip Some Lips”

Strawberry Abita (This is actually more of a Spring seasonal… I am learning so much already, hah!) – “Abita Strawberry Harvest is a lager brewed with pilsner and wheat malts and Vanguard hops. Real Louisiana strawberry juice is added after filtration resulting in a crisp lager with a sweet strawberry flavor, aroma and haze.”

New Belgium Skinny Dip – “Take the plunge with SKINNY DIP, our brewed tribute to the lightly-attired summer months. Cascade hops frolic with bready malts for a crisp sip as refreshing as a freshwater dip.”

*There are so many other options out there but because of time and money this is what we got our hands on and tasted. Basically this is just a start to ease my summer, happy-hour, beer anxiety.*

**Things I wanted to add to this taste test but could not find – Abita Seersucker Summer Pils; Abita Grapefruit IPA; Shiner Ruby Redbird**

  
Between the four of us we decided on our two favorites easily then the other three varied between all of us.

!!!Tied for 1st Place – New Belgium Skinny Dip and Brooklyn Summer Ale!!! Both so very good and I will be ordering and drinking these throughout the summer.

   
 2nd Place – Strawberry Abita – So good but tasted extremely sweet following these other beers. I feel like this is every girls favorite Springtime beer. I am eager to try their Grapefruit IPA.

3rd Place – SweetWater Blue

  
4th Place – SweetWater SpinnerBait. This will be the only one I will not order, but I was happy to try it. It was one of our testers 2nd place pick (a guy who is a cool beer drinker). Just not my favorite.

  
I hope this evening and weekend brings you many sunny patios and happy hours!

What are your favorite summer beers?

**Julia would like to add that while celiac makes her beer drinking pretty limited, during the hot summer months, she especially likes Omission Lager since it’s crisp and light.  Or skip the beer all together and go straight for a cocktail.  One of her favs is a Salty Dog:  vodka, grapefruit juice, lots of ice, and a little salt on the rim.  

Happy Hour for all!

Cheers!

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How-To Put Together Planters… or really, Planters for Dummies… and by Dummies

Late last fall I purchased two fantastic, large, blue planters from Southeastern Salvage… I am biased but I think they are great looking. To them I added cabbages, pansies, and creeping jenny then I let them be. They were great during the fall and winter and even better with some sunshine in early March, but I was in my yard last week and realized they had gone completely crazy and overgrown. I decided to take note of the April cover from Southern Living (also with blue planters!! Imagine my pride.) and set out to put together fresh spring planters for the front of our home.

Planters can be expensive, and I had no clue of that until last year (like who thinks about things like that?!). I don’t remember specifics but am almost positive I got both for just under $100. So I recommend going somewhere like Southeastern Salvage to find some. I love pairs and needed something to add volume to my front stoop so that’s what I went with, but one big, pretty planter would also be great to have.

Also these planters may be pretty huge, so I recommend getting a smaller, cheaper bucket or plastic pot of some sort, making sure their are holes in it and adding it to the inside of your planters. This way you do not have such a huge space to fill with topsoil and plants for that matter, it makes things more concentrated. Once you have your planters take note of their size and grab something that can fit inside at Home Depot, Walmart, or whatever because no one will see this part.      

  

Home Depot, like all other gardening centers, can completely overwhelm me. There is so much that I do not know and way too many options. But we can do it!

Before you decide what should go in your planters take note how much sun they will get. The front of my house gets a lot of sunshine, but yours may not and this is something you need to pay attention to before you head out to get your plants. Luckily as long as you know what type of sun your planters will get then you have got a great start! The gardening centers are usually broken up into sections of plants that need/can handle the same type of sunlight. So I knew once I figured out where the “full sun” plants were I would be in good shape.

Three important things that both my mom and mother-in-law have taught me is that you need one plant for height, at least one to fill out the planter, and one to drape over. I used a type of tall grass for height and placed in it the back of my planters (I bought two for each planter to try to save costs, but really I should have bought three for each.. I like plants in threes). To fill these out I used a pink geranium (one per planter) and two little sets of yellow lantana. For draping my very favorite thing to use is creeping jenny, it is almost a lime green and it really pops. I had some of this leftover and in decent shape from my planters in the fall so I only needed to add two little pots of it to each planter. When picking plants and looking for size, shape, sunlight, etc. be sure you are reading the little tags that are stuck down in the plants. They give tips and insight about what that specific little plant will need and since I am probably one of the furthest things from a plant expert I really need to read every word.

Again my mom and mother-in-law recommend Osmocote as a good, long lasting fertilizer so I added some of that while planting… can you tell I have asked for a lot of tips and recommendations while I have been getting used to this gardening bit! Thank goodness for my aunt who lives in Nashville and has taught me a great deal about local plants, soil, sunlight, etc.

When you are checking out of Home Depot/Lowe’s/Flower Mart/etc be sure you get a piece of plastic to put down in the back of your car. They will probably offer this but if not just ask because it will save you from a good bit of dirt and mess in the back of your car.

Once you are home and planting be sure you wear gardening gloves or you will probably mess up your manicure — Gel or not! I learned the hard way and my nails turned a crazy color.. a little scary but must have been something in the top soil. Eeek. You can get gardening gloves for like $4, so about 1/10th of the price of gel mani. Just wear gloves.

The last thing to keep in mind is that when you first plant your planters (surely that is not a correct way to say that) they will not look perfect or finished. I am bad about wanting instant gratification and with most gardening there is no such thing. I planted mine one week ago and blooms are already opening up and greenery is filling out.. all in all already looking better. Remember you are planting these for a full season so it will probably take some time to make them look just right.

The first time you put planters together will take some money and effort, but with each season it will be less and less. Once you have the main things: planters, top soil, fertilizer, inside bucket for planters – you will be able to use and re-use these. When I went to Home Depot to get the plants for this batch of planters I spent $50 and re-used all of what I had before. My mom has the same actual planters on our front porch and back deck that we have had for years and she changes out the plants seasonally.

Do you have any gardening tips and tricks that I need???? Would love to hear them!

I can’t believe I wrote a gardening post.. basically it should be titled Planters for Dummies and by Dummies. But the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy adding color and character to your home and yard!

Caroline